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Posts Tagged: Alfred Hitchcock
The time has come! The time I have been waiting for decades for! The time I might have been waiting for from the day I was born! It is here! Alfred Hitchcock has come back into the realm of popular culture with a vengeance!!!!
My family got their first VCR for the Bears’ January 1986 Super Bowl. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Hitchcock. Having died in 1980, six years prior to my discovery of him, Hitchcock was no longer “in the news,” so to speak. I watched most of his movies and tried my best to find out everything I could about him, but most of the stuff I found was from ages ago. Yes, the occasional article would be written, but for the most part, Hitchcock was history!
History NO longer! There are 3…count them 3…new movies or television shows dedicated to the life and/or work of the Master of Suspense: Hitchcock, the feature film starring Anthony Hopkins as the director and Helen Mirren as his devoted wife, Alma; The Girl, an HBO movie starring Toby Jones as Hitchcock, about the making of The Birds; and Bates Motel, an A&E TV show starring Vera Farmiga as Mrs. Bates and Freddie Highmore as young Norman, about the early life of the Psycho family.
In addition to that (as if that wasn’t enough!), many of Hitchcock’s films are coming out on Blu-Ray and getting a lot of press, not to mention the British Film Institute and their months-long celebration of all things Hitchcock, to cap off their year-long “Rescue the Hitchcock 9” fundraiser to help restore nine of Hitchcock’s early British silent works. The event, appropriately titled The Genius of Hitchcock, was a full retrospective of his works plus guests and lectures speaking about all facets of Hitchcock.
So, basically, I’m on cloud nine. Finally, FINALLY, the masses are catching on to the brilliance and talent of Hitchcock. It’s about time!
Recently, I flew to London to attend several days of the two-month-long The Genius of Hitchcock festival held at the British Film Institute’s Southbank campus.
Starting in June and ending after London’s yearly October film festival, the BFI pulled out all of the stops to honor one of their own…a British director who became an international sensation by helming such movies as Rear Window, Vertigo, Notorious and Psycho.
The Genius of Hitchcock celebration caps off the year-long fund-raising push entitled Rescue the Hitchcock 9, a campaign to save nine of Hitchcock’s early British silent films. These nine films are in dire need of restoration…without it, there is the chance they might be gone forever.
Being a BIT of a Hitchcock fan (OK…a little understatement —I’m obsessed), I would have loved to hunker down in London all four months, savoring classic after classic. But, there is this little thing called WORK, not to mention MONEY, of which staying in London requires a lot. So, alas, I settled on cramming in as many movies as I could in my limited time (five films, to be exact).
Have I seen all five before? You betcha. Do I own all five on DVD? Yes, I do. But, somehow, traveling over 3,700 miles to see movies I know by heart doesn’t seem all that silly to me. Obsessed, I tell you!
Like I said, I saw five of Hitchcock’s masterpieces (sadly none of the restored “Hitchcock 9” were playing when I was there). I watched a double feature of Shadow of a Doubt and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) on one night, followed by a double feature of Mr. and Mrs. Smith (no, not THAT one…the 1941 film with Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard…the only romantic comedy Hitchcock ever made) and Strangers on a Train on the next.
But, the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance was the 3D showing of Dial M for Murder. No, this is NOT NEW 3D…this is old, classic 3D. This is when 3D was done for effect and not financial gain. This is when 3D was not a marketing ploy.
I have a strong distain for the new wave of 3D films sweeping through Hollywood, though I am much more against 2D films being re-released in 3D, such as Titanic (1997) and Beauty and the Beast (1991). When I saw Scorsese’s Hugo (which I heard nothing but great things about in 3D), I specifically sought out the 2D version.
Maybe I’m equating my lack of interest in modern 3D with my lack of interest in most contemporary animation. Look at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs —imagine how tedious and superior the animation process was back in 1937 and compare that with today’s inferior “computer” animating. So OK, modern 3D is not that bad…but, RE-RELEASING already-shot films just to capitalize on the 3D bandwagon is the last straw. Where will it end?
Dial M for Murder is different. Hitchcock filmed it in 3D but it was released in 1954 in mostly 2D. Aside from a limited 3D re-release in the early 1980s, most people have not seen Dial M for Murder in the original 3D Hitchcock intended it to be shown. And, among filmies, it is supposed to be one of the best, if not THE best, example of 3D filmmaking. And, after seeing it, not only does it not disappoint but I would have to agree that the use of 3D was amazing.
Unlike much of 1950s’ Hollywood 3D, nothing here is done just for the 3D effect (such as no paddleballs bouncing at the screen, a la The House of Wax (1953)). Everything here is done for a reason…the use of foregrounds and backgrounds become more of a 3D element than in-your-face effects. In one scene, the infamous purse that becomes a key item in the plot stands boldly in the foreground, with character action going on behind it. The purse, a simple inanimate object, looks as if it is right in the audience’s lap. And that is how Hitchcock uses 3D throughout the entire movie…subtly but OH SO effectively. But then again, would we expect anything less from the Master himself?
Keep in mind that as long as Hollywood keeps making money off of 3D, they will keep making these so-so 3D movies and…even worse, keep re-releasing existing 2D movies in 3D. If The Bridge on the River Kwai in 3D comes out in cinemas, I’m moving to Mongolia and living in among the yak herders in a nice yurt!
Madness, Madness. Soapbox over.
Happy Birthday to the best film director ever (my opinion, of course)…Sir Alfred Hitchcock. Born in Leytonstone, London, England on August 13, 1899. Come into the library to check out the films by The Master of Suspense on DVD!
In doing some random Hitchcock searching, I happened to stumble across THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK WIKI.
Aside from being totally stunned that I have not uncovered this treasure trove before, I was giddy with excitement at this site. It’s like HEAVEN in a website form for any Hitchcock afficiando (there are other words I can substitute here, but I will skip it).
YOU MUST CHECK IT OUT!
Hitchcock delves into the genre of legal dramas with this one…with Gregory Peck as a British barrister who defends a woman he is convinced is innocence…mostly because he’s in love with her. Peck is miscast here, not even trying to fake an English accent. We know he can pull off a good “lawyer” act (as he does flawlessly in To Kill a Mockingbird), but he just doesn’t even seem to be trying here. Laughton and Barrymore are hardly used at all…I’m sure they were just cast for big name appeal…their roles are both minute, especially Barrymore’s. The one saving grace to this film is the plot. It’s a strong story that holds up through the years. Not packing as much of a “thriller” punch as most Hitchcock titles, this one is more about the drama and less about the suspense, though there is a crucial piece of plot that is revealed in the end. Compared to titles like Billy Wilder’s legal classic Witness for the Prosecution, the ending is not as intense, but the movie on a whole is a fine legal drama.
I remember how excited I was when I got to this one during my “in order” Hitchcock phase as a child. Coming right between Rear Window (1954) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and the same year as To Catch a Thief, this one would have to be great, right? Well, to a 10-year-old, it was…for lack of a better term, boring. Why? Because it is a dark comedy and the humor, I guess, was over my head. I was expecting another thriller like the ones before and after it. But, instead I got a sweetly innocent story about a small New England town and a newly widowed single mother. Harry, the title character, is/was her husband and the beginning of the film shows his dead corpse lying on the grass under some autumn trees. How, why, and by whom Harry died contributes to both the story and the humor of this tale. And, watching it again as an adult, I liked it quite a bit. It’s sharp and original and clever. But, it’s not Rear Window. Hitchcock didn’t take that many chances throughout his career. He discovered early on that he was good at and liked directing thrillers so he mainly stuck to that. This is one of the few times he deviated and not only does it showcase Hitchcock’s versatility, it also proves he can poke fun at thrillers…in The Trouble with Harry murder/death is pretty dang funny!
You know how all parents say that they do not have a favorite child. But, you KNOW they do. And, with a favorite, there’s always one that…just rubs them the wrong way. The one they think “what happened here?” all the time. Torn Curtain is my not-so-favorite child. Alfred Hitchcock was, to me, the filmmaker of all filmmakers. I like and admire other directors but Hitchcock will always be tops. And, then there’s a movie I have to justify and even recommend to people like this. It’s not that Torn Curtain is a bad film. It’s a good spy thriller. But, I’d come to expect Hitchcock to not make just GOOD films. I want to see perfection, like I’d usually seen in the past. Torn Curtain most definitely is not perfection. It’s a flawed film that eventually does work, but it takes more effort than it should. From what I know about the making of this one, I know Hitchcock and Paul Newman did not get along. And Hitchcock did not want to cast Julie Andrews. Sure, Hitchcock had been “forced” to work with actors he wasn’t that dazzled with before (think Kim Novak in Vertigo) but usually there was one star he was excited about…which got him through the movie. This time, both of his stars were not his favorites. Did that affect the film? Was Hitchcock so blinded by disappointment for the actors that he could not see his way to make a better film? Well, that’s one way to look at it. The story here is about an American scientist who fakes defecting to East Germany in order to get at the mathematical formula of a famed scientist on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The film has some great moments in it…the most notable being the killing of an East German agent who finds out the scientist is not legitimately defecting. Sadly, though, the great moments are too far and few between to call this a great Hitchcock movie. Thankfully, the Master of Suspense did redeem himself six years later with Frenzy. I’m not even going to acknowledge Topaz, which came in-between… Topaz, sadly, is another one of my unloved Hitchcock children.
At 143 minutes, this is Hitchcock’s longest film. In comparison, North by Northwest is 136 minutes. Anyone who has seen North by Northwest knows there is not a slow second in that film. I don’t think even Hitchcock could say that about Topaz. Set in 1962, Topaz takes place in New York and Cuba, dealing with Cuban/Russian – American/French relations. At times, it is a sharp, clever movie that is as fast-paced as Hitchcock ever was. Sadly, though, more often than not, it tends to drag through the “information” scenes (scenes with TOO much dialogue and too much information that has to be conveyed to the audience). The romance between the French spy (or is he a spy?) and Juanita falls flat. But, there are some moments that one can only describe as PURE Hitchcock. Juanita’s death scene is one of Hitchcock’s best ever. And the sequence in Harlem is also top-notch suspense. With a little more time in the editing room, Topaz could have been one of Hitchcock’s best. Watch it…with the fast forward button not too far from reach.
Honestly, Rope is far from my favorite Hitchcock film. It is slow-ish and more “talkie” than most other Hitchcock movies…relying more on dialogue than action for its suspense. But, after viewing it again recently, I found that even one of the less satisfying films by the preeminent thriller director Hitchcock is STILL better than most of the thrillers made today. The story is loosely based on the Leopold and Loeb murderers…the two University of Chicago students who decided commit the perfect murder to prove they can because they are intellectually superior humans. So, at the beginning of the film, a murder takes place. And the rest of the film is a will-they-get-caught-or-won’t-they as they entertain guests (including the victim’s parents!) in the same room where the body is hidden. This is one of the films Hitchcock used as an experiment. It’s his first film in color and, like Dial M for Murder’s attempted use of 3-D, the director tries something he’s not done before here. He uses ONLY nine takes to film the almost hour and a half film. These long takes, on their own, do a great job of building to and adding to the suspense. We almost feel like we’re right there…in the apartment…one of the guests watching this story unfold. So, instead of choosing one of the more lame and overly-predictable thrillers made today, try this one. I cannot say it’s Hitchcock’s best but it sure beats most everything else!