By John Seal
July 16, 2012
1:00 AM Turner Classic Movies
Made in Heaven (1952 GB): In the late 1940s, Petula Clark starred in a brief series of films – recently screened on TCM – about the adventures of the Huggetts, a lovable English working-class family. In 1952, she made this film about the adventures of the Tophams, a lovable English middle-class family. This time, however, the family’s biggest problem is not where to spend their holidays, but what to do about the troublesome Hungarian maid (Sonja Ziemann) they’ve just hired. The film’s climax, believe it or not, involves a contest for a large slab of bacon. Also featured in this not terribly remarkable (though shot in color by Geoffrey Unsworth!) comedy: Richard Wattis in one of his trademarked silly ass roles (a vicar this time), David Tomlinson as Petula’s distracted husband, and Alfie Bass as a neighbor.
10:00 AM Turner Classic Movies
House of Women (1962 USA): This is not quite as spicy as it sounds – admit it, you thought it was a lost Jess Franco feature, didn’t you? – but it’s still a pretty decent women-in-prison feature. Shirley Knight headlines as Erica Hayden, a young lady wrongfully convicted of robbery and sent up the river for a five-year stretch. In addition to being innocent, Erica is also pregnant, and will lose custody of her child if she’s still behind bars when baby turns three. Solution: appeal to warden Frank Cole (Andrew Duggan) for help in proving her innocence and getting an early release. Problem: Cole is a complete douchebag and is unlikely to help. There are some decent twists and turns here, but the big question remains: who perms the ladies’ hair behind bars? In almost every women-in-prison film the dames are immaculately coiffed. I always wonder about that.
8:00 PM Sundance
White Lightnin’ (2009 GB): Inspired by the misadventures of Appalachian folk dancer and professional hellraiser Jesco White, this is a highly fictionalized, but absolutely riveting, take on his life - and a film with characters who make the mountain men in Deliverance look like a buncha candy asses. Oddly, this is a British film, with Yorkshireman Edward Hogg delivering a remarkable performance as White, outstanding cinematography courtesy Tim Maurice-Jones, and an unexpected appearance by Carrie Fisher as a red hot white trash mama.
3:00 AM Fox Movie Channel
Sleepers West (1941 USA): Fox has been doing us a real favor recently - screening all their long unseen Michael Shayne pics. Watching them has given me a new appreciation for the talents of Lloyd Nolan, whose six decade-long film career began with him playing handsome devil-may-care types and ended with him playing cranky but sharp as a tack old men (The Double Man, The Girl Hunters). As for Sleepers West, it was the second of the Shayne series and sees our hero escorting a witness on a cross-continental rail journey to San Francisco. Look for the great African-American comedian Mantan Moreland, here cast as a railway porter.
9:00 AM Turner Classic Movies
The Green Hornet (1940 USA): Britt "The Green Hornet" Reid (Gordon Jones) tries to cross The Bridge to Disaster in Chapters 7, 8, and 9 of this Saturday matinee serial.
6:00 PM The Movie Channel
Summer’s Moon (2009 CAN): S-P-L-A-T-T-E-R-day NIGHT! As the Bay City Rollers might have sung if they’d been a Goth rock band, it’s Splatterday night on The Movie Channel, and this week we get Summer’s Moon, which contrary to its title is NOT a Jeanette McDonald-Nelson Eddy musical. No, it’s actually a serial killer thriller about a family of psychopaths and the young woman trying her best to avoid them. Yet another film coasting on the success of the Twilight series, with Alice Cullen – I mean, Ashley Greene - as the femme in question, Summer’s Moon isn’t entirely without value, as it benefits from the presence of reliable Stephen McHattie as the patriarch of the killer Gant clan. Also airs at 9:10 PM.
6:30 PM Encore Westerns
China 9, Liberty 37 (1978 ITA-ESP): Warren Oates stars as a landowner being stalked by a hired killer in this extremely late-in-the-day spaghetti western. Oates plays Matthew Sebanek, who’s sitting on a valuable stakehold that the railways want. Being a stubborn old cuss, he’s loathe to sell, so the local rail barons hire Clayton Drumm (Fabio Testi) to remove him from their path. In the process of stalking his victim, however, Drumm instead befriends him, indefinitely postponing the day of destiny – but then Matthew’s wife Catherine (Jenny Agutter) falls for the strapping assassin, and the game is back on. Directed by Monte Hellman (!), this is a pretty decent Eurowestern, and Oates delivers a typically fine performance. Now, can we convince one of the premium channels to air the other Oates-Hellman collaboration, Cockfighter?
11:00 PM Turner Classic Movies
The Leopard (1963 ITA): I’ve written, not always favorably, about this Luchino Visconti frock flick in the past. Those reviews, however, were all based on the washed out, dubbed print that Fox Movie Channel has aired from time to time. Newsflash: TCM’s print is not only in Italian, it’s also in much, much better condition. The Leopard is never going to be one of my favorite films, but this is a far better presentation than it’s had on previous occasions.
6:00 PM HBO
Vito (2011 USA): I was hoping this was going to be a documentary about one of my political heroes, New York City congressman and Fiorella la Guardia sidekick Vito Marcantonio, but no such luck – it’s actually a documentary about AIDS activist Vito Russo. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll probably check it out anyway. Also airs at 9:00 PM.