The Hitchcock Haul: Stage Fright (1950)

Stage_FrightStage Fright was a fun surprise! I’m not sure how well known this Hitchcock film is, but wow is it fun. I watched it about a year ago, fully intending to write a post, but then grad school started up and I had no time for fun or life. But now I have a bit more time to do both (not like I do myself any favors with my schedule). If you want to see Marlene Dietrich at her most Marlene Dietrich-y, pick this bad boy up.

Although it’s based on the 1948 novel Man Running by Selwyn Jepson, Stage Fright mixes the story up in a few ways. I enjoyed the movie so much that I’m pretty interested in seeing what the novel is about! If you’re interested as well, just know that it was published under many different names over the years so it might be harder than usual to find.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Rope (1948)

rope-hitchcock-poster-1948Ahhh, Rope. I really love this movie. The first time I saw it was back in undergrad. A friend of mine reserved the common room in his dorm and we, budding film students, watched it completely enraptured by the story. We also were a little nerdy about Hitchcock’s attempt at one continuous shot throughout. Sadly, without digital technology, he had to stop to swap out film rolls every once in a while. But the technique Hitchcock used to hide this necessity was great and really led to the illusion that it was just one long sweeping shot.

The reason (I’m assuming) Hitchcock wanted to go for this stylistic choice was because Rope is an adaptation of the stage play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton, which came out in the late 1920s. This is very interesting to me, because it hearkens back to Hitchcock’s earlier work (like Juno and the Paycock) when he would take on more stage play adaptations and shot a room from one angle, creating the illusion that the audience was simply watching a play. I am not really a fan of this style (just read my Juno entry above), but luckily for me that is not what Hitchcock did with Rope. While the entire story plays out in one small apartment in one fluid camera shot, there are many camera moves and angles that feel much more modern. It’s a brilliantly updated way to pay homage to the stage play and retain some of that feel while also making it clear that this is a film meant to be seen on the big screen in a theater. I love it!

Rope was my favorite Hitchcock for years. It might still be, but I love so many of his (and keep discovering more that I enjoy) that it’s hard to say I have a favorite anymore. However, I cannot stress enough how badly you need to see this movie. It’s fucking amazing. GET READY FOR THE SPOILER TRAIN COMING TO TOWN CHOOCHOO!

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The Hitchcock Haul: Notorious (1946)

Notorious_1946Starring two of my very favorite Hitchcock regulars, Notorious is a visually stunning black and white espionage about a woman stuck between and rock and a Nazi. We all know what that’s like, right ladies? Ingrid Bergman stars (while wearing some fabulous outfits, I must say) as Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a convicted Nazi war criminal. Alicia is confronted by T.R. Devlin (a fabulously hansom Cary Grant) and asked to insert herself into a known Nazi ring now living in Brazil. That’s right, she is suckered into spy-work, a career I rather envy. Unfortunately, this career required Alicia to seduce an old friend of her Nazi-spy father’s, Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), who always had a creepy thing for her.

Alicia travels with Devlin to Rio in order to trap Sebastian, but in the process she ends up falling for Devlin and vice-versa. When Devlin then fails to get her out of her duties, he decides cold stoicism is the best way to deal with their messy emotions. This approach sparks an odd cat and mouse game between the two of them that leads Alicia even deeper into her Nazi rabbit hole.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Saboteur (1942)

220px-SaboteurposterIt’s been a while, but I’m back watching Hitchcock and writing about it! My recent move has put me right in the middle of a rather huge library system that has an excellent selection of Hitchcock films. I’ve nearly depleted my own collection, and have definitely seen everything Netflix and Amazon Prime have to offer, so it was becoming difficult for me to find films to watch without buying them.

The first two Hitchcock’s I checked out of the Carnegie Library were Saboteur, starring Robert Cummings (who also appears in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder) and Priscilla Lane, and Stage Fright (which I’ll get to later). It’s so nice to have so many to pick from again!

Saboteur is your classic Hitchcock innocent man accused of a crime he didn’t commit and forced to go on the run with a beautiful woman plot (see The 39 Steps, Young and Innocent, North by Northwest, etc, etc). What is interesting about the plot of this film is that it is a topic that is still very relevant today. Hitchcock spent a lot of time exploring sabotage, espionage, shadow organizations, and terrorism (both domestic and abroad). These things have been fresh on our minds for the past decade and a half.

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The Hitchcock Haul: The Trouble With Harry (1955)

Trouble_with_Harry_VSD5971As the synopsis on the Netflix sleeve informed me, the trouble with Harry is that he’s dead. That is definitely trouble, but more for the people who happen to stumble upon his body. Now, how much you enjoy this movie will be directly related to how many times you think it acceptable to bury and then dig up a body. Do you think it’s acceptable to do so as many times as needed? But how many times could you possibly need to do such a thing? Do you think burying a body just once is too many times? For that mater, how do you feel about death? On a scale from one to ten in fucks given, are you at a no fucks or entirely too many? If you give entirely too many, stay away from this Hitchcock outlier.

The Trouble With Harry is a very strange film. I am a huge fan of black comedies, and for this reason I greatly enjoyed Hitchcock’s entry into the genre, but it wasn’t a box office success, and I can understand why. It doesn’t surprise me that Hitchcock would make a film like this. I’m actually surprised he didn’t make more. It has his signature quirky sensibility and wry humor that all his films possess, but in Harry it’s the focus. His signature camera angles are still there, and it feels very much like some of his early work from the ’20s and ’30s, approaching the film very much like play. This was right before Hitchcock hit what I consider to be his golden age with films like Vertigo and North by Northwest, films everyone associates most strongly with his style. Harry feels very much like a bridge between his old work and this new era, much like Dial M for Murder which was released the year before.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Spellbound (1945)

MV5BMTM2NDI5Nzg5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDk3NzI0NA@@._V1_SX214_AL_I should have posted a Hitchcock Haul over a month ago, because I watched Notorious over a month ago, but, to be perfectly honest, I fell asleep during it and haven’t felt like rewatching it since. So instead I’ve decided to move on to Hitchcock’s Spellbound, which also stars Ingrid Bergman and a very young, very hansom Gregory Peck.

Spellbound feels like how a Hitchcock should feel: suspenseful, overwrought, and just a little bit ridiculous. Dr. Constance Petersen (Bergmen) is a psychologist at Green Manors mental institution located somewhere in Vermont. When a Dr. Edwardes (Peck) arrives as the institution’s new director, it is very clear that there is something wrong with him. He doesn’t seem to know his own professional achievements, or the difference between certain psychological diagnoses. Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll), the former director of Green Manors who has been asked to retire, admits that he has never met Dr. Edwardes and isn’t entirely sure why he is acting so strangely.

This does not stop Dr. Petersen from accompanying Dr. Edwardes on a lovely picnic where they get very excited about liverwurst. And this liverwurst was apparently so delicious (hilariously, this is not a euphemism) that she falls in love with him. When he starts experiencing unexplained fits of panic and paranoia, and confessed that he is not the actual Dr. Edwardes, Dr. Petersen is dead set on curing him.

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The Hitchcock Haul: The Birds (1963)

birdsI hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween weekend last week! I know I did. I obviously meant to post this last Tuesday, but my life seems to have grown much busier lately, and I have a harder time fitting everything in. Better late then never, right? So, last year for Halloween I watched Hitchcock’s Psycho. This year, I thought it would be a good idea to watch the other film people generally regard as one of his “horrors”, The Birds. I had never seen The Birds before, and I really had no idea what to expect. The concept seemed incredibly ridiculous, and yet it’s based on a story by one of my favorites; Daphne du Maurier. If you all remember correctly, she wrote the novel Rebecca, which was also adapted by Hitchcock and won him his only Best Picture Oscar.

The Birds opens with a minor (and perhaps adorable) confrontation between Tippi Hedren‘s spoiled socialite Melanie Daniels and lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a pet store. Mitch does not approve of her over-the-top practical jokes (that seem to have landed her with criminal charges), and Melanie is both annoyed and fascinated by him. As a form of revenge and flirtation, Melanie buys a pair of love birds and attempts to leave them at Mitch’s door, but when his neighbor informs her that he is out of town for a while, she makes the slightly crazy decision to stalk him out in Bodega Bay up in Northern Cali. She goes all the way out there and tricks locals into giving up personal information about Mitch, his family, and where they live. Not creepy and violating at all. She then proceeds to break into his waterfront house and leaves the birds not for Mitch, but for his little sister Cathy. Sounds like all your exs, right?

Mitch and Mel Forevs

Mitch and Mel Forevs

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The Hitchcock Haul: Rear Window (1954)

oXbT7vlLmZ76kWoHe5XJYuyJUgpI first must apologize for how bad I’ve been at my blog recently. My life has been quite crazy , so my poor blog has fallen by the wayside. But it is this exact craziness that made me think about Rear Window and want to rewatch it. Rear Window was one of the first Hitchcock films I saw in high school, and it remains one of my favorite. The simplicity paired with the high levels of suspense really get to me, and I think that’s why I enjoy all the Blumhouse films now (like Insidious and Sinister).

My boyfriend and I recently went through some rather large life changes, and grappling with the general logistics of all of it was incredibly stressful and had some interesting effects on me, such as an unexpected blossoming of paranoia and a touch of mind-numbing arachnophobia (I have never been deathly afraid of spiders before). Maybe the fact that I’m rewatching the entire run of the X-Files is contributing to all of this, but it’s more likely a side-effect of stress and recently being stuck in a disassembled apartment alone every day with mountains of work to do. Another strange development is that I started to notice the neighbors in my old neighborhood a lot more. I picked up on the comings and goings throughout my neighborhood before I left it, and was very invested in what everyone else was doing.

Do you see what’s happened here? My legs might not have been broken, but I was definitely channeling Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. This is nothing new, however. When I was a kid, I became obsessed with Harriet the Spy. I started my own notebook and wrote down everything I saw going on up and down my street and in school. My mom found it and made me throw it away, but I never lost that mentality. Of course, Jimmy Stewart’s paranoia developed out of extreme boredom. My current encounter with it was stemming from stress and the need for escapism, but still, I feel like we’re kindred spirits.

Yup.

Yup.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Vertigo (1958)

Vertigomovie_restorationWow, I’ve really been slacking with my Hitchcock this year. Whatever, I’ve been busy. I revisited an old favorite of mine recently: Vertigo. Arguably Hitchcock’s strangest film, Vertigo was not universally loved when it was released in 1958. Hitchcock had been known for his romantic thrillers, and people pretty much expected more of the same. Instead, they got a strange passion project that seemed to reveal more of Hitchcock’s inner psyche than anyone really wanted to know. Overwhelming obsessions, paranoia, busty blondes — it feels like a two-hour long therapy session with you as the therapist and Hitchcock your patient. Most publications said it was a good film and visually appealing, but too long and convoluted. The plot has a strange structure that rubbed some critics wrong, and it didn’t help that the mystery is revealed well before the end of the film. It ended up breaking even, but that could be marked as a failure for Hitchcock at that particular time in his career. It wasn’t until recently that the film has been hailed as a masterpiece and even said by some to beat out Citizen Kane as best film of all time.

If you have never seen Vertigo, do not read this post. It’s riddled with spoilers and will ruin the movie for you completely. But chances are you’ve seen Vertigo. It was one of the first Hitchcock’s I was introduced to, and also one of my favorites. It starts as a strange investigation into a seemingly paranormal case and ends up being an incredibly calculated scam.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Dial M for Murder (1954)

DialMforMurderposterFor my first Hitchcock Haul of 2014, I decided to revisit an old favorite of mine: Dial M for Murder. I made a cup of tea, broke out my knitting, and curled up on the couch to enjoy what I think might be my most watched of his films.

Whether you’re a fan of the original or of the modernized adaptation, A Perfect Murder (starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen), Hitchcock’s simplistic and at times goofy thriller about a man who pays an old acquaintance to carry out the perfect murder is a story many people know and love. There’s no denying that Dial M for Murder is a really good time. It’s been parodied and remade, and the play on which it is based enjoyed a healthy life.

The plot of the film, set almost entirely in one room, is clean, contained, and unexpectedly layered. We watch, completely captivated, while the scheming, gold-digging Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) blackmails an old school chum, Swann (Anthony Dawson), into killing off his wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), so he can inherit her money. We marvel at his calculations, how he’s thought of literally everything. It soon becomes apparent that he’s been crafting the perfect murder for some time now. He almost reminds me of the sociopathic Amy in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and it’s no secret I love characters with a devious side.

Hitchcock with Kelly and Cummings on set

Hitchcock with Kelly and Cummings on set

There’s simple motivation for the murder. Tony knows of Margot’s affair with an American TV writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), and can’t have her running off with him, leaving Tony penniless. He also doesn’t really want to be married to her anymore. Since he was named her beneficiary, murder is the obvious solution. But it would also be obvious to the police, which is why he’s involved Swann to commit the murder while Tony builds creates an alibi.

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