Agatha Christie stuck mainly to her continuing characters…Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, etc…when writing. But, occasionally she would go off on a limb and write something original, introducing new characters to the audience. With the stage play Witness for the Prosecution, she created an entirely new world of people and situations, which kept the reader on his/her toes throughout. Made into a film in 1957 by talented and well-rounded film director Billy Wilder, the movie keeps us hanging until the last possible second and delivers the same kind of wallop as the play. Set in London, the story revolves around Leonard Vole’s (played by Tyrone Power) guilt or innocence. He is being tried for the murder of a wealthy, older woman he befriended. Unlike a lot of thrillers that are made, this one does have a very satisfying ending, do mostly to the relationship between Vole and his wife…one of Marlene Dietrich’s finest performances. But, the main character of the film is Sir Wilfrid Robarts, the crotchety, ailing barrister Vole gets to represent him. Not really known for light-ish roles, Charles Laughton dives into the barrister with a droll vigor that makes the audience LOVE Wilfrid even though he’s crass, brash, insubordinate, and very pig-headed. Laughton just seems to be having so much fun playing this character; without him, Wilfrid would have just been another forgettable character.

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An American businessman (Cary Grant) visiting London falls in love with a London stage actress (Ingrid Bergman). The only problem is that he is married…or is he? This confusion leads to a hilarious ending of mistaken identity and comical twists. This is Grant and Bergman’s second pairing (the first being 1946’s Notorious). Years have not affected this duo’s chemistry at all, allowing them to portray characters just as passionate and in love as they did over a decade earlier.

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Directed by Jules Dassin, this film is one of the best examples of film noir. Set in London, Richard Widmark plays a small-time hustler who is always too late for the big time grift. When he finally finds something that he feels might make his some serious cash, the plan backfires. Widmark is at his best here…he excels at playing lowlife losers and this is one of his best. Add Gene Tierney to the mix as Widmark’s love interest and it makes one exceptional film.

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This book is a well-written exploration into the world of love. From three different angles, love and being in love is explored and examined. We have the love of two sisters and one of the sisters’ illicit, unimaginable love. Next, we have the infatuation type of love…love that is more about the “getting” than about the “keeping.” And finally we have the tale of tragic love, told from the POV of a young girl who gets caught in the middle of a doomed love affair. Hoffman brings all of her characters to life, as well as London…the city is brimming with vitality…which contributes to the book passion.

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A classic Hitchcock film that has a perfect cast but somehow doesn’t get the due it deserves. Made at the end of what I would call one of Hitchcock’s “off” periods (his biggest stinker Under Capricorn comes right before this one in 1949 and in 1951, Hitchcock makes Strangers on a Train which saves his ailing career). This film features many of the trademarks Hitchcock aficionados have come to know and love in his later films…the “wronged” man, the love interest, fair amounts of humor for comic relief, and a thrilling ending. So, why is it not up there with Rear Window and North by Northwest? Well, it’s not glitzy. Even though it’s about the theatre industry in London, it doesn’t shine like Hitchcock’s better-known works. I would say that has to do mostly with the acting. All of the performances here seem adequate but not stunning. Wyman and Sim are spot-on when playing the father-daughter act, but aside from that, they all seem lost in the script. Regardless, it’s a must-see for all thriller fans!

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The second film Hitchcock made in America was really his attempt to help the WWII effort in England (it was made before America entered the war). Joel McCrea plays a naïve, inexperienced journalist who somehow gets caught in a spy ring. By far, the best part of this one is the ending, among the windmills of (what is supposed to be) Holland. Unfortunately, Hitchcock never worked McCrea again…they made a good team. McCrea seemed comfortable with the material and Hitchcock used his character well. Not one of the major Hitchcock films, but a must-see regardless.

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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……

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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.

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This film is one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s more underrated films, especially since its only notoriety comes from introducing the song Que Sera Sera to the general public. Even though the famed director often copied styles and plot lines from some of his previous movies, The Man Who Knew Too Much stands alone as being the only true remake Hitchcock ever filmed—it is an updated version of Hitchcock’s own 1934 thriller of the same title. Taking the story of the 1934 film and enhancing it with location and character changes, the 1956 film is a terrific example of how a good film can become a great film. The movie stars Doris Day and James Stewart as an American couple visiting the French Morocco with their young son. After befriending a British couple, they soon find themselves embroiled in a series of terrifying events, including the kidnapping of their son. In addition to Hitchcock’s filmmaking, both Day and Stewart (appearing in his third of four collaborations with Hitchcock) make this film much more than just a standard thriller. The scene in the Royal Albert Hall in London stands out as one of the most intense, nail-biting scenes of pure suspense ever filmed. There is no dialogue and the scene lasts several minutes, but the anxiety of Day’s performance along with the climatic direction by Hitchcock keeps the viewer glued to the screen.

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