This Week on TCM Underground: THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976)

The Town that Dreaded Sundown

A hooded killer strikes terror into the heart of post-World War II Texarkana…

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976). Cast: Ben Johnson (Captain J. D. Morales), Andrew Prine (Deputy Norman Ramsey), Dawn Wells (Helen Reed), Jimmy Clem (Sergeant Mel Griffin), Jim Citty (Police Chief  R. J. Sullivan), Charles B. Pierce (Patrolman A. C. Benson, called “Spark Plug”), Robert Aquino (Sheriff Otis Barker), Cindy Butler (Peggy Loomis), Mason Andres (Reverend Harden), Earl E. Smith (Dr. Kress), Vern Stierman (Narrator), Bud Davis (The Phantom Killer). Director: Charles B. Pierce. Producer: Charles B. Pierce. Executive Producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff. Screenplay: Earl E. Smith. Music: Jaime Mendoza Nava. Cinematography: James W. Roberson. Color — 90 min. Showtime: Saturday March 14 11:00pm PST/2:00am EST

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Border Incidents: Ride the Pink Horse (1947) and The Hanged Man (1964)

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“He hadn’t wanted to come here. He’d wanted it less and less as the bus traveled further across the wasteland; miles of nothing, just land, empty land. Land that didn’t get anywhere except into more land, and always against the sky the unmoving barrier of mountains. It was like moving into a trap, a trap you couldn’t get out of. Because no matter how you tried, no matter how far you traveled, you’d always be stopped by the rigid mountains. He didn’t like it at all when they moved into this town, his destination. Because this was the center of the trap; it was a long way back to civilization in any direction. The thing to do was get out quick.” – Ride the Pink Horse, by Dorothy B. Hughes

 

Ride the Pink Horse is a grim procedural of hate. Published in 1946, it was Dorothy B. Hughes’ ninth novel, and second to be adapted into a film, following The Fallen Sparrow (1943). A cynical gunman named Sailor travels to a remote New Mexico town during their yearly “Fiesta”, a Southwestern Mardi Gras. He is tracking down his former mentor “The Sen”, a corrupt ex-Senator, for shakedown money. Sailor is a single-minded racist brute, circling the small town in ritualistic repetitions, until the map of the main square is in ingrained in your head (one of the early Dell paperback editions included a map on the back anyway). Sailor is an outsider, and no matter how often he treads the city’s streets, it continues to constrict slowly around him. Robert Montgomery’s 1947 movie adaptation for Universal-International alters many of the plot details, but captures the doomed fatalism of Hughes’ work. Typecast as a light romantic comedy lead, Montgomery took on greater risks as a director, starting with the POV experiments of Lady in the Lake (1947) and continuing through the elaborate crane shots orchestrated by DP Russell Metty in Ride the Pink Horse. It has been a certified cult film ever since Jean Cocteau programmed it at the Festival du Film Maudit in Biarritz in 1949, but it has been hard to see until next week, March 17th, when the Criterion Collection releases it on DVD and Blu-ray.

But this was not the only adaptation of Ride the Pink Horse. In 1964 Don Siegel directed the telefilm The Hanged Man for NBC, after his adaptation of Hemingway’s The Killers was pulled from broadcast, deemed too “spicy, expensive and violent for TV screens.” This time he got his project on the air — the second made-for-TV movie ever shown. The setting is relocated to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, emphasizing the choked streets and vibrant colors that Robert Culp and Edmond O’Brien wander through with clenched determination.

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Tracy & Hepburn, Bogart & Bacall, Powell & Loy, and . . . . Sothern & Raymond?

blogwalkingI am enjoying the films associated with TCM’s Star of the Month for March, Ann Sothern. Every Wednesday night, TCM will air a number of Sothern movies, totaling 35 in all. Though primarily b-movies or series, these titles are delightful precisely because they are b-movies. Often, the b’s are completely dependent on the charms of the stars to overcome the simplistic storylines, mediocre songs, and limited sets. Sothern enlivened many a film because of her sassy persona and stylish look, particularly romantic comedies.

Among the films selected are five that Sothern made during the Depression with forgotten leading man Gene Raymond. In the 1930s, the use of romantic teams became a casting strategy for studios, a practice they continued throughout the Golden Age. A successful pairing generated twice the box office because fans of the individual actors as well as devotees of the romantic team came to see the films. Today’s classic-movie lovers are familiar with the most famous movie couples—Astaire and Rogers, Tracy and Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall, Powell and Loy—while dozens of other romantic teams have long since been forgotten.

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Requested Snapshots from the Archive

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Two weeks ago I sniffed around the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive. Although the trial access period expired last Friday, I did snag a handful of screen-grabs for films that will be playing on TCM, and that were suggested to me by readers. The films are: Crooner, The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters, The Hoodlum, The Bat Whispers, Convention City, and a request for an original review for London After Midnight. As my access to the EIMA archive expired on Friday, I was unable to act upon anything after that. But here’s what I did find: [...MORE]

Harold Lloyd
March 7, 2015
David Kalat
Posted by:

Harold Lloyd 101

On a recent business trip, I took my team out to dinner and had some fun telling them some of the absurdly implausible anecdotes from my peripatetic life (I was bit by a giraffe! Picasso’s lover bought my daughter a toy! I accidentally imprinted myself on a pair of doves and they followed me around for months! I was almost arrested by Homeland Security! I hung up on Hollywood mega-producer Roy Lee because I thought he was a telemarketer!) Eventually I got around to one of my favorite anecdotes:

After completing work on American Slapstick Volume 2, I wanted to donate the Harold Lloyd materials to the Harold Lloyd Trust. I called them up, explained what I had, and offered to give them the film elements and the digital transfers. The Trust representative thanked me, and said that someone would be by later that afternoon to pick them up.

Come again? I live in the Chicago suburbs—the Harold Lloyd Trust is based in Los Angeles. How were they gonna have someone swing by in a few hours of the same day I called them? Did Lloyd’s heirs operate some freaky black ops helicopters, ready to deploy anywhere at anytime? Actually, it turned out that one of Lloyd’s heirs happened to live nearby, and it was just a convenient coincidence.

My colleagues listened to this story and then hit me with a punchline I hadn’t been expecting: “Who’s Harold Lloyd?”

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KEYWORDS: Harold Lloyd
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Give That Franchise the (Re)Boot!

Earlier last week, the legendary Leonard Nimoy died and fellow Morlock Suzi Doll wrote up a great piece on all the Star Trek actors here shortly after.  Now the great producer Harve Bennett has died, the man who signed on to the Star Trek franchise with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and put the series on solid ground after the uneasy outing of the first movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  You’ll forgive me, therefore, if I have Star Trek on the brain.  In my ruminations on the series, I began thinking about how J.J. Abrams reestablished the cinematic Star Trek franchise, after none of the post Next Generation series took off as movies, by rebooting the original series rather than remaking it.  Instead of continuing the story of the original series, or doing a straight up prequel of it, he inserted Leonard Nimoy as a different timeline version of Spock, separating the original series characters from the movie characters as distinct entities, and thus giving himself free rein to do with the characters as he wanted.   People are more forgiving of a reboot than a remake and, as such, it’s a safer path for a filmmaker to trod down when handling a classic.

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Superhero Saturdays on TCM: BATMAN (1943)

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BATMAN is coming to Turner Classic Movies! The revered DC superhero is making his network debut on Saturday, March 7th and viewers will able to tune into TCM every morning (7AM PST – 10Am EST) for the next few months to catch an episode of Columbia Picture’s original 1943 film serial. Serials or “Chapter Plays” were often cheaply produced shorts that were typically shown with cartoons and newsreels before feature films. This format came into prominence during the silent film era and remained viable until the 1950s but fell out fashion due to the development of home television. While many believe that the popularity of superheroes and comic books adaptations are a relatively new phenomenon, the truth is that they’ve been an accepted form of entertainment for decades although until recently they were mostly regulated to short format serials and television. Columbia adapted many well-regarded comic books and strips for the screen including SUPERMAN (1948), TERRY AND THE PIRATES (1940), MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN (1938), THE PHANTOM (1943), BLACKHAWK (1952) and BRENDA STARR, REPORTER (1945). BATMAN was one of the studio’s most popular productions and it’s earned an important place in comic book history for a number of reasons, which make it a particularly fascinating footnote in the Caped Crusader’s ongoing fight against crime and corruption.

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This week on TCM Underground: THE VISITOR (1979)

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Jesus Christ sends an old man in a fishin’ hat to Earth to stop a corporate cabal from using telekinetic children to take over the world. I think.

Cast:  John Huston (Jerzy Cosolwicz), Lance Henriksen (Raymond Armstead), Joanne Nail (Barbara Collins), Paige Conner (Katy Collins), Shelley Winters (Jane Phillips), Mel Ferrer (Dr. Walker), Glenn Ford (Detective Jake Durham), Sam Peckinpah (Dr. Sam Collins), Franco Hero (Jesus Christ). Director: Giulio Paradisi. Producer: Ovidio G. Assonitis. Screenplay: Giuliano Paradisi, Ovidio G. Assonitis, Luciano Comici, Robert Mundi. Music: Franco Micalizi. Cinematography: Ennio Guarnieri.

Color – 90 min – 108 min. (depending on version)

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That’s Entertainment: The Band Wagon (1953)

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Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse stroll through Central Park together without saying a word. Their silence continues past a bustling outdoor dance floor, but their steps begin to sync in rhythm. Then there is an orchestral swell on the soundtrack, and they twirl individually. It is test of compatibility, a flirtatious movement to see if their bodies can work in unison. Astaire scratches his lip, gauging their chances. Once the melody of “Dancing in the Dark” eases onto the score, though, they move as one organism in a dance of light, joyful communion. It is an expression of love by other means, and, as choreographed by Michael Kidd, is one of the glories of the Hollywood musical.  The Band Wagon (1953) is an overwhelming sensorium of movement and color, and one of the more convincing arguments in justifying Hollywood’s existence. It is finally out on Blu-ray today from Warner Brothers (bundled with KISS ME KATE 3D, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and CALAMITY JANE in a desert island Blu-ray “Musicals Collection”) and the result is a near-flawless transfer of the three-strip Technicolor.

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The Trek to Stardom for the Stars of ‘Star Trek’

startrioWhen Leonard Nimoy died at the end of last week, many from my generation mourned the loss by posting photos and quotes related to Mr. Spock, Nimoy’s iconic television character, to social media outlets. The outpouring of sorrow and the testimonials of childhood devotion reveal the profound impact that a beloved television program can have on a generation.

Like William Shatner, Nimoy did not always relish his identification as one of television’s most recognizable characters. When Star Trek ended in 1969 after three seasons, both tried to shake off their Trek personas by pursuing other roles. Nimoy even penned an autobiography titled I Am Not Spock in 1975. DeForest Kelley, the third in the trio of interstellar comrades, was not as vocal about moving on to new opportunities, but he, too, was eager to continue his career. It took several decades for the trio to realize what fans knew all along—Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy were more than characters from an old TV series. Eventually, Shatner and Nimoy embraced their iconic characters, discussing them at length in their bios Star Trek Memories and I Am Spock.

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