The Hitchcock Haul: Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

I really enjoyed this movie on many levels. I watched it a couple of times, actually, before surrendering it back to the library. If you enjoy Strangers on a Train or Rope, I highly recommend you give Shadow of a Doubt a watch.

This is a very Hitchcock film. It focuses on a perfect, typical, all-American family in Santa Rosa California and the evil that lurks where they least expect it. It’s a simple and exciting story (by Gordon McDonell, screenplay by Thorton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville) set in a small-feeling world. Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright), a young woman facing the complexities of adulthood, decides that the best thing to cure her existential dread is to invite her uncle Charlie (who she is named after, played by Joseph Cotton) to visit the family. She greatly admires her uncle and the excitement he brings. When she goes to send him a telegram, she is surprised to find one from him already waiting for her. He’s beaten her to the punch and has decided to come visit the family! She thinks it’s fate. But when Uncle Charlie arrives, things start to get weird. Two men suddenly show up, insisting they are surveying the typical American family and want to take pictures and write an article about the Newtons. They seem extra interested in Uncle Charlie, however, and Uncle Charlie’s odd behavior toward them tips Charlie off that something here isn’t right.

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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: 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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