By John Seal
August 24, 2009
From the obscure to the obscurest to the merely overlooked or underappreciated; they all have a home in the TiVoPlex! All times Pacific.
12:30pm Turner Classic Movies
Triple Cross (1967 GB): Today is TCM's "Summer Under the Stars" salute to Yul Brynner, and the chrome-domed Russian expat takes a bow in this decent WW II espionage effort from director Terence Young. Brynner plays Count von Grunen, the German officer responsible for training British double-agent Eddie Chapman (Christopher Plummer), who has turned on his native land and is now serving as a spy for the Third Reich. What von Grunen and fellow Nazi Steinhager (Gert Frobe) don't know is that Chapman is actually a triple-agent who has carried out orchestrated "sabotage" and returned to occupied Europe to feed them false information (after, of course, claiming his Iron Cross). Triple Cross is a bit too low-key for its own good, but a fine supporting cast (including Trevor Howard, Jess Hahn, Romy Schneider, and Howard Vernon) and excellent Henri Alekan cinematography make it prime viewing for spy-movie junkies. It's followed at 3pm by a rare wide-screen airing of Brynner's Adios Sabata (1971), a passable spaghetti Western from director Gianfranco Parolini.
Which Way Home (2009 USA): Which Way Home, first seen at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, makes its small-screen debut this evening. Director Rebecca Cammisa received a Fulbright Fellowship to make this heartbreaking documentary, which tracks the adventures (if such they can be called) of a group of Mexican and Guatemalan children as they attempt to reach and cross the Rio Grande in search of work. All but the coldest of Minutemen will be touched and saddened by the stories herein of dead, raped, and imprisoned youngsters whose dreams of a better life disintegrate on the road to the United States. Also airs at 8pm.
12:30pm Encore Action
Return to Macon County (1975 USA): Judging from recent programming, Encore Action has acquired the rights to a ton of AIP features, and here's another of the studio's biggest hits. Nick Nolte and Don Johnson star as Bo and Harley, a couple of free spirits who take to the road in their custom ‘57 Chevy in hopes of making it to California for the drag racing nationals. Along the way, they pick up a waitress (Robin Mattson) and (via an unfortunate accident) attract the attention of local law enforcement, who vow not to let the trio cross county lines. Set in 1958, the film skimps on period detail, but the cast do the best they can and there are plenty of automotive thrills to distract you from the inappropriate ‘70s décor.
The Italian (2005 RUS): A brutally frank exposition on the decaying social structures of post-Soviet Union Russia, The Italian will hopefully encourage you to take a second look at that fly-by-night adoption agency you just hired. Six-year-old Kolya Spiridonov headlines as Vanya, an orphan abandoned in the remote vastnesses of the steppes by his beleaguered mother. He lives in a Dickensian orphanage run by scheming ne'er-do-wells Madam and Grisha (Mariya Kuznetsova and Nikolay Reutov, respectively), who are hoping to sell him to the highest bidder; in this case, a rich Italian couple out child-shopping. Not at all happy about the arrangements being made on his behalf, Vanya decides to do a runner and go in search of his birth mother, but Madam and Grisha aren't about to let their cute-as-a-button meal ticket get away without a fight, and they're soon hot on his trail. Young Spiridonov delivers a spirited and believable performance as the feisty lad, and the film is beautifully shot by Aleksandr Burov, who captures the lay of the landscape (and the chill of winter) to superb effect. Also airs 8/28 at 4:35am.