Tag: Alfred Hitchcock

MOVIE REVIEW | ***B&D SUNDAY FLASHBACK*** Rebecca (1940)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s a tale of murder, mystery and intrigue, never needing to actually show any of the gruesome details.”

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“Please promise me never to wear black satin or pearls… or to be 36 years old.”

Alfred Hitchcock had directed more than twenty films in his native England before making the move to Hollywood to make Rebecca.  The change of continent had no effect on the oh so Britishness of his first Tinsel Town endeavour.  Rebecca is more English than the Queen flashing a bad toothed grin on a double decker bus in the rain while enjoying tea, crumpets and perpetuating an out of date, irrelevant system of monarchy.

Hitchcock was notoriously overlooked by the Academy and never won a Best Director Oscar.  But with Rebecca, he did score his biggest Oscar success when it won for Best Picture.  Sure, it’s no Vertigo, North By North West, Psycho or a dozen other better Hitchcock movies people would rank above it, but at least his only major Academy win didn’t come with some genre crap like The Birds. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #9. Vertigo (1958)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Vertigo 1
“Here I was born, and there I died. It was only a moment for you; you took no notice.”

Vertigo was a bit of a financial and critical flop when it was released 1958. These days, it’s swung so far in esteem that it overtook Citizen Cane as the greatest film ever made, according to the prestigious Sight & Sound poll. I’ve seen it a couple of times before, and this most recent viewing left me with the same opinion… It’s pretty good, but not the greatest film ever made. It’s not even the greatest Alfred Hitchcock film ever made. It’s not even the greatest Hitchcock film ever made starring Jimmy Stewart.


After his own fear of heights leads to a fellow officer falling to his death from a building’s roof, Scottie (James Stewart) quits the police force and falls into a life of leisure, mainly just lounging around the apartment of best friend and former fiancé, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). But when news of Scottie’s roof top incident makes the papers, it’s seen by an old college buddy, and current shipping magnate, Gavin (Tom Helmore). Figuring he’s at a loss professionally, Gavin hires Scottie to work as a PI and follow his wife. Gavin isn’t worried she’s cheating, he’s worried she’s going insane. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #14. Psycho (1960)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Psycho 1
“Mother! Oh God, mother! Blood! Blood!”

When it comes to directors famous for suspense, the most famous would have to be Alfred Hitchcock. When it comes to on screen murders, the most famous would have to be Janet Leigh in the shower. When it comes to the most famous pieces of music associated with a movie. The most famous would have to be Jaws. But a close second would be the screaming strings in the Janet Leigh shower murder scene. When it comes to the most famous twists and reveals, the identity of Janet Leigh shower killer is right up there. I guess what l’m saying is, based purely on legacy alone, Psycho deserves every bit of praise it has ever received. It also doesn’t hurt that Psycho is one of the tightest, most efficient and well told suspense thrillers of all time.


After embezzling $40,000 from her boss, Marion Crane (Leigh) hits the road. Woken up on the side of the road by a highway cop, her paranoia leads Marion to buying a new car and taking to the road once more. Basically, she’s doing the kinds of things that will make her stand out and be remembered, if anyone comes asking questions later. During a bad storm, she loses the highway and ends up on a small, back road in the middle of nowhere. A small, back road where she finds the Bates Motel. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #48. Rear Window (1954)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

 Rear Window

“You didn’t see the killing or the body. How do you know there was a murder?”

Before I started writing about the movies I watched, I never thought I was a big Alfred Hitchcock fan.  I mean, I’d seen his really famous movies and appreciated them, but I never loved any of them.  Now, without even trying, I’ve managed to watch eight Hitchcock joints.  And with the exception of Family Plot, I think I’ve loved them all.  I’m finally starting to understand why he’s so revered. And it’s not because of his knack for twists and turns.  It turns out, Alfred Hitchcock was just a phenomenal technical film maker and flawless story teller.  Exhibit A, Rear Window.


An action photographer for a magazine, the globetrotting LB ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart) has been stuck in his small apartment with a broken leg for six weeks after he got too close to a speeding car while on assignment.  Bored, restless, wheelchair bound and suffering cabin fever, he has nothing to do all day but look outside his window, at a courtyard surrounded by other apartments.  Starring through windows, he’s come to know his neigbours and their habits in a way that’s not healthy for a man who’s so bored.  Something that becomes all too obvious once his over active mind starts to see things that might not be there. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #55. North By Northwest (1959)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

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“Has anyone ever told you that you overplay your various roles rather severely, Mr. Kaplan?”

For a legendary film maker, Alfred Hitchcock’s lack of Best Director Oscar might be the of the Academy’s most notorious cock up.  It’s also amazing that this is his first entry on this AFI count down.  Sure, he’ll pop up again a few more times before I get to number one, but it still seems wrong that such an influential, iconic film maker would only have a handful of movies on here.  But, one dude representing 4% of the 100 supposed greatest movies of all time is still pretty impressive.  I guess I just assumed something as epochal as North By Northwest would rank a little higher.


One day, New York advertising man Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is suddenly kidnapped at gunpoint.  Arriving at a country house, he’s accused of being a spy named George Kaplan and interrogated by Phillip Vandamm (James Mason).  Confused and out of sorts, things only get worse when his captors force him to drink an entire bottle of bourbon, then put him behind the wheel of a car.  Picked up for drunk driving, he tells the story to the police and his mother (Jessie Royce Landis).  He convinces them all to go to the country house where he finds a woman who confirms he was there the previous night, but as Thornhill, not Kaplan, and says he drank too much. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SWANSONG WEEK*** Family Plot (1976)

Family

“Isn’t it touching how a perfect murder has kept our friendship alive all these years.”

One of the very few directors who is recognisable to even the most casual movie fan.  Possibly the most famous and recognisable director of all time.  There’s a reason Alfred Hitchcock can lay claim to those titles, he made a lot of really, really, really good movies.  So how did this legend of cinema close out his monumentally impressive and influential career?  He did it with a real piece of shit.  He did it with Family Plot.


I normally make the effort to at least half assedly surmise the plot of as movie myself, but Family Plot is so messy and all over the shop, I really couldn’t be buggered trying to remember it all.  So I’ll refer to the good people at Wikipedia… (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Hitchcock: The Pleasure Garden (1925)

Pleasure Garden
As far as directors with household names go, the top two would have to be Spielberg and Hitchcock.  And while Spielberg gets to remind the world he exists every year or two with more massive budget blockbusters, Hitchcock’s enduring notoriety hangs in there, despite the fact that he’s been dead for more than 30 years and hasn’t made a movie in almost 40.  In fact, his name is so enduring and has been around cinema for so long, the first time it appeared with a director’s credit, it was on a silent film, The Pleasure Garden.

The story of two young chorus girls, Patsy (Virginia Valli) who is wide eyed and Jill (Carmelita Geraghty) who is wide legged.  They both work at The Pleasure Garden, a theatre in London, and live together in Patsy’s small studio flat. Jill’s fiancé, Hugh (Joh Stuart) stops by on his way to a two year stint on an overseas plantation where he’ll save the money to finally marry Jill.  With Hugh is his boss, Levet (Miles Mander), a possible love interest for Patsy.

Once Hugh is out of the country, Jill is happy to accept the affections, money and gifts of a horny prince and Patsy heads to the far off land where the plantation is to discover Levet may not be the top bloke she thought he was.

While Hitchcock may have become a name synonymous with suspense, horror, intrigue and twist endings, The Pleasure Garden has none of these things.  If this story was any more simple, straight forward and predictable, it would be a Kathrine Hiegl rom com.

There’s acting, and the then there’s silent film ACTING!  It seems like film makers back then were worried that the title cards weren’t enough to get the story across.  They wanted to make sure each massive eyebrow raise, cramp inducing scowl, frustrated fist shake and whiplash causing eyelash flutter did all it could to propel the story.

I’d like to say there are signs of the director Hitchcock would become, but there really is no real directorial flare.  Then again, being made in 1925, when feature length films were still in their infancy, the fact that he was able to tell a coherent story at all is probably amazing enough.  And a sign that Hitchcock was someone who would go on to much bigger, and much, much better things.The Pleasure Garden
Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock
Written By – Eliot Standard

MOVIE REVIEW | Rebecca (1940)

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Alfred Hitchcock had directed more than twenty films in his native England before making the move to Hollywood to make Rebecca.  The change of continent had no effect on the oh so Britishness of his first Tinsel Town endeavour.  Rebecca is more English than the Queen flashing a bad toothed grin on a double decker bus in the rain while enjoying tea, crumpets and perpetuating an out of date, irrelevant system of monarchy.


Hitchcock was notoriously overlooked by the Academy and never won a Best Director Oscar.  But with Rebecca, he did score his biggest Oscar success when it won for Best Picture.  Sure, it’s no Vertigo, North By North West, Psycho or a dozen other better Hitchcock movies people would rank above it, but at least his only major Academy win didn’t come with some genre crap like The Birds.
It turns out this is somehow the first Laurence Olivier performance I’ve ever seen and I can see what all the fuss is about.  He’s really great as Maxim de Winter, some variety of English toff with a mansion and all.  On holiday in Monte Carlo, he meets a girl played by the smoking hot Joan Fontaine, who doesn’t have a character name until she becomes known as “the second Mrs de Winter”, the first being the titular (and dead) Rebecca.

Once married, the character of Rebecca is revealed through stories told by Olivier, his house staff and friends.  Initially, Fontaine struggles to live up to the nostalgic legend of her predecessor, but because this is a Hitchcock movie, things aren’t quite as they seem.  It’s when these twists and turns begin that Rebecca really starts to get interesting.  Because honestly, the first half is kind of boring and by the numbers.   But it turns out, all that familiar blandness makes the impact of the second half hit that much harder.

According to the IMDB entry for Rebecca…

“Because Laurence Olivier wanted his then-girlfriend Vivien Leigh to play the lead role, he treated Joan Fontaine horribly. This shook Fontaine up quite a bit, so Alfred Hitchcock decided to capitalize on this by telling her everyone the set hated her, thus making her shy and uneasy – just what he wanted from her performance.”

The screenplay isn’t much kinder to her either.  I’m not sure if it was a deliberate decision by the writers to make her character more submissive, or just a sign of the times, but this move is pretty sexist in its attitude towards Fontaine and a woman’s place in a relationship.  Instead of a romantic proposal, Olivier makes sure she knows who’s boss by belittling her with, “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”  On paper, that looks like it could be delivered playfully and maybe even sweetly…  That’s not how it plays in the movie.  And I’m not sure if there is a right way to deliver a line like, “I should be making violent love to you under a palm tree”.  If there is, Olivier didn’t find it.

Misogyny aside, Rebecca is definitely worth a look.  It’s a tale of murder, mystery and intrigue, never needing to actually show any of the gruesome details.  It’s a great example of being effective through what you don’t see, instead of what you do.

Rebecca
Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock
Written By – Robert E, Sherwood, Joan Harrison