Originally dumped by Universal in the box-office dead zone of January, the sunbaked 1990 horror-comedy Tremors became a surprise hit on home video, spawning sequels, a prequel, and a TV series. Regardless of its release date, Tremors is pretty much the perfect summer movie. It’s an affable, action-packed monster movie about two “anything for a buck” handymen played by Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, who help their crackpot Nevada neighbors fight off an invasion of enormous underground worms. Tremors is a little like a desert-bound Jaws, but far goofier, with Bacon and Ward finding the sweet spot between cartoony and heroic, and Family Ties’ Michael Gross and country star Reba McEntire giving memorable supporting turns as cranky husband-and-wife survivalists. (Gross delivers the line, “Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya?!” with a ferocity that his sitcom dad Michael Keaton never mustered.) Director Ron Underwood and screenwriters Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson have yet to match Tremors’ one-of-a-kind ease and excitement—though Underwood’s 1991 Western comedy City Slickers has a similar confidence—but then, there haven’t been that many low-budget studio genre pictures over the last two decades of Tremors’ quality. In a lot of ways, it’s a model for what this kind of tossed-off entertainment should be. Tremors airs tonight on HDNet Movies at 6:10 p.m. Eastern, and re-airs at 10:05 p.m.
Or: For an entirely different kind of B-movie, TCM is airing Max Ophüls’ 1949 noir The Reckless Moment at 8 p.m. Eastern. It was the last movie the German master made in Hollywood before spending his last decade (prior to his 1958 death) making four consecutive masterpieces in France: La Ronde, Le Plaisir, Madame De…, and Lola Montés. And while The Reckless Moment isn’t as stylish or dreamy as any of those, it’s a gripping suspense film, based on the 1947 Elisabeth Sanxay Holding novel The Blank Wall, which later inspired Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s 2001 thriller The Deep End. Ophüls’ version stars Joan Bennett as a middle-class suburbanite who covers up a murder, and James Mason as a hoodlum who gets more involved than he intends when he tries to extort her.