Tag: 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.”

affiche-rebecca-hitchcock

“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Queen flashing a bad toothed grin on a double decker bus in the rain while enjoying tea, crumpets and perpetuating an out of date, irrelevant system of monarchy.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 | ***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)

affiche-rebecca-hitchcock
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