Mildred Pierce (KTLA tonight at 8) is...
Mildred Pierce (KTLA tonight at 8) is one of the prime blends of 1940s soap opera and film noir . Based on a book by James M. Cain, it’s the taut tale of a career woman’s rise and her daughter’s fall--with crisp direction by Michael Curtiz, sunlight, shadows and archetypal performances by Joan Crawford (Mildred), Jack Carson (the hustler), Zachary Scott (the heel) and Ann Blyth (Mom’s evil angel). So why has it been colorized?
From the heyday of the 1970s’ black exploitation films, Three the Hard Way (KTTV Monday at 8 p.m.) offers star trio Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly battling a crazed white supremacist (Andy Robinson of “Dirty Harry”), who is out to preserve the race and pollute the water. The director, Gordon Parks, Jr., also made “Superfly.”
The Hanoi Hilton (KTLA Tuesday at 8 p.m.), from 1987, takes a potentially searing subject--the grueling mistreatment of American POWs during the Vietnam War--and hammers us with sermons and self-righteousness as if we were zombies who had to be deprogrammed. Star Michael Moriarity has some good moments; writer-director Lionel Chetwynd far fewer.
Mel Brooks’ 1981 History of the World, Part 1 (KTTV Wednesday at 8 p.m.), a parody of historical epics narrated by Orson Welles and ranging from prehistoric times through Roman orgies and the Inquisition to the French Revolution, is supposed to be the beginning of his high-volume, low-laugh period. But it still has good moments in a sea of excess: notably Brooks’ smug rendering of the line, “It’s good to be da king.”
One of those weird misfires which goes down despite lots of talent, the 1980 Rough Cut (KCOP Thursday at 8 p.m.), sinks director Don Siegel, and stars Burt Reynolds, David Niven and Lesley-Anne Down in an international jewel thief caper that not even a Duke Ellington-derived score (conducted by Nelson Riddle) can elevate.
Salt of the Earth (KCET Friday at 11:30 p.m.) is the most famous American leftist film of the 1950s, shot in Mexico by a group of blacklistees: director Herbert Biberman, writer Michael Wilson and producer Paul Jarrico. It’s a labor union melodrama--rather mild by recent standards--which portrays its characters in the mythic, prototypical fashion of the ‘20s Soviet films, the ‘30s radical theater and Ford-Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Her Alibi (CBS Saturday at 8 p.m.) won’t wash and neither will the movie--in which unlikely mystery novelist Tom Selleck interferes with real-life crime to hazardous effect. Director Bruce Beresford gives it an attractive finish but no one can find a center--or a clue.