[My coverage of the first two days is available.]
There’s a vocal group online who are very unhappy with what they see as a dilution of the TCM brand, both the channel and festival, by programming films that are post 1967. Naturally, there are smaller factions that have an earlier year of demarcation. I am certain I rarely crossed paths with them for the last two days of the festival.
Ignoring the year it came out, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) is a perfect selection for this festival as scenes from classic films like Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, and The Postman Always Rings Twice are spliced together with modern footage shot in black and white to create a bizarre comic mystery starring Steve Martin as private investigator Rigby Reardon. It is notable for being the last films of costume designer Edith Head and composer Miklós Rózsa. Illeana Douglas interviewed director/co-writer Carl Reiner about the film, but he was also prepared to give his two cents about Donald Trump.
Speaking of The Big Sleep (1946), Howard Hawks’ film seemed like the perfect follow-up to see where the scenes of Bogart as Raymond Chandler’s Detective Phillip Marlowe were taken. Marlowe takes a job paying off the debts of a wealthy man’s daughter, but a Pandora’s Box of problems quickly opens up trapping Marlowe in the middle. Notorious for its perplexing plot, many of the film’s scenes are entertaining enough to make up for a story that isn’t clear, especially the ones between Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
Speaking of Phillip Marlowe, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) allowed for an unintended triple feature with the character. Updated to fit the 1970s, thanks in part to Leigh Brackett, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Big Sleep, Marlowe (Elliot Gould) finds trouble after giving his friend Terry a lift to Mexico. Turns out Terry may have killed his wife, and a few days later commits suicide. While the press think the case is closed, Marlowe isn’t so sure. The film is a marvelous modern noir and Gould, who was on hand for a conversation, is the epitome of cool in it, even though smoking is no longer cool.
Getting to see Rocky (1976) on the big screen allowed me the opportunity to realize I had never seen the entire film. Although known as a boxing movie, it’s much more of a working-class romance between Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and Adrienne (Talia Shire, who spoke before the film). While the character became a caricature in the sequels, the original has a great deal of heart and charm.
Gog (1954) is a boring science fiction film filled with scenes of people standing around talking. At least, the portion I stayed around for. It screened in 3-D but that gimmick alone wasn’t enough to make the film more compelling than sleep. So I left. Another missed opportunity by whoever scheduled the midnight movies. I hope they make better choices next year.
Although star Burt Reynolds had to cancel his appearance, The Longest Yard (1974) was just as entertaining as I remember, though I saw it on broadcast TV with the language cleaned up. Reynolds stars as Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a retired football player who ends up in jail because of his reckless behavior. He’s not well liked because he got caught point shaving, but once the warden (Eddie Albert) asks him to put together a practice squad for the semi-pro team of guards to play against, the convicts line-up to take part in sanctioned violence against the guards. The humor is broad, but there are a lot of laughs.
Fat City (1972), a John Huston film set in Stockton, CA, with Stacy Keach (who chatted before the film), as Tully, a former boxer and current drunk, who helps up-and-comer Ernie Munger (Jeff Bridges). It’s a slow-paced story filled with characters making poor choices that are their undoing so it’s hard to be sympathetic, like Tully getting involved with Oma (Susan Tyrrel), who is a worse drunk than he is. It’s an interesting character study, but needed more energy to engage people on their fourth day of watching movies.
My festival ended with Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), writer Paddy Chayefsky’s former satire about the state of television that no longer seems crazy enough. After learning he is going to be let go, UBS Evening News anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) becomes a sensation after announcing during the broadcast that he’ll kill himself on air, and nearly a messiah when he compels people to go to their windows and shout the classic line, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” While most at the network wants his head, Head of Network Programming Diana Christensen (Dunaway) sees a rating bonanza and builds a show around Beale’s fire and brimstone diatribes. When his success and that of the network collides, the film comes to a stunning and satisfying conclusion.
Over 15 movies (counting two walk-outs) in roughly 72 hours does strange things to a person, but it was another interesting roster put on by the TCM Classic Film Festival staff that always involves hard choices during the event. Once my food and sleep intake return to normal, I’ll start to wonder what next year has in store.