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: 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: Rebecca (1940)

rebecca1940dvdThis film has a special place in my heart. It, along with the novel by Daphne du Maurier, turned me onto mysteries and thrillers — something I’ve been obsessed with ever since.

Just to set the bar, we’re talking about a movie that has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned Hitchcock his only Best Picture Oscar. It is a beautifully haunting and tantalizing film, and yet still not as good as the book.

rebecca-by-daphne-du-maurier

When I was younger and starting to get into Hitchcock, my Mom would talk about the film Rebecca and how great it was, but she could never get her hands on it to watch. When Netflix came out, we signed up right away (it was like destiny), and one of the first films my Mom put on the queue was Rebecca. It was unavailable for YEARS! Finally, after I graduated from college, we were mailed our copy.

At this point I had already read the novel out of anticipation. It delighted me! The scandal was incredibly juicy for something written in 1938, and the psychological horror that was prevalent throughout was amazing. The important twists in plot impressed me. They were both shocking and plausible. It’s a tale of sexual deviance, resentment, and coping with the past.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Secret Agent  1936

220px-Secret_Agent_(1936_film)_posterSecret Agent was fun! I think it contains some of Hitchcock’s better developed characters during this time in his career. I also learned that women in the ’30s really enjoyed sleeping around, fiances be damned! Ok, on with the summary:

Loosely based on short stories by W. Somerset Maugham, a soldier/writer named Brodie (John Gielgud) is “killed off” and transformed into a British spy by a mysterious man named “R”. Given the new identity of Richard Ashenden, Brodie travels to Switzerland to track down a German spy that has thus far evaded all attempts made toward his capture. Upon arriving, Brodie finds that he’s been assigned a wife, the lovely, thrill-seaking Elsa Carrington (Madeleine Carrol, who also starred in The 39 Steps). But that’s not all he finds. A flashy American socialite by the name of Robert Marvin (Robert Young) has zeroed in on Elsa and is determined to steal her away from her “husband”. The advances are so obvious that it makes me wonder how brazen people actually were back then.

secretagent

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The Hitchcock Haul: The Man Who Knew Too Much Double Feature

imagesHitchcock made The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1934 during his career in England. It starred Peter Lorre and was a hit at the box office and with critics. In 1956 while in America, he remade The Man Who Knew Too Much to fulfill a contract obligation with Paramount and cast Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day as the leads. He agreed with the studio heads that his original was a great film with room for wonderful improvement in the new era of filmmaking. This week I watched both versions of the film back to back, and came to the conclusion that the 1956 version may have been a better film at the time, but that ruling doesn’t stand today. Ultimately, I think the 1934 version is more engaging and a better example of storytelling.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Jamaica Inn  (1939)

Jamaica_inn_2480003bSet in the early 1800s, Jamaica Inn takes place in seaside Cornwall, which apparently was a bit disorderly and mutinous back in the day. The area, comprised of poor and perhaps desperate people, was very prone to shipwrecks. There weren’t any proper lighthouses, just a few pathetic beacons from homes along the coast. What happens when you combine shipwrecks and desperate people? Some pretty devious crime, that’s what. Add a ballsy young lady with a sympathetic heart, and you’ve got a fascinating stage for Hitchcock’s first adaptation of a Daphne du Maurier work (the others being Rebecca and The Birds). Unfortunately, it’s not as good as it should have been.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Strangers on a Train  (1951)

StrangersonaTrainFirst, allow me to apologize for being late with my Hitchcock this week. I’ve been pretty busy working on a script that’s been kicking my ass, so I kind of lost track of everything. But, not to worry! This week I rewatched the legendary Strangers on a Train.

This movie is so well known, so parodied and referenced, that I actually forgot that I’d already seen it. For some reason I didn’t remember that I watched this excellent Hitchcock, and just thought I knew the story so well from hearing it elsewhere (like the Modern Family parody that was hilariously done).

Turns out I’ve absolutely seen it like a million times. But I watched it again with the same delight as always.

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The Hitchcock Haul: To Catch a Thief  (1955)

220px-To_Catch_a_ThiefI’ll admit, I trailed off a bit in the middle of Hitchcock‘s To Catch a Thief. The movie is so incredibly pretty that I kind of turned off my critical brain and focused on my instant gratification brain. It doesn’t help that the plot is rather standard without many twists to keep you on your feet.

Written by John Michael Hayes (a frequent Hitchcock collaborator), To Catch a Thief was loosely based on the novel of the same name by David Dodge. I haven’t read the book, but if I’d imagine it’s fun for the beach.

But seriously, the film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and by god it earned it! Also, with the added glamour of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, good luck keeping your focus on what’s actually happening.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Sabotage  (1936)

tumblr_miie7iws4J1qa6obyo1_500Adapted from Joseph Conrad‘s 1907 novel The Secret Agent, Sabotage (alternately titled, The Woman Alone) focuses on the investigation into a series of terrorist attacks in London. A young woman, Mrs. Verloc (Sylvia Sidney), runs a movie theater with her husband, Karl Verloc (Oskar Homolka), and her younger brother Stevie (Desmond Tester). Soon after the attacks begin, a charming grocer befriends Mrs. Verloc. This grocer is undercover Detective Sergeant Ted Spencer (John Loder) of the Scotland Yard. As he slyly attempts to pry information from the innocent and oblivious woman, she starts to suspect that something is awry with her husband.

Sabotage

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The Hitchcock Haul: Suspicion (1941)

3_SuspicionAlfred Hitchcock has a famous hang-up concerning the Academy. His films have been nominated over and over for Oscars, but he never won for Best Director. Suspicion was able to earn the only Oscar for a performance in a Hitchcock film ever when Joan Fontaine won for Best Actress that year. I find her portrayal of Lina severally lacking, and think she should’ve been awarded the honor for her performance in her other Hitchcock: Rebecca.

MV5BMTUyNTM1MDcwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjI3ODQ2._V1._SX337_SY450_I was horribly disappointed by this film. Based on the Francis Iles (Anthony Berkeley Cox) 1932 novel titled Before the Fact, Suspicion chronicles young Lina McLaidlaw’s spiraling paranoia that her new husband has committed a ghastly murder to cover his gambling debts, then ultimately fears for her own life. The progression is done well, establishing Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) as a dishonest yet charismatic and handsome fellow partial to the fast and easy life. It is made clear that he hoped to live off of any inheritance Lina was awarded (and was sorely disappointed to find that there was none), and has no intention of working an honest job.

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