Saturday, August 17, 2013

Happy (Belated) Birthday Alfred Hitchcock

You'd think that not working all summer would equal more blog posts.  Nope! I'm just the laziest when it comes to posting and I really don't know why.  I definitely don't understand it.  It's not for lack of interest, it's not for lack of having something to say, it's just some weird glitch where I spend my days thinking, 'oh that would make for a great blog post' and then doing absolutely nothing about that.  I've now forced myself to write up a that 'oh that would make a great blog post,' for your reading pleasure :)
This past week, August 13th to be exact, was Alfred Hitchcock's 114th birthday celebration.  My way of honoring one of my favorite classic film directors was to watch as many of his movies as I could.  Seems like a good way to celebrate, right?  This then turned into a 4 day Hitchcock movie watching extravaganza.  I decided to do a mixture of my all time faves, some I hadn't watched in years and some that I had actually never seen before.  And as I watched I began to really recognize and appreciate so many wonderful techniques and the mastery of his film making.

I started my tribute to Alfred Hitchcock with Rear Window, which is one of my favorites.  While watching the movie I was reminded of The Simpsons parody and the remakes (Disturbia and the one with Christopher Reeves done in 1998).  Which made me think about how influential Alfred Hitchcock is/was to the suspense/horror genre of film making.  I then moved on to Shadow of a Doubt because I enjoy seeing Joseph Cotton as a bad guy and all of the very subtle ways that he tries to get rid of Theresa Wright.  Does that make me a jerk?  maybe :).  But this movie has so many great subtleties, from the music, to the conversations about getting away with murder between Young Charlie's father and their neighbor (a spry, young Hume Cronyn).  Shadow of a Doubt has never been one of my top 10 favorites, but after re-watching it may be inching it's way up the list.

also from

 After Shadow of a Doubt, I moved onto The Man Who Knew Too Much, the 1956 version, I still haven't seen the 1934 version, I should do that.  This is another one of Hitchcock's that I enjoy, but never truly loved.  I just enjoy the fact that Doris Day was in a Hitchcock movie and I love me some Jimmy Stewart.  Next up was North by Northwest, which brought back memories of the first TCM Classic Film Festival and the interview with Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau.  Not the worst memory to have :).  The movie is so fun, all that running around and mistaken identities! And it contains the often present theme in Hitchcock films, the persecution of the wrong man.  Someone who is hounded, attacked, wrongfully pursed and doesn't have anyone who will listen to him or help him.  I think this is such an interesting theme that is explored in a number of his movies, the ones that I can think of off the top of my head would have to be, 'Saboteur' 'The Wrong Man' (duh), 'The 39 Steps' even in 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' there are moments when the police worry that Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day are up to no good.


After North by Northwest I decided to tackle Topaz, I had never seen this movie before and I didn't really know what to expect.  Ultimately I don't think I liked it very much.  There is something about Hitch's efforts in the late 60s, early 70s that don't resonate with me, although I did enjoy Frenzy for the most part.  Anyway, this movie seemed to be convoluted, to the point of confusing, it seemed to lack the charm of some other spy capers that I usually enjoy.  Maybe it was the lack of notable talent?  I try not to get hung up on things like that, but the only recognizable name, to me was John Forsythe and the only other recognizable faces to me were John Vernon and Roscoe Lee Browne.  This movie didn't really do anything for me, but maybe I'll give it another chance in the future. Oh and there was one gorgeous shot that involved a purple dress, very artistic and cinematic.  I found a screen capture of it on a blog called SlyWit.  There are also some lovely write-ups on Hitchcock on that site too, worth checking out!

Anyway, to cleanse my palette after Topaz I popped in one of my first Hitchcock's: Rebecca.  And it was a perfect palette cleanser, I was back to the Hitchcock that I knew and loved.  Mystery, suspense, intrigue, a creepy housemaid appearing as if from nowhere to make you feel guilty about breaking a desk figurine.  Before watching the movie I decided to check out the special features on the DVD and spotted a wild Drew Casper, Hitchcock expert and film professor at USC.  I actually took a couple of classes with him when I attended school there.  He's a very knowledgeable and very intense dude.  I also spotted Peter Bogdonavich, I love seeing him in special features, I feel like hes' a real supporter and advocate for classic films and that's excellent in my book.  I also read a bit about the movie and discovered that having Mrs. Danvers appear to be floating or appear from nowhere was done intentionally.  It was done so that the audience could see her the way the second Mrs. DeWinter would've seen her and to put everyone on edge.  It was quite effective. 

After Rebecca I decided to give a new to me Hitchcock a chance.  About 3 years ago, one of my very
good friends Tracy, got me the TCM Greatest Films Collection Hitchcock Edition (pictured to the right).  I had seen all of the movies in the set except for,
I Confess.  I hadn't even really registered that title as a Hitchcock film and probably wouldn't have recalled that Montgomery Clift was in a Hitchcock movie before looking at the box cover and watching the movie.  I'm guessing that this isn't a well received Hitchcock and not on the top of many people's best of lists, but I really, really enjoyed this movie.  I was blown away by the plot, the whole time I was anxious and on the edge of my seat.  I was also astounded by Montgomery Clift's performance.  He conveyed SO much in just his eyes or a movement of his head.  So powerful while doing so little.  The supporting cast is also amazing, Karl Malden very good as the dutiful cop, Anne Baxter and Dolly Haas, who is quite interesting.  After the movie I checked the IMDB message board and found a link to a really funny video that I posted on twitter, but I shall also post here:

I also watched a little featurette on the DVD and there was a young(er) Robert Osborne who talked about the movie and there was also mention of Dolly Haas, who played the devoted and (too) silent wife of the confessor.  I ended up looking her up on wikipedia and it turns out she was married to Al Hirschfeld, who's caricatures were always delightful.  She was also a very famous German actress who had stopped performing after she was married, but she came out of retirement as a favor to Hitchcock.

All in all I think it was a nice way to remember Alfred Hitchcock during his birthday week and a good excuse to watch great movies.  I'm glad that I checked out some new to me movies that I had put off viewing for awhile and hope to find the time to continue my way through his filmography.

That ended up being rather long, maybe that's my problem with posts...I have too much to say.  I do try to break it up with pretty pictures though.  Anyway, I hope to be updating more, I still have more Film Festival pictures and commentary to post about.  Tune in the next time I finally make myself update :)

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