Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Reviews, Pre-code Cinema, Television

Channeling Movies: Sex and Sin on Pre-Code Fridays on Turner Classic Movies

‘Red Dust’

Turner Classic Movies is turning all the Fridays in September over to films from that brief period in the early thirties when the studios thumbed their collective noses at the toothless Production Code and pushed the boundaries of sex, violence, and bad behavior without judgment or consequences in film after film. The iron boot of censorship came down in 1934 and stomped out all that deliciously salacious content, but for a few years Hollywood acknowledged and even flaunted sex between consenting adults (married or not). The films from this era were branded “Forbidden Hollywood” when they were rediscovered and revived for audiences in the 1990s, but today they are better known as Pre-Code. Turner Classic Movies has four full Fridays full of forbidden Pre-Code delights.

While there are gems aplenty throughout the month, I’ll spotlight a few of the most interesting and audacious rarities and lesser-known glories, including two from the coming Friday line-up.

Set those DVRs now!

Friday, September 5:

Safe in Hell (1931) – Think of this as a kind of B-movie riff on Sadie Thompson (the original bad girl in the tropics melodrama) directed with a merciless brutality by William Wellman. It stars the largely forgotten Dorothy Mackaill as a scuffed-up, street-smart answer to Miriam Hopkins and she is amazing as the hooker who is whisked off to a Caribbean island to flee a murder charge. The film’s title is no exaggeration; imagine Casablanca as a lice-infested backwater run by mercenary opportunists and filled with the sleaziest criminals to escape a manhunt. They all take their shot at seducing Mackaill, the sole white woman in this island prison, and she shoots them all down with the brash directness of an experienced urban doll who has spent her life fending off passes. Yet somehow the film manages to give them all a shot at redemption when she is tried for murder (it’s a different murder, and yet the same one, in the crazy logic of the melodrama contrivances) and they line up in her defense. Wellman it snappy and sassy as he winds the story from the cynical to the sentimental to the spiritual with equal commitment.

Dorothy Mackaill is hardly ‘Safe in Hell’

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Documentary, Film Festivals

Channeling Movies: The ultimate movie history class runs Monday nights on Turner Classic Movies

In The Story Of Film: An Odyssey, filmmaker and film historian Mark Cousins takes an unconventional, expansive, and almost exhaustive approach to the history of cinema, from the first moving images to modern movies. His 15-hour documentary series is an ambitious attempt to encapsulate cinema, from birth to the present, as practiced all over the world, and emphasizes innovation, expression, and the cross-cultural fertilization of ideas spanning the entire globe. But Cousins is not just an educator, he’s a missionary sharing the beauty and magic of cinema: “A lie to tell the truth.”

The series is on DVD and available to stream on Netflix, and starting on Monday, September 2, Turner Classic Movies will be rolling out the documentary with a new episode every Monday through December 9. Accompanying the series is a festival of films that Cousins features in the respective chapters, playing every Monday and Tuesday night for the first nine weeks of the series (and then Mondays only for the final six weeks).

The series opens with a selection of landmark works of early cinema by the Edison studios, the Lumière Bros., George Melies, and Alice Guy-Blaché, followed by early feature films from D.W. Griffith (including Birth of a Nation) and others.

According the TCM, 119 films will be screened in conjunction with The Story of Film, 30 of them making their respective TCM debuts, from Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dalí’s Un Chien Andalou (1928) and Kenji Mizoguchi’s Japanese classic Osaka Elegy (1936) (both Tuesday, September 17) to Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993) and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Climates (2006) from Turkey (in December).

Continue reading at MSN Hitlist