This week on TCM Underground: MIAMI CONNECTION (1987)

Miami Connection Poster

Members of a Florida rock band use their skills at taekwondo to combat a ninja drug cartel on the mean streets of Orlando.

Cast: Y. K. Kim (Mark), Vincent Hirsch (John), Joseph Diamand (Jack), Maurice Smith (Jim), Angelo Janotti (Tom), Kathy Collier (Jane), William Ergle (Jeff), Si Y Jo (Yashito), Woo-Sang Park (Uncle Song), William Young (Club Owner), Joy Sharpe (Club Owner’s Girlfriend), Jack McLaughlin (Old Rock Band Leader/Sonofabitch Guy). Director: Woo-Sang Park/Y. K. Kim, Writer: Woo-Sang Park, Y.K. Kim. Cinematography: Maximo Munzi. Music: Jon McCallum. Songs by Lloyd C. Sharpe.

Color-83 min.

Showtime: Saturday January 10th 11:15pm PST/2:15am EST. [...MORE]

Night and the City: Between Midnight and Dawn (1950)

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 “A brutal policeman is a terrible thing. He has too much power. Too many chances of taking his viciousness out on helpless people.” – Katherine Mallory (Gale Storm) in Between Midnight and Dawn

In the grim police procedural Between Midnight and Dawn, violence is a spigot that cannot be turned off. It begins with a thrill – a tense night time shootout in an auto-body shop with some generic young hoods. But for beat cop prowl car partners Rocky Barnes (Mark Stevens) and Daniel Purvis (Edmond O’Brien), it’s just one of their nightly spasms of gunfire. Rocky is able to retain his humanity, working off his nerves through a constant patter of jokes, but Purvis has worn out his concern for human life. Once it turns dark, all women are tramps, all men are thugs, and Purvis’ misanthropic disgust flows into his trigger finger. The movie strays into unconvincing romance — the brightness looking sallow and jaundiced against the sepulchral evening blacks of DP George Diskant (much shot on location in Los Angeles city streets) — but it retains a bitter aftertaste upon its close. Between Midnight and Dawn is available on the TCM Vault Collection’s “Columbia Film Noir Classics IV” DVD box set.

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On Casting ‘The Good Earth’

chingopenerLast month, Ridley Scott and the studio responsible for Exodus faced criticism for not casting ethnic actors in the two main roles, which were played by Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton. Some rightly decried the lack of opportunities for non-white actors in Hollywood, citing Exodus as an example. Others criticized the casting because it was not “realistic” or “accurate,” though I always cringe at viewers/reviewers who use realism as a criteria for judging art, even popular art. Scott addressed the criticism by noting that the film would not have been made without the presence of stars in the key roles and that several secondary roles were indeed filled by ethnic actors and actresses.

While it is easy to assume that these types of casting arguments are born out of modern-day political correctness, I was a bit surprised to read about similar issues plaguing the production of The Good Earth. TCM is airing The Good Earth next Monday, January 12 at noon, as part of its tribute to Luise Rainer, who died on December 30.

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The Sympathetic Criminal

Robert Stroud was not a nice man.  He spent most of his life behind bars (almost 55 years) and not for a few petty robberies and aggravated assaults.  Robert Stroud was in jail because he was a murderer.  His murder victim was a john who’d roughed up one of his prostitutes (yes, he was a pimp, too).  Once in prison, he proved dangerous to both inmates and guards and, eventually, murdered a guard and got put into solitary confinement after his death sentence got commuted to life.  While in prison he took in interest in birds, nursing a few back to life, developing cures to known avian illnesses, and writing a book that even the bird experts found exceptional.   Eventually he got transferred to Alcatraz and, though he had no birds there, a new moniker was coined and Stroud became the Birdman of Alcatraz.  Today on TCM, the 1962 John Frankenheimer film, The Birdman of Alcatraz, starring Burt Lancaster as Stroud, airs and, while it’s a good movie, it makes Stroud a bit more saintly than he, perhaps, deserved.  Yes, the murders are included, how could they not be, but a few scenes are inserted showing Stroud as a fighter for his fellow inmates and, in the end, an interventionist in a prison riot.  By the time he meets up with the author who has penned his life story, played by Edmond O’Brien, he gets a big hug. And though I don’t feel like hugging him, the movie succeeds for the most part in making Stroud sympathetic without making the audience feel duped.  It’s not an easy trick to pull off.  One movie in particular, or two parts of the same story, went a long way towards creating the most sympathetic criminals in movie history.

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January 3, 2015
David Kalat
Posted by:

Magic Pixie Dream Grampa

I’m here to talk about farces. About romantic comedies, TV sitcoms, and silent slapstick. About Charley Chase, the Marx Brothers, and Charles Coburn. I’m inspired this week by the lovely 1943 romantic comedy The More the Merrier, with Jean Arthur, which TCM is running Monday night. But I’m also hoping you’ll not only set your DVR for that gem, but maybe seek out a DVD of Charley Chase’s Mighty Like a Moose… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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KEYWORDS: Charles Coburn, charley chase, George Stevens, Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Mighty Like a Moose, The Marx Brothers, The More the Merrier (1943)
COMMENTS: 5
SUBMIT

If It’s Really Funny, I’ll Laugh… Or Maybe Not

Today on TCM, with only a couple of exceptions, it’s a day for comedy.  Comedies run from morning until night so, naturally, one may assume, it’s a day for laughter.  For some people.  For others, like myself, it’s a day for appreciating comedy while we laugh inside, right here [points to heart].   Laughing out loud at comedy has never been, oddly enough, a prerequisite for me thinking a comedy is good or not.  The reason is because I may not find the same thing funny from day to day, hour to hour, or even minute by minute.  I may laugh heartily at certain jokes, in certain movies that I find rather abysmal, and sit stone faced in another comedy that I find absolutely superb.

1920s PORTRAIT SMILING STYLISH COUPLE WALKING ARM IN ARM

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Happy New Year!

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Thanksgiving, Christmas and now New Year’s Day. All the major holidays fell on Thursday in the last few months making me the Movie Morlock’s unofficial holiday ambassador. I thought I’d use this occasion to thank all our loyal readers who take time out of their busy lives to stop by week after week to read what we have to say and share their own thoughts about the films and filmmakers we feature here. Your continued support, particularly when there are plenty of other distractions online, is much appreciated and I think I can speak for all the Morlocks when I say we truly value our readership and hope you’ll continue to make the Morlocks one of your regular stops on the information superhighway. So from myself and Bette Davis (pictured above) I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year! And for your enjoyment, some more pictures of classic film stars celebrating the holiday . . .

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This week on TCM Underground: NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1984)

Nothing Lasts Forever

A young man with artistic ambitions but no actual talent flees Manhattan in the not-too-distant future and hops a shuttle to the moon in search of true love.

Cast: Zach Galligan (Adam Beckett), Apollonia van Ravenstein (Mara Hoffmeier), Lauren Tom (Eloy), Sam Jaffe (Father Knickerbocker), Paul Rogers (Hugo), Bill Murray (Ted Breughel), Dan Aykroyd (Buck Heller), Imogene Coca (Daisy Schackman0), Anita Ellis (Aunt), Mort Sahl (Uncle), Jan Triska (Architect), Eddie Fisher (Himself), Avon Long (Steward), Calvert DeForest, King Donovan (Passengers), Lawrence Tierney (Carriage Driver), Walt Gorney (Stage Manager), Tom Schiller (Mara’s friend), Raynor Scheine (Hillbilly) Marc Alderman (Lifewalk 5000 Conceptual Artist). Director/writer: Tom Schiller. Cinematography: Fred Schuler. Music: Howard Shore.

Color/B&W, 82 min.

Showtime: Saturday, January 3, 11pm (PST), 2am (EST).  [...MORE]

Against Type: Hi, Nellie (1934)

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Paul Muni snarled to prominence as the amoral gangster kingpin Scarface (1932), and followed it up with an expose of the prison system, I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1933). He had already received an Oscar nomination for his debut performance in The Valiant (1929), so by 1934 he was a star, and a serious-minded one. Born to a Jewish family in the Austro-Hungarian empire, he came up through the Yiddish theater, made it to Broadway, and eventually earned unprecedented freedom in choosing the parts he wanted to play in Hollywood. So when histories of Muni’s career are written, few mention his little newspaper comedy from 1934, Hi, Nellie. A standard Warner Brothers quickie, it packs in screwball, romance, mystery and gangster movies into one 75 minute package. Muni clearly revels in trying out comedy, channeling his wiry energy into the clipped, slangy dialogue of a Hecht/MacArthur knockoff. And the rest of the cast is up to his challenge, with acidic performances from Glenda Farrell and Ned Sparks. Hi, Nellie is now available on DVD as part of the Warner Archive’s Forbidden Hollywood Volume 8 set of pre-codes (also including Blonde Crazy, Strangers May Kiss, and Dark Hazard).

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Top Ten Films You Will Likely Never See: 2014

10openerI should call my annual compilation of indies, documentaries, and mistreated Hollywood films “Lost Causes of 2014.” The truth is few people will watch these films: Many won’t be interested because the titles are not familiar to them; others will have problems tracking down the obscure movies because there are too few venues or outlets willing to exhibit them. Still, as everyone who has seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington knows, lost causes are the only ones worth fighting. If you really want to make a statement about free speech, don’t waste your time with The Interview, track down one of these films and watch it, because mainstream Hollywood has long since closed its doors to disenfranchised voices, diverse points of view, and alternative visions. [...MORE]

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