John Alton: Painting with Light in The Big Combo

blogmarqueeIf you like your noir lean and mean, catch The Big Combo on TCM this Thursday, June 9. The minimalist plot pits volatile police detective Leonard Diamond, played by Cornel Wilde, against a morally bankrupt racketeer known as Mr. Brown, played by a cold-hearted Richard Conte. Not surprisingly, the two have a corrosive history, and their long-standing animosity revolves around their interest in the same girl, Susan, played by Wilde’s real-life wife, Jean Wallace. Detective Diamond is as agitated and twitchy as Mr. Brown is cool and collected, their contrasting demeanors underscoring their positions on the opposite side of the law.


Are the Legends of Tomorrow Already Here?

Today on TCM, the 1982 comedy My Favorite Year airs and it marked Peter O’Toole’s twentieth year as a star.  His stardom began with his breakout role in Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 and continued, with some ups and downs, for the next 50 plus years.  He even has a movie out in 2016, three years after his death.  It’s The Whole World at Our Feet and obviously whatever part he has in it was filmed some time ago.   His career, on the whole, probably has many more duds than hits and his selection wasn’t always the best.  There were long dry spells in his career, enough that his starring role in The Stunt Man, released in 1980, was considered a comeback for him, even though he’d been nominated for Best Actor just eight years prior for The Ruling Class.  The problem was, after The Ruling Class, he appeared in one flop after another.  Still, there’s no doubt that O’Toole left this life a legend and also little doubt that his eventual status as a legend was probably cemented right out of the starting gate with that breakout role as Lawrence.  For many others, the path has not been so clear.



June 4, 2016
David Kalat
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First Things First

DVR alert—thanks to this month’s Marie Dressler tribute, coming up on June 6th TCM is running the 1914 comedy feature Tillie’s Punctured Romance. This is a hugely important work in film history—just about any film reference will tell you so. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: “Tillie’s Punctured Romance is notable for being the first feature-length comedy in all of cinema.” Wow. I mean, right? Just wow.

Except… it’s hard to give credit to Tillie’s Punctured Romance for being the “first feature-length comedy in all of cinema” when there was another feature-length comedy released on August 10, 1914, four months earlier.

And you want to know the best bit? This earlier film, arguably the true first comedy feature in film history, is a gender-bending treat that suits today’s mood much better than the fusty old melodramatic complications of Tillie’s Punctured Romance. Click the fold below and let’s find out more!


KEYWORDS: A Florida Enchatment, Sidney Drew

The Sequels That Never Were

Coming on TCM tomorrow is one of those sequels that was never necessary but also turned out to be not bad.  The sequel is 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the original is 2001: A Space Odyssey, and, of course, both movies now take place in the past, a past somehow completely missing smart phones and Facebook.  It’s a tough business predicting the future but it’s just another workday in Hollywood taking popular story lines and characters and rehashing them for one more go around.  In 2010, the characters are actually different except for the spirit/presence of Dave Bowman, but it’s an extension of the story.  And while I didn’t much care for that particular story extension, there are three classic Hollywood films that never got a sequel (or the sequel I wanted) that, frankly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing.  And I should clarify that up front, that I’m not necessarily talking about movies that didn’t have sequels.  One of the movies I’m thinking of did indeed have a sequel, just not the one I wanted to see.  Speaking of which…



Revisiting The Terror (1963) on Blu-ray


TCM’s spotlight on American International Pictures is over but I recently got my paws on a copy of The Film Detective’s new Blue-ray of The Terror, a film that was originally released by AIP in 1963. I was so bowled over by the quality of the disc that it made me reconsider my long held view of this low-budget Gothic horror film initiated by Roger Corman.

Like any horror film fan worth their salt and of a certain age, I’d seen badly beat-up and butchered prints of The Terror on TV and video a number of times. The film suffered the unfortunate fate of falling into public domain decades ago so it became a staple of late night television and was repeatedly released as part of cheap video and DVD compilations typically sold in bargain bins. What I hadn’t realized is how much the poor presentation of the film had colored my opinion of it.


Morlock Bonus! Shock Cinema @ 50!


Shock Cinema turns 50 this year – not half a century, mind you, but 50 issues. I’ve been reading this mag since it was mimeographed on a turtle’s shell — that’s how I remember it, anyway — and let me tell you, boils and ghouls, what a sweet ride it has been. As entertainment journalism degrades ever more steadily into unalloyed product placement, Shock Cinema continues to find worthwhile subjects to interview: folks who have been there and, on more than one occasion, done that. What a record they have left us. What a history.  [...MORE]

This week on TCM Underground: The Church (1989) and The Devil’s Bride (1968)


We’re bringing back a couple of party favorites this week on TCM Underground – like Hell we are!


Injustice Department: Hide in Plain Sight (1980)



In June of 1967, Thomas Leonhard’s children disappeared. They vanished along with his ex-wife and her new husband. A year later Leonhard would learn that they were given new identities as part of the FBI’s Witness Protection Program. A cement mason in Buffalo, New York, Leonhard spent the next eight years in State and Federal courts trying to win the right to see his two kids. This remarkable story became the subject of Leslie Waller’s true crime novel Hide in Plain Sight, which James Caan would adapt for his directorial debut in 1980. Caan wanted the film to be a “cinema verite kind of thing”, so he shot the film on location in Buffalo, with most of the film unfurling as a low-key docudrama, sticking to the everyday details of Leonhard’s life. United Artists considered it too arty and a money loser, so it did not receive the full support of the studio, despite largely positive critical notices. It has been available on DVD from Warner Archive for a few years, but what led me to Hide in Plain Sight was the Buffalo News’ list of the top ten films shot in Western New York. Buffalo is my hometown, and it hasn’t had much luck on the silver screen, aside from Vincent Gallo’s idiosyncratic Buffalo ’66 and some turn-of-the-century Edison shorts (I am partial to A Trip Around the Pan-American Exposition  (1901)). Locals have always been most proud of The Natural (and its use of Parkside Candy Shop), but for me, Hide in Plain Sight presents a more complete view of the city, from the bars to the factories to the zoo. 


Roy Scheider: He Didn’t Need a Bigger Boat

blog openerOn Saturday, June 4, TCM pays tribute to actor Roy Scheider by showcasing three of his films, The French Connection, The Seven Ups, and 2010. Scheider’s greatest success came during the Film School Generation, an era when directors sought new levels of realism, experimented with form and content, and cast ordinary-looking method actors instead of conventionally handsome movie stars. With his thin body, angular face, and broken nose (the result of an early flirtation with boxing), Scheider exhibited the everyman quality directors preferred.

I did not fully appreciate Scheider until I began showing movies from the 1970s and 1980s in my film studies classes. As I watched some of his best performances over and over, I became a fan. Though I respect all the talented actors from the Film School Generation, I believe Scheider is the era’s best chameleon in that he was completely absorbed into his roles. Pacino seems too showy; De Niro too iconic; Hoffman too calculated; Hackman too physically unappealing. As my personal contribution to TCM’s tribute, I offer ten facts that I did not know about Roy Scheider, which I hope inspires an appreciation of his talents and contributions.


What is a War Movie, Anyway?

Genre is a term that means the same thing to many people while many nothing at all to most.  It’s meant as a way to organize and compartmentalize different types of movies so that, at the very least, we can scroll through our choices on Netflix more easily.  But, of course, if you know anything about genre you already know just how malleable that term is.  You can have so many overlapping genres for any one movie that the categories and sub-categories become interchangeable and ultimately pointless.  For instance, take today’s topic of this post, the war movie.  If you look at three of the war movies on the schedule today, you will find Glory, The Best Years of Our Lives, and M*A*S*H.  Three war movies as different from each other as any movies in completely different genres are from each one of them.

War Movies 01

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