Evil Robert Mitchum comes to a small, sleepy town posing as a preacher to try and win over the hearts and bank accounts of unsuspecting ladies, preferably the desperate ones. Enter Shelley Winters with no husband and two kids, making the perfect target. The best thing about this movie is Robert Mitchum. Normally a good actor who is able to play any kind of role (cowboy, cop, soldier, good guy, bad guy, etc.), this movie took the “bad guy” role to new heights. Here his devilish acts focus around children. Even with a subject matter that can be very touchy, Mitchum gives this role his all. The end result is one of the creepiest, meanest and most ruthless characters in American cinema.

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One of Hitchcock’s best uses of big finales…this one taking place on the Statue of Liberty (OK, not the REAL Statue, but this IS a movie from the 1940s!). Later in his career, he would shoot suspenseful scenes at the United Nations, Mount Rushmore, and the Golden Gate Bridge, and earlier in his career…back in England…he shot a great scene in Blackmail at the British Museum. The ending, somewhat, makes up for this one being a little slower than us Hitchcock fans had become accustom to. Saboteur is a good Hitchcock film and a great spy thriller, though I feel it could have used a little more time at the editors. Again, we have a plot that revolves around a wronged man…this time, it’s Robert Cummings who gets falsely accused for an act of sabotage and spends most of the movie running from the police and the REAL bad guys. This is a must for any thriller fans. And, of course, for all Hitchcock fans, but don’t be surprised if you’re not just a tad disappointed.

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The “wrong man” (or “wronged”) man has always been a running theme in Alfred Hitchcock’s films. From 1935’s classic The 39 Steps right up to Frenzy in 1972, Hitchcock had been thrilling audiences as they follow along a story about a man accused of something he didn’t do. In 1956, Hitchcock made the ultimate “wronged man” movie…giving it a very appropriate title and look. The look was that of a documentary…black and white (but that was still pretty common in the mid-50s), dark, humorless (which none of Hitchcock’s prior films had been), cameo-less (no Hitchcock peeking around a corner in this one), and lacking the fast-pacing of most of Hitchcock’s films up to that point. The director chooses everyman Henry Fonda to play his hero—the “wrong man—this time around. Fonda is perfect in this role since he’s adapt at morphing into any type of persona. Cary Grant, a Hitchcock regular, would have been way to sleek for this role. Jimmy Stewart, even, would have lacked the ability to enter the character with his tall, imposing stance. Fonda has the right look and build to play someone that just might look like the other guy…someone who is the ideal husband and father but could also look slightly sinister in the right light. The film starts off by showing Fonda’s routine…work as a musician in a nightclub until early morning then home where wife (also perfectly played by Vera Miles) is already sleeping…discussion with wife about money problems in morning…etc. Once Fonda finds himself in a mistaken identity mess when he is spotted in an insurance office as a former robber and arrested, Hitchcock mixes the plot with quite a bit of police procedures which offer insight into not only what criminals go through but also how law enforcement officers handle the daily grind. If you want to watch the quintessential Hitchcock film, rent North by Northwest, another “wronged” man film and much more typical of The Master of Suspense’s technique. If you want to watch a good film where Hitchcock experimented with the art of cinema and his own style, watch this one!

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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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Being a big Hitchcock fan always puts me in a tight place when people ask me about my favorite film. Of course, it would be a Hitchcock film, but which one? When the pressure heats up and I am cornered, I would confess that this film would have to fit the bill of not only my favorite film, but also, more importantly, my favorite Hitchcock film. The reasons? Well, it has every quality that Hitchcock is famous for. It has the comic element. It has the mistaken identity element. It has the “wronged” man element. It has what is commonly known in Hitchcock circles as the MacGuffin (some aspect of the plot that is totally irrelevant but succeeds in distracting the attention of the audience). And, it has romance. Basically, this is the film Hitchcock has been working up to his entire career. And, boy does it show. The performances showcase some of the finest work Hitchcock has ever filmed, especially “wronged” man Cary Grant, never looking more debonair, even when he’s running from crop-dusting planes in a suit and tie. This was Grant’s fourth film with Hitchcock and the two have never worked better together. My VERY close runner-up for best Hitchcock film would be another Grant movie, Notorious, from 1946. Even though Grant is near perfect in that earlier film, he simply radiates perfection in this movie. His comic timing, facial expressions, tone of voice, and mannerisms are all seamless. So, if you want to see a great movie, rent any Hitchcock film. If you want to see the best of Grant and Hitchcock, rent this one!
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