Author Topic: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon  (Read 130229 times)

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #90 on: May 14, 2009, 09:32:27 PM »
...though it isn't the most logical for British Intelligence to turn an author into a spy on a mission to kill someone.  He had no training in that sort thing, so it seemed rather out of place to me...

Bear in mind he was supposed to be in military service during WWI where they faked his death, so it's at least implied he had the background. I think there were a lot of other far more implausible things before you get to that! :laugh:

I did mention in my review how I thought it may have been a forerunner for Bond, based on the way he books into the hotel and the rather whimsical mood despite the gravity of the situation. Since then I read a comment that the boss was known by a single letter (I never noticed though) and this was an influence on Ian Fleming.

Good grief. Even a misfiring Alfred Hitchcock can inspire the longest and most successful franchise of all-time... :slaphead:

That's true...I forgot about him being in military intelligence. 

A lot of it was sort of like Bond, including how he was flirting with Elsa when he was supposed to be there on a series mission.
I do remember them referring to the guy in charge just as R.

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #91 on: May 14, 2009, 09:34:51 PM »
Overall, I thought this one was just average.   :-\  I think that is the icon I want.
You can use this tools to rate your review. You just enter a number between 1 and 5, the correct rating icon will be used.


Maybe you weren't here yet when this icon was create :hmmmm:

I didn't realize that tool was there.  I'll have to try to remember to use it in the future. 
I generally remember the ones for 4 and 5..and even 3 most of the time.  I didn't think this one was quite worthy of  :D so I was rounding down and went with  :-\.  I guess my true rating would be somewhere in the middle of those too.

Offline Tom

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #92 on: May 18, 2009, 09:17:32 PM »
Next deadline:
2009-05-24     Suspicion (Dragonfire, Jon)



Najemikon

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The Lady Vanishes (1938) ****
« Reply #93 on: May 21, 2009, 02:09:02 AM »
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
4 out of 5




While travelling home alone by train, Iris is shocked when a lady she befriended has completely vanished and the other passengers deny she ever existed. Only the annoying Gilbert and a charming surgeon are willing to help.

This great film has inspired and delighted for generations, with a water-tight screenplay that moves effortlessly between thriller, romance and comedy, never overplaying any moment and as Marie said it fairly bats along too, making short work of the 90 minutes. They seem to spend as much time in the hotel, establishing characters, than on the train.

The premise is delicously simple and Hitch enthusiastically presents it as a magic trick; surely no accident that one supporting character is a traveling magician and typically, I don't think he needed to be except for a fantastic farcical set piece. But then the whole film is full of little touches that if left out would have made little difference to the plot, but give the film a spirit that defies its age. He's always been theatrical, with The 39 Steps and The Man Who Knew Too Much both ending on large stages with a huge audience. Here he seems to relish having to force his showmanship onto a small train with no audience at all. There is a brilliant moment with two brandy glasses, pivotal to the scene, and to make them loom large in the foreground, he had two giant versions made for certain angles! The model work on the opening shot is above average for the time too.

With Secret Agent, we suggested that Hitchcock may well have been the inspiration for Bond. Here I wonder if he was one of the founding fathers of the disaster movie? Ok, this one doesn't have a disaster, but it does have a group of characters whose only function is to be trapped on a train. Trains were popular in cinema around this time and it wasn't the first he had used them and it definitely wouldn't be the last. Probably Agatha Christie is the real one to blame because of Murder on the Orient Express, but I do love how individual and detailed each passenger is and their reasons for denying the existence of Miss Froy are quite brilliant in how they fit together, never feeling contrived. Apart from the wonderful lead couple of Michael Redgrave and the lovely Margaret Lockwood, my favourites were predictably the hilarious English gents trying to get back to England for the cricket, far more put out by a lack of dignity with the cheeky maid in the hotel, than the gunplay on the train! Although the opening scene suggested for a moment their concerns may have been for country rather than team. Considering the film was made in 1938, that was really quite audacious. To be honest, the background plot is too whimsical and has dated, considering that warring European countries was about to be a lot more than Boys Own adventure. Maybe I'm misreading it though; what better "up yours" statement to Hitler is there than presenting an England so capable, frail pensioners and pompous cricket fans were ready to dismiss murder as a mere nuisance? You can't put anything past Hitchcock.

The thing I really enjoy about his films though is the sheer confidence he directs them with. He actually embraces the flaws, raising them up as shoow-pieces instead of trying to disguise them. So it is then, in a film that has several nerve jangling moments (the name on the window; the brandy), it also has lunacy and silliness so we accept the more absurd moments. Because really, the whole central plot surrounding a little old lady (the fantastic Dame May Whitty) is daft. She can't half move fast, even without a stairlift! ;)

Did I say central plot? Sorry, that's wrong. It's actually just another of his famed MacGuffins. No, like The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes is really a romance with a thriller getting in the way. And so one of the very best examples of film writing ends rather too neatly; except was that another two-fingered salute to potential aggressors?
« Last Edit: May 21, 2009, 02:12:56 AM by Jon »

Offline Achim

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Re: The Lady Vanishes (1938) ****
« Reply #94 on: May 21, 2009, 06:16:43 AM »
Here he seems to relish having to force his showmanship onto a small train with no audience at all.
Wasn't it his dream to make a movie entirely shot in a phone booth? I think the closest he got to making such films were Lifeboat and Rope... Seems Joel Schumacher ultimately got closest to making Alfred's dream movie...

Najemikon

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Re: The Lady Vanishes (1938) ****
« Reply #95 on: May 21, 2009, 08:20:24 PM »
Here he seems to relish having to force his showmanship onto a small train with no audience at all.
Wasn't it his dream to make a movie entirely shot in a phone booth? I think the closest he got to making such films were Lifeboat and Rope... Seems Joel Schumacher ultimately got closest to making Alfred's dream movie...

I don't think I'd heard that before! I can imagine though. Sadly Phone Booth was very flat. I'd love to have seen something like that by Hitchcock.

Najemikon

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Rebecca (1940) *****
« Reply #96 on: May 22, 2009, 01:42:04 AM »
I thought I might as well re-post my Rebecca review here, so note to Jimmy to ignore it for the index. But I've just watched Foreign Correspondent and will post the review over the next day or so, but these were Hitchcock's first American films and represent a very important stage in his career. They were released in the same year which is fascinating in that Rebecca has little to resemble a "Hitchcock" film, perhaps can be accused of playing safe to win the Oscar. Foreign Correspondent isn't as, for want of a better word, efficient, but it's certainly more interesting. In any case, he certainly arrived in Hollywood with a very decisive contribution and was playing the game from the start, paying his dues and keeping his mouth shut with this film and rocking the boat more with FC.

Both films also continue the wonderful intricate model work I think Marie first noticed in The Lady Vanishes.

Rebecca (1940)
5 out of 5




”Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderlay again.”

Rebecca is the story of a young girl (Joan Fontaine) who marries Maxim de Winter (Lawrence Olivier) after a whirlwind romance, but is unsuited to the role of mistress in the imposing Manderlay, especially dealing with the stern maid, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), and a husband still haunted by his first wife’s terrible death.


This, the most un-Hitchcock of Hitchcock films, was a Best Picture winner in a difficult year, coming out against The Grapes of Wrath, Hitch’s own Foreign Correspondent and The Philadelphia Story. The last in particular would have been as worthy a winner, but at least James Stewart got a deserved nod for his role.

As it is Rebecca is an excellent film and I have no issue with its quality. It is elegant, powerful and memorable, one of the very best suspense dramas ever made. But its production was troubled and just who was responsible for the end product very confusing! There’s little in the aesthetics that immediately mark it as a “Hitchcock Film”, but the story is thematically suited to him; jealousy, guilt, mysterious past, deaths and cruelty. And he’d used Daphne Du Maurier’s work before in Jamaica Inn and would again in The Birds. However, she hated the way he treated Jamaica Inn and here is where the problems start.

According to memos from David Selznick on the superb Criterion DVD, he had to step in to make sure Hitchcock produced a faithful script, something he had promised Du Maurier (aside from one moral concession to the Hays Office). I agree with his sentiments on how novels should be adapted (although that does result in mind-numbing, paint by numbers Gone With the Wind!), but he was essentially strangling the director who couldn’t inject any of the traits, including humour, he would become so famous for. Where I stop agreeing with Selznick is how he continued to treat Hitchcock, using spies on set and so forth. No wonder their relationship has been documented before. It’s fascinating!

Still, Hitchcock did find some room to show off, especially in the later sections and there are some extraordinary moments; the tension at a ball is unbearable and the confession scene outstanding. Such an unavoidably talky scene is made very exciting by the camera moving as if re-enacting the past. Manderlay, the building is similarly a character in its own right (not my words, as that was the intention), at once threatening and welcoming to the young bride. The pressure on her is tangible, not least from the terrifying Mrs. Danvers. Hitch makes her one of cinemas classic villains and even manages to sneak a hint of lesbianism past the Hays Office.

Without the attraction of a Hitchcock working at full power for at least the first half, we must turn to the cast and they do not disappoint. Aside from stone faced villain Judith Anderson, Lawrence Olivier is marvellous, which is no lazy complement. He’s one of the greatest actors ever, but more suited to stage and has been known to devour sets and co-stars alike! So it’s to his credit he keeps his performance in check and has a great chemistry with the timid and nervy Joan Fontaine. This is one of my favourite female roles. She’s absolutely lovely and conveys both the nervousness and later, the steel, the character needs. Other stand-outs include George Sanders who just couldn’t be any smoother or despicable. By the way, the DVD includes Hitch’s typical comments on other actresses testing for Fontaine’s part. ”More suited to the part of Rebecca…”, I think one said. Bear in mind we never see Rebecca! ;)

Essentially this is a ghost story, except Du Maurier’s wonderful story and Hitchcock’s brilliant staging generates a haunting without an actual spirit. Don’t watch it as an early example from one of cinemas greatest directors, but as one of the best adaptations of book to film, an exemplary display of screen acting, and as the immensely satisfying drama it is.

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #97 on: May 22, 2009, 02:35:11 AM »
Sabotage



n this "emotionally daring" (Los Angeles Times] shocker, a wife suspects her unassuming London theater owner husband of being a serial killer.
Restored and Remastered! Includes Audio Commentary, Audio Interview with Peter Bogdanovich and More!

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this one overall.  The plot is interesting even during the slower scenes.  The attacks going on around London don't seem too bad at first, but of course all that changes later in the movie.  The husband seems a bit overbearing most of the time, and I didn't like him at all.  His wife is more likable - I can't remember their names at the moment - though she seems naive at times.  Hitchcock did a good job of building the suspense later in the movie, especially leading up to the.....shocking scene.  Another scene a bit later also builds up a good amount of suspense.  More of the techniques that Hitchcock would use in future movies turn up as well as some more interesting shots.  Some aspects of the plot could have been stronger, but the movie is still really good overall. 

My copy is part of the one set I got a few months ago.  The movie has been restored, so the picture and audio quality is wonderful.  There aren't as many extras with this one as there were with The Lodger: A Tale of the London Fog.  There are interviews and a comparison showing some footage before and after the restoration process.

 ;D

Najemikon

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Foreign Correspondent (1940) ****
« Reply #98 on: May 22, 2009, 11:41:20 PM »
Foreign Correspondent (1940)
4 out of 5




An impressionable, but passionate American newspaper reporter (Joel McCrea) is sent on assignment to Europe, to get a real story about rumours of war. In London he meets representatives of a peace organisation, and is soon drawn into a kidnapping conspiracy.

Foreign Correspondent, Hitchcock's first proper American film, is easier to describe as an early version of North By Northwest (coming soon, to a thread near you! ;D). At heart it is a breezy spy caper, huge in ambition and jet-setting across several locations. And I hate to bang on about it, but if Fleming was inspired by Secret Agent, he must have been absolutely convinced by this. The plot could easily be used as a Bond story.

It's notable for being Hitchcock's biggest film so far. He really lets loose with his new American producers and the difference in scope from previous pictures suggests he was pushing himself. The joy being that it never feels like he's over-reaching, in fact it often has the wonderful sense that the screen isn't big enough! An Amsterdam sequence in particular is superb, moving from a wonderfully composed scene of umbrellas and trams into a thrilling chase, ending in a huge windmill and the end set-piece in a plane is a true thrill ride with yet another excellent use of models, way ahead of its time. It's much more exciting than a lot of modern action films, because Hitchcock still understood the importance of suspense, even when moving fast.

It does flag in the middle with a silly sub-plot that kills the pace (although it does give more screen time to the brilliant George Sanders) and I was especially disappointed because it fell into the trap of my pet hate of American movies from this era: marriage proposals. It hamstrings every film it happens in! The barest suggestion of attraction must be validated by marriage. Within seconds of Joel McCrea and Laraine Day admitting mutual affection, they're discussing a honeymoon. Ridiculous considering the plot they were mixed up in. It has to be the Hays Office ramming this moral crap down American throats and I can only assume that in a rare moment Hitchcock was caught out by the rules, or realising he must toe the line to get the resources he came to Hollywood for in the first place. For a while the film seriously suffers because of it.

I've enjoyed Joel McCrea from the wonderful Preston Sturges movies, like Sullivan's Travels, and here he was very funny (the hat sequences are especially good), if a bit too dumb, even though that was the point. An American who can deal very well with what is right in front of him, but is ignorant of the bigger picture would be a political metaphor about America's flawed "wait and see" attitude at the beginning of World War II, just as much as the Europeans who are shown to work in shadowy corners, suspicious of each other and even unable to share languages, allowing themselves to be overrun.

In that sense, this is an astonishing film. Considering that it was directed by an Englishman in 1939, who must have felt real pain at what was happening back home, it is humble and focused, while still being masses of fun and aggresive in its set-pieces. It's always exciting, but there is a definite change of mood when war is announced. Heroes and villains alike still have their plotlines to run, but now they do so with grim resignation that their efforts mounted to nothing. Also, it's interesting that Hitchcock refuses to slip into an easy good versus evil commentary. The final scenes will really make you think, even while a torture scene will make you squirm (despite it not being on-screen!). And the very last moments sent a shiver down my spine. I hope it did so to a few people at the time.

This should be a five star Oscar winner, but that bloated middle section derails it. But it's still a better film and a far more important film than Rebecca. That got its Oscar for playing safe and not upsetting anyones naive political motives. Rebecca is still a great film, but not a Hitchcock film.

Alternative review: "A masterpiece of propaganda, a first-class production which no doubt will make a certain impression upon the broad masses of the people in enemy countries." Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister

:laugh:
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 03:03:20 AM by Jon »

Najemikon

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #99 on: May 24, 2009, 03:02:47 AM »
Just had to make a small edit to the above review after watching the excellent documentary on the DVD. I won't tell you what it was... :devil: :bag:

Nice bit of trivia came out of it. The supporting actors in Foreign Correspondent were incredible (Albert Basserman was deservedly Oscar nominated for his performance), including Robert Benchley (the hilarious London-based correspondent) who apparently wrote much of his own dialogue and possibly some of the other touches of humour. But his grandson is Peter Benchley, author of Jaws... remember that one for your pub quizzes!

Meanwhile I've also finally realised who the gorgeous Laraine Day reminds me of; Andie McDowell (Groundhog Day, Four Weddings and a Funeral). Tell me I'm wrong... :hmmmm:

Najemikon

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Suspicion (1941) ****
« Reply #100 on: May 24, 2009, 04:00:08 AM »
Suspicion (1941)
4 out of 5




Lina (Joan Fontaine) is madly in love with Johnnie (Cary Grant), despite his immaturity and lack of responsibility. They marry, but steadily Lina begins to wonder how far Jonnie is willing to go to pay off debts and fun his playboy lifestyle. And how long can she risk standing by?

This is a high quality, resourceful production, bursting with energy, despite being fundamentally a melodramatic romance. Hitchcock injects so much into scenes of people really doing very little. No batting around Europe here! It has a wonderful premise with plenty of scope for Hitchcock to both use and abuse conventions of the day, including that naive view of marriage I’ve complained about before. Sadly it’s undone in the final moments, but that doesn’t detract from the execution.

The cast are faultless. Joan Fontaine delivered one of my favourite performances in Rebecca and this is a very similar character and she won the Oscar for it. Although I was annoyed at moments as she forgives too many indiscretions, it takes nothing away from her gorgeous performance. The film is exclusively from her point of view, so she’s never off-screen.  While this was very rare in the era, it would become a trait of Hitchcock’s. And usually repressed blondes!

The story could be what Hitchcock had wanted to do with Rebecca as the situation is similar, right down to a potential lesbian! But the main plot at least is the same; besotted wife suspects her new husband of murder. Instead of Olivier though, we have Cary Grant, and he brings his usual smoothness and machine-gun speech. He could switch between moods very quickly which makes him a dangerous character. I never fail to enjoy his performances and he’s one of cinemas most underrated actors. It’s a great start to the relationship that would see him make three more movies with the director.  

Special mention must be made of Nigel Bruce as the naive friend, Beaky. He has wonderful chemistry with both leads and their scenes together are the best parts of the film. The plot switches between comedy and drama beautifully and he is often the key to Fontaine’s delivery, so important when the plot is focused on her so much.

It’s also this singular consciousness that allows Hitchcock and cinematographer Harry Stradling to perform a tour de force in the use of light and shade throughout the house, reflecting Fontaine’s paranoia, culminating in the famed sequence with a glass of milk. The house would be a character itself like Manderlay in Rebecca, but for no-one thought to name it. I think the shadows in particular mark this as one of the best lit films of the era.

Sadly, while the ending is good, it fails to deliver on this build up. There was an original ending that would have made the film an absolute classic, rather than a near forgotten gem.

(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 01:06:23 PM by Jon »

Offline Tom

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #101 on: May 25, 2009, 11:28:10 PM »
Next deadline:
2009-05-31, Saboteur: Achim, Jon, Tom



Najemikon

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #102 on: May 26, 2009, 12:36:47 AM »
Thank goodness for that, I thought I was on my own in here! C'mon people, catch up! :tease:

Najemikon

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Saboteur (1942) ****
« Reply #103 on: May 26, 2009, 12:38:20 AM »
Saboteur (1942) ****
4 out of 5




Alfred Hitchcock's exciting 1942 wartime thriller star Robert Cummings as a Los Angeles aircraft factory worker who witnesses his plant's firebombing by a Nazi agent. During the deadly explosion, Cummings best friend is killed and he, himself, is wrongly accused of sabotage. To clear his name Cummings begins a relentless cross-country chase that takes him from Boulder Dam to New York's Radio City Music Hall, and finally, to a harrowing confrontation atop the Statue of Liberty.

Saboteur is a 39 Steps style cross-country thriller for Americans and largely doesn’t disappoint. It’s a slick adventure story with a wronged man on the run and Hitch, probably aware he’s been here before, finds ways to experiment and colour the film.

Alan Cummings' fugitive meets some great characters. Otto Kruger's slimy villain is introduced in a brilliant scene with a toddler and a resourceful if slightly nutty maid. It’s a surreal moment, and one of several. Later, Vaughan Glaser's kindly blind man lays it on a bit thick, but it’s beautifully written and introduces Priscilla Lane. Her character has a bit more spark than the previous females. Once the couple are alone, there’s some fun to be had with her attempts to turn him in before we have to go through the usual romantic guff. Happily it doesn't slow the film down like it did in Foreign Correspondent, and I think Hitch managed to avoid the "L" word which meant he could also avoid the "M" word! :laugh:

Soon they are helped by a travelling circus troupe in another bonkers scene, but it is notable for the hilarious midget who is determined to turn them in. He is entirely ineffectual, despite the noise he makes, and has a little moustache and slick hair. No prizes for guessing who he represents! ;)

The couple have to split during a great scene with a slightly perverse villain in an empty desert town and the film really picks up. You may think I'm insinuating they aren't a good couple, but they are and it cleverly forces the plot to have some more immediacy because when they get back together, things are more desperate and their love story can now add to the suspense rather than detract. From here the film is uniformly excellent, with great scenes in a variety of locations, from a nerve-shredding attempt to escape during a ball-dance (a fairly regular Hitchcock motif) to the finale atop the Statue of Liberty (amazing, and won't be the last American monument Hitch dangles someone from). Inbetween, Hitchcock returns to the idea of stages and audiences with much of the plot resolved in a cinema with a complicated and inventive use of a film within a film. Marvellous stuff.

While the first half at least is regular Hitchcock fare that hardly stretches him, his experiments with shots over distance are incredible. He establishes several scenes from about half-a-mile away, or uses large interior, heavily detailed rooms. He could easily have free-wheeled a plot like this, but he worked constantly to challenge himself with these new compositions and the more colourful scenes.

The DVD has a nice interview largely with Norman Lloyd who played the villain Fry. He’s a great story teller about his work with Hitch that went on to last many years. He also describes Hitchcock’s “camera logic”, the way he blended newsreel footage in, and the trouble Hitch had working while Europe was going up in flames, unable to ring his mother because calls to England were blocked.

Offline Tom

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
« Reply #104 on: May 30, 2009, 11:31:54 AM »
Today I dreamt about watching another Hitchcock movie. :laugh:
Sadly I don't remember it anymore, only that I really liked it and would have given it a 4 or even a 5 star rating. I hope this is a foreshadowing of what's to come  ;D