TiVoPlex for Tuesday September 11 2012 through Monday September 17 2012
By John Seal
September 10, 2012

After I rescue the dog I'll try to find that missing Coke bottle

From the obscure to the obscurest to the merely overlooked or underappreciated; they all have a home in the TiVoPlex! All times Pacific.

Tuesday 9/11/12

4:30 AM Fox Movie Channel
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-the-Moon Marigolds (1972 USA): A film that deeply impressed me when I was 10, The Effect of Gamma Rays is a classic ugly duckling tale of adversity overcome and love reclaimed. Based on a Paul Zindel play, the film stars Joanne Woodward as the monstrous and embittered single mother of two high school age girls, Ruth and Matilda. Ruth (Roberta Wallach) is the eldest, an increasingly self-confident young woman also starting to display some of her mother's megalomaniacal tendencies. Matilda (Nell Potts, in her second and final feature role) is the inarticulate younger daughter, whose inward drive to create the perfect science fair project is an increasing annoyance for her two housemates. Supportive teacher Mr. Goodman (David Spielberg) wants to help Matilda edge out of her shell, but finds her mother a less than willing participant at the academic cotillion. Never straying too far into predictable or sentimental terrain, Alvin Sargent's bittersweet screenplay ends on an enigmatic note, and Paul Newman's icy, detached direction coaxes a superb performance from his spouse. If you have children in the 10-14 age bracket, this is perfect family viewing.

Wednesday 9/12/12

4:00 AM HBO Signature
Gestacion (2009 CRC): I’ve lost track at this point, but I don’t think I’ve written about any Costa Rican films before now. Gestacion is a fairly routine but reasonably well acted tale of teen trauma, as a young high school couple (Adriana Alvarez and Edgar Roman) try to cope with an unwanted pregnancy. The film probably has more bite in its deeply Catholic and very conservative homeland, but it’s by no means as anodyne as an Afterschool Special and provides value to admirers of Spanish-language cinema.

1:45 PM Turner Classic Movies
Eight Iron Men (1952 USA): The testosterone is palpable in this first-rate World War II actioner helmed by Edward Dmytryk. Produced by Stanley Kramer, Eight Iron Men tells the story of a squad of American troops and their special relationship with a German machine gun nest somewhere in Italy. Amongst the terrific cast are Lee Marvin as Sergeant Mooney and Arthur Franz, Richard Kiley, and Bonar Colleano (a Yank usually seen in British films of the period) as the GIs under Mooney’s command. The film also includes the last screen performance to date by little Dickie Moore, a child actor of the ‘20s and ‘30s who’s still with us today. Based on a play, Eight Iron Men feels a bit stage-bound, but the cast are excellent and J. Roy Hunt’s cinematography exemplary.

Thursday 9/13/12

5:00 PM Showtime
Shakespeare High(2011 USA): Fans of the Immortal Bard will get a charge out of this documentary, which takes a look at California’s annual high school Shakespeare Festival and Competition. You’ll meet a wide variety of young people eager to make their mark with eight-minute excerpts of Shakespeare sans costumes or sets, which are strictly verboten. It’s a bit like American Idol, but not quite as annoying – and you’ll inevitably find yourself rooting for your favorite competitors. Also airs at 8:00 PM.

5:00 PM Turner Classic Movies
Gussie’s Day of Rest(1915 USA): Ready for a little slapstick? I’m deeply ashamed to admit that I missed last week’s Thursday night Slapstick-palooza, but there’s plenty more on offer this evening. Screening as part of a month-long salute to legendary producer Mack Sennett, TCM has your silent pratfall needs well covered tonight with an astonishing selection of 19 - yes, 19! - Sennett produced comedy short subjects. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve seen all of ‘em, and without doing a few hours research can’t tell you if all (or none) of them are available on DVD, so do yourself a favor and record the whole lot. The fun begins at 5:00 PM and wraps up at 12:30 AM the following morning, but if you choose to limit yourself to only one of the shorts on offer, let it be 1916’s Fatty and Mabel Adrift, in which Fatty Arbuckle and Mable Normand find their beach front abode swept out to sea. It’s very funny, and screens at 8:00 PM.

Friday 9/14/12

1:15 PM Turner Classic Movies
Crest of the Wave (1954 GB): This British war film was originally released as Seagulls Over Sorrento, which is an even wimpier title than Crest of the Wave. What kind of producer churns out a war flick called Seagulls Over Sorrento? It sounds like it should be a romantic comedy with Dirk Bogarde, but it’s actually a two-fisted tale of, er, Gene Kelly working on some demolitions experiments off the coast of Scotland. Hmm, no Lee Marvin, no Audie Murphy...I guess Seagulls Over Sorrento is appropriate after all. I haven’t seen this film in ages, but I’m pretty sure Gene neither sings nor dances with co-stars Bernard Lee, John Justin, and Sid “Carry On” James. It’s followed at 3:00 PM by The Sea Around Us (1956), Irwin Allen’s Oscar-winning documentary based on Rachel Carson’s best-selling book.

Saturday 9/15/12

9:00 AM Turner Classic Movies
Captive Girl (1950 USA): Jungle Jim (Johnny Weissmuller) crosses figurative swords with villain Barton (Buster Crabbe) in this predictably lame and reliably cheap looking series entry from the Sam Katzman production line. Barton’s out to steal some jungle treasure, whilst Jim must work to rescue damsel in distress Joan (swimming champ Anita Lhoest, in her only screen appearance) from the slimy grasp of wicked witch doctor Hakim (John Dehner). If you never thought you’d see a film in which Buster Crabbe wasn’t the worst actor, you should definitely check out Captive Girl.

5:00 PM HBO
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011 USA): Here’s one of my guilty pleasures from last year. Of course, I was also in the “it’s not that bad” camp regarding Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake, so I’m probably not the most reliable critic when it comes to movies about monkeys. (Yes, I know monkeys aren’t apes. Thanks for reminding me.) Anyhoo, I actually found ROTPOTA quite engaging, and the ape effects are pretty good if you’re a special effects geek. As for the humans – well, Andy Serkis makes for a good monkey, doesn’t he? (YES, I know monkeys aren’t apes. Thanks for reminding me.) Also airs at 8:00 PM and throughout the month.

Sunday 9/16/12

2:10 AM Starz in Black
Futuresport (1998 USA): Juice man Ernest Dickerson directed this (mostly) African-American variation on the “bleak future where people are entertained by gladiatorial competitions” meme. Former Superman Dean Cain headlines as Tre Ramzey, a Futuresport superstar who tries to prevent World War III by setting up a super-duper Futuresport joust between super-powers America and Australia. There’s also some guff about a guerrilla army fighting for Hawaiian independence, whilst Vanessa Williams pops up as Alex, a reporter covering Futuresport who also happens to be Tre’s significant other. Tres convenient! If you’re not convinced to watch yet, here’s the clincher: the dreadlocked Jamaican guy who invented Futuresport is played by Wesley Snipes. Boom shaka!

7:00 PM Turner Classic Movies
Love and Pain (and the Whole Damn Thing) (1972 USA): This one is definitely TiVoPlex title of the week! Produced by Columbia, LPWDT sank into obscurity almost immediately, but is well worth your time. It’s a character study starring That’s My Bush star Timothy Bottoms as Walter Elbertson, a college-age lad touring his way across Spain. (Remember That’s My Bush? It was funny until 9/11, then it was just very, very sad.) En route he meets older woman Lila Fisher (Maggie Smith), and the two recognize each other as kindred spirits despite their difference in age. Intelligently written by Alvin Sargent (two mentions in one week!) and well-directed by Alan Pakula, LPWDT is a typical, and typically excellent, example of character-driven seventies cinema. The fine location footage, shot by Geoffrey Unsworth, is an added bonus.

Monday 9/17/12

Midnight Starz
The Wicker Tree (2010): This film really should be better than it is. A sequel of sorts to 1973’s The Wicker Man, The Wicker Tree was written and directed by Robin Hardy, the man responsible for directing that unforgettable tribute to things pagan and profane. Sadly, however, the results are mediocre at best: the film’s two lead characters, Texans on a Christian mission to Scotland, are as thick as two bricks, and the story surprisingly routine. That said, Scotland always looks nice on film, and there are a few satisfyingly shocking moments. Also airs at 3:00 AM.