Vertigo is not an easy film to like. This might be why when it first was released in 1958, it was not one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most successful films. It also is not an easy film to forget and ignore. As years passed, critics began to see the genius in the film and began lauding it as one of Hitchcock’s most brilliant works. What makes it so controversial is that when James Stewart’s character becomes obsessed with a woman he is assigned to follow, he tries to recreate another woman to look like his obsessed love. It’s not exactly the best statement for women’s lib. But, I feel that Hitchcock knew that and he knew that audiences would be shocked and disturbed. An ordinary film comes and goes but one that gets under the skin can never be forgotten. This is not to say that, cinematically, this film is not deserving of all of its adulation. It most definitely is, but the bazaar-ness of the movie kept it alive in the minds of the audience, allowing them to give this classic a much-deserved second chance.
Posts Tagged: Hitchcock
Next time you’re in the shower, make sure Norman Bates or his mother are nowhere to be found. Ranked number one by the American Film Institute’s 100 Years, 100 Thrills, this Alfred Hitchcock movie still stands, even after 40 years, as one of the most scary, if not scariest films of all time. Psycho is not a horror film—it is just a fast-paced thriller that thrills a little more than most Hitchcock films. Also contributing to the “horror” quality are a very memorable ending and one of the most copied, talked-about, and studied film scenes ever…the shower scene. Hitchcock took quite a few chances when making Psycho. First, his leading lady Janet Leigh is out-of-the-picture about a third into the film. Then, the director chose to shoot the film in black and white, something that was not done that often in 1960. Hitchcock also cast lesser-known actors to play other key role, especially then-unknown Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Those risks paid off and placed Psycho at the top of Hitchcock’s best films.
Rear Window stands as the first highly successful film director Alfred Hitchcock made after a string of critical and commercial flops in the late 1940s and early 1950s. And what a comeback it was! James Stewart, who was appearing here in his second of four Hitchcock films, plays L.B. Jefferies, a man whose leg is broken and his heart is torn between his lady love (Grace Kelly) and his wild, adventurous travels as a freelance photographer. With the broken leg, Stewart is confined to a wheelchair with nothing better to do than look out the windows of his courtyard apartment. While looking out at all hours of the day and night, he sees something that he cannot explain. Was what he saw a murder or just a coincidence? This film, like other Hitchcock films Dial M for Murder and Rope, has the capacity to be a mundane movie, since most of the filming takes place in one room. But, in the hands of master director Hitchcock, mundanity never even enters the picture. The courtyard becomes an intricate part of the story, allowing Hitchcock to open up the movie beyond just Stewart’s apartment. Hitchcock also uses the perfect camera angles to heighten suspense at ever turn. Not only one of Hitchcock’s best, but also the film that marked the return of the true Master of Suspense.
For a movie that takes place all in one small apartment (and mostly in one room of that apartment), this film sure has enough suspense and entertainment to fill anyone’s appetite for a good thriller. Director Alfred Hitchcock used this “one room” confining effect also in his 1948 thriller Rope, loosely based on the Leopold/Loeb murders. In Rope, Hitchcock seemed to be forcing the camera work around the room…seeming lost at times on which action to focus. In 1954’s Dial M for Murder, Hitchcock takes what he learned in Rope and improves on it. The camera is more fluid and less confined to the small area. The interaction with the characters does not seem too “crowded” as it often did in Rope. At times, in Dial M For Murder, the audience forgets this is a movie set mainly in just one room. This film is often overlooked in the Hitchcock filmography, mostly because it is not one of his best—but, that does not mean it’s not a good thriller. It just means Hitchcock directed so many good films that some of the smaller ones don’t get the attention they deserve. As for the plot of Dial M for Murder, you will just have to rent it and find out……
Can Cary Grant be a murderer? That is the question director Alfred Hitchcock attempts to answer in this film. Grant plays wandering playboy Johnny Aysgarth who catches the eye of rich, dull Lena, played in her Oscar-winning role by Joan Fontaine. The question that continually plagues the audience, and eventually Lena, is why did Johnny pick her. One of the more obvious reasons is her money, something which becomes almost a given after Johnny pawns some wedding gifts to gamble. The major flaw in this film is the end, but that is not the fault of Hitchcock nor the actors. Hitchcock wanted to remain faithful to the book this story is based on (Before the Fact by Francis Iles) and keep the dark ending, but his producers had trouble dealing with Cary Grant as a murderer. Even with that disappointing final scene, this is still a taut, tense thriller that will keep the audience guessing.
Cary Grant. Grace Kelly. The French Rivera. Separately, all three things look pretty darn good. Together…watch out. Director Alfred Hitchcock knew how to capitalize on the beauty of all three when he made To Catch a Thief—Grant is never more handsome, Kelly is never more beautiful, and the Rivera is so alluring it just seems to call out to you to come and dive into its beaches. The story of the film revolves around a series of recent cat burglaries, which may or may not have been done by former thief Grant. Kelly plays a young socialite who enjoys teasing and seducing Grant, especially after she finds out he used to be a burglar. Hitchcock also teases the audience here—much of Thief’s dialogue is done tongue-and-cheek. Grant is perfect for that “light” tone…he has already proven in other Hitchcock movies (Suspicion and Notorious) that he can play the dark, brooding leading man. In Thief (and then later North by Northwest), Grant takes on a more satirical, even jovial persona that makes him more appealing to the audience and to his leading lady. Watching To Catch a Thief is just pure fun…fun to watch Grant and Kelly play cat-and-mouse and fun to imagine yourself in the midst of picturesque France.
Alfred Hitchcock’s first film made in America, with producer David O. Selznick of Gone with the Wind fame, sealed the director’s fate as an established and successful filmmaker. Rebecca won the Best Picture Oscar in 1940, even though Hitchcock was overlooked as Best Director. This is not to say the film is without flaws. Joan Fontaine is supposed to play the innocent, naïve female lead, but she always seems much too old and sophisticated for the part, even though she does her best to seem demure. Aside from that, the film is a great thriller…one that will stand the test of time as a solid Hitchcock thriller. Laurence Olivier is pretty perfect as Maxim de Winter—we buy him as a tormented man—and Judith Anderson shines as the evil, sinister Mrs. Danvers. And, of course, Hitchcock’s camera captures the right tone and mood from the Daphne Du Maurier novel, allowing us to see Manderlay as a place of both happiness and nightmares.
When director Alfred Hitchcock shot Frenzy, he was in his early 70s and was at the end of a filmmaking career that began in the 1920s in England. After Hitchcock left Britain behind for a career in America (his first film in the U.S. was 1940’s Rebecca), he rarely looked back. Frenzy is a return to London, with the film shot there and starring an all-British cast. This movie does not boast any glitzy movie stars or any of the Hitchcock elegance of many of his previous films, but displays a rather dark, violent side unlike anything the director had shot before. The finished product results in a taut and intelligent thriller, one of the best of Hitchcock’s career and definitely the best of his later films. The movie begins with a body found, washed ashore in the Thames River. The corpse has a necktie around its neck, identifying the murder as another “necktie” serial killing. Through a series of twists and wrong turns, an innocent man is accused of the murders, which has been a common Hitchcock plot line over the course of his career (The Wrong Man and North by Northwest, in particular). The difference here is that early on in the film, the audience becomes privy to who is the guilty party and who is being framed. Knowing this before most of the cast, we are left squirming in our seats, waiting for the characters to catch up with what we already know. Also, unmasking the villain towards the beginning of the film allows the audience to focus less on plot and more on character and the cinematic style that makes Frenzy a magnificent thriller.
This is one of the films that sealed Alfred Hitchcock’s destiny early on in his career, along with The 39 Steps. The beginning opens a little confused and disorganized but once Hitchcock moves the action to a train, everything comes into place. The story is simple enough with a woman going missing on a train. The one woman who talked with the vanished lady makes it her mission to find out what happened to this missing woman. All of the tell-tale Hitchcock signs are here…mistaken identity, the “wronged” man/woman, and, of course, a little romance and humor. Some elements of the film almost seem “screwball” in how outlandish they are, but since it is a good story with good characters, we allow Hitchcock to take us along for the ride.
Idyllic small-town America turns ugly in this Hitchcock masterpiece, the film which the director himself even considered his favorite. The film begins with Joseph Cotten’s character Uncle Charlie, one of the most devious and sinister characters in cinematic history, heading from the East Coast to stay with his sister in Santa Rosa, CA. Teresa Wright plays his niece and namesake, who at first is excited about her uncle’s appearance but soon discovers that evilness hides under the surface of his kind persona. In the beginning, there is doubt in the minds of the audience about the accusations against Charles. But, as the audience grows more and more suspicious, so does Wright’s character. Santa Rosa becomes a character itself by lending a “perfect” atmosphere around the town while something purely devilish is brooding within. This is one of the darkest Hitchcock films, mostly because of the way Cotten portrays Charles with cool, calculated depravity.