Some interesting films on US television, October 16-22

By Marty Jonas (MJ) and David Walsh (DW)
16 October 1999

Video pick of the week—find it in your video store

The Burglar (1956)—A forgotten, suspenseful film about a heist—full of stunning visual effects, some obviously inspired by Orson Welles. Starring Dan Duryea (a frequent talent in film noir) and Jane Mansfield. From the novel by David Goodis. Directed by Paul Wendkos. (MJ)

Asterisk indicates a film of exceptional interest. All times are EDT.

A&E=Arts & Entertainment, AMC=American Movie Classics, FXM=Fox Movie Channel, HBOF=HBO Family, HBOP=HBO Plus, HBOS=HBO Signature, IFC=Independent Film Channel, TCM=Turner Classic Movies, TMC=The Movie Channel, TNT=Turner Network Television

Saturday, October 16

10:30 a.m. (AMC)— Love in the Afternoon (1957)—Billy Wilder directed this film about the affair between a young Parisian woman (Audrey Hepburn) and a middle-aged American businessman (Gary Cooper). Maurice Chevalier is her father, a private detective. This was Wilder's first film cowritten with I.A.L. Diamond. (DW)

1:00 p.m. (USA)— Sea of Love (1989)—New York City cop searches for serial killer. Directed by Harold Becker from an excellent screenplay by novelist Richard Price, this was Al Pacino's comeback film after a long period of unwise role choices. (MJ)

2:45 p.m. (Encore)— Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)—Mike Myers plays a double role in this consistently amusing send-up of James Bond movies and the manners and styles of the 1970s. (MJ)

3:15 p.m. (AMC)— Sodom and Gomorrah (1963)—Robert Aldrich directed this above average Biblical epic. Starring Stewart Granger and Pier Angeli. (MJ)

3:40 p.m. (TMC)— Saturday Night Fever (1977)—A hardware store salesman in Brooklyn becomes a champion disco dancer at night. This is the film that launched John Travolta's film career, and he is a marvel as a dancer. Music by the Bee Gees. Directed by John Badham. (MJ)

5:15 p.m. (TCM)— Lady for a Day (1933)—Frank Capra directed this story about an apple vendor transformed into a society lady by a kindhearted hoodlum. With May Robson and Warren Williams. (DW)

*6:00 p.m. (HBOS)— Miller's Crossing (1990)—The Coen Brothers do their version of the Red Harvest (Dashiell Hammett) story: gangsters wage a civil war for control of a city. Overblown and self-conscious, but it holds one's attention. With Gabriel Byrne and Albert Finney. (DW)

6:00 p.m. (AMC)— Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)—The pioneer auto-maker (played by Jeff Bridges) and his company are destroyed by the giants of the auto industry. Director Francis Coppola obviously meant this as a parable about the independent artist versus the film industry, with Tucker standing in for Coppola. The whole thing seems oversimplified. Good performance by Martin Landau. (MJ)

11:40 p.m. (Encore)— Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)—See 2:45 p.m.

*12:00 a.m. (TNT)— The Birds (1963)—Alfred Hitchcock's terrifying drama about swarms of birds attacking humans in a small northern California town. With Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren and Jessica Tandy. (DW)

12:30 a.m. (TCM)— Little Women (1949)—Mervyn LeRoy directed this, the second version of Louisa May Alcott's novel about a quarter of sisters growing up in New England during the Civil War. This version is inferior to George Cukor's 1933 film. June Allyson, Margaret O'Brien, Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh costar. (DW)

1:15 a.m. (Encore)— The Deer Hunter (1978)—Michael Cimino's somewhat strained portrait of a group of Pennsylvania steelworkers, their experiences in Vietnam and back home again. With Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, John Savage. (DW)

Sunday, October 17

6:00 a.m. (AMC)— Finian's Rainbow (1968)—Petula Clark sings beautifully, Fred Astaire is miscast as her dreamy dad, and Tommy Steele quickly wears out his welcome as the broad-smiling, hyperactive leprechaun in Francis Copplola's flat version of the hit populist Broadway musical. In the course of this unrelentingly upbeat film, a tobacco-growing commune struggles for survival and a bigoted Southern senator is turned into an African-American. However, the songs by E.Y. Harburg retain their charm. (MJ)

7:00 a.m. (A&E)— Carnival of Souls (1962)—Effective very low-budget horror film shot with an unknown cast at a deserted amusement park in Lawrence, Kansas. Directed by Herk Harvey. (MJ)

10:00 a.m. (TCM)— 99 River Street (1953)—The underrated Phil Karlson directed this crime drama. John Payne is a taxi driver who gets mixed up with jewel thieves and has to clear himself of a murder charge. With Evelyn Keyes, Frank Faylen. (DW)

1:00 p.m. (AMC)— Rebel Without a Cause (1955)—Nicholas Ray's socially conscious portrait of disaffected youth, with James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo. Memorable scene in a planetarium. (DW)

2:00 p.m. (HBOP)— Super Mario Brothers (1993)—Underrated, highly imaginative film version of the popular video game, to which it bears only a slight resemblance. The two plumber brothers (Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo) visit an alternate universe in which evolution took a different course, leaving dinosaurs as the dominant species. Dennis Hopper overacts wonderfully as the dinosaur dictator of this world. (MJ)

2:00 p.m. (Bravo)— Amarcord (1974)—Fellini's semi-autobiographical work about a small town in Italy under Mussolini. An extraordinary film. (DW)

3:45 p.m. (HBOS)— Heaven Can Wait (1978)—Warren Beatty stars as a football player who dies before his time and returns to earth in another body, that of a millionaire businessman. Julie Christie is a social activist who awakens his conscience. With Jack Warden. Directed by Beatty and Buck Henry. Good-natured, but not extraordinarily insightful. (DW)

*5:15 p.m. (TNT)— The Birds (1963)—See Saturday at 12:00 p.m.

*6:00 p.m. (TCM)— The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)—John Garfield and Lana Turner play the illicit and doomed lovers in the film based on James M. Cain's novel. They kill her husband, the owner of a roadside diner, and suffer the consequences of nearly getting away with it. Tay Garnett directed. (DW)

*6:00 p.m. (HBOS)— The Shootist (1976)—John Wayne plays a gunfighter dying of cancer who returns to his home town for a last bit of peace. James Stewart is the doctor. This excellent, moving film was Wayne's last. Directed by Don Siegel. (MJ)

8:00 p.m. (TCM)— Random Harvest (1942)—Ronald Colman is a World War I veteran who loses his memory. Greer Garson is a music-hall entertainer who brings him back to life. Hard to take in parts, but it has perceptive moments. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. (DW)

Monday, October 18

10:30 a.m. (HBOP)— Saturday Night Fever (1977)—See Saturday, ast 3:40 p.m.

*1:05 p.m. (Sundance)— Salesman (1969)—Albert and Davis Maysles's exceptional cinéma verité documentary follows four Bible salesmen around the Midwest. Much of it is very sad as they sit around in drab motel rooms discussing their futile day and try to think up new selling strategies. (MJ)

2:00 p.m. (AMC)— The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)—James Stewart, a little long in the tooth, plays Charles Lindbergh in this mediocre Billy Wilder film about the first transatlantic flight in 1927. (DW)

4:00 p.m. (FXM)— Young Frankenstein (1974)—One of Mel Brooks's funnier and more successful parodies, this time of the classic horror film by James Whale. Particularly effective because it uses many of the original sets. With Peter Boyle (as the monster) and Gene Wilder (as Dr. Frankenstein). (MJ)

*4:30 p.m. (AMC)— My Darling Clementine (1946)—John Ford directed this Western about the lead-up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Henry Fonda is Wyatt Earp and Victor Mature Doc Holliday. With Ward Bond, Tim Holt, Walter Brennan. (DW)

5:30 p.m. (HBOP)— Contact (1997)—An intelligent, refreshingly non-xenophobic film on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Jodie Foster plays the single-minded astrophysicist in this adaptation from the novel by the late Carl Sagan. Unfortunately, toward the end the film becomes mushy-minded and tries to make its peace with religion. (MJ)

6:00 p.m. (HBOS)— Heaven Can Wait (1978)—See Monday at 3:45 p.m.

*8:00 p.m. (Showtime)— The Big Lebowski (1998)—A lovable, sprawling mess of a film by the Coen brothers about mistaken identity and bowling. Generally hilarious. With Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi. (MJ)

*9:00 p.m. (Sundance)— Salesman (1969)—See 1:05 p.m.

8:00 p.m. (Bravo)— A Passage to India (1984)—A decent approximation of the great E.M. Forster novel about British colonialism in India—its effects on both the oppressed Indians and the clueless British settlers. A hapless Indian is put on trial for the rape of a British woman. The power of the novel, however, is 90 percent in its language and rhythms, and no film could be expected to capture that. Directed by David Lean. Starring Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft, and the irrepressible Alec Guinness. (MJ)

8:00 p.m. (FX)— The Fly (1986)—David Cronenberg's film about a scientist (Jeff Goldblum) who experiments on himself and evolves into a human fly. Cronenberg apparently saw his character's condition as a metaphor for AIDS. Geena Davis is the woman who stands by him. As usual, Cronenberg gets caught up in the machinery of his conceits and loses track of his theme. (DW)

9:00 p.m. (HBOP)— Tin Men (1987)—Barry Levinson's comedy-drama about the aluminum-siding business, set in Baltimore in 1963, with Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito. (DW)

9:35 p.m. (Starz)— Burnt by the Sun (1994)—Nikita Mikhalkov's film, in which he plays the leading role, about a Soviet leader in 1936 brought face to face with the realities of Stalinism. (DW)

12:00 a.m. (Bravo)— A Passage to India (1984)—See 8:00 p.m.

*2:35 a.m. (TBS)— The Birds (1963)—See Saturday at 12:00 p.m.

4:00 a.m. (Encore)— Repulsion (1965)—Catherine Deneuve starred as a sexually repressed girl who goes homicidal when her sister leaves her on her own in an apartment for a few days. Startling at the time, it seems dated today. Directed by Roman Polanski. (DW)

Tuesday, October 19

*5:00 a.m. (AMC)— Seven Chances (1925)—Buster Keaton has until seven o'clock that evening to find a bride if he wants to inherit a fortune. He ends up being pursued by thousands of women. Some famous sequences in this silent film, directed by Keaton. (DW)

6:00 a.m. (FXM)— Young Frankenstein (1974)—See Monday at 4:00 p.m.

7:45 a.m. (Encore)— Young Frankenstein (1974)—See Monday at 4:00 p.m.

*8:00 a.m. (HBOS)— The Shootist (1976)—See Sunday at 6:00 p.m.

9:45 a.m. (HBOP)— Gattaca (1997)—In this future capitalist society, your place in the productive process is determined by your genetic makeup—which is mapped at birth and stays with you as your main ID for life. One man rebels against the system. Andrew Niccol wrote and directed this intelligent film, highly derivative of the fiction of Philip K. Dick. (MJ)

12:00 p.m. (Bravo)— A Passage to India (1984)—See Monday at 8:00 p.m.

1:00 p.m. (HBOP)— The Great Gatsby (1974)—A pallid, but occasionally interesting film, based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel about the "careless" rich and their gangster friend, on Long Island in the 1920s. Robert Redford is too placid as Jay Gatsby, Mia Farrow too jittery as Daisy Buchanan. (DW)

*1:30 p.m. (Sundance)— Last Year at Marienbad (1961)—Alain Resnais' enigmatic film is one of the classics of French cinema. It asks questions (never answered) about the nature of time and memory. A marvelous film to watch, with its energetically mobile camera and lengthy tracking shots down ornate corridors. (MJ)

1:30 p.m. (HBOS)— Saturday Night Fever (1977)—See Saturday at 3:40 p.m.

6:10 p.m. (Encore)— Young Frankenstein (1974)—See Monday at 4:00 p.m.

*9:00 p.m. (HBOS)— Taxi Driver (1976)—Paul Schrader wrote and Martin Scorsese directed this bleak, obsessive classic that looks at the underside of New York City. Starring Robert De Niro, Jody Foster, and Harvey Keitel. Great score by Bernard Hermann. (MJ)

12:30 a.m. (HBOP)— Gattaca (1997)—See 9:45 a.m.

*2:00 a.m. (Sundance)— Last Year at Marienbad (1961)—See 1:30 p.m.

2:30 a.m. (TCM)— How the West Was Won (1963)—An "epic" saga, with more weaknesses than strengths, about three generations of western pioneers. Henry Fonda, Carroll Baker, Gregory Peck, George Peppard and countless others star. Codirected by John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall. (DW)

3:00 a.m. (FX)— The Fly (1986)—See Monday at 8:00 p.m.

4:55 a.m. (HBOS)— Lifeboat (1944)—Alfred Hitchcock's tale of shipwreck survivors during World War II. With Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, and Walter Slezak as a Nazi taken aboard. (DW)

Wednesday, October 20

*6:00 a.m. (TCM)— A Night at the Opera (1935)—Along with Duck Soup, one of the Marx Brothers' best efforts. Unfortunately, a silly, uninteresting love story occasionally gets in the way. Directed by Sam Wood; with the inimitable Margaret Dumont, also Kitty Carlisle and Alan Jones. (DW)

*8:00 a.m. (TCM)— A Day at the Races (1937)—Marx Brothers' foolishness. Set in a sanitarium where rich and hypochondriacal Margaret Dumont is the most prominent patient. Directed by Sam Wood. (DW)

9:00 a.m. (AMC)— Cornered (1945)—A postwar film noir with Dick Powell as a Canadian flyer tracking down Nazis in Argentina. Directed by future HUAC informer Edward Dmytryk. (DW)

9:15 a.m. (Showtime)— Detective Story (1951)—William Wyler's somewhat dated film about the activities inside a New York City police station. Kirk Douglas is a bitter cop, Eleanor Parker his wife, William Bendix another detective. The good cast also includes Horace McMahon, Lee Grant and Joseph Wiseman. (DW)

2:00 p.m. (TCM)— Undercurrent (1946)—In the Gaslight genre: a woman (Katharine Hepburn) discovers her husband is evil and conniving. Robert Mitchum is her ultimate savior. Directed by Vincente Minnelli. (DW)

*5:30 p.m. (FXM)— All About Eve (1950)—Joseph Mankiewicz wrote and directed this classic about backstabbing in the world of the theater. The dialogue is nonstop witty and incisive. Memorable performances by George Sanders and Bette Davis. (MJ)

*6:35 p.m. (Showtime)— Last Action Hero (1993)—Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle that proves to be a delight. A boy goes to a movie theater and meets his idol—an action hero—who steps out of the screen and takes him back in. A good action film that spoofs the genre and plays with the tension between movies and reality. It also includes hilarious send-ups of Olivier's Hamlet and Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Directed by John McTiernan. (MJ)

8:00 p.m. (Encore)— Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)—See Saturday at 2:45 p.m.

8:00 p.m. (AMC)— Dark Command (1940)—Raoul Walsh directed this lively Hollywood version of the rise and fall of the murderous Quantrill raiders, active in Kansas during the Civil War. Walter Pidgeon plays William Quantrill, John Wayne is the marshal with whom he clashes. (DW)

9:40 p.m. (Encore)— High Plains Drifter (1973)—Clint Eastwood directed (and stars in) this excellent spaghetti western tale of revenge, into which he poured everything he learned from his mentors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. (MJ)

*11:30 p.m. (Encore)— Full Metal Jacket (1987)—Stanley Kubrick directed this film about the Vietnam war, which in its first half—Marine training at Parris Island—may be the most harrowing depiction of military life ever put on film (mainly due to the presence of ex-drill instructor Lee Ermey). However, as a coherent anti-war film, it does not equal Kubrick's own Paths of Glory. (MJ)

*12:05 a.m. (AMC)— The Thief of Bagdad (1940)—Thoroughly enchanting version of the tale of magic and heroism based on The Arabian Nights. Dazzling Technicolor, superb Miklos Rosza score. With Sabu, Conrad Veidt, and Rex Ingram (as the genie). Directed by Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan, and Michael Powell. One of the fine films produced by Alexander Korda. (MJ)

*12:40 a.m. (HBOS)— Miller's Crossing (1990)—See Saturday at 6:00 p.m.

*1:45 a.m. (HBOP)— Taxi Driver (1976)—See Tuesday at 9:00 p.m.

2:00 a.m. (AMC)— Dark Command (1940)—See 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 21

6:15 a.m. (HBOS)— Heaven Can Wait (1978)—See Monday at 3:45 p.m.

*6:25 a.m. (TMC)— Reds (1981)—Warren Beatty's account of the life and times of John Reed, American socialist and author of Ten Days that Shook the World, the authoritative chronicle of the October Revolution of 1917. With Diane Keaton and others. (DW)

*7:30 a.m. (FXM)— All About Eve (1950)—See Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

8:30 a.m. (Cinemax)— I Was a Male War Bride (1949)—Cary Grant is a French officer marrying a WAC (Ann Sheridan) and encountering a series of dilemmas. The film is very funny, and it also provides director Howard Hawks an opportunity to examine sexual roles, and subvert them. (DW)

10:30 a.m. (TCM)— The Star (1952)—Stuart Heisler directed this film about a movie star whose career is a thing of the past, with Bette Davis, Sterling Hayden and a young Natalie Wood. (DW)

*12:00 p.m. (TCM)— Singin' in the Rain (1952)—Is there anyone who hasn't seen this film by now? Anyway, it's a remarkable musical, with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, about the days of silent film. Stanley Donen and Kelly directed. (DW)

4:00 p.m. (HBOP)— Saturday Night Fever (1977)—See Saturday, ast 3:40 p.m.

8:00 p.m. (Showtime)— Twilight (1998)—Crisp dialogue and good plotting carry this film about an elderly detective (Paul Newman) solving murders in Hollywood. Excellent cast also includes Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, and James Garner. Many smart observations about growing old. Directed by Robert Benton, from a screenplay by Benton and novelist Richard Russo. (MJ)

8:00 p.m. (TNT)— Rain Man (1988)—Barry Levinson's anti-Reaganite work, with Dustin Hoffman as an autistic man and Tom Cruise, a 1980s Babbitt, as his yuppie hustler brother. (DW)

9:00 p.m. (HBOS)— The Great Gatsby (1974)—See Tuesday at 1:00 p.m.

9:00 p.m. (USA)— Working Girl (1988)—Mike Nichols's relatively superficial look at a working class girl (Melanie Griffith) from Staten Island who aspires to yuppiedom. Harrison Ford is the object of her affections, Sigourney Weaver her boss. (DW)

9:40 p.m. (Encore)— The Deer Hunter (1978)—See Saturday at 1:15 a.m.

12:30 a.m. (TNT)— Tootsie (1982)—Dustin Hoffman is amusing as an actor who can't find work as a man, but finds great success as the female star of a television soap opera. Sidney Pollack directed; with Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman. (DW)

2:30 a.m. (USA)— The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)—Real-life brothers Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges play musician brothers in this emotionally gripping story of sibling rivalry, With Michelle Pfeiffer. Directed by Steve Kloves. (MJ)

Friday, October 22

6:00 a.m. (TCM)— Gunga Din (1939)—If one sets aside the history and politics of this film, about the heroic British army fighting off the thuggee cult in nineteenth century India, "the most entertaining of the juvenile Kipling movies." (DW)

*6:00 a.m. (Sundance)— Last Year at Marienbad (1961)—See Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

6:40 a.m. (TMC)— Carousel (1956)—Hollywood turned a great dark Broadway musical into a perky feel-good film. Most of the Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are intact, however. Starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. Directed by Henry King. (MJ)

7:00 a.m. (HBOS)— Contact (1997)—See Monday at 5:30 p.m.

7:00 a.m. (Cinemax)— Jane Eyre (1944)—Robert Stevenson directed this version of the Charlotte Bronte classic about a poor governess thrown into a mysterious household. Joan Fontaine is Jane and Orson Welles an unforgettable Rochester. (DW)

*8:00 a.m. (TCM)— Suspicion (1941)—Joan Fontaine is a new bride who believes her husband, Cary Grant, is trying to kill her. According to the book, he was, but Hollywood's Production Code forbid it. With Nigel Bruce; directed by Alfred Hitchcock. (DW)

*9:25 a.m. (Sundance)— Salesman (1969)—See Monday at 1:05 p.m.

9:30 a.m. (HBOS)— Lifeboat (1944)—See Tuesday at 4:55 a.m.

*11:30 a.m. (Cinemax)— Escape from Alcatraz (1979)—Clint Eastwood plays a convict determined to break out of Alcatraz, the supposedly inescapable prison. Based on a true story, the film methodically follows Eastwood's efforts. Directed by Don Siegel. (DW)

*12:30 p.m. (Sundance)— Last Year at Marienbad (1961)—See Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

*1:30 p.m. (TCM)— Clash by Night (1952)—Fritz Lang directed this melodrama that sees Barbara Stanwyck, as a woman bored with her fisherman husband Paul Douglas, suddenly taken with Douglas's cynical friend (Robert Ryan). Clifford Odets wrote the story. (DW)

2:30 p.m. (HBOS)— John Grisham's the Rainmaker (1997)—Francis Coppola took a John Grisham potboiler and made it into an engrossing but pedestrian film. Nonetheless, it is rich in characters, with particularly good work by Danny DeVito and Mickey Rourke (in a surprising stand-out performance as an ultra-sleazy lawyer) Also starring Matt Damon, John Voight, and Claire Danes. (MJ)

*6:00 p.m. (Sundance)— Salesman (1969)—See Monday at 1:05 p.m.

*6:00 p.m. (AMC)— Sunset Boulevard (1950)—Billy Wilder's classic about illusions hanging on, and the old Hollywood versus the new. A once-glamorous star of the silent screen living in a gothic Hollywood mansion takes a younger, cynical screenwriter as a lover. One of the great films. With Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Eric von Stroheim, and Buster Keaton. (MJ)

*7:30 p.m. (Sundance)— Last Year at Marienbad (1961)—See Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

8:00 p.m. (TCM)— Cape Fear (1962)—Robert Mitchum is the best thing about this film, playing a menacing ex-convict in a Southern town who blames lawyer Gregory Peck for his jailing, and plots revenge. Directed by J. Lee Thompson; with Polly Bergen and Martin Balsam. Based on a John D. MacDonald novel, music by Bernard Herrmann. (DW)

10:00 p.m. (Encore)— Apocalypse Now (1979)—Overrated and overblown Vietnam war film by Francis Ford Coppola, based loosely on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Special agent Martin Sheen is sent into Cambodia to find maverick US officer, played by Marlon Brando, and dispatch him. The film perhaps says more about Coppola and his circle than it does about Vietnam. Worth viewing. (DW)

10:00 p.m. (FXM)— Young Frankenstein (1974)—See Monday at 4:00 p.m.

4:00 a.m. (A&E)— Harper (1966)—Competently made private eye film, with Paul Newman as detective hired by Lauren Bacall to find her missing millionaire husband. With Julie Harris, Shelley Winters, Arthur Hill, Pamela Tiffin. Directed by Jack Smight, based on Ross Macdonald's The Moving Target. (DW)

*4:30 a.m. (Sundance)— Salesman (1969)—See Monday at 1:05 p.m.

4:45 a.m. (Showtime)— Modern Romance (1981)—Occasionally amusing film, directed by and starring Albert Brooks as a neurotic film editor obsessed with Kathryn Harrold. (DW)