JUNE AND JULY 2013
June and July on TCM means among other things beach parties, surfboards sticking out of the rumble seats, and bandleader Xavier Cugat presiding over sanitized triangles betwixt operetta stars, but in between these choices, as is their purview, crafty programmers drop trash and vaudevillian classics so lost, so rare, it’s worth canceling all your summer trips (or at least clearing your DVR space) not to miss them. Bright Lights After Dark is one step ahead, here for you, like an enigmatic, shifty-eyed butler:
Morning of the Shooters and Snatchers! – June 17
8:30 AM – Headline Shooter (1933)
9:45 AM – Picture Snatcher (1933)
A decade away from becoming the woman we all fell in love with in I Walked with a Zombie (1942), Frances Dee can still make sensibile sobriety sexy, and in Shooter exhibits some serious chemistry with a ‘press corp’ hero played by the briefly beloved Will Gargan. As a newsreel cameraman, Lee Tracy is relegated to wingman and wryly notes of women: “They want you to chase ’em, and once you catch ’em they hang on ya like a ton of bricks.” Then he gets ‘literally’ crushed by a ton of bricks while filming a warehouse fire. Oh the irony! Ralph Bellamy lines the sides as (what else?) the jilted fiancee in this early example of tough-ass Warner Brothers action, with an obligatory climactic gangster shoot-out and a quite a few real-time floods, fires, and even the actual aftermath of a just-happened-and-capitalized-on Santa Monica earthquake. It’s startling how at ease the actors are around these real-time calamities, with reporter Dee offering comfort to shaken witnesses so they’ll sign the release statement, showing the sexy compassion that would later encourage zombies to walk with her through whispering cane fields.
Headlines were made in the 1920s when a sneaky reporter got a picture of Ruth Snyder in the electric chair; it was the height of the ‘scoop’ frenzy that drove reporters to illegal pursuits to gratify their bloodthirsty readers. Cagney stars as the ruthless snatcher, as pre-code’s greatest champion, film critic Mick La Salle notes, “If you’ve never seen a pre-Code Cagney film, get ready for a treat – he is a blast of intensity and nonstop invention, truly one of the most delightful and expressive actors ever to work onscreen, and in this era, he was at his best.” And once again, there’s good old Ralph Bellamy, waiting for his cockblock close-up!
TCM’s Mamie Van Doren Fest! – June 20th – starting at 8 pm
Untamed Youth (1957)
The Beat Generation (1959)
Born Reckless (1959)
GIrls, Guns, and Gangsters (1958)
Vice Raid (1959)
Sex Kittens Go to College (1960)
The Girl in Black Stockings (1957)
You know how Jayne Mansfield was the cartoon caricature of Marilyn Monroe? Well Mamie Van Doren is the cartoon caricature of Jayne Mansfield and more aggressively carnal then either. On June 20th, starting at 8 PM TCM celebrates the divine Ms. V.D. with a sleazy barrage of late 50s drive-in endurance tests, though where the hell is her best, the Jack Arnold-directed High School Confidential?
I would recommend Tivoing all these films and waiting til Saturday night to see them, when you’re drunk and making and/or passing out. You know that’s what Mamie would want! I feel drawn especially to The Beat Generation, (1959), which has Vampira as a blonde, short-haired beatnik poetess and a script co-written by sci fi legend, Richard Matheson (though I hear it’s got a icky, Ricky Santorum-y message). If you want to skip the message but dig Nurmi’s dope-ass poem, click here.
I confess I haven’t seen any of these films! If I had I probably wouldn’t be recommending them… but if you’re able to still get wasted, and love Russ Meyer and Ed Wood, then of course you should dive in! The one I’m most looking forward to is Sex Kittens. It get’s a staggering 2.2. rating on imdb.com, where it’s outraged champions like ‘Dallaswhiskey’ of Finland notes:
This movie has it all. There’s Mamie van Doren as a super-intelligent professor/tassel-tosser. There’s her pet monkey that plays the piano and the drums. There’s a robot. There are gangsters. There’s a ten-minute dream sequence of topless strippers. There’s a high-speed firetruck driving scene with lots of nice 50s cars. There’s Mamie making an introduction to her new students by shooting two revolvers all over the lecture room. Mamie shooting at the camera with a fire extinguisher. Conway Twitty singing rock’n’roll. Vampira making an appearance as a shaggy lab assistant. Brigitte’s sister Mijanou Bardot sweet-talking as a French exchange student. What more could you possibly want?
Dallas, how about Timothy Carey as a biker! No? Oh well… I’ll still be there.
MARTHA VICKERS ALERT – Saturday 22
10:45 AM – The Falcon in Mexico (1944)
If The Big Sleep is one of your all-time favorite films then this is a must if only for Sleep’s thumbsucking nympho little sister Carme, Martha Vickers co-starring with the ineffable Tom Conway as the Falcon. TCM be running the whole series, one every Saturday morning and they’re a great thing to find waiting on your DV-R list when you wake up at two in afternoon!
… At long last … OSCAR – June 25
9:45 AM – The Oscar (1966)
My whole life has been spent trying to see this campy head trip, penned by sci fi legend Harlan Ellison (my favorite writer as a tween), ever since I learned about it a couple of months ago, nowhere on DVD at all, and why? Why?? Bad Movies to Love lays it out:
Jill St. John as a stripper, Tony Bennett as an Irish Jew, and later on we get Milton Berle as an honest agent with a heart of gold (This universe is getting stranger and stranger), Joseph Cotten (right in the middle of a fascinating career trajectory that took him from Citizen Kane to Soylent Green) as a studio chief with integrity, Elke Sommer as the ice princess who makes the TERRIBLE MISTAKE of falling in LOVE with that BASTARD!, Peter Lawford as an actor who has fallen so far that he’s now just a maitre’d, and just to make sure we’re going to run the table, Ernest Borgnine as a sleazy detective, with Edie Adams as his moll!
Dawn of the Octopus – Friday – 5th
6:15 AM – Sh! The Octopus (1937)
Yeah I know. Even old dark house /monster fans have noted that the endless comic banter and business with Allen Jenkins and Hugh Herbert borders on unbearable, but this super rarity that very few of us have actually seen has a giant octopus, fog, and scariness, so they say. And on a hot July morning some cold foggy lighthouse business might be a cool balm. Tempering my enthusiasm is my old alma mater, Popmatters noting that aside from a great climax, the bulk of the film involves watching “crazy characters drop through sliding panels from which large tentacles now and then come snaking, and everyone runs around screaming and shooting and overacting.”
You had me at large tentacles!