By John Seal
November 26, 2012
From the obscure to the obscurest to the merely overlooked or underappreciated; they all have a home in the TiVoPlex! All times Pacific.
6:00 PM Sundance
Out of Time (2003 USA): Denzel Washington headlines this solid slice of cinema intrigue as a Florida cop mixed up in murder and subterfuge. Denzel is Matt Whitlock, a small town police chief whose marriage to fellow cop Alexandra (Eva Mendes) is on the skids, thanks in part to his ongoing affair with dying cancer victim Ann (Sanaa Lathan). Ann makes Matt the beneficiary of her life insurance policy, and in exchange Matt steals some confiscated drug money to allow her to go to Europe for "alternative therapy" (yeah, like THAT’S gonna work). Needless to say, things don’t go quite as planned. Directed by Carl Franklin (One False Move), Out of Time’s plot stretches well beyond the limits of credulity, but is solid entertainment nonetheless. Also airs at 11:15 PM.
1:30 AM Turner Classic Movies
Woman on the Beach (1947 USA): I’m a big Jean Renoir fan – and really, who isn’t? – but this made-in-USA pseudo-noir is not one of his best efforts. The bar, of course, had been set impossibly high by previous Renoir classics such as Grand Illusion, La Bete Humaine, and Rules of the Game, but the bottom line is that he was rarely at his best when shooting in English. In Woman on the Beach, Renoir’s story of a seaside love triangle is blessed by three first-rate leads in the form of Robert Ryan, Joan Bennett, and Charles Bickford, but things just don’t quite gel. One wonders if the result would have been more satisfying if original producer Val Lewton had been involved, but alas – Lewton suffered a heart attack before the film went into production and ended up being replaced by Jack Gross, who also took ‘final cut’ privileges away from Renoir. The result? A watchable picture that could have been much, much better than it is.
3:00 AM Fox Movie Channel
Siege at Red River (1954 USA): This Technicolor Fox oater has pedigree to spare. Directed by five-time Oscar nominee Rudolph Mate and penned by Sydney Boehm (whose previous film had been The Big Heat), Siege at Red River is set in the dying days of the Civil War and stars not terribly manly Van Johnson as Farraday, a Confederate soldier transporting stolen Union Gatling guns across enemy lines. Unfortunately, the guns are stolen from him by middle man Brett Manning (Richard Boone), who turns around and offers them for sale to the nearest Indian tribe. What’s the one thing guaranteed to bring Billy Yank and Johnny Reb back together? Why, sure, the threat of Native Americans armed with high tech weaponry! Racist and politically incorrect it may be, but Siege at Red River is a gorgeously shot western with plenty of excitement and a fine moustache twirling turn from Boone.
5:00 AM Flix
Circle of Iron (1978 USA): Long a much sought after VHS rarity — I can't tell you how many times I got outbid for a copy on Ebay — Circle of Iron finally got a DVD release a few years back and makes one of its rare small screen appearances this morning. Based in part on a story by Bruce Lee, the film stars David Carradine as a wise man trying to bring enlightenment to a stroppy young initiate (Jeff Cooper). So far so Kung Fu, but Circle of Iron goes much further over the edge than that relatively unambitious TV series ever did, featuring a bad guy played by Christopher Lee, a eunuch-in-waiting played by Eli Wallach, and a screenplay full of ripe dialogue supplied by Sterling Silliphant, of all people. Not to be missed by fans of the outré or psychotronic, Circle of Iron also features a hammy performance by Roddy McDowell as White Robe, arbiter of all things ethical vis a vis the martial arts.