Welcome to this week’s installment of TMP Recommends, the series where I share five films you should keep an eye out for on TCM over the next seven days. All times are listed in EST and come from the US version of the TCM schedule. Happy viewing!
Invisible Invaders (1959)
Airing on TCM: July 10, 2:30 am
The future of the Earth and its inhabitants is in jeopardy as 20,000-year-old aliens from the moon promise to take over the planet. Scientist Adam Penner (Philip Tonge), who has been in contact with the aliens, has just twenty-four hours to save humankind. Debates about the atomic bomb, alien takeovers of human bodies, and plenty of very ’50s special effects ensue as Adam refuses to let his planet be destroyed without putting up a good fight to save it. This is a great watch for fans of mid-century sci-fi and features a scene-stealing performance by John Carradine.
Airing on TCM: July 10, 1:30 pm
Pre-Orange is the New Black explorations of women’s prisons are thought of as campy and somewhat scandalous, full of affairs and “cat fights.” One major exception can be found in what I consider to be one of the best prison films ever made, 1950’s Caged. All of the performances in this film are fantastic, and rather than relying on rough-and-tumble stereotypes, the prisoners are treated as human beings, with varied personalities and backgrounds. Though gritty and emotional, Caged focuses on a critique of the American prison system rather than on providing the audience with juicy, over-dramatic plotlines.
Raw Deal (1948)
Airing on TCM: July 11, 4:30 am
A prison escape, a revenge plot, a love triangle… Raw Deal has all you could want from an underrated B-movie. Directed by Anthony Mann, the film tells an engrossing story, with slightly atypical use of its characters and top-notch performances. Claire Trevor’s character of Pat is particularly fascinating, narrating the film in an eerie, almost-whispering voice. (In any other film of this type, narration would usually be handled by the central male character — in this case, prison escapee Joe Sullivan, portrayed by Dennis O’Keefe.) The film is beautifully photographed as well, making great use of both urban and rural settings, all brought to life in highly-shadowy black and white.
The Purchase Price (1932)
Airing on TCM: July 14, 9:30 pm
I almost included Ball of Fire in this week’s recommendations, as I’m always eager to recommend a Stanwyck film… but since Ball of Fire is a much more popular entry in her filmography, I thought I’d highlight one of her lesser-known titles. The Purchase Price is a pre-code tale of a showgirl who moves from New York to a farm, as a mail-order bride. At first hesitant to embrace rural life, Stanwyck’s character eventually finds herself falling for her groom (portrayed by George Brent). Stanwyck’s performance makes the film, allowing the viewer to root for the central couple despite their obvious differences and disagreements.
The Harvey Girls (1946)
Airing on TCM: July 14, 10:45 pm
Susan Bradley (Judy Garland) is headed west to meet her husband-to-be, a man she only knows through the letters they’ve written to each other. On the train, she meets a gang of “Harvey Girls” — waitresses who will be working at the new Harvey House restaurant, in the very same town where Susan is headed. When her marriage plans fall through, Susan becomes a Harvey Girl and finds herself entrenched in a rivalry with the staff of the local saloon. The Harvey Girls is one of my all-time favorite musicals. It’s got catchy songs, it’s got plot twists, it’s got a few bits of quotable dialogue… and best of all, it’s got Judy Garland in one of her loveliest performances.
Raw Deal…a good one! And I’ve always wanted to see Caged (and it’s one I could add to my soon-to-be ‘prison’ index) so I’ll see if I can track it down.