Screened Out: Monday, June 4th

Discussion of programming on TCM.

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mrsl
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Post by mrsl »

I saw Caged years ago shortly before I was married the first time. I recall writing out Thank You notes for my shower, so I know the approximate time. However, since I was a physically abused wife, seeing 'women in physical danger' movies is not a turn on for me, so I did crosswords on the computer all night after watching one western. Even though I was young when I saw it, I knew what was going on, and what it was about. I also saw the one with Ida Lupino as the warden (can't think of the name right now), but again it's not one I care to watch.

It's odd how personal experiences can govern my choice of movies, but when something hits a little too close to home, unless it's a happy occasion, I prefer not to watch.

I do recall feeling so sorry for Eleanor Parker, and giving her the 'you go girl' signal of the day when she formed her steel backbone. The wonderful Hope Emerson, who normally I would hate, has done so many varied parts, always tough, but often with a mushy heart, did this one up proud. To me, Hope is one of the stand out performers.

I'm not sure exactly what 'screened out' refers to since I haven't seen TCM a lot recently, and to avoid TCMU promos, I go to the channel just as the movie starts, in fact I dislike most of the recent promos due to the background music they've been using - my quiet life style is offended by the raucous noise that is considered music of today. If 'screened out' means the gay thing, well, all I can say is 'go to it' TCM just as I finally decided regarding TCMU. If they insist on making some sort of fuss, or point about gays in movies, that is their right I guess. I just cannot understand why people don't leave people alone to live their lives as they choose, why the necessity of making a point of it?

BTW, if I'm more caustic than usual this week, please forgive me and tell me to shut up - it's my third day on the patch, and I'm doing okay, but I can feel the nerves starting to act up a little, so by Friday, I may be howling - Wish me luck after 47 years, this is nuts!

Anne
Anne


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benwhowell
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Jocko De Paris

Post by benwhowell »

I taped four movies from last night's Screened Out. Looking forward to watching them-especially "The Strange One." It was adapted for the screen by Calder Willingham from his (autobiographical?) novel "End As A Man." I'm a big Willingham fan-including his novel "Geraldine Bradshaw" and screenplays "Paths Of Glory," "The Graduate," "Little Big Man" and Robert Altman's "Thieves Like Us."
"The Strange One" sounds like quite an experimental and subversive project from the Actor's Studio...according to IMDb.
Anyone see it? Comments?
Mr. Arkadin
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

I recorded The Strange One as well. Very cool film from what I saw last night (I was kinda dozing with my alarm clock set to tell me when to change disks).

I have always liked Ben Gazzara. If you have never seen The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), by all means do so! A Tour de Force performance to be sure.
Mr. Arkadin
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

The Big Combo is up next! OK Dewey, start talking! :D

I'll start by asking you a question that relates to the thread: Do you think the evil gay henchmen in the Bond film Diamonds are Forever (1971) were patterned after these guys in The Big Combo?
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Dewey1960
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Post by Dewey1960 »

Good morning, Mr. Ark. I think any film made after 1955 that features "gay henchman" owes a debt of gratitude to THE BIG COMBO (especially NORTH BY NORTHWEST; although technically the mold was set in Fritz Lang's 1953 film THE BIG HEAT. It's just that COMBO takes it quite a bit further). Of course, given the climate of 1950s Hollywood, much of what we see is buried beneath a lot of subterfuge and innuendo, yet there it is. But all of that is beside the point; THE BIG COMBO really doesn't need a subtext to warrant our attention. From this point on, I'll just adapt a post I left on the other site several months ago about this remarkable film.

Played out as a primal tale of lust and obsession, THE BIG COMBO probably goes deeper than most films of the period in its exposure of raw human emotion, particularly within the sometimes limiting context of the low budget crime thriller. Richard Conte (who I would place near the top of any list of noir icons) has rarely been better, spitting out his lines of bitter dialogue like a rabid mutt. He's matched all the way, though, by a stellar ensemble cast, including the hypnotic (and seldom seen) Jean Wallace as Conte's emotionally fragile mistress (who was married at the time in real life to co-star Cornel Wilde), Brian Donlevy as the aging henchman and, most interestingly, Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman as a pair of preening, sadistic underlings. But the real star (apart from director Joseph Lewis himself) is cinematographer John Alton, who contributes some of his most startling work, maintaining an unsettling visual dynamic throughout. A standout sequence, which fans of this film will vividly recall, (SPOILER ALERT, for those who wish to keep the shock of the moment intact) is Donlevy's execution-style murder at the hands of Van Cleef and Holliman. Donlevy's character is saddled with a hearing aid. Conte, in a moment of charitable humanity, pulls it out of Donlevy's ear before the shooting begins, sparing him the sound of his own death. The sequence is filmed completely silent, just the high-contrast image of flashing gunfire directly into the camera. Highly unusual and very disturbing.

If you've neve seen THE BIG COMBO, here's a great opportunity to catch up with one of the truly great ones.

Thanks for bringing it up again, Mr. Arkadin. I remember well your quest for the best available DVD. Aren't you glad you found it?
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Post by benwhowell »

I've always liked Ben Gazzara too...have never been disappointed with his role choices or his performances. Another great performance would be in Peter Bogdanovich's "Saint Jack." It's also interesting that he's been in many foreign launguage movies. He's one hard working actor.
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moira finnie
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The Big Combo and Ben Gazzara

Post by moira finnie »

Re: The Big Combo
Nice summation by Dewey, to which I'd add that you might watch this one just for the director Joseph H. Lewis, who was also the director of more than 50 of those great episodes of The Rifleman and another scary-looney noir classic, Gun Crazy. Lewis was the poetic ringmaster who brought this film to life via his fine cast, a good, burly script by Philip Yordan with some acidly funny and disturbing lines, fine cinematography from noir master John Alton, who created some stylishly seedy milieus for a relative pittance. I think that every time the budget got tight, the movie crew was told to "Lower the lights and cue the fog machine--we can't show much in the way of sets, 'cause we don't really have any..."
Here's a fun site that breaks down the underrated Lewis' work, showing the underlying themes in much of the work over an exceptionally dirverse up and down career.

You might also want to catch this for the then notoriously racy submission scene between the acidic Richard Conte and passive Jean Wallace in which the lovely, if fairly inexpressive Jean is subjected to Conte's, ahem, attention. This film was condemned for its violence, as well as its adult frankness at a time when the Production Code still held sway.

I'd also throw in some good actors to look for in this movie, other than the prinicipal characters. A round of applause should go out to these three players who appear very briefly in this film. The first two only have one scene, the last about two, but boy do they make an impression:

John Hoyt as the effete and wary storekeeper, who manages to engage the viewer completely and sketch in a detailed portrait of a seemingly insignificant character with great style.

Ted de Corsia makes an indelible impression as a character who's too exhausted by his misspent life to put up much fight anymore. His character expects the worst and hopes for a quick end without much fuss.

Helen Walker gives a jarring portrayal of a woman who may or may not have all her marbles, but is definitely compelling. She was a remarkably talented lady.

Two words of warning: You might want to be prepared to raise the volume on your tv. Some prints of this movie have a fairly sketchy sound quality, though I hope that TCM has found the best they can. Btw, I wouldn't watch this movie with kids or sensitive older people. It isn't pretty or wholesome, but it certainly is compelling and oddly entertaining.


Re: Ben Gazzara
Ben, I'm so glad that you mentioned Ben Gazzara's splendid work in the Peter Bogdonavich movie, Saint Jack, which is based on the work of one very interesting writer who often specializes in exotic locales in his fiction as well as nonfiction, Paul Theroux. It was not without its critics, but Gazzara was great in that one.

If anyone 'round the country has the chance they might also like to catch Nobody Don't Like Yogi with Mr. Gazzara in a one man show about--you guessed it, that other great Italian-American, baseball hero, and perhaps the deepest philosopher in baseball since Casey Stengel: Yogi Berra! I saw it just before moving from Boston and it was a delightful and touching tour de force. Here's a fun interview that I came across with Gazzara discussing his background and this piece, which he may still appear in from time to time.
jdb1

Post by jdb1 »

Friends, I tried watching The Big Combo last night, and I just could not stick with it. As a matter of fact, I hated it, and gave up after the first half hour. I tuned in a few times as the film was running, but I really found it very rough going to sit still for it.

I thought the dialog I heard was stilted, cliched and terrible. I thought the Marilyn/Hitchcock Blonde clone heroine gave a real drip of a performance - there's passive, and then there's catatonic.

The production values looked to me to be even worse than those of Ed Wood on a bad day. I certainly did find the sound to be terrible - everyone seemed to have swallowed helium right before they said their lines -- Conte, especially, sounded like a cartoon character, and it was very hard to listen to him.

I didn't stay with the movie long enough to see the interaction between Van Cleef and Holliman. Maybe I would have found that more interesting.

Well, I guess you can't please all of the people, all of the time, can you.
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mrsl
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Post by mrsl »

Judith:

I've said it before so I know I'm repeating, but this whole month has been idiotic as far as I'm concerned. I wrote this over on TCM.

The guest programmer said it perfectly last night just before The Big Combo. He said:

"If you're gay, you get one meaning, if you're straight, you get another". That is the gist of this whole week. Some of the films shown have exhibited gay characters bluntly but some others, you really have to dig to find the hidden meaning. One line in the Big Combo was supposed to prove the guys were gay, but Joe McClure (Brian Donlevy) thought of himself as such a 'big man' that everyone else was his inferior. That's how I took the line, until the guest put a different slant on it. Also, I have seen many shows where close friends cried for the other when he/she was dying, so again, I didn't put any emphasis on it.


However, this was supposed to mean they were gay. Even if they were gay . . . two men lived together, Whoop tee, do - What does TCM expect us to do? Snicker? Giggle? Say Look at that, he, he, he?

I think TCM would have been better off to make a documentary and high light these movies, instead of showing them in entirety. It only is showing the juvenile approach of movie makers previous to the late 1980's.

Anne
Anne


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Dewey1960
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Post by Dewey1960 »

Judith wrote: "Friends, I tried watching The Big Combo last night, and I just could not stick with it. As a matter of fact, I hated it, and gave up after the first half hour. I tuned in a few times as the film was running, but I really found it very rough going to sit still for it."

Hi Judith-
I didn't watch THE BIG COMBO last night (I've seen it a number of times and have a beautiful DVD of it) but according to Moira's post, there was the distinct possibility that TCM would be running a poor print (very bad sound) not to mention whatever pictorial problems might be inherent to it as well. (Public Domain prints of this film abound!) Which is a shame because those types of problems can really take one out of a film watching experience. I'm not even remotely suggesting that you would have enjoyed a pristine version either; everyone is different. But it definitely would have been an enhancement to see the film the way it was meant to be seen, particularly when one of its obvious hallmarks is John Alton's incredible cinematography.
One other thing that bugs me about this particular screening is the link to the "Screened Out" theme. The relationship between the two henchmen is clearly of a homoerotic nature, but it doesn't really make it a "gay film." Anyone watching it for that reason alone would be curiously disappointed, I think.
jdb1

Post by jdb1 »

Dewey1960 wrote:One other thing that bugs me about this particular screening is the link to the "Screened Out" theme. The relationship between the two henchmen is clearly of a homoerotic nature, but it doesn't really make it a "gay film." Anyone watching it for that reason alone would be curiously disappointed, I think.
I wonder about that in most of these films. When is the close relationship of two men "homoerotic," and when is it a "buddy movie?" Are we supposed to read homoerotic undertones into Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Butch & Sundance, etc.? Certainly many have done so, but I don't necessarily subscribe to those theories.

I think one answer is that we see what we want to see in any work of art, and ascribe meanings to it that make it more and understandable and "personal" to ourselves. The "Screened Out" series can be seen as a presentation of another point of view, another interpretation of these movies, and maybe we'll see things we never noticed before, and maybe not. I'm willing to keep an open mind -- most of these movies are worth a look, but I'm trying to view them without deconstructing them into something that fits the theme whether it's really there or not.
feaito

Post by feaito »

jdb1 wrote:I wonder about that in most of these films. When is the close relationship of two men "homoerotic," and when is it a "buddy movie?" Are we supposed to read homoerotic undertones into Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Butch & Sundance, etc.? Certainly many have done so, but I don't necessarily subscribe to those theories.
Good point jdb. Since I have TCM Latin, there hasn't been any "Screened Out" for me to watch, but upon reading your views on the matter, I remembered the case of the 1959 "Ben-Hur".

Before reading about the supposedly homoerotic undertones between the characters played by Stephen Boyd and Charlton Neston at the beginning of the film, when Messalah and Judah Ben-Hur meet after years of not seeing each other, I hadn't ever "seen" anything of the sorts in the aforementioned scene, the multiple times I watched the film on TV showings or VHS.

After I read about that fact on a certain cinema related book and I watched the film again, I "saw" them or I thought so. But are those undertones really there or I thought I saw them due to the influence of what I had previously read?

In my humble opinion these perceptions "of homoerotic undertones" in certain films, definitely depend upon the eye of the beholder and thus are entirely subjective.
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Moraldo Rubini
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Boyds will be Boyds

Post by Moraldo Rubini »

Before reading about the supposedly homoerotic undertones between the characters played by Stephen Boyd and Charlton Heston at the beginning of the film, when Messalah and Judah Ben-Hur meet after years of not seeing each other, I hadn't ever "seen" anything of the sorts in the aforementioned scene, the multiple times I watched the film on TV showings or VHS. After I read about that fact on a certain cinema related book and I watched the film again, I "saw" them or I thought so.
The interesting aspect of the filming of this scene, Fernando, is that -- according to Stephen Boyd -- Boyd knew of the gay subtext and played it accordingly, but Charlton Heston did not. No one told Heston about this facet of the characters.
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Post by benwhowell »

Wasn't it Gore Vidal that suggested this "homoerotic" theme to William Wyler?
I think the big difference between a "homoerotic" movie and a "buddy" movie involves how much flesh is shown (shower scenes, etc.)...the more flesh the more "homoerotic." Right?
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