Another year – the 10TH year – of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival has passed, and I was able to go and see a few movies this year.
In previous years I have generally tried to see as many movies as possible, running from theater to theater, or standing in long lines to see a film that was obviously so popular that my odds of getting in are not good. This is because Media pass holders are at the same level as standard pass holders, so all the VIP and Spotlight members go in first. This makes sense, so it’s certainly not a complaint, you just have to plan accordingly.
So, this year I decided to relax a little and just pick a few films that were varied in style and eras.
Friday night I decided to check out Winchester ’73 from 1950, starring James Stewart. I’d never seen this western, and since I am a fan of the genre, I figured it was one I should check off my classics list. The Winchester ’73 in the title is referring to the rifle made my the Winchester gun company, and was said to be among the finest ever made. The story begins with a group of men participating in a marksmanship contest.
In that contest, Lin McAdam (James Stewart) wins a prized Winchester rifle, which is immediately stolen by the runner-up, Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally). This “story of a rifle” then follows McAdams’ pursuit, and the rifle as it changes hands, until a final showdown and shoot-out on a rocky mountain precipice.
The hook of having the rifle change hands and following it on its’ journey is a good one. This was a western worth watching.
This film was revolutionary because it was the first film for which the star received a percentage of the profits. Universal couldn’t afford to pay Stewart’s $200,000 fee at the time, so they gave him a 50-percent interest in the production. It ended up making him about $600,000, leading to a new era of actor-producers.
Saturday afternoon, I was going to see Father Goose starring Cary Grant and Leslie Caron. However, like a dope, halfway to the theater I realized I had left my pass at home. So, I had to go back and get it. That made me miss that film so I had to pick another.
It worked out, though. After getting some food, I went to see Blood Money from 1933. Starring George Bancroft, Judith Anderson, and Frances Dee, this is a great pre-code film. In fact, with a cross-dressing bit player, jokes about hemorrhoids, a leading lady who’s a masochistic kleptomaniac and wall-to-wall civic corruption, this MAY just be the ultimate pre-Code film.
Blood Money is a tale of a bail bondsman (George Bancroft) with his finger into just about every pie in town. He’s having an affair with a nightclub owner (Judith Anderson, in her feature debut) who secretly manages the city’s mob, but he is led astray by a society girl (Frances Dee) with decidedly kinky tastes.
Blood Money was one of the first films condemned by the Legion of Decency (Haha – sounds like a superhero or supervillain team) and was pulled from exhibition with the arrival of the Production Code enforcement in 1934.
This was totally worth the watch and the kind of film you can’t see much anymore, except via Turner Classic Movies. A real treat!
And THEN, the one film I was definitely trying to see. Every year there’s one (at LEAST one) film that I know I’ll have to get in line early for in order to get a seat. This year, it was Escape From New York, starring Kurt Russell, directed by legend John Carpenter. And the main reason to see this was the Q&A before the screening with…yes, Kurt Russell and John Carpenter.
It was awesome to see these two guys talk about the film and each other, and this is the kind of thing that makes the TCM Classic Film Festival so special and fun. I got in line early – like 90 or so minutes early – but it was worth it.
Also such a great movie. I hadn’t seen it in a while, and the cast is stellar: Ernest Borgnine, Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton, Donald Pleasence, Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes, Tom Atkins, and of course Kurt Russell as THE Snake Plisskin.
Such a great film. You know this one right? Is anyone reading this not familiar with Escape From New York? You know, it’s the future (1997 – HA!) and crime rates have gone up 800 % so the U.S. turns Manhattan island into one big maximum security prison. ALL of New York City. Air Force One is shot down and the president (Donald Pleasence) crashes there. So the U.S. military find criminal Snake Plisskin and tell him they’ll give him a full pardon if he’ll go in a rescue the president. Awesome early 80’s John Carpenter movie stuff happens. Oh, those 1980 computer graphics…
Such a great time. I love the TCM Classic Film Festival. It’s always fun and they manage to stay well organized each year. Their events and screenings are the kind of thing that film lovers flock to. It’s certainly obvious by how much busier each year seems to get. This was the 10th year, and there are SO many more people now than from the first two or three years. It’s really amazing. And it’s good to remember where it all started. They really don’t make films like they used to. 🙂
I’ll keep going as long as I can. It’s something I look forward to each year. If you ever get the chance to go to the TCM Classic Film Festival, you really should. It’s a treat.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, already looking forward to next year!