Author Topic: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon  (Read 132182 times)

Offline Tom

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #345 on: April 08, 2010, 07:02:09 PM »
Tom, are you planning to watch Topaz reasonably soon...?

As we (my brother and I) still have to watch two other Hitchcocks before that and we never seem to be in the mood to watch one, it can take awhile  :bag:
You don't have to wait for me to finish up this marathon.



Offline Achim

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #346 on: April 08, 2010, 07:16:37 PM »
O.k.

I'll continue if I remember and (:bag:) and when the mood matches.

Najemikon

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #347 on: April 29, 2010, 09:32:44 PM »
For anyone looking for a good deal on the Hitchcock Universal set, it's on Play.com this weekend only for £14.99. I think that's superb value!

http://www.play.com/DVD/DVD/4-/702199/Alfred-Hitchcock-Box-Set/Product.html

#  The Birds: All About The Birds - Making Of, Tippi Hedren's Screen Test, Universal News Reel Stories x 2, Storyboard Sequence: Deleted Scene (Script Pages), Alternative Ending (Sketches & Storyboards), Production Photographs.
# Family Plot: Plotting Family Plot - Making Of, Storyboards.
# Frenzy: The Story Of Frenzy - Making Of.
# The Man Who Knew Too Much: The Making Of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Trailer Compilation.
# "Marnie": The Trouble With Marnie - Making Of, Production Photographs.
# Rear Window: Rear Window Ethics: Remembering & Restoring a Hitchcock Classic - Making Of, Featurette, Trailer Compilation.
# Saboteur: A Closer Look - Making Of, Storyboards, Hitchcock Sketches.
# Shadow Of A Doubt: Beyond Doubt: The Making Of Hitchcock's Favourite Film, Production Drawings.
# Topaz: An Appreciation by Film Critic/Historian Leonard Maltin - Making Of, Alternative Endings x 3 - Duel/Airport/Suicide, Storyboards, Production Photographs.
# Torn Curtain: Torn Curtain Rising - Making Of, Scenes Scored By Composer Bernard Herrmann.
# The Trouble With Harry: The Trouble With Harry Isn't Over - Making Of, Trailer Compilation.
# Rope: Rope Unleashed - Making Of, Trailer Compilation.
# Vertigo: Obsessed with Vertigo, Feature Commentary, Cast And Filmmakers, Production Notes.
# Psycho: Masters Of Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock, American Film Institute Salute to Alfred Hitchcock, Production Notes, Cast And Filmmakers.

Offline Achim

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #348 on: April 30, 2010, 06:05:09 AM »
Oh, darn. I forgot all ab out this thread. Still two movies to watch :bag:

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #349 on: April 30, 2010, 08:32:02 AM »
That still isn't as many as I still have to watch...I have to find my list to know for sure, but it is way more than 2.   :bag:

Najemikon

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #350 on: May 03, 2010, 04:14:18 PM »
Topaz (1969)
3 out of 5




A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring.

It’s easy to look at Alfred Hitchcock’s last few films and come to the conclusion that he lost his touch, but while it’s true they are not as entertaining or as audacious as his best work, there is still a sense of a potent power at work. Just a few key details are missing and in the case of Topaz, almost completely cripple the production.

For one thing, was Topaz made for the right reasons? I’ve been banging on about Hitchcock possibly being an influence on Bond and I wonder if he had a sense of pride to indulge, seeing as that franchise was now fully underway. In his first true espionage thriller since Foreign Correspondent, the plot concerns a suave spy [albeit French] investigating Russians at the height of the Cold War, which could easily have been a Fleming story. There’s even a Q type character in Cuba! Additionally, Hitch uses another of his favourite themes as Topaz turns out to be a secret organisation in the upper echelons of France’s Government, echoing the Fifth Columnists of Saboteur.

Unfortunately, it’s far too long, ponderously slow, has an uneven tone and doesn’t know how to end. A victim of test screenings, it was changed twice (alternate versions are on the DVD), although the original ending was absurd and needed Hitchcock at his cheeky best to sell it so it would never have worked. In retrospect though, key scenes show the director was still a force to be reckoned with. A superlative sequence in New York is an absolute stand-out and much better than an average Bond any day. Similarly, the Cuban set scenes with the tortured Resistance are powerful and visually stunning (look out for a shocking, sudden murder on a tile floor; easy to see how it was achieved, but not to be underestimated). The brilliant opening scene with the Russian defector narrowly escaping capture with his family and the New York segment, also demonstrate his cleverness with narrative, hiding exposition like he did in The Man Who Knew Too Much remake (we see characters talking about key points, but can’t hear them!), yet lingering on character moments. No-one handled the MacGuffin better, before or since. Even this sub-par effort has enough “how did he do that?” moments to make today’s directors feel inadequate.

A big problem though is surely that the story was told after the fact, undermining the tension. Released in 1969, the Cuban Missile Crisis was over, while his WWII thrillers worked all the better for being released during WWII, especially the clever, shifting tone of Foreign Correspondent that ended with a poignant scene that could send a shiver down the spine, even now.

Timing aside, the film lives and dies on its cast and unfortunately it’s no accident that the best moments are driven by the supporting characters; John Vernon as Cuban Rico Para is a tangible threat and Karin Dor as the beautiful Juanita makes you feel it, along with her Resistance fighters (awful moment in a cell, that I'm guessing Eli Roth would have handled very differently!). Roscoe Lee Browne is a live wire in New York and you’ll hold your breath as his operation hinges on nervy Don Randolph. Quieter, but solid support also comes from John Forsythe (better here than in The Trouble With Harry), but the lead character is Andre Devereaux (Frederick Stafford) and while he has the look of Connery, he can’t convince as a likable bastard. He’s just a bastard, and we’re stuck with him for two hours! I commented that Torn Curtain suffered from not focusing on one character, so clearly, I’m never happy. :P It isn’t all Stafford’s fault (his wife, Dany Robin, is annoying as well, for a start) as actually he is never given anything to do. In a better received film, I’d see him as a sharp parody of James Bond, all style and no substance, letting the Resistance do the work, while he gets the credit. A plot point concerning his adultery and another that puts his son-in-law in terrible danger because of him proves irony was surely the intention, and even in the deleted original ending, he gets off without doing anything. But he is a wet blanket when the film was barely smouldering anyway. At least Paul Newman was under threat in Torn Curtain.

Of course, even in retrospect, it’s easy to see that the film suffers without the megastars Hitchcock was known for. A well placed Cary Grant can turn any film into a classic, but before you accept the obvious, bear in mind Grant, Stewart and Bergman were all superb actors as well, who worked brilliantly with the director. If the rather frustrating lead characters in Topaz were played by very good unknowns, I think it would have worked, or even someone not very good, but easily manipulated by Hitch, like Tippi Hedren. Torn Curtain managed to scrape by with disenchanted movie stars because they could do engaging performances in their sleep.

So no, Alfred Hitchcock had not lost his touch, it was everyone else! In fact, as Achim said, this was a brave film in some respects. But after all is said and done, was the world’s greatest director even relevant any more when this film was released? There’s a curious sense of isolation while watching these last few films (even the talking head documentaries are missing from the DVDs! Did no-one want to talk about Topaz, apart from a passionate, defensive Leonard Maitlin?). The studio system had collapsed and while you’d think someone like Hitchcock would thrive, maybe he needed something to fight to generate his most focused work. He’d failed to work well with new stars on Torn Curtain, lost key collaborators (Maurice Jarre, Lawrence of Arabia composer, nevertheless proves to be no replacement for Herrmann and his score makes Topaz feel like a TV Movie of the Week) and even in retrospect, the tone of Marnie through Topaz is out-of-date considering this is the era of the independent director approaching. This was a brave new world and the Western, period and urban, was making a revisionist comeback. There was no place in American film for Hitchcock any more. Maybe it was time to go back to his roots? ;)
« Last Edit: May 03, 2010, 04:17:41 PM by Jon »

Najemikon

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #351 on: May 03, 2010, 04:15:32 PM »
Sorry, guys. If you get to the end of that review, you win a cookie!*  :bag: :tease: :training:



*
(click to show/hide)

Offline Achim

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #352 on: May 03, 2010, 07:52:29 PM »
visually stunning (look out for a shocking, sudden murder on a tile floor; easy to see how it was achieved, but not to be underestimated).
You mean the scene with the dress? That was so stunning, I had to rewind and watch it again straight away...


Quote
There’s a curious sense of isolation while watching these last few films (even the talking head documentaries are missing from the DVDs!
My DVD has at least a rather good documentary (not sure if the talking heads are there, but many people involved are dead already), explaining the particular difficulties this film had while being made, but also pointing out some of the high-points throughout (like the dress scene).


Now I better get my act together and proceed with Frenzy...

Najemikon

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #353 on: May 03, 2010, 08:04:58 PM »
visually stunning (look out for a shocking, sudden murder on a tile floor; easy to see how it was achieved, but not to be underestimated).
You mean the scene with the dress? That was so stunning, I had to rewind and watch it again straight away...


Quote
There’s a curious sense of isolation while watching these last few films (even the talking head documentaries are missing from the DVDs!
My DVD has at least a rather good documentary (not sure if the talking heads are there, but many people involved are dead already), explaining the particular difficulties this film had while being made, but also pointing out some of the high-points throughout (like the dress scene).

My DVD just has "an appreciation" by Leonard Maitlin, which is nonetheless fairly thorough. It's just that all my Universal discs with that particular style of cover had a half-hour doc interviewing all sorts of people, including his daughter. The style suggested they just did it in one session (so to speak. I'm sure they had a rest! :P), so I found it odd that they stopped after Marnie.

Mind you, does anyone know why Herrmann was fired from Torn Curtain? Maybe this was a difficult period, regardless of how the films turned out and his friends didn't want to sound like they were spinning something negative.

And yes, it was that dress. Utter brilliance.  :thumbup:

Offline Achim

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #354 on: May 04, 2010, 06:00:15 AM »
I believe his daughter was in the documentary that I saw!

I think the documentary for Torn Curtain that I saw touched on the firing of Hermann, they even showed a few scenes with his score, I believe! Not sure they actually explained why though.

I'll try to give both a quick whirl tonight to confirm both issues.

Najemikon

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #355 on: May 04, 2010, 08:14:23 PM »
Just realised. Some of mine are Region 2, as opposed the majority that are Region 4. I went for Aussie releases of the Universal titles because they have the correct ratio. Stands to reason R2 are just as inconsistent on the docs.

Offline Achim

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #356 on: May 05, 2010, 06:30:30 AM »
After a very busy day at work I decided I neither wanted to write a review for Frenzy nor was I in he mood to check those documentaries. :bag: I'll try to get to that shortly.


BTW, I own The Masterpiece Collection (from Universal), which contains 14 films.

Offline Achim

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #357 on: May 05, 2010, 03:05:11 PM »
MOVIE / DVD INFO:

Title: Frenzy
Year: 1972
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: R
Length: 116 Min.
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio: English: Dolby Digital: Mono, French: Dolby Digital: Mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish

Stars:
Jon Finch
Barry Foster
Barbara Leigh-Hunt
Anna Massey
Alec McCowen

Plot:
Jon Finch, Alec McCowen and Barry Foster star in this morbid blend of horror and wit - the first Hitchcock film to earn an "R" rating. The Necktie Murderer has the London Police on red alert and an innocent man is on a desperate quest to find the real sex criminal and clear his name. Alternating heart-pounding tension with distinctive Hitchcock humor, Frenzy marked the Master of Suspense’s return to his native England after almost 20 years.

Extras:
Scene Access
Feature Trailers
Featurettes
Gallery
Production Notes

My Thoughts:
I have watched the film two or three times through my school years and not since then. I was very surprised to find that it was much better than I remembered it (and I already remembered it to be a good film). At its core the film is still based on Hitchcock's favorite theme, the "wrong man", he did well in avoiding just doing more of the same and playing some interesting riffs on what he would have usually done earlier in his career. The main protagonist is far from the likable "man next door" who gets mixed up in some criminal plot, the plot is not just about being wrongly accused and then getting out of it and through the last third the theme actually shifts away
(click to show/hide)
I very much enjoyed how detailed it was described how poor Richard Blaney got deeper and deeper into the mess, even through events that had happened 2 years earlier! It looks like Hitchcock had great fun putting all that on screen.

Acting is excellent all through the cast, including smaller bit parts. I enjoyed Barry Foster and Alex McCowen the most.

It can be argued that this is Hitchcock's nastiest film (we had a discussion on this forum whether Hitchcock's films would be much the same today or if he'd make more use of gore himself), by what is shown on screen (e.g. we get to see a rape-murder) but just as well theme (there's not many nice people here). A good portion of that success is due to the decision to work much more on location than before; gone is the fake look of outdoor sets.


Offline Achim

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #358 on: May 05, 2010, 03:24:06 PM »
My DVD just has "an appreciation" by Leonard Maitlin, which is nonetheless fairly thorough. It's just that all my Universal discs with that particular style of cover had a half-hour doc interviewing all sorts of people, including his daughter. The style suggested they just did it in one session (so to speak. I'm sure they had a rest! :P), so I found it odd that they stopped after Marnie.
My Topaz disc also just as the Leonard Maltin thing. Not a bad watch by any stretch, but still.

My Frenzy disc has something produced by Laurent Bouzereau (sp?) and so far I've seen that he will interview Anthony Shaffer in it. Will watch it this weekend.

Quote
Mind you, does anyone know why Herrmann was fired from Torn Curtain? Maybe this was a difficult period, regardless of how the films turned out and his friends didn't want to sound like they were spinning something negative.
The narrator of the documentary states that Hitch cock had ordered a commercial score and was dissatisfied with the results. That's why he fired him.

Najemikon

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #359 on: May 09, 2010, 10:25:27 PM »
Frenzy (1972)
5 out of 5




In modern-day London, a sex criminal known as the Necktie Murderer has the police on alert, and in typical Hitchcock fashion, the trail is leading to an innocent man, who must now elude the law and prove his innocence by finding the real murderer.  Jon Finch, Alec McCowen and Barry Foster head this British cast in the thriller that alternates suspense scenes with moments of Hitchcock's distinctive black humour.

Returning to England after a dry spell in the States that put his reputation in real danger, Alfred Hitchcock went back to basics and found his mojo alive and well residing in Covent Garden, London, site of the famous market where much of this story would play out and where his own father worked years before. I don't think he had lost anything, but he came to London with his blood up and something to prove, and prove it he did, because Frenzy is a fantastic, dark thriller, full of vigour. On the thorough documentary, Peter Bogdanovitch comments that Hitch is “firing on all cylinders”, and quotes Truffaut as saying to Hitchcock, that Frenzy is “a young man’s film”.

It’s a straight telling of a serial killer, even naive (this being before profiling was so hip), but this helps the fabric of the story and modern thrillers would do well to consider not to take so much for granted. It recalls more of Hitchcock’s roots from his silent film, The Lodger, and is as much a film about London as anything else, an affectionate if warts and all story that could only have been set there, the environment is so engrained. Identity was a key part of a good Hitchcock film, like Vertigo being entwined in San Francisco. I liked the other latterly missed Hitchcock motif; two gentlemen in a pub discuss the murders with relish, similar to the morbid curiosity of Shadow of a Doubt. One says that people come to London expecting to see “carved up whores”. Is he referring to us? :P After the opening scene of Londoners (including the director!) gawping at a “Necktie Killer” victim floating naked in the Thames, it’s a great start for the no nonsense story and Hitchcock has made his intentions clear from the off.

This is easily Hitchcock’s most violent film, not just in events, but it permeates the atmosphere. Not that it is unremittingly so, because it is possibly his most passionate and raw as well, full of humour and great characters. It one moment, Anna Massey strides out of the pub where she works, telling the landlord to “balls!”, in the films typically raw and real dialogue; it’s almost as if all the characters have an “up yours!” attitude, and so does Hitch.

Anna is just one of a uniformly solid cast, again like Topaz, not the mega-stars he normally uses, but this time just good actors at least. Jon Finch is the Hitchcock staple of the wrongfully accused and he’s especially good in that he isn’t a likeable character, yet he keeps the viewers sympathy. Barry Foster (Van Der Valk himself!) has great fun in a stylish performance as the suave fruit seller and proves what a marvellous actor he is. And a special mention for Barbara Leigh-Hunt who suffers the horrible signature rape and murder in the story and the key thing that makes people remember this as Hitchcock’s darkest hour. A very clever piece of writing by Anthony Shaffer (from a book by Arthur La Bern) means it’s actually the only one on-screen, despite it being a plot about a very active killer.

The horror is implied elsewhere in several stand-out moments of technical audacity, played with such confidence it’s almost rude, such as the famous shot coming down the stairs from the scene of a murder we aren’t privy too (but cleverly will see in flashback), or the bravely long static shot ending in a scream. My favourite though is the subtle moment right after Massey said “balls!” where the sounds drops right down just for a moment. Then there is the potato truck sequence, which is indulgently hilarious and awful in equal measure as the killer wrestles with a corpse, kind of summing up the whole film! But even outside the bravura moments, just basic composition and editing works every scene to the maximum.

Another reason I’ve marked this so high is that it is so full of things that weren’t necessary, yet add layers to the plot. And they’re all character moments too, mocking the criticism that even at his best, Hitchcock was all about the visuals. There’s the detective with the hilarious sub-plot of dealing with his wife’s cooking (cleverly disguising exposition while giving us by far the most disgusting scene) or Mrs. Blaney’s secretary, Jean Marsh and her barbed sneers about men. Apparently she was a victim in the original book, but not so in the film. Her repressed performance is wonderful and would have been ruined by making her a corpse.

The film feels like one of Hitchcock’s most real and organic and is a fine British film in its own right. As Achim says, it is nasty, but it’s simplicity is key. Hitchcock chose to do something easy that will have no expectations, but he did it the hard way to make it look easy! It doesn’t matter if that’s confusing. Just dive in and have a ball, because the triumphant director clearly did.