Light up the cauldron and get a mug of witches’ brew because October is upon us. Can we really say September was anything else other than the month before Halloween? (Okay, September is my birthday month but even I was counting down to October.) TCM at Halloween time is a double-edged sword because there are so many great horror films, but many of them I’ve already watched and thus aren’t eligible for this series. So while you’ll see a few frightful flicks the majority are a mixed bag of the usual TCM fare. Feel free to leave your October selections in the comments!
**All times listed as Eastern. TCM can change the schedule at their discretion.**
Most people were introduced to the Edith Wharton novel The Age of Innocence through the 1993 Martin Scorsese movie. That’s the version I saw after reading it, and though I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear it was adapted previously, I was. This 1934 incarnation, filmed just twelve years after the book was published, stars John Boles as Newland Archer who falls for the mysterious Madame Olenska (played by Irene Dunne). Dunne’s casting interests me, especially in light of Michelle Pfeiffer’s magnetic performance in the later version. Literary nuts should join me in comparing the two films to the novel. The Age of Innocence airs October 1st at 6am.
Island of Lost Souls (1933) is one of those “didn’t this already show up on a TCM Top Ten list” titles, and the answer is “not according to my list.” This take on The Island of Dr. Moreau follows mad scientist Charles Laughton as he attempts to turn animals into humans. The film stars a cabal of ’30s horror stars including a post-Dracula Bela Lugosi and a post-Freaks Leila Hyams. I am interested in seeing who plays “the panther woman!” Visit the Island of Lost Souls on October 4th at 2am.
One of my favorite horror subgenres is possession films. There’s something about a soul traveling into another, trying to inhabit the same space, that’s both fascinating and terrifying. I had no idea though that the genre went all the way back to 1945! A Place of One’s Own isn’t associated with the Virginia Woolf story – at least I don’t think it is – and follows an elderly woman whose caregiver believe she’s being possessed by the spirit of a murdered girl. So it’s The Woman in White (1948) meets The Conjuring? The film stars Margaret Lockwood and James Mason, who I’m already guessing plays a doctor of some kind. Am I right? Find A Place of One’s Own on October 13th (that’s Friday the 13th) at 2:45pm.
I first heard about Madame Satan (1930) recording a Ticklish Business episode last year, and the description of the costumes alone were enough to interest me. Madame Satan is a Cecil B. DeMille picture that follows a woman who takes on the persona of a femme fatale to reinvigorate the affections of her wayward husband. I’ve seen a few stills from this and coupled with the DeMille name I anticipate this being one crazy adventure. Meet Madame Satan on October 16th at 8pm during a night of Trailblazing Women.
I’ve heard many people praise actress Marsha Hunt, one of the few studio era actresses still living. What’s sad is I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one of her features. TCM is honoring her this month for her 99th birthday and if you’re like me, maybe you should take some time to see her work too. A Letter for Evie (1945) is directed by the enigmatic Jules Dassin and follows a soldier who sends his friend’s picture to a pen pal. Mistaken identity narratives during wartime is an interesting genre, with room for both serious drama and light comedy. With Dassin at the helm I’m honestly unsure which route we’re going to take. Get yourself A Letter for Evie on October 17th at 5:45pm.
Black Hand (1950) is considered one of Gene Kelly’s more questionable features. He plays an Italian immigrant in the early 1900s who goes on a revenge mission to avenge his father’s death. I don’t know about you, but that premise leaves me scratching my head. Gene Kelly? As an Italian? In turn-of-the-century New York? I gotta see this though I’m skeptical it won’t inspire some giggles. I can’t say I’ve watched Kelly in his more serious roles, sans song and dance, so I’m eager to jump in with both feet. Shake the Black Hand on October 18th at 8am.
You have to love how timely Hollywood could afford to be, back when movies were cheaper and productions were quicker. Just one year after The Manhattan Project was completed a cinematic portrayal of the event was released. The cast is a who’s who of talent including Brian Donlevy, Robert Walker and Audrey Totter. Audrey Totter is who gets my attention because I’m used to seeing her in noirs, not a serious drama about bombs being dropped. And how does the movie deal with nuclear power so close after the end of WWII? The Beginning or the End airs October 20th at 4:15pm.
We got another possession thriller on the list this month, although I’m sure the one starring Vincent Price bears little resemblance to anything starring James Mason. Diary of a Madman (1963) follows a French magistrate – I’m assuming that’s Price with no discernible French accent – whose body is taken over by the soul of a murderer. That should be all you need to know to entice you to watch! Read the Diary of a Madman on October 24th at 10pm.
Anthony Perkins is this month’s star and I’ll confess he doesn’t particularly interest me. I feel bad considering he’ll forever be labeled as Norman Bates, but there’s little in his work that pops out, Pretty Poison (1968) being the exception. Really, I’m interested in Pretty Poison more for Tuesday Weld than Perkins himself. The two play a couple who get in over their heads after Perkins’ character says he’s a secret agent in order to impress the beautiful Weld. I’ve heard things about the film being a wild, violent ride and, again, Weld always fascinates me as a presence. Get some Pretty Poison on October 27th at 10:15pm.
You gotta have a Halloween night film, and though I’ve seen nearly everything TCM offers on All Hallow’s Eve I do want to check out the rare remake of a superior film. 1963’s remake of The Old Dark House has the benefit of horror impresario William Castle at the helm, and while he’s no James Whale that does mean this remake should be fun, at least. The cast include Rocky Horror reference Janette Scott, but that’s about it. I doubt this will improve the original but there’s no harm in trying. Visit The Old Dark House on November 1st at 2:45am.
Watching Halloween movies gets even scarier with a trio of films about haunted houses starting at 8pm with the classic James Whale feature The Old Dark House (1932) at 8pm. Then, Julie Harris spends the night in a house of terrors in The Haunting (1963) at 9:30pm. And finally Vincent Price learns the secrets of The House on Haunted Hill (1958) at 11:30pm. Stay in, if you dare!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.