June Highlights on TCM
30s HORROR (June 6, 6am ET)... The horror genre has enjoyed many great periods, each one vastly different in style and character from the one before it. There were the American horror pictures of the '70s and '80s by John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George Romero, Larry Cohen and David Cronenberg (okay, North American); the Italian giallo pictures, starting with Mario Bava and Ricardo Freda and then continuing with Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and others; Roger Corman's cycle of Edgar Allan Poe movies, most of them with Vincent Price; the Hammer films from England in the '50s through the '70s; Val Lewton's RKO movies in the '40s; and before everything else, the Hollywood horror films of the '30s. The level of craft in these pictures, made during the early sound era, is absolutely extraordinary. Many of them are set in expressionistic dream worlds, poetically re-imagined versions of Central Europe or the South Seas, and artists who had recently emigrated from Europe played a key role in their creation--the cinematographer and director Karl Freund, the art director Hans Dreier, the directors Michael Curtiz, James Whale, Robert Florey and William Dieterle. If you don't know them (which is unlikely), each one of the titles in the tribute is worth seeing, or revisiting for a fresh look. Frankenstein, Freaks and Rouben Mamoulian's version of Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are canonical--they also remain extremely powerful and disturbing experiences, as are Island of Lost Souls and Doctor X, which was made in beautiful 2-strip (or Process 2) Technicolor, which considerably enhances the hauntingly dreamlike effect.
THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE (Wednesdays in June)... There is also a month-long series of pictures that deal with "the immigrant experience," a theme that is quite resonant for me. My grandparents on both sides made their way here from Sicily at the turn of the century, and I grew up in a neighborhood which, in many ways, still was the old world...at least for a time. These pictures deal with one of the key conflicts of 20th-century America, between the old and new worlds, between the older generations who tried to recreate life as they knew it back home and the younger generations who became more and more American as time went on. There are many pictures in this program, from Chaplin's great short The Immigrant to Louis Malle's wonderful and little-known documentary And the Pursuit of Happiness. There is also King Vidor's An American Romance, a flawed but very touching epic in beautiful Technicolor (it was butchered by MGM but it has some extraordinary scenes); Joan Micklin Silver's Hester Street, a lovely black and white picture about the Jewish neighborhoods on the Lower East Side in the early 1900s with Carol Kane and the late Steven Keats; Black Legion with Humphrey Bogart, a potent Warner Brothers picture about racial prejudice; and Elia Kazan's magnificent handmade epic, America, America.
DOROTHY MCGUIRE (June 14, 7am ET) and IDA LUPINO (June 21, 6am ET)... I also want to acknowledge TCM's tributes to two great actresses, Dorothy McGuire and Ida Lupino. They are quite different as artists, but they both come out of roughly the same era, and strangely enough, they have a similar energy onscreen--private, quiet, both of them extremely beautiful and compelling. I recommend that you take a look at these two wonderful actresses-- don't miss The Spiral Staircase with McGuire and The Man I Love and On Dangerous Ground with Lupino.
by Martin Scorsese