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Category Archives: Cathode Rays

B-Movie Bonanza

You know I love it when Turner Classic Movies devotes its daytime programming to some obscure actor or director. This Friday, December 23, they’ll be playing ten films from Warner Brothers journeyman director Ray Enright (with one non-Enright film, Side Show, snuck in). Since he never directed anything that was even close to being “classic”, Enright is kind of an odd subject for a daylong movie fest. Still, the Warner pre-Codes have a certain jazzy verve, and even when they’re awful the short running times ensure minimal pain. Here’s what they’ll have (all times EST):

6:00 AM — Dancing Sweeties (1930) A hot-shot dancer marries in haste and repents in waltz time. How can anyone resist something called Dancing Sweeties? Besides, it’s only 63 minutes long.
7:15 AM — Golden Dawn (1930) An adventurer falls for a woman destined to be the virgin priestess for an African tribe. A notorious flop in its day; this non-p.c. early musical might be worth a watch out of morbid curiosity’s sake.
8:45 AM — Scarlet Pages (1930) A female attorney makes a startling discovery about the woman she’s defending from murder charges. Courtroom drama with no-name cast. I’ll skip.
10:00 AM — Side Show (1931) A carnival dancer fills in for the show’s high diver. Starring the brassy and forgotten Winnie Lightner as a circus performer. I am so there.
11:15 AM — Play Girl (1932) A young innocent falls for a compulsive gambler. Lightner again, with a young Loretta Young. I’ll catch this when it repeats next month.
12:30 PM — The Silk Express (1933) A young silk importer fights off threats to his cargo during a perilous train ride. Warners got a lot of mileage out of that “workingmen under siege” motif. The busy Guy Kibbee lends support.
1:45 PM — Miss Pacific Fleet (1935) Two stranded showgirls enter a beauty contest to win the fare back home. The only film that I’ve already seen, a breezy comedy starring Glenda Farrell and Joan Blondell. Don’t remember anything about it, but Glenda and Joan are always fun.
3:00 PM — The Traveling Saleslady (1935) A toothpaste tycoon’s daughter joins his rival to teach him a lesson. More Glenda and Joan.
4:15 PM — We’re In The Money (1935) Gold-digging process servers set their sights on a breach of promise defendant. Still more Glenda and Joan.
5:30 PM — While The Patient Slept (1935) A nurse investigates murder at a mysterious mansion. This one got some good reviews at the IMDB, plus it stars Warners’ stalwart comedienne Aline MacMahon.
6:45 PM — Man Alive (1946) A man thought dead returns as a ghost to scare off his wife’s suitors. A later effort starring the improbable trio of Pat O’Brien, Adolph Menjou and Rudy Vallee. I’ll pass.

Don’t forget Christmas Eve as well — Christmas In Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck and Joyce Compton is on at 10 PM EST!

Shoulder-Padded TV

Could I be the only one psyched about the Knots Landing Reunion coming up this Friday on CBS? This coincides nicely with news of the soaper’s first season DVD set, planned for an unconfirmed release in January (TV Shows On DVD has the artwork). I could just imagine someone watching it all in one sitting, jogging suit on, all the while eating Dove Bar ice cream straight out of the container.

I never watched Knots in the ’80s, but now the Soapnet weekend repeats have me hooked. Currently they’re midway through the 1984-85 season, the only one with Alec Baldwin as hunky preacher boy Joshua Rush. This season’s storylines actually aren’t as compelling as the previous years’. Things are getting too weird. The most notable change that year might be the behind the scenes addition of costume designer Travilla — suddenly the character’s wardrobes went from low key casual to blown-out “Eighties Contempo”, with matchy-matchy ensembles, chunky jewelry and shoulder pads everywhere. Odd.

Passed By

Christopher keeps pestering me: “When are you going to write about Pasadena?” Well, how about now.

The Soapnet channel is about halfway through running this series, which originally had a perplexingly short run on the Fox network in 2001. I’m getting a Desperate Housewives/Twin Peaks-vibe from this twisted family soap opera, beautifully scripted by Mike White (indie films Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl) and produced by Diane Keaton (who often has a hand in quirky, overlooked fare like this). The cast is headed by Dana Delany as the bitchy passive-aggressive mom, the kind of woman who casually observes the family dog eating a lethal helping of rat poison. Actually, the entire cast is superb and the storyline (about a murder in the well-connected family’s past) is very compelling. So, how did something this good not last long? Unfortunately, it premiered in September 2001. Fox didn’t know how to handle something this unconventional (same with Firefly) and canned the show after airing only four episodes. Soapnet is airing all thirteen episodes produced, with the central “Philip Parker” mystery being resolved at the end. Catch it before it goes, and hopefully if the ratings are decent enough there will be a future DVD release.

More One Reel Wonders, Please

Variety reports on unpcoming changes for my beloved Turner Classic Movies in attempting to lure younger viewers. They include an IMDB-style online reference and various new programs. Luckily, TCM’s not taking the dumbed-down AMC route (yet). I’m actually looking forward to a weekly feature called Underground, described as “a showcase for movies not usually shown on TCM, such as kung-fu pics, blaxploitation movies and a selection of Russ Meyer’s skin flicks.”

They Can’t Do That on Television

I have something to look forward to, sort of. Reunion returns on Fox after a month’s absence tonight. This is a really stupid show. A really stupid show that I can’t stop watching.

For such a stupid show, however, it has an intruiging premise. Six people, friends since high school, are reunited after a murder happens. One of them is the victim and another is the murderer. Each episode flashes back to a year in their lives, beginning in 1986, until we get to the present day and find out whodunnit. The victim’s identity will apparently be revealed soon (I’m hedging my bets on the Tom Cruise lookalike), but until then we have to endure a lot of whiny, stereotypical people doing inexpicable things. Part of the fun in this show is how wrong they get the period settings, with the pilot episode being a particularly awful riot of indifferently chosen ’80s clothing, music and expressions. The pretty cast does its best, despite being saddled with lines like “It’s 1987 and we’re in New York City.” Who says garbage like that? And how did characters so different stay friends for so long? Despite all this, I’m totally interested in how this will play out. Plus Will Estes is quite a hunk. So sue me.