By John Seal
April 16, 2012
9:00 AM Turner Classic Movies
Tarzan’s Revenge (1938 USA): Another independently helmed Tarzan adventure produced by Sol Lesser (who would fulfill the same role after the main series moved from MGM to RKO in 1943), Tarzan’s Revenge stars former Olympian Glenn Morris as the loin-clothed Lord of the Apes. This time the T-Man is enamored of Eleanor Reed (fellow former Olympic athlete Eleanor Holm), bride-to-be of milquetoast Nevin (George Barbier), a less than intrepid chap looking to capture some animals for a Stateside zoo. Alas, Eleanor has also attracted the attention of swarthy Arab villain Ben Alleu Bey (C. Henry Gordon). Who will win the fair maiden’s hand - and will any animals be safely transported back to civilization? Tune in to find out!
7:00 PM Cinemax
The Tree of Life (2011 USA): I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not Terrence Malick’s biggest fan. Oh sure, the guy can photograph rippling grass with the best of them - heck, he may well be the greatest grass filmmaker of all time - but he just doesn’t seem very interested in human beings. Granted, his films have their moments: Badlands features fine work from Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen, and some of the action sequences in The Thin Red Line are truly impressive. The politics of The New World are above reproach. People, though, are not something he seems to care about much (how else to explain John Travolta’s vomit-worthy "performance" in TRL), and that doesn’t change in his most recent effort, The Tree of Life, which makes its small screen debut this evening. If you feel compelled to tune in, concentrate on Jack Fisk’s production design and Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography whilst turning down the volume and avoiding Malick’s portentous dialogue. If you’re a glutton for punishment, the film airs again at 10:00 PM and throughout the month.
11:00 PM Turner Classic Movies
Diary of a Country Priest (1951 FRA): At long last, Robert Bresson makes it to TCM. Generally considered one of the leading lights of French cinema, the equal of Jean Renoir, and one of the progenitors of the New Wave, Bresson is renowned for his non-fussy and spiritual stylism. Typical of his output is Diary of a Country Priest, a feature based on a popular Georges Bernanos novel starring Claude Laydu as the newly arrived clergyman sent to serve the rustic parish of Ambricourt. Despite health problems, our hero does his best to bring the Good News to the locals, but experiences a crisis of faith when malicious gossip gets the better of him. Perhaps most aptly compared to the work of Carl Dreyer, Bresson’s oeuvre isn’t for everyone, but is an essential part of a broad and deep cinema education. Diary of a Country Priest is followed at 1:15 AM by A Man Escaped (1957), Bresson’s nouvelle vague examination of a French resistance fighter’s efforts to elude the clutches of the Gestapo.
10:10 PM HBO Signature
La Hora Cero (2010 VEN): Here’s a Venezuelan thriller with a patina of political commentary. A young man credited as Zapata 666 plays Parca, a gangster who, along with delightfully monickered pregnant moll Ladydi (Amanda Key), has been wounded in a shootout. Under normal circumstances, a trip to the nearest emergency room would take care of things - but on this day Venezuela’s medical personnel are going on strike, and despite having guns waved in their faces are reluctant to set aside their industrial dispute in order to patch up the wounded. Written and directed by American expat Diego Velasco, La Hora Cero (Zero Hour) is a gritty but intelligent feature that probably wasn’t on Hugo Chavez’s 2010 "best of" list.