PZ has annotated a list of movies airing on Turner Classic Movies in April 2021 (with the invaluable help of John Glover!). Watch overlooked movies that feature Christian themes and the dynamics of Grace. Original sin, low anthropology, and plenty of potential abreactions abound. Other movies that you might have missed, and that deserve a viewing, are on this list. All times are Eastern and are subject to change.

April 1st, 1:15 AM, Son of Kong (1933)

Hounded by reporters, cited as a defendant in numerous lawsuits, and on the verge of being indicted by a grand jury for his involvement in the ill-fated promotion of King Kong, the giant ape, Carl Denham flees New York and returns to Skull Island. This sequel to the original Kong Kong takes a while getting started; but once the motley trio of heroes/heroine make it to the island, the movie hits pay dirt. Little (albino) Kong is charming, the ruined pagan temple where he lives is beautiful, and, best of all, his instincts at the end are self-sacrificing, loyal, and true. If you let it, Son of Kong will take you by surprise!

P. S. The whole movie predicted PZ’s Dad’s discovery, years later in West Africa, of an albino gorilla named Snowflake.

April 1st, 4:15 AM, Rodan (1958)

A giant pterodactyl is hatched out of a coal mine and wreaks havoc all over Japan. This is a Japanese doozie from Toho Studios. Everything about Rodan works — sort of — from the scary scene in the mine shaft — which made PZ literally run out of the theater in 1959 — to the attack of the larval Rodan — to the amazing climax at the volcano. Somehow it all works, and I therefore recommend this to the whole world.

This post is dedicated to Cabell Zahl.

April 1st, 8:00 pm, All the King’s Men (1949)

A backwoods politician rises to the top only to become corrupted. This is a haunting movie about political corruption, (dark) Southern social class, and, well, original sin. The John Ireland character is memorable, as is Joanne Dru — whom you really ought to get to know. Somehow Broderick Crawford no longer lingers for me, but then again, there’s his female campaign operative — played by Mercedes McCambridge. (I met her once, no kidding.)

April 3rd, 12:00 AM, The Best Man (1964)

Two presidential hopefuls get caught up in the dirty side of politics. Personally, I don’t think much of Gore Vidal — even though he attended my school and was a bit of a legend there. (His script wrecked The Scapegoat (1959), which could have been a Christian classic — and was, in its original novel by Daphne DuMaurier.)

But The Best Man is well done and suspenseful. It’s even kind of true. The Henry Fonda character is most sympathetic, and the convention scenes are exciting. Behold the swamp!

April 4th, 10:00 am, Dark Victory (1939)

A flighty heiress discovers inner strength when she develops a brain tumor. This is a good try — a Hollywood movie about the advent of death in the life of a smart and feeling woman, played by Bette Davis. I always want to like Dark Victory more than I end up doing, and that is because it simply excerpts the religious dimension. One understands why they did that at the time — to avoid controversy. But the result is a pretty completely unsatisfactory denouement. Bette Davis is great, though, and captures a lot of truth.

April 5th, 12:00 am, The Enchanted Cottage (1945)

A scarred veteran and an ordinary-looking woman are transformed by love. This is a very touching movie about imputation and its remarkable effects in practice. Blind(ed) Robert Young and homely Dorothy McGuire are both given to see beyond appearances. They end up with a transforming and precious romantic love. People say The Enchanted Cottage is sentimental. Three cheers for that!

April 5th, 4:00 am, The Entertainer (1960)

The story follows the life of a has-been, talentless vaudevillian who still thinks he’s a star, even as he destroys his family around him in pursuing a lost cause. I used to love Tony Richardson, who directed The Entertainer, and John Osborne, who wrote it. Now, however, I see them as angry young men who needed to expel their hairballs! (That’s a reference to the first episode of The Brothers Zahl podcast). I see Richardson and Osborne as “un-abreacted” characters who, to be sure, were gifted.

This movie, and the play on which it was based, is hopeless and dark, with the exception of one scene in which a grieving Sir Laurence Olivier sings an African-American spiritual. Nevertheless, like many movies from the “Angry Young Man” group in England, The Entertainer is extremely well done. Watch for the great Sir Roger Livesey, too, who plays a hapless and very human grandfather.

April 5th, 8:00 pm. Father of the Bride (1950)

As I’ve said before, this charming comedy, starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, gets suddenly serious at the end, and does almost perfect justice to the old 1928 (Episcopal) Prayer Book service of Holy Matrimony. If you are married, or wish you were, the ending of Father of the Bride will make you cry. Abreaction! (TBZ podcast, again.)

April 6th, 9:30 am, Foreign Correspondent (1940)

An American reporter covering the war in Europe gets mixed up in the assassination of a Dutch diplomat. One of Alfred Hitchcock’s absolute masterpieces. It has everything, from Joel McCrea’s optimistic and resourceful (old-style) American naturalness, to Herbert Marshall’s subtle villainy, to Laraine Day’s very human and moral dilemma as the villain’s daughter —  and great set pieces such as the assassination in the rain and the plane crash at the end. Pure entertainment.

April 6th, 8:00 pm, The 400 Blows (1959)

A 12-year-old boy turns to crime to escape family problems. For my generation, this, together with Knife in the Water (1962), was the ultimate “art house” movie.

The scenes of the two naughty little French boys gamboling down the stone staircases of Paris, with the amazing score by Jean Constantin, will never let you go! (Not to mention that (to us at the time) unbelievable scene of the husband hugging his wife over the dishes in the tiny kitchen.) Underneath all the New Wave “special effects,” though, is a very sad story — a tragic one. Don’t let the airiness and lightness fool you.

This post is dedicated to Ted Walch, English teacher for the ages.

April 7th, 3:45 pm, Gigi (1958)

A Parisian girl (Leslie Caron) is raised to be a kept woman but dreams of love and marriage. Whenever I write these movie blurbs for Mockingbird, I give thanks I was born when I was. For we saw most of these movies in theaters when I was a little boy or teenager. Thus Gigi! It is so impressively memorable because of its joyous music and its transcendent color values. Everything about this movie is lovely to look at. And even the plot, which I sure didn’t understand when my mother took me to see it “downtown,” is a high. Louis Jourdan begins to understand what love is all about. See Gigi. And, if you’re a certain person whom I once knew in Eliot House, remember “The Night They Invented Champagne.”

April 8th, 5:30 am, The Great Race (1965)

Now the same applies to this fine breath of fresh air. The Great Race, directed by the famous Blake Edwards, whose vision became considerably darker as the years went by, is pure delight from beginning to end. The plot involves a bumbling villain’s attempts to win an early 20th-century auto race. Yes, it has a few boring patches at the start, and one almost never knows what to make of “The Sweetheart Tree.” But the entry of the heroes to the castle grounds at midnight, and the mincing (terribly funny) Jack Lemmon “Prince,” and the sudden parade of the monks as cover to the villains — well, it all works. Then there is the pie fight, which, if anything, is too short. Nothing profound here, probably, but there are moments of an almost eternal humor.

April 9th, 12:30 pm, A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Funny this should follow the entry for The Great Race, for A Hard Day’s Night is one of the best movies made during the 1960s. I find it to be pure poetry. I saw A Hard Day’s Night the very day it came out in Fort Myers. (Incidentally, I associate it with Tullian and Stacie Tchividjian, whom Mary and I visited in Fort Myers not so long ago — “Not Too Long Ago” [Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets].) I was utterly enchanted by this movie, and therefore Fort Myers has always been a place of “phosphorus” for me. Watch, especially, the sequence on the train, during which the boys sing “I Should Have Known Better.” And the wild, justly famous sequence that accompanies “Can’t Buy Me Love.” AND every single song during the closing televised concert. This is “pure cinema,” as we used to say — and evokes the purest of teenage memories.

April 10th, 12:45 am, Henry V (1944)

Shakespeare’s tale of the warrior king who learns the meaning of heroism during a daring invasion of France. This classic is a total UP — a high upon high.

I could once recite almost every line of it, having seen it (in the theater) when I was six years old. The Field at Agincourt is one of the classic movie war scenes of all time, and with the “St. Crispin’s Day Speech” it ascends right into the clouds.

Sir Laurence Oliver’s Henry V was produced in England in 1943 with morale in mind. Somehow it has never dated. (I prefer it to the Kenneth Branagh version for all kinds of reasons.). And the music, by Sir William Walton — well, one can remember almost every note.

April 10th, 5:00 pm, How the West Was Won (1962)

Three generations of pioneers take part in the forging of the American West. When it first came out, this was considered the ultimate Cinerama spectacle. Everyone was a little disappointed, though, the night we saw it. I guess the movie’s a little bloated. However, the John Ford segment, entitled “The Civil War,” is outstanding! The leave-taking, when George Peppard departs for the War and bids goodbye to his mother, played by Carroll Baker, together with his return home and what he finds there — well, that segment is shattering, and well worth the price of admission. I was so moved by it way back when that a few years ago I traveled to the location where it was filmed, now completely overgrown. See this movie if only to get to the Civil War part.

April 12th, 10:30 AM, It Happened One Night (1934)

A newspaperman tracks a runaway heiress on a madcap cross-country tour. This Hollywood classic is delightful and fun in every way, and has been much written about. What I wish to draw your attention to, though, as a Mockingbird reader, is the Episcopal wedding (or almost wedding) that is the showpiece for the second-to-last scene in the movie — the climax, really. It is a more or less perfect traditional Episcopal ceremony and preliminaries, with one decisive difference. But look at how the rector is vested, and how the altar is prepared. When Hollywood producers wanted to show “high society” rituals, they just habitually copied what they had seen or knew, or thought they knew, of the Episcopal Church. The plus side of their doing that, for us, is that we learn from these movies how the church actually looked and felt to the outside observer. And I’m not talking about social class or politics. I’m talking about churchmanship. For even at its (liturgically) “highest,” the Episcopal Church was never “Catholic.” It was always broadly Protestant. This is a point I’ve tried to make for a long time, and It Happened One Night and Father of the Bride are delightful cases in point.

April 12th, 5:15 pm, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

A group of greedy “clowns” tear up the countryside in search of buried treasure. This is another very funny movie. Sure it’s overdone a little, and one or two of the “set pieces” don’t fully work. But the “concept,” and most of the great Jewish comedians involved, are truly hilarious. And the scene in Balboa Park: I made a field trip, in the company of Jacobus Smith, to Balboa Park not too long ago — Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets again — and it was just as it is in this movie. Even just as green.

April 13th, 12:00 am, Jezebel (1938)

A tempestuous Southern belle’s willfulness threatens to destroy all who care for her. This is well worth your time — a Deep South romance with a sudden turn, about two-thirds of the way in, to something important and lasting. “Jezebel,” played by Bette Davis, is a repugnantly manipulative young person who suddenly learns, or is required by fateful circumstance to learn, the meaning of sacrifice. The concluding long shot in the wagon out to the island is moving and real. Jezebel surprised me — Christianly, I mean.

April 13th, 11:15 am, Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

An aging housewife seeks direction when she catches her husband in an affair. Well, the art direction and color photography of this mid-period Fellini are stunning. (Of all the Fellinis, this was my favorite growing up.) And several of the sequences, especially in the somewhat darkly funky neighbor lady’s house, are haunting. Nevertheless — oh, and the music, by Nino Rota, is spectacular — Juliet of the Spirits is really just the story, with accompanying surrealist psychology, of a woman being betrayed by her husband. Don’t mean to diminish the theme, but the gaudy and even meretricious “trappings” submerge the facts.

April 14th, 12:00 am, Kings Row (1942)

Small town scandals inspire an idealistic young man to take up psychiatry. This is probably a must-see. It begins, in feeling, like a somewhat dark Peyton Place, but is really the Bildungsroman of a young psychiatrist. The Ronald Reagan character is, believe it or not, movingly realized; and the overall effect of Kings Row is uplifting. Also, the musical score, by Erich Korngold, is fabulous. Tag this somewhat obscure movie and see it.

April 14th, 2:00 pm, La Strada (1954)

A traveling strongman buys a peasant girl to be his wife and co-star. Another “art house” stand-by, and yet a truly great film. Sometimes, early Fellini seems bent on giving a bad ending just to spite the optimist in one. The ending of La Strada works, though, as the Mighty Man is fissured and felled by the love of a dear girl, if I can put it that way. My friend Lloyd Fonvielle (R.i.P.) and I never recovered from seeing this movie, when we were 12, and I think we saw it three times together.

April 14th, 4:00 pm, Ladies in Retirement (1941)

A housekeeper tries to manage her actress employer and her own emotionally disturbed sisters. This is kind of a film noir with an almost all-female cast that is “veddy” English. Somehow it works, and if you can bear with it long enough, you’ll be glad you saw it. Note the kindly Roman Catholic Sisters, too. They come off very well. I originally saw Ladies in Retirement as a gift from my Union Square DVD pal Scott.