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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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When British director Alfred Hitchcock’s success in movies finally led him to Hollywood, he enjoyed a string of hits in the late 1930s and early-to-mid-1940s. After the romantic masterpiece Notorious, the director’s career hit a slump that lasted years, finally ending with the critical and public triumph of Strangers on a Train. The film is one of Hitchcock’s finest works…it encompasses everything a thriller should plus all of the usual “Hitchcockian” elements that make an ordinary thriller extraordinary. The title says it all…two men meet randomly on a train. One is a well-bred spoiled drifter (Robert Walker) and the other an estranged husband (Farley Granger) who desperately wants to leave his philandering wife behind and start his life over with a new love. Hitchcock’s use of camera and light are top-notch here. Scenes where Granger catches Walker spying on him are magnificent, with Walker increasingly portrayed as a psychopathic just by the camera techniques Hitchcock uses. There is a reason this film put Hitchcock back on the map as one of the best directors in the world…rent this one and see for yourself!

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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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Over the course of his career, Hitchcock followed his trademark “thriller” genre fairly closely. He made one totally non-suspenseful work early in his career (Mr. and Mrs. Smith from 1941 is a screwball, romantic comedy) and some of his works had more intense thrills than others did. On the whole, though, Hitchcock’s films made his audience sit on the edge of their seats and Notorious (1946) is no exception. Yet, it is somewhat unique since it is the closest Hitchcock ever came to making an outright dramatic love story. Starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman (both of whom had worked with Hitchcock prior to this film), Notorious is a masterpiece on every front. It works perfectly as a thriller and passionately as a love story and it features both supreme directing and stellar acting performances. Bergman plays the daughter of a former Nazi who is convicted for his wartime crimes. Her father’s connections place Bergman in a perfect position to play spy for the U.S. government, which she does under the watchful eye of governmental agent Grant. A love affair between Bergman and Grant cools off after her assignment involves her becoming more than just an acquaintance with one of her father’s friends. Hitchcock’s sense of style is unmatched in this film. The camera movements add to both the intensity of the romance (following Grant and Bergman from room to room as they continue their embrace) and the drama of the suspense (following a key in Bergman’s hand).

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