By John Seal
July 30, 2012
From the obscure to the obscurest to the merely overlooked or underappreciated; they all have a home in the TiVoPlex! All times Pacific.
8:45 AM Turner Classic Movies
The Fatal Hour (1940 USA): Boris Karloff stars as Chinese detective James Wong in this threadbare poverty row mystery. The fourth of five Wong pictures produced by Monogram, The Fatal Hour sees our hero working with police captain Bill Street (blustery Grant Withers) to solve the murder of a fellow officer, whose body has recently turned up in a nearby river. The evidence revolves around a high tech remote control radio, and you’ll never guess whodunit! As for Karloff’s performance, he’s no worse at portraying an Asian character than is Peter Lorre - but those bottle top glasses sure make him look a little like Japanese general (and soon to be Prime Minister) Hideki Tojo. Coincidence?
2:00 PM Turner Classic Movies
The Great Jewel Robber (1951 USA): Long forgotten TV and screen actor David Brian headlines this surprisingly good caper flick about an escaped Canadian prisoner who makes his way to New York in hopes of burglarizing the home of a wealthy Yank. The job goes well until he double-crosses his partners and gets a beating that leaves him in hospital, where he develops a new business plan: robbing other patients with the unwitting help of smitten nurse Martha (Marjorie Reynolds). Directed by Peter Godfrey, this is a terrific little film that doesn’t make apologies for the foibles of its anti-hero: he likes his job, and he’s good at it, too!
Midnight Turner Classic Movies
The Famous Ferguson Case (1932 USA): Well, it’s not really all that famous, but it does make for a fun Warners-First National second feature. When a high society type is murdered and his wife left bound and gagged, newspaper reporters descend on the small New England town of Cornwall to get the scoop. There are reporters just after the facts, ma’am (such as local up and comer Bruce Foster, played by the boringly named Tom Brown) and there are reporters looking for sensation (represented by boozehound Bob Parkes, played by Kenneth Thomson). And then there’s gal reporter Maizie (Joan Blondell), not at all convinced her big-city colleagues are doing a very good job. Blondell is as bright and brassy as ever and the film’s pre-Code screenplay has plenty of bite, too, so this one comes highly recommended.
8:00 PM HBO
Beginners (2010 USA): I can’t believe Christopher Plummer has only been nominated for an Academy Award twice. Oh, sure...he’s got a bushel-load of other awards and nominations on his resume, but didn’t get any Academy love until his performance as Leo Tolstoy in 2009’s The Last Station. A year later he sealed the deal with his outstanding turn in Beginners, in which he plays Hal Fields, a terminally ill man who decides its time to own up to his sexuality and come out of the closet before he checks out. The news comes as a considerable shock to son Oliver (Ewan McGregor), an aspiring artist with his own relationship problems: he has none. It’s a moving, heartwarming, and decidedly old-fashioned character study, and though you get the feeling the Oscar was a "career award" for Plummer, it’s impossible to begrudge him his gong. Also airs at 11:00 PM and throughout the month.