A scary October: TCM’s schedule of classic horror films

The annual month-long Halloween horror film celebration hosted by Turner Classic Movies has returned with a packed schedule from Karloff to Kong, mad scientists to Satanists, and plenty of films starring guys named Lee, Cushing and Price. Multiple days have themes including the poetic horror of Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton (Oct. 4), Hammer films (Oct. 21) and killer animals (Oct. 26).

Here is the schedule of horror films airing on TCM in October 2021 with descriptions.

Friday, Oct. 1

6 a.m.: “King Kong” (1933). The original beauty and beast story.

8 a.m. “The Most Dangerous Game” (1932). Joel McCrea, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong are targeted by a big-game hunter who preys on humans. Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack.

9:15 a.m. “The Vampire Bat” (1933). A village is terrorized with thoughts of vampires when bodies show up drained of blood in this film with frequent co-stars Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill.

12:45 p.m. “White Zombie” (1932). Bela Lugosi is a witch doctor who menaces a newlywed in what is considered the first zombie film.

The two faces of Frederic March in his Oscar-winning role(s) as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

2 p.m. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1932). Fredric March won an Oscar for playing the dual roles in Rouben Mamoulian’s version of the Robert Louis Stevenson tale.

3:45 p.m. “Mystery of the Wax Museum” (1933). Michael Curtiz directs Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill in one of his three horror films.

Fay Wray and Lionell Atwill star in “Doctor X,” one of their multiple films being shown on Turner Classic Movies.

5:15 p.m. “Doctor X” (1932). Curtiz-Wray-Atwill team up again in this story of murders at a medical college. Curtiz made the film compellingly tense, yet it has a comic flair thanks to Lee Tracy as the journalist on the case.

6:45 p.m. “Freaks” (1932). Tod Browning’s landmark 1932 film starring real people with disabilities resonates today with its statement about the idea of physical perfection.

Sunday Oct. 3

2:45 p.m. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945). Hurd Hatfield makes a deal with the devil to stay young. Co-starring George Sanders, Donna Reed and Angela Lansbury.

8 p.m. “The Birds” (1963). Birds attack for no apparent reason in this taut Alfred Hitchcock horror thriller starring Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor.

10:15 p.m. “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986). Musical remake of the film about a carnivorous plant named Audrey II. With Rick Moranis, Steve Martin.

Monday Oct. 4

8 a.m. “Bedlam” (1946). Boris Karloff commits Anna Lee when she tries to reform the asylum he rules over in this film produced and co-written by Val Lewton.

9:30 a.m. “The Body Snatcher” (1945). Karloff and Lugosi star in this early Robert Wise film about a doctor who buys corpses from a grave robber. Based on a short story by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

11 a.m. “Isle of the Dead” (1945). People are quarantined by a plague on a Greek Island where there also may be a vampiric demon.

12:30 p.m. “The Curse of the Cat People” (1944). This sequel finds the only child of Oliver and Alice from the original film in danger after befriending the ghost of Irena (Simone Simon), her father’s dead first wife.

2 p.m. “The Ghost Ship” (1943). Strange deaths follow a young sailor who joins a new ship. The fifth of Val Lewton’s films for RKO.

3:15 p.m. “I Walked with a Zombie” (1943). When zombie films were poetic – thanks to director Jacques Tourneur.

Kim Hunter, sitting on the floor, discovers a Satanic cult in “The Seventh Victim.”

4:30 p.m. “The Seventh Victim” (1943). A student (Kim Hunter in her film debut) looks for her missing sister and stumbles upon Satanists in this intriguing horror mystery noir.

6 p.m. “Cat People” (1942). Simone Simon as the innocent newlywed haunted by a family curse in this gorgeous film by Jacques Tourneur.

Wednesday, Oct. 6

12:45 p.m. “Forbidden Planet” (1956). More sci-fi than horror, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen.

2:30 p.m. “The Invisible Boy” (1957). Robby the Robot makes his second film appearance as he helps a 10-year-old try to save the world from a super computer.

4:15 p.m. “The Terminal Man” (1974). George Segal undergoes surgery to stop violent seizures – but the implanted microchips have an unexpected side effect. Based on the Michael Critchton novel.

6:15 p.m. “Deadly Friend” (1986). Another film about implanted microchips gone wrong, this time a lovestruck teen tries to bring his pretty neighbor back to life. Wes Craven directs.

Saturday, Oct. 9

4:45 a.m. “Schizoid” (1980). A woman must figure out who is killing fellow members of her therapy group.

6:15 a.m. “Dementia 13” (1963). A scheming widow trying to get the inheritance from her husband’s death is stalked by a killer in this first feature directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

11:30 p.m. “A Look at the World of ‘Soylent Green’ ” (1973). Short 10-minute documentary goes behind the scenes of sci-fi film.

Sunday, Oct. 10

10:15 p.m. “It’s Alive” (1974). Larry Cohen’s cult classic about a murderous infant. Yes, you read that right.

Vincent Price and his beloved Marie Antoinette in “House of Wax.”

Thursday, Oct. 14

4:45 p.m. “Eyes Without a Face” (1959). Influential films about a brilliant doctor who sacrifices others to graft a new face onto his disfigured daughter.

6:30 p.m. “House of Wax” (1953). Vincent Price stars as a gifted sculptor whose hands were burned in a fire. Look for Charles Bronson as lab assistant Igor.

Friday, Oct. 15

6:15 p.m. “Carnival of Souls” (1962). A woman who survives a car crash is haunted by the dead.

Saturday, Oct. 16

6 a.m. “Ghosts Italian Style” (1969). For something lighter, watch Sophia Loren and Vittorio Gassman as  husband-and-wife caretakers of a haunted castle in this ghostly farce.

Sunday, Oct. 17

8 p.m. “Poltergeist” (1982). A family terrorized by malevolent spirits who kidnap their daughter calls in paranormal experts. One of the best ghost stories on film.

10 p.m. “Burnt Offerings” (1976). Supernatural forces target a family that moves into a countryside mansion. Directed by Dan Curtis with Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis.

Christopher Lee makes multiple appearances as Dracula throughout October on TCM.

Thursday, Oct. 21

7:45 a.m. “Dracula – Prince of Darkness” (1966). The second of seven times Christopher Lee played Dracula. This time he doesn’t speak and he’s without Peter Cushing but it’s still very much worth watching. Directed by Terence Fisher for Hammer.

9:30 a.m. “Frankenstein Created Woman” (1967). Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) puts the soul of a murdered man into the body of his lover who then seeks vengeance for his death.

11:15 a.m. “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” (1969). Dracula may have died in “Dracula: Prince of Darkness,” but he’s accidentally brought back to life here. Directed by Freddie Francis.

1 p.m. “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” (1970). Baron Frankenstein (Cushing) blackmails a young couple into a kidnapping to help him perform a brain transplant.

2:45 p.m. “Taste the Blood of Dracula” (1970). Once again Dracula is accidentally resurrected. This time it’s by three businessmen who kill one of his followers and he’s not happy. Christopher Lee returns for the fourth time in the title role.

4:30 p.m. “Crescendo” (1972). Stefanie Powers plays a young music student whose life is in danger when she travels to France to research a dead composer.

6:15 p.m. “Dracula A.D. 1972” (1972). Lee and Cushing together again. In 1972 London, Dracula feeds off a group of devil-worshiping swingers including the granddaughter (Stephanie Beacham) of Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing).

Vincent Price is caught up in murder in “The Bat.”

Friday, Oct. 22

4:45 p.m. “The Bat” (1959). Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead star in a horror mystery set in a big old house that was once the scene of murders.

6:15 p.m. “House on Haunted Hill” (1958). A millionaire tempts five strangers with a big payday if they stay overnight in a mansion in this William Castle film. Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart are entertaining as the bickering rich couple who set it up.

Saturday, Oct. 23

6 a.m. “The Mummy’s Shroud” (1967). Hammer Studio’s third “Mummy” film finds a team of archaeologists yet again ignoring warnings as they mess with the tomb of a boy pharaoh.

Noon, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941). Victor Fleming directs Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Berman and Lana Turner in this remake of the 1931 film adaptation.

Sunday, Oct. 24

8 p.m. “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” (1962). The only film pairing of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford works off their off-screen rivalry. An actress torments her wheelchair-bound sister in this acclaimed film that is part thriller, part black comedy from Robert Aldrich.

10:30 p.m. “Strait-Jacket” (1964). Joan Crawford is released from a mental hospital for committing a double murder, only to be the prime suspect in a series of axe murders. William Castle ramps us the suspense.

Monday, Oct. 25

12:15 a.m. “The Monster” (1925). Silent horror comedy about a meek amateur detective who investigates strange happenings in a mental asylum run by Lon Chaney.

Giant ants attack in the first of the big-bug movies “Them!”

Tuesday, Oct. 26

6:30 a.m. “Razorback” (1984). A giant wild boar is killing people, including a child, in the Australian Outback.

8:30 a.m. “The Swarm” (1978). Disaster king Irwin Allen turned his sights on nature for this killer bee film. Another great cast including Michael Caine, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Katharine Ross and Patty Duke.

11:15 a.m. “The Pack” (1977). Packs of dogs abandoned on a vacation island terrorize visitors.

1 p.m. “Rattlers” (1976). Rattlesnakes go on a killing spree in the Mojave Desert.

Giant killer bunnies go on the attack in “Night of the Lepus.”

2:45 p.m. “Night of the Lepus” (1972). The greatest film ever about killer rabbits must be seen to be believed.

4:30 p.m. “Killer Shrews” (1959). Giant rat-like creatures attack a group of people stranded on an island during a hurricane.

6:15 p.m. “Them!” (1954). The first – and still best – of the big-bug movies stars James Arness and James Whitmore who track giant killer ants.

Wednesday, Oct. 27

8 p.m. Carl Laemmle (2019). Documentary about the film pioneer who not only founded Universal Studios and brought us the Universal Monsters, but also helped save 300 families from Nazi Germany.

9:45 p.m. “Dracula” (1931). Bela Lugosi in his most famous role.

Thursday, Oct. 28

1:45 a.m. Carl Laemmle (2019). See Oct. 27.

3:30 a.m. “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925). Universal’s silent version with Lon Chaney features the greatest unmasking in film.

5 a.m. “Frankenstein” (1931). Colin Clive is the title character – Dr. Frankenstein – and Boris Karloff is his unholy creation.

Friday, Oct. 29

8 p.m. “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971). Vincent Price is wonderful in this glorious mashup of horror genres.

10 p.m. “Night of the Living Dead” (1968). If you love zombie movies, thank George A. Romero for the original classic zombie thriller.

Saturday, Oct. 30

Midnight, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978). Director Philip Kaufman’s remake of the alien invaders taking over human bodies stars Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams.

2 a.m. “Hell Night” (1981). Slasher film about four college pledges who spend the night in a mansion where a family was massacred years earlier.

3:45 a.m. “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977). John Boorman directs this sequel to one of the most terrifying films ever made. Linda Blair reprises her role, Richard Burton co-stars.

5:45 a.m. “Creature from the Haunted Sea” (1961). A criminal bumps off his cohorts and blames it on a legendary sea creature – that may really exist. Roger Corman directs.

6:45 a.m. “The Hypnotic Eye” (1960). Authorities try to figure out why beautiful young women are disfiguring themselves. A chance to see Allison Hayes in something other than “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.”

8:15 a.m. “Chamber of Horrors” (1966). A killer seek vengeance after he cuts off his hand to escape hanging.

Lon Chaney Jr., right, looks out for three siblings in “Spider Baby.”

10 a.m. “Spider Baby” (1964). Lon Chaney Jr. takes care of three siblings who suffer from a family curse.

11:30 a.m. “The Devil’s Own” (1966). Joan Fontaine stars in this Hammer film about teacher traumatized by a witch doctor who moves to a small English village.

1:15 p.m. “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957). Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee star in the first of seven Frankenstein films from Hammer.

2:45 p.m. “The Haunting” (1963). My vote for the most terrifying “strangers spend the night in a haunted mansion” film.

4:45 p.m. “The Tomb of Ligeia” (1965). Vincent Price mourns his dead wife in Roger Corman’s take on the Edgar Allan Poe story.

6:15 p.m. “The Fly” (1958). Things go terribly wrong for a well-meaning scientist. With Al Hedison, Vincent Price.

8 p.m. “Frankenstein” (1931). See Oct. 28

9:30 p.m. “Young Frankenstein” (1974). Mel Brooks honors the spirit of the original Universal films with this genius comedic homage.

11:30 p.m. “Who’s Superstitious?” (1943). Short film on superstitions.

11:45 p.m. “Black Cats and Broomsticks” (1955). Short documentary (8 minutes) examines 20th century superstitions.

The lovely Simone Simon is haunted by a family secret in “Cat People.”

Sunday, Oct. 31

Midnight: “Cat People” (1942). See Oct. 4.

1:30 a.m. “The Leopard Man” (1943). Bodies are discovered around a town after a black leopard escapes. From Tourneur and Lewton.

2:45 a.m. “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” (1971). Strange occurrences happen when a former mental patient moves into a farmhouse that may be haunted.

4:30 a.m. “Carnival of Souls” (1962). See Oct. 15.

6 a.m. “Phantom of the Rue Morgue” (1954). Paris police are baffled in a search for a serial killer in adaptation of another Edgar Allan Poe short story.

7:30 a.m. “Macabre” (1958). A doctor has only hours to find his daughter who has been kidnapped and buried alive in this film produced by William Castle.

8:45 a.m. “White Zombie” (1932). See Oct. 1.

10 a.m. “Cat People” (1942). See Oct. 4.

11:30 a.m. “The Leopard Man” (1943).

12:45 p.m. “Mad Love” (1935). Peter Lorre plays a surgeon whose demented obsession with an actress leads to him to replace her husband’s mangled hands with those of a killer.

2 p.m. “Horror of Dracula (1958). The one that started it all for Hammer Film, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and director Terence Fisher.

One of the chilling scenes in “The Pit and the Pendulum” with Vincent Price.

3:30 p.m. “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961). Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay for this film loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story. Starring Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr.

5 p.m. “Curse of the Demon” (1958). An American professor (Dana Andrews) visiting London investigates a devil worshipping cult. Directed by Jacques Tourneur.

6:30 p.m. “Horror Hotel” (1960). A college student studying witchcraft is lured to a New England town where witchcraft isn’t relegated to history books. With Christopher Lee, Venetia Stevenson.

8 p.m. “Psycho” (1960). A secretary on the run for embezzling money makes an ill-fated stop at a roadside motel in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films.

Singing praises for ‘Night Song’

How can a film starring Dana Andrews, Merle Oberon, Ethel Barrymore and Hoagy Carmichael be considered forgotten and hidden away?

Add in director John Cromwell and appearances by esteemed pianist Artur Rubinstein and conductor Eugene Ormandy and I ask the same question.

But it appears the 1948 romantic drama “Night Song” is not familiar to many classic movie fans. That’s understandable because it’s not usually shown on television or in repertory, although I was introduced to it on Turner Classic Movies.

On its original release, “Night Song” was panned by critics and lost $1 million, a huge sum in the late ‘40s. That’s most likely because of some eye-rolling moments in the plot. In brief: A rich young woman falls for a poor and bitter blind pianist, feigns her own blindness to get close to him, then sets up a composition contest with her own money to give him a chance for sight-restoring surgery.

Yes, it does sound contrived. But I have a soft spot for this melodrama and I love to recommend it which I’m doing as part of the Classic Movie Blog Association “Hidden Classics” blogathon.

 You’ll have to suspend your disbelief at some of the plot points, but the elegance of this classic Hollywood film, the tender love story at its heart and the wonderful piano concerto that is its own character make me fall for “Night Song” every time.

* * * *

First the plot in more detail, then I’ll share more of why this is a favorite.

Oberon plays Cathy Mallory, a socialite out with her stuffy rich friends after a night at the San Francisco Symphony. They go slumming in their furs and diamonds to a quaint jazz club called Chez Mamie where Chick and His Swing Six are playing. Cathy is clearly bored until she hears the soft strains of piano and approaches the broad-shouldered, dark-haired pianist.

Realizing he is blind, Cathy (Merle Oberon) lights a cigarette and puts it near the mouth of Dan (Dana Andrews) in “Night Song.”

“Light me a torch, will you chum?” he says to Cathy, not quite the greeting she was expecting.

He’s Dan Evans (Andrews), a man with a chip on his shoulders the size of a piano after being blinded in an accident by a drunk driver. He wants nothing to do with Cathy or anyone else. “I’m exhibit A here: I’m a blind piano player,” Dan says, with the bitterness he has used to build a protective wall around himself. The only person he lets in is Chick (Carmichael), his best friend, roommate, caregiver and boss in the band.

He’s a proud man but Cathy is stubborn. She returns to the elegant home she shares with her aunt, Miss Willey (Barrymore, who is my favorite part of this film). A voracious reader of detective novels, she doesn’t miss anything. Listening to Cathy play an unfamiliar tune on her concert grand piano with a far-off look on her face, Aunt Willey  knows what’s going on.

“You went somewhere after the symphony and someone played this nice music for you. Describe him.” (The relationship between these two feels very real, giving the film a rare sense of authenticity.)

Clearly smitten, Cathy returns to the club where Chick tells her Dan has quit – again. “He’s Mr. Blind Man and nobody with eyes can tell him anything,” he tells her.

“How about someone without eyes?,” she replies, clearly with an idea in mind and it’s a bit far-fetched.

Cathy (Merle Oberon) stages her first meeting as blind girl Mary with Dan (Dana Andrews, left) and Chick (Hoagy Carmichael).

She’ll pretend she is a blind woman named Mary Willey and goes so far as to rent a small, “rundown” apartment near the ocean where she’ll live with her caretaker and aunt (that’s true, at least). She softens her voice a bit and shrugs off her formal upper-class mannerisms when she “accidentally” runs into Dan and Chick on the beach.

But Dan is tough. As Chick says, “when he went blind, he went sour.” It takes a few meetings, some piano playing and the help of Chick and Aunt Willey to pull it off, but Mary starts to break through Dan’s wall. The more his heart opens, the more it releases his creativity. That lovely piano concerto starts to take form.

But that’s not enough for Mary when she learns there’s a chance Dan could regain his sight with surgery. It will take money he doesn’t have and that’s where she can help. She concocts a well-meaning ruse to sponsor a contest and puts up her own $5,000 as the grand prize. So much has to go right for Dan to win, but Cathy and Aunt Willey have the musical knowledge to understand that what Dan has written is great and deserves to win such a prize. Even Chick sees her deep understanding of classical music when he tells Dan after that first night in the club that “She went for the music, so she has brains as well as diamonds.”

After pretending to be a blind poor girl to get close to Dan (Dana Andrews),
circumstances lead Cathy (Merle Oberon) to meet him as the socialite she really is.

You can see where this is going, but it takes a detour when she runs into Dan again – this time as herself, the socialite Cathy Mallory. Dan doesn’t “recognize” Cathy is Mary for a few reasons. Like Clark Kent putting on his glasses so he’s not recognizable as Superman, Cathy raises the pitch in her voice and fools Dan though occasionally he does the old “I feel like I know you.”

That sets up the love triangle of Dan, blind Mary Willey in San Francisco, and the sophisticated Cathy Mallory in New York City. To say more about how they got to this point or where it goes would spoil the movie.

* * * *

I can remember the first time I saw “Night Song” and falling for it within seconds by the same music that wooed Cathy to Dan. Piano Concerto in C Minor by Leith Stevens was playing over the film’s opening credits and it’s magnificent – one of the best pieces of music written for a film. It’s featured in a nearly 9-minute sequence that I find spellbinding.

I originally watched “Night Song” for Dana Andrews, then for the love story. But it was Barrymore and Carmichael who hooked me. Though they were playing second fiddle to the lovebirds, they subtly stole the show.

Despite some of the illogical plot points, the dialogue flows so naturally and understated from Barrymore and Carmichael that the roles seem to have been written for them. They are well-defined to the point you don’t even need to see them to know they are in the room. In one scene, the camera is fixed on a radio with a dainty coffee cup on a saucer in front, and light smoke billowing across the screen. You know Aunt Willey is just off camera and she is.

Chick (Hoagy Carmichael) and Aunt Willey (Ethel Barrymore) become fast friends as they help Dan and Cathy/Mary.

The relationships between the characters are well done, too, whether it’s Dan and Chick, Mary and Aunt Willey or Chick and Aunt Willey. Chick is a steadfast friend who won’t let Dan wallow in self-pity and truly believes in him. “I think you’re a genius, he tells Dan. “So you’re blind, but Shubert’s dead.”

“Night Song” is elevated by little character moments. My favorite is Aunt Willey sitting in a comfy chair all happy to be reading a detective novel while smoking and drinking coffee. When she drops her book, she starts to bend over, then turns to the stack of paperbacks beside her and takes the one off the top.

“Night Song” has my favorite qualities of classic Hollywood movies like romance, star power, lovely music and a coziness you can sink in to. Besides any movie that stars just one of the four main actors – Andrews, Oberon, Barrymore, Carmichael – is worth a watch. A movie with all four? That’s a can’t-miss and a reason to give this hidden gem a chance.

* * * *

The blogathon

The Classic Movie Blog Association’s four-day “Hidden Classics” blogathon features stories on many other films that aren’t as well known as they could – and should – be. Here’s the link to read more stories on these hidden film gems.

How to get Turner Classic Movies in time to watch the film festival

It’s almost time for the TCM Classic Film Festival and you’re a bit out of sorts because you don’t have Turner Classic Movies to watch the festival at home. Maybe you just moved, switched services or cut the cord: the bottom line is that you need to watch TCM fast!

Relax – you’ve got options and they are quicker and easier than you think.

First off: you can’t get TCM for free. Sorry. Nor is there a standalone app you can buy. The Watch TCM app is linked to paid accounts with a cable provider or streaming service that provides TCM.

Basically here are your choices to watch TCM:

  • An account with either a cable or satellite provider.
  • A Live TV streaming service.

What’s the difference? A cable or satellite provider – think Spectrum, Comcast, X-Finity, DirecTV or Dish – is the traditional way to watch live television through a cable box or satellite dish. You can find TCM on most of these services, although it often comes on a higher tier at a higher price.

A Live TV streaming service is an app that lets you watch live television like you would with cable. It is not, however the same as an on-demand streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Apple TV+ where you pick what you want to watch from a library without the option for live TV. (This is where it should be noted that additional programming for the TCM Classic Film Festival will also be available to watch on the streaming service HBO Max, although you won’t be able to watch TCM live.)

The bonus: you don’t need to rent equipment. Instead, you most likely already have everything you need to get started: an internet connection plus a Smart TV or a device like Roku, Amazon Firestick or Apple TV. If you can use Netflix, you can use this.

Live TV streaming services that offer TCM include AT&T TV, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV and Youtube TV. Full channel lineups, packages and prices are on all of their websites. As soon as you sign up online, you have service. Service is month-to-month so if you don’t like it, you can switch to another without penalty. If local channels are important to you, be sure to see what these services offer in your area.

GETTING STARTED

Cable/satellite

If you have cable or a dish but don’t get TCM, call to see if you can get it on another package. Most providers let you change tiers without an extra fee and they can do it on the phone for instant TCM. If you want to get cable or satellite, do an internet search to see what is available in your area. I won’t list prices because services and packages vary greatly depending on where you live and if you package TV with other services.

Streaming

This may be the easiest way to get TCM. Here are four available services.

Sling TV is the least expensive service that offers TCM. First you have to purchase one of Sling’s two basic packages: Orange Sling (recommended for sports/entertainment) or Blue (entertainment/news). Each is $35 regularly. This is important: To get TCM, you’ll need to add the “Hollywood Extra” package for $6 a month. (It has eight channels including SundanceTV, Reelz, StartTV, GRIT, Cinemoi.) The total cost, then, for Sling Blue and “Hollywood Extra” would be $41 with 50 hours of free DVR storage. Look for free trials and discounts. (If you’re lucky, you may still be able to get the $10 for the first month special.) Sling almost always offers free gifts by prepaying for two or more months such as getting a free TV antenna.

AT&T TV is the new live TV streaming service from AT&T (it replaces ATT U-Verse). TCM is available on all three packages starting with the “Entertainment” package that comes with more than 65 channels and 20 hours of free Cloud DVR service to record that late-night programming. Cost starts at $69.99 a month.

Hulu + Live TV. Packages start at $64.99 with TCM and 50 hours of free Cloud DVR storage. Current offer is a free one-week trial. Be sure to look at this live streaming option, not the regular Hulu streaming service.

YouTube TV. Packages start at $64.99 with TCM and come with unlimited DVR storage.

All of these options are constantly changing but this will give you a start. I’m not a tech expert, but I’ve done a lot of research looking for options for myself. I hope this is helpful.

TO WATCH TCMFF

The TCM Classic Film Festival starts at 8 p.m. May 6 on both TCM and HBO Max.

For the full schedule of live festival programming on TCM, visit filmfestival.tcm.com/schedule.

For the full list of on-demand festival programming on HBO Max, visit filmfestival.tcm.com/on-hbomax.

For the regular TCM website, visit tcm.com.

From book to screen: The haunting beauty of ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’

The sublime beauty of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” can fill your heart and break it at the same time.

It’s in the faces of the equally lovely Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney, perfectly paired as the title characters. It’s in the Oscar-nominated cinematography by Charles Lang who paints the screen with hauntingly beautiful shades of shadow and light. And it’s in voices often so tender that a hushed utterance of a single word like “Lucia” can send goosebumps up your arms.

We’re drawn into this universally beloved film even before the opening credits roll. In an unusual move, the 20th Century Fox logo is not accompanied by the stately Fox fanfare, but by music from Bernard Herrmann that starts with a deep, swirling rumble and opens into an almost painfully sweet crescendo. It will repeat throughout the film, never losing its emotional power.

Everywhere you look or listen, this 1947 supernatural romance from director Joseph L. Mankiewicz wraps itself around you in a comforting cocoon.

That’s why “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” always felt like it existed only in movie form to me – and one that was nearly as perfect as any could be. The film about a sheltered widow moving into a British seaside cottage inhabited by the ghost of its owner holds a magic all its own. Somehow, I kept skipping over the opening credit that read “From the Novel by R.A. Dick.” I’ll blame that on the fact that I was too wrapped up in the splendor of Herrmann’s music and the scenery to read the credits.

I was always too busy listening to Bernard Herrmann’s haunting score and watching the crashing waves to see that “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” was based on a novel.

It wasn’t until a few years back that I stumbled on “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” by R.A. Dick while looking for books adapted into classic movies to read on a cross-country trip to the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival. “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” is one of the offerings in the very cool Vintage Movie Classics book series launched in 2014 by Random House under its Vintage Books imprint. (“The Night of the Hunter,” “Back Street” and “Cimarron” are among others.)

Because of this embarrassing gap in my film history knowledge, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” seemed a good choice for me to explore for the Classic Literature on Film Blogathon hosted by Paul Batters of Silver Screen Classics. It’s not Great Classic Literature with capital letters in the sense of Bronte, Austen, Dickens or Twain, yet this slim novel deserves credit as the basis for one of the most universally beloved classic films.

Setting the film’s atmospheric mood was the Oscar-nominated black and white cinematography by Charles Lang.

Often with classic movies based on literature we have either read the original novel – “Frankenstein,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Rebecca,” “A Tale of Two Cities” – or at least have a CliffsNotes familiarity with it. You may not have read “Wuthering Heights,” but you know Heathcliff and Catherine.

But, I knew nothing about the book form of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” or its author so there was a lot to be excited about: Tierney and Harrison were perfect on screen, but did they fit the author’s original vision? How did the romance – so chaste in the movie – develop in the book? Would there be deep words of love between them or would it be hidden behind a softly uttered “Me, dear” as in the movie? Were R.A. Dick’s other stories equally mesmerizing?

The answers were surprising.

Author Josephine Leslie wrote “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” under the pen name of R.A. Dick.

“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” was published in 1945 under the pseudonym of R.A. Dick by Irish author Josephine Leslie. There’s not much out there about her other than she wrote two, possibly three other books over 20 years or so including “The Devil and Mrs. Devine.” She wrote barely any description of the lead characters other than their size (“Little Lucy Muir” and that the Captain was tall with broad shoulders) and there were no additional proclamations of love.

Think of the book this way: If it was published today, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” would be on a summer reading list or labeled a beach read  – those easy-to-read books that sweep you away for a relaxing few hours. It is a slim novel written with an economy of words that speak volumes. Leslie (as we’ll call the author from here) also has a way with descriptive, poetic dialogue. “The wallpaper had gone past fading into death,” is a wonderful visual of Gull Cottage. Lucy’s words in trying to make sense of unexplained happenings could be a poem: “There aren’t any ghosts really. They always turn out to be the wind in the chimney, or shadows on the wall, or branches tapping on the window.” The best of Leslie’s dialogue is used in the movie.

* * * *

As the novel opens, the author helps the reader understand in only a page that Lucy Muir has led an oppressed life, and that the young widow and mother is yearning for a life that is her own – not her late husband’s, nor his family’s.

She has finally found the courage to leave the house she lives in with her husband’s mother and sister for a fresh start by the sea. Arriving in Whitecliff, she fixates on the one property the house agent doesn’t want to show her: Gull Cottage. Very inexpensive, fully furnished and with a gorgeous sea view, Gull Cottage has been uninhabitable for the 10 years it has been on the market. Previous tenants haven’t lasted 24 hours, yet Lucy stubbornly insists on seeing it. The twinkling of the eyes in a portrait, the discarded lunch in the kitchen of someone was “called away in a hurry” and Lucy’s delight in seeing the clean telescope in the otherwise dusty house are the first signs that the house is haunted.

“Haunted! How perfectly fascinating,” she says with a big smile in the film and we know this haunted house story veers from traditional ghostly encounters. It is not interested in terrifying its audience, but rather wants to explore a woman’s fight for her independence as well as as the deepening relationship based on mutual respect of two characters that grows in the most unexpected way.

The ghostly inhabitant is Captain Daniel Gregg whose much talked about suicide was really an accident caused when he kicked over the gas heater as he slept.

Though it’s easy to assume Lucy fell under a ghostly spell, it worked both ways as our ornery sea captain was no match for the newly independent and determined Lucy Muir. Their bond formed almost immediately. Formalities are dropped – they become Lucy and Daniel to each other – and they make peace. She’ll take care of the cottage he built and he’ll stop his ghostly shenanigans (as long as no one messes with his “Lucia,” the swoon-worthy name he gives her). The story is sprinkled with light moments of humor such as when Lucy picks up the captain’s salty language such as “blasted.”

When she gets into financial difficulty and fears she’ll have to leave Gull Cottage, Daniel has her write out his life stories in a book on the “unvarnished life of a sea captain.” It’s a success.

Coming into their comfortable existence is the handsome and charming Miles Fairley Blane who sweeps her off her feet while hiding his own secrets. Though his portrayal in the book is different than the movie, the final effect is the same.

Actors Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison were perfectly matched on screen as Lucy and Daniel.

Adapting a book into film

Screenwiter Philip Dunne was brought in to turn Leslie’s efficient novel into a film. He had previously adapted such works as “The Count of Monte Cristo” (1934), “Magnificent Obsession” (1935), “The Last of the Mohicans” (1936) and “How Green Was My Valley” (1941).

In her forward to the Vintage Books edition of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” author and filmmaker Adriana Trigiani does a wonderful job in explaining Dunne’s talents. “Mr. Dunne was a master dramatist, keen and spare in his process. He would take apart a novel, pulling threads from it like a lacemaker. Mr. Dunne would hold on to some characters, discard others, restructure timelines, winnow down scenes, remove some altogether, and add new ones to create the most powerful screen narrative from the source material.”

That’s what Dunne did here. Let’s take Miles as an example.

Miles Blane (George Sanders) is a charming man with secrets who becomes a love interest for the naive Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney).

In the novel, Lucy meets Miles after he moves into a nearby cottage and saves her dog (with the “help” of the Daniel). He doesn’t have an occupation but he does a bit of “this and that.” For the film, Dunne turns Miles into a popular author of children’s books (he writes under the pen name of Uncle Neddy) who meets Lucy at the publisher’s office where she is trying to sell “Blood and Swash” by Captain X. Clearly attracted to her, Miles gets Lucy in to meet the publisher. Her gratitude and naivety combine to make her gullible and she falls for Miles, who is played with an unsettling mix of charm and scoundrel by George Sanders.

Another change by Dunne that works in the film’s favor is that Lucy has one child, not two as in the book. It was a good choice to focus on Anna (played by an adorable 8-year-old Natalie Wood), and thereby also focusing on Lucy instead of splitting attention with another child.

The big change, and one I am eternally grateful for, is that while Lucy never sees Daniel in the book – he comes to her only in her thoughts, like a voice in her head – he is a commanding presence in the film as played by Rex Harrison. Can you imagine the film without him? No, you can’t.

Through it all, there is a question of how a relationship caught between two worlds can be played out. We get a hint early watching Daniel’s reaction when Lucy asks “What is to become of us, you and me?” with a mix of yearning and pain in her voice. His subtle facial expressions help us understand he will do what he needs for her, whatever the sacrifice.

In this shattering scene, Daniel (Rex Harrison) softly tells the sleeping Lucia (Gene Tierney) that he was just a dream.

Dunne answers Lucy’s questions by adding one of the most romantically heartbreaking scenes on film as Daniel realizes he needs to allow his Lucia to live her human life. Visiting her as she sleeps with dawn pouring in the windows, he speaks to her with great tenderness of making her life among the living. “It’s been a dream, Lucia. In the morning and the years after, you’ll only remember it as a dream.”

He has kept his composure to this point but then his grief can’t be held back anymore. “What we missed, Lucia. What we’ve both missed,” he says with inescapable pain in his voice.

In another book or film, that could be the end, but not here. Instead, it starts another chapter. There is still more life for both Lucy Muir and Captain Daniel Gregg to live.

Other adaptations beyond the movie

Radio plays: About seven months after the film’s release in 1947, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” became an hour-long radio play for Lux Radio Theatre starring Charles Boyer (yes, with his heavy French accent) and Madeleine Carroll.

A 1951 production from Screen Directors Playhouse also starred Boyer, this time playing opposite Jane Wyatt. The opening statement credits Joseph L. Mankiewicz as the director.

Television: For the 1968 family comedy series, the story was moved to Maine and Lucy’s name was changed to Carolyn Muir. Carolyn was played by Hope Lang who won two Emmy Awards for Lead Actress in a Comedy. Edward Mulhare starred as Captain Daniel Gregg.

For an idea of how light a touch they were going for in the series, it also starred Reta Shaw as the housekeeper and comedian Charles Nelson Reilly as the captain’s great-nephew.

NBC ran the first season before canceling the series which was then picked up by ABC for its second and final season.

More about the Classic Literature on Film Blogathon

The second annual Classic Literature on Film Blogathon is hosted by Paul Batters of Silver Screen Classics. About 20 classic film writers from around the world are taking part and posting their stories from April 2-4. Please take the time to read these stories on a wonderfully diverse selection of books and movies. Here is the link.

A handy guide to nearly 100 horror films airing on TCM in October

It’s our time, horror movie fans.

Once again, Turner Classic Movies has curated a made-to-order fright fest with a schedule of nearly 100 horror films throughout October.

Friday evenings are devoted exclusively to scary movies starting Oct. 2 when horror author David J. Skal, whose new book with TCM is “Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond,” introduces four films starting at 8 p.m.

Those four movies and many others in the book will be shown on TCM in October including “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” “Them!” and “The Wolf Man.”

TCM’s Star of the Month (#sotm) is horror great Peter Cushing, whose films will be featured in prime-time every Monday night in October. Though the first two weeks (Oct. 5 and 12) focus on Cushing’s early roles and non-horror work, Oct. 19 is devoted to his Hammer films  – including three Frankenstein movies – and Oct. 26 is all horror including two Dracula films.

Oct. 14 is Tod Browning Day with seven of his films programmed including three with Lon Chaney. The month culminates in around-the-clock horror films on Oct. 30 and 31.

Here is the list of films to help you plan your viewing and DVR schedule. Continue reading “A handy guide to nearly 100 horror films airing on TCM in October”

TCM and ‘Women Make Film’: an astonishing trip through movie history

It’s only 3 minutes into the documentary “Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema,” and I’m hooked from the first movie clip.

Though a word isn’t spoken in it, much is communicated. A small circular light pierces the dark screen as a young man in World War II Germany is looking for his love. Another light appears, and the circles meet, like “two moons.” The two young lovers, tears in their eyes, finally see each other, but then hastily shut off their lights in fear of approaching soldiers.

The scene is from “We Were Young,” a 1961 film by Bulgarian director Binka Zhelyazkova and it’s so captivating I wrote down the title and circled it multiple times as a reminder that I must see this film.

A screenshot of a striking scene from “We Were Young” in which a young woman and man  have just a moment to silently gaze at each other on a street in World War II Germany.

I’ve since watched the two-minute clip multiple times and remain entranced.

There are countless moments like that throughout the 14-part film by Mark Cousins, the filmmaker, author and former film critic who previously made the epic 2011 documentary “The Story of Film: An Odyssey.”

Like that extensive documentary, “Women Make Film” is well worth your time especially as it’s presented in a three-month immersive programming initiative by Turner Classic Movies focusing on female filmmakers.

TCM will present a new 60-minute episode of the documentary at 8 p.m. each Tuesday starting Sept. 1, followed that evening by seven movies directed by women. It continues weekly to Dec. 1.

Continue reading “TCM and ‘Women Make Film’: an astonishing trip through movie history”

‘The Sin of Nora Moran’: a Pre-Code ahead of its time

If the film title “The Sin of Nora Moran” is familiar to you, chances are that you know it from the exquisite poster by Alberto Vargas, not necessarily from seeing the movie.

The 1933 Pre-Code film hasn’t been as easy to see as the famous poster that is often lauded as one the greatest in film history (it ranked No. 2 on a Premiere magazine list).

So when “The Sin of Nora Moran” premiered on Turner Classic Movies in May as part of an evening of Pre-Code films, it blew up the classic movie Twitterverse with praise, awe and bewilderment. (It was to be shown at the canceled 2020 TCM Film Festival and I can only imagine how extraordinary it would have looked on the big screen.)

The Film Detective has released “The Sin of Nora Moran” on DVD and Blu-ray with the exquisite poster image by Alberto Vergas on its cover.

Now we can watch this Poverty Row film in a new 4K restoration on DVD and limited-edition Blu-ray from The Film Detective. (Both have the Vargas artwork on the cover.) The restoration is by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and it looks and sounds great, unlike the generally fuzzy public domain copies and clips previously available online.

The Blu-ray comes with a mini booklet that includes a short written  appreciation by film historian and producer Samuel M. Sherman, who played a key role in getting this film in the public eye.

Sherman narrates a 17-minute featurette that includes rare photos and film clips as he tells how he was introduced to the film in the 1960s, “traded” for a rare 16mm print of it (he doesn’t remember what he traded, saying “It’s lost in antiquities”) and ultimately obtained a 35mm camera negative that helped with the restoration. He also secured a television deal for the film in the 1980s by renaming it “Voice from the Grave” (a fitting title) and packaging it with sci-fi and horror movies. “It played coast to coast on syndicated television in the 1980s, which was an amazing thing,” Sherman recalled.

Most remarkable: Sherman forged a lifelong friendship with star Zita Johann (who he first saw in Universal’s “The Mummy”) to the point that she made him a heir to her estate. In fact, Sherman was the one who showed Johann the final version of “Nora Moran”; until then, she had only seen a working print that didn’t have the “fancier” techniques added during editing. She told Sherman she preferred the earlier version. Information like that is gold to classic movie fans and I would love to hear more from him on what Johann said about making the film.

A familiar story told in an unfamiliar way

“The Sin of Nora Moran” is a lean, 65-minute movie from the Poverty Row studio Majestic Pictures. The plot is nothing out of the ordinary and, in fact, was quite familiar at the time: girl falls for the wrong guy and has to pay for it.

So why the fuss over “The Sin of Nora Moran”?

It was a film ahead of its time in both filmmaking and storytelling. It is not presented in a linear fashion, instead it jumps – often dramatically – between different times, characters, perspectives and even reality and dreams (or nightmares as it may be).

The look of despondency is clear on Nora’s face as she searches for a job as a dancer in this shot that superimposes images to show her state of mind.

The heavy use of montages, superimposed images and hallucinations –  unusual at the time – added to the storytelling. (My favorite technique  is a diagonal “wash,” usually used as a transition, but here it literally adds another layer of darkness over a  character.)

People seeing “The Sin of Nora Moran” for the first time speak about it with such adjectives as revolutionary, dizzying, bizarre and my favorite, kaleidoscopic used in a review on Pre-Code.com that I highly recommend reading. Continue reading “‘The Sin of Nora Moran’: a Pre-Code ahead of its time”

Wrapped up in the snugly comfort of classic movies

Ask me why I enjoy watching classic movies and the answer is a variation on a theme: Because classic movies make me feel like I’m wrapping myself in warm blanket or snuggling in a cozy chair.

They are, in a word, comforting.

So I found it interesting over the past few months as social media filled with people seemingly just discovering that movies can bring comfort. Don’t get me wrong, I love that people have sought out movies to ease their worries. But classic movies have done this for me as far back as I can remember.

“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” starring the perfect combination of Gene Tierney, left, and Rex Harrison, is a soothing, old-fashioned love story.

Rainy days make me want to stay home, pull up a blanket and put on an old black and white movie. If I’m a bit down, a Technicolor film always lifts my spirits. If I’m tense, I watch something soothing like the ethereal “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” or the fantasy of “Brigadoon.” Looking for inspiration, I’ll put on a Frank Capra movie. When I get home from a tough day at work, I turn on Turner Classic Movies and I start to wind down.

Often, the comfort factor is obvious as with my favorite romances that have me nestling in all warm and cozy. “Laura” with its beautiful score and Dana Andrews as the hardboiled detective in love with a portrait; “Dark Angel,” a sweet love triangle (yes there are such stories) with Fredric March, Herbert Marshall and Merle Oberon as inseparable lifelong friends who truly love each other; and “An Affair to Remember” where I can watch Nickie (Cary Grant) and Terry (Deborah Kerr) fall in love. (Let’s not talk about Janou; I’ll start to sniffle.)

It may seem odd, but watching Rod Taylor’s adventures in “The Time Machine” makes me feel cozy and relaxed.

Others films I find comforting will seem odd because of their genres, but they have that quality by transporting me to another time (“The Time Machine”), leaving me on the edge of my seat (“House of Wax”), mesmerizing me (“Sunrise”), making me laugh (“You Can’t Take It With You”) and scaring the heck out of me (“The Haunting”).

I’m sure this can be traced to memories of being introduced to classics by my family. I watched old horror films with my dad and any time I see one of the original Universal monsters or a 1950s creature feature, I relax which is a weird reaction to a horror film. Mom liked family-based films with “I Remember Mama” being a favorite. At grandma’s, we watched Bette Davis and Joan Crawford movies with the lights off.

[Read my ode to my father at Classic Movie Hub on How movies with dad spawned a classic horror fan]

Continue reading “Wrapped up in the snugly comfort of classic movies”

Found! A treasure of classic British films from a ‘Renown’ source

When classic movie fans discover a new source of old movies, it’s like we hit the lottery.

So I feel like I’ve won the big one after finding a treasure of movies from Renown Pictures, a distribution company that specializes in British cinema and television, predominately from the 1930s to ‘60s.

More than 100 of Renown’s titles – mysteries, dramas, horror, sci-fi, detective stories, romance and documentaries– are streaming for free on Amazon Prime.

This artwork – a blue cover and four photos – makes films from Renown easy to spot.

I almost made the mistake of bypassing these films when they first popped up as suggested viewing on my Prime account. They were packaged with the same blue artwork with four black and white photos. The titles, actors and directors were not familiar, so I didn’t pay attention. (Felix Aylmer? Wolf Rilla? Jane Hylton?)

Shame on me and obvious lessons learned: Don’t judge a movie by its cover – or unfamiliarity – because you’ll miss out.

Continue reading “Found! A treasure of classic British films from a ‘Renown’ source”

‘The Holiday’: a modern rom-com with a classic movie heart

I clearly remember watching the 2006 rom-com “The Holiday” for the first time, not expecting much more than another in a long line of agreeable but often interchangeable romantic comedies.

It would be a nice, but surely forgettable, two-hour escape using the familiar formula: two people meet-cute, fall for each and face obstacles that lead to a “grand gesture” to help them live happily ever.

I was wrong – “The Holiday” is a memorable rom-com that I get more emotionally involved in each time I watch it.

It’s a combination of the great cast (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Jude Law and Eli Wallach – all who have never been more charming on film), relatable characters (we’ve all gone through the same things), a delightful comic touch, a few twists on rom-com tropes and the sense of joy that permeates this deeply emotional film.

Continue reading “‘The Holiday’: a modern rom-com with a classic movie heart”