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!
Posts Tagged: suspense
OK — it’s not Hitchcock’s finest hour. But, this is his last film and he was not in the best of health when he made this one, so a little “understanding” is in order here. In 1976, when Family Plot was released, Hitchcock had been working as a filmmaker for more than six decades, had over 50 features under his belt, and was well into his 70s. Not that shabby of a career in a business that does not exactly promote longevity. So, we can forgive Family Plot for not being his finest work…but still a more-than-decent thriller. I don’t want it to sound like I feel Family Plot is an awful film. It most definitely is not. It’s a sharp, clever caper/romantic/psychic thriller that would be a shining moment for any mainstream director. It’s just Hitchcock’s work has held him up to such high standards that a film like this doesn’t exactly live up to his Rear Window or Psycho days. Oh well, getting past all this, like I said, this is a captivating and entertaining film that does have its fair share of thrills and surprises. It has several “Hitchcockian” scenes where the Master comes back to life and uses the camera to increase suspense like the good old days of North by Northwest. Basically, the plot revolves two interwoven stories: one revolves around a psychic who uses her “powers” to scam clients out of money and the other about a kidnapper and his wife. There are some pretty clever plot elements…like the way the kidnappers hide their hostages…and a lot of typical Hitchcock comic relief…provided mostly by the psychic and her befuddled boyfriend who works as her sometimes-assistant and a sometimes-cab driver (even though he claims he’s really an actor). A must for all Hitchcock/thriller fans…but not the one to start with if you want to get the feel of the Master’s best work.
Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck? In the same movie? I should be in heaven, right? Well, almost. Spellbound is a tough film for me. I love it. It’s great. It’s one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. But, there’s just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s too technical. Since Bergman plays a psychoanalyst, there is a lot of medical talk and psychiatric terminology. Or, maybe it’s too rooted in the world of psychology, and sadly, since that is something I know little about, I’m just not interested. Well, whatever, watch it and let me know. Bergman plays a female (obviously) psychoanalyst in a mental facility where the old director is retiring. Enter Peck as the new director…but there is something odd about Peck that Bergman can’t quite put her finger on (kind of like my problems with this movie…!). Once Peck’s idiosyncrasy reveals itself to Bergman, she makes it her mission to find a solution. I definitely still recommend Spellbound. And maybe the more people who watch it will clue me in on what it is that bothers me about this film. Don’t worry – it’s an excellent movie with a wonderful cast. I just need to lay on a couch and tell Ingrid Bergman my troubles…
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.
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……
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.
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.
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.