Chris Hicks: 'Lawrence of Arabia' leads classic movies returning to the big screen in October

Published: Monday, Oct. 5 2015 5:39 a.m. MDT

"Lawrence of Arabia" (Deseret News archives)

David Lean's magnificent epic “Lawrence of Arabia,” about real-life adventurer T.E. Lawrence (superbly played by Peter O’Toole), is a film that needs to be seen on a theater screen to be fully appreciated.

To say they don’t make ’em like this anymore is to wildly understate, whether referring to the film’s breadth and depth, the vast number of extras in any given sequence or its deliberate pacing, which takes its time but is never dull. This is high entertainment with thrills, excitement, comedy, memorable set pieces and thought-provoking drama. It’s also as artistically framed as cinema gets.

"Lawrence of Arabia" (Deseret News archives)

Despite its ambitious scope, however, Lean never lets the grandeur overwhelm the story or characters, and he’s not afraid to allow his camera to rest on broadly choreographed images that fill the wide screen, forcing audience members to discover for themselves what is most meaningful at any given moment.

Before its Blu-ray debut in November, “Lawrence of Arabia” will play theatrically for one day, and who knows when or if another opportunity to see it on the big screen will present itself very soon.

Originally released in 1962, the film fell into disrepair over the next two-plus decades until, after a meticulous restoration process, it was reissued in theaters in 1989. Now, here it is 2012, and yet another restoration has taken place so that it reportedly looks even better, sharper and more vivid than in 1962.

The digital version will play one day, Thursday, Oct. 4, with two screenings, at 2 and 7 p.m., in several local Cinemark theaters. This is a nearly four-hour movie, so plan accordingly.

And there are plenty of other vintage revivals scheduled through October — including “E.T.,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Bride of Frankenstein,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” — so get ready to mark your calenders.

“Elevator to the Gallows” (1958, French, b/w). This was Louis Malle’s first nondocumentary feature and it gave a boost to budding star Jeanne Moreau as a wealthy wife plotting with her lover (Maurice Ronet) to kill her husband. It’s the perfect crime until one thing after another goes wrong. In French with English subtitles. (Monday, Oct. 1, 7 p.m., free, Tower, saltlakefilmsociety.org)

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982). Steven Spielberg’s beloved story of a young boy befriended by a benign alien visitor remains a warm and wonderful coming-of-age story for all ages, hosted by Turner Classic Movies’ Robert Osborne. (Wednesday, Oct. 3, Cinemark Theatres, 2 and 7 p.m.)

“Gone With the Wind” (1939). When you adjust the numbers for inflation, this classic four-hour Civil War epic, based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel and starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, is still the No. 1 biggest ticket-selling movie of all time. (Wednesday, Oct. 10, Cinemark Theaters, 2 and 7 p.m.)

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923, b/w). Victor Hugo’s epic story of tragic bell-ringer Quasimodo is brought to life by “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” Lon Chaney, in this stirring silent classic, with live organ music and sound effects to enhance the experience. (Thursday-Friday, Oct. 11-12, the Organ Loft, 7:30 p.m., edisonstreetevents.com/silent-movies)

“The Most Dangerous Game” (1931, b/w). Remade and ripped off as much as any story ever filmed, this original version about a big-game hunter stalking humans on his remote jungle island is still effective. Joel McCrea and Fay Wray star. Preceded by a chapter of the 1939 serial “Dick Tracy’s G-Men” and the “Twilight Zone” episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” with William Shatner. (Friday, Oct. 12, free, BYU, Provo, 7 p.m.)

“Mary Poppins” (1964). Disney’s finest musical, a perfect showcase for Oscar-winner Julie Andrews in her first film and Dick Van Dyke in his best, with memorable songs, comedy and animated vignettes. (Wednesday, Oct. 17, Cinemark Theaters, 2 and 7 p.m.)

"Frankenstein” (1931, b/w) and “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935, b/w). The classic tales of terror that made Boris Karloff a star are paired for this Halloween double feature, hosted by TCM’s Robert Osborne. (Wednesday, Oct. 24, Cinemark Theatres, 2 and 7 p.m.)

“The Phantom of the Opera” (1925, b/w). This first version of the oft-told tale of a disfigured composer dwelling in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House is a silent classic, and unquestionably Lon Chaney’s most famous role, with live organ music and sound effects. (Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 24-26, The Organ Loft, 7:30 p.m., edisonstreetevents.com/silent-movies)

“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954). Jules Verne’s classic novel gets the Disney treatment in this exciting and humorous adaptation with James Mason a perfect Captain Nemo, nicely complemented by Kirk Douglas, Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre. (Thursday, Oct. 25, Cinemark Theaters, 2 and 7 p.m.)

“RiffTrax Live: Birdemic: Shock and Terror” (2010). For the unfamiliar, “RiffTrax” is an audio program that makes fun of a movie in real time, a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and it employs some of the “MST3K” players. Since “Birdemic” is a very cheap ripoff of “The Birds” and already qualifies as one of the worst movies ever made, this promises to be a pretty funny, albeit snarky, evening. (Thursday, Oct. 25, Cinemark Theatres, 7 p.m.)

“Bride of Frankenstein” (1935, b/w). Many feel that this sequel with Boris Karloff as the monster and Elsa Lanchester as his bride is even better than “Frankenstein.” Preceded by a chapter of the 1939 serial “Dick Tracy’s G-Men.” (Friday, Oct. 26, BYU, Provo, 7 p.m.)

“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962, b/w). A former child star drives her handicapped sister to distraction in this funny and chilling yarn that pits ultimate big-screen divas Bette Davis and Joan Crawford against each other. (Tuesday, Oct. 30, 7 p.m., Tower, saltlakefilmsociety.org)

“Young Frankenstein” (1974, b/w). Mel Brooks' and Gene Wilder’s best movie, a faithful and hilarious off-the-wall spoof of the early Universal “Frankenstein” series, is also one of the most quotable comedies ever. This is advertised as playing “with bonus commentary by Mel Brooks” but I’m not sure what that means exactly. If the entire movie plays with Brooks’ DVD audio commentary that could prove to be an unwelcome distraction. (Wednesday, Oct. 31, Cinemark Theaters, 2 and 7 p.m.)

E-MAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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