Paul Zahl’s June Movie Picks, Part One

“This Door Swings Both Ways” (Herman’s Hermits): Some of These Are Precious, Some Are Lame, All Are Interesting

After a brief hiatus, Paul Zahl’s Movie Picks are back. He has annotated a list of movies playing on Turner Class Movies in June 2021. Watch overlooked movies that feature Christian themes and the dynamics of Grace. Prodigals, an inner-city priest, German nuns, and even a ghost appear this month. PZ recommends a movie that he will be watching with you, for the first time this month! All times are Eastern and are subject to change.

June 1, 12:30 pm, The Prodigal (1955)

This movie’s “mixing of metaphors” — or rather, mixing of contexts — is kind of lame, though for a Christian viewer it is hard not to (sort of) like. Lana Turner as the Moloch-worshipping high priestess is priceless, and Edmund Purdom brings dignity to the role of the Prodigal Son. Look for the little girl from Them! (1954); her name is Sandy Descher, and she was also in The Space Children (1958). Note, too, how graphically low the hero has to sink before finally coming to his senses. (Think the last painting Vincent Van Gogh ever painted). Basically, I love this movie even though it’s pretty bad.

June 1, 10:15 pm, Brigadoon (1954)

This is a superb Broadway/Hollywood musical with magical romance envisioned in every frame. “Go Home with Bonnie Jean” is a life-long memory, and so is the scene in the Manhattan bar when the heroes return, at mid-point, to “reality.” I think that bar is still there, by the way, a block from Grand Central (though after COVID, maybe not).

June 3, 8:00 pm, High School Confidential (1958)

I am partial to movies directed by Jack Arnold, who also directed The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Though the son of a rabbi, Arnold was friendly to Christianity. This one, High School Confidential, is a little notorious, but I still recommend it. It is sort of a true Grease.

June 5, 12:30 am, Pride and Prejudice (1940)

I know it probably can’t touch the 1995 English version with Colin Firth, but Laurence Olivier as Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet are timeless in their roles. The beginning, the middle, and the end: it’s all good! Aldous Huxley worked on the script during his early Hollywood escape from Britain before the War.

June 6, 8:00 am, Shall We Dance (1937)

Another immortal “Golden Age” movie, with timeless dance numbers and marvelous romantic love between the leads. The movie is flawed and some of the banter between numbers is awfully dated. But the overall effect is peerless and superb.

June 6, 4:00 pm, Lilies of the Field (1963)

Now “Here’s a Howdy-Do” — I have never seen this movie! But I want to, having heard that it has a moving and accurate Christian core. Watch it with me on June the 6th, OK?

June 7, 3:00 pm, Some Came Running (1958)

One of the few movies I keep on my bedside table. Always. Shirley MacLaine’s performance is moving beyond words, and the “Passion Play” at the end is unique for all kinds of reasons. Then there is Dean Martin, who finally takes off his hat, and the explicitly Christian final scene. Of all the movies on this early-June list for Mockingbird, Some Came Running deserves the highest recommendation.

June 8, 6:45 am, Between Two Worlds (1944)

Well, this is the second movie version of Sutton Vane’s play Outward Bound (1923), and it is not as good as the first. That’s mainly because it is not as true to the original as the 1930 Leslie Howard version. Nevertheless, the concept is still pure gold, and any Christian viewer will be sympathetic. Moreover, the Heavenly Judge figure is better — and more “C of E,” even — in this version than in the 1930 version. (He is played by Sydney Greenstreet.) And the “Mary Magdalene” character, and resolution, is pure Gospel.

June 10, 6:00 am, Presenting Lily Mars (1943)

This one won’t change your life, but it has one big raison d’être: It is based on a novel by Booth Tarkington, and anything I can do to help you go to Booth Tarkington is in your best interest. He was a superb realist and novelist, with always a solid tincture of optimism and hope in the final mix. (Read Claire Ambler!) So watch Lily Mars if only for the touching source — which I have on my shelf right where I am typing this.

June 11, 2:15 am, The Hoodlum Priest (1961)

Fabulous portrayal of a selfless and sincere R. C. clergyman, played by Don Murray. (We’ve all got to rally and see more Don Murray movies. He was a warm, evangelistic Christian, did you know that?) The Hoodlum Priest is the kind of movie that was popular and successful when it came out, but the critical “establishment” would like it to stay in a memory hole forever. Please don’t let that happen. Stay up and watch The Hoodlum Priest on June the 11th!

June 13, 4:00 am, The Time Machine (1960)

Although it’s slow getting started, The Time Machine is spectacular, visceral, and finally, very moving. Watch it today. Enjoy the stirring music, composed by Russell Garcia; the warm, humane performance of Rod Taylor; the finale in the cave with the dreaded Morlocks (and the skeletons of the humans they’ve eaten!); and above all, the last line, spoken by the owner of … “Mr. Ed.”

June 13, 10:15 pm, Topkapi (1964)

Well, obviously, one saw this movie when it first came out. It was hyped and also had Melina Mercouri in it, which was enough for most boys and men. But what is to treasure here is the musical soundtrack, composed by Manos Hadjidakis. Oh, and the last shot, too.

June 15, 6:15 pm, Blithe Spirit (1945)

This is a famous movie, and everything about it is well done. But I still don’t like it, though, as I think the ending, with its supposed “irony,” is unfair, especially to the hero’s actual wife. If they had only changed the ending, which, again, is contrived in order to feel “English-funny,” it would be very high on one’s list. As it is, don’t watch it, don’t see it. (LUV, PZ)