Hitchcock Haul: The Wrong Man (1956)

511M26LcwiL._SY445_The Wrong Man…more like the wrong movie (yikes). It’s been a while since I’ve really disliked a Hitchcock film that I’ve watched for this little project of mine, but wow did I disliked this one! The thesis of this film is, “all white men look the same.” This movie is bad. I was not only bored but also annoyed.

Hitchcock dips into true-ish crime with this one, basing the story off of the book The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero by Maxwell Anderson. Hitchcock would actually hire Anderson to also work on the screenplay for The Wrong Man as well as Vertigo. There is a bit of a similarity in vibe between the films, except Vertigo is amazing and this movie is trash.

The beginning of the film features an intro that would have felt familiar to fans of Hitchcock’s television series. Hitchcock himself appears to tell the expectant audience that the story that was about to unfold was more horrific and compelling than any he’d ever told before, that it was a truth stranger than fiction! At the time, positive reviews mentioned its gripping realism. Folks viewing The Wrong Man today (like myself) would actually call the story tired, in part due to Hitchcock’s own familiar use of the trope.

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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: 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: 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: 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: Psycho (1960)

Psycho_(1960)Of course I watched Psycho on Halloween week! Starring Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, and Vera Miles, Psycho is based on the novel by the same name written by Robert Bloch and adapted for the screen by Joseph Stefano. I don’t think I need to recap the plot or go into what a fabulous film this is. It’s pretty much universally known, but if you have somehow never seen Hitchcock’s masterpiece, you absolutely need to watch tonight!

Psycho was a game changer in a lot of ways, but I thought it’d be appropriate to stress the role it played in horror films, because, you know…Halloween. With Psycho, Hitchcock helped to create a new genre known as the slasher film, albeit not intentionally. It set a new bar for violence and deviance (sexual or otherwise) in film that was previously not there. This was mainly because the production code that ruled over film content in the decades previous had stopped such subject matter from ever being produced. The restrictive code had recently been thrown out at the time of Psycho‘s production (otherwise it would’ve never been made), but filmmakers were still hesitant to explore those once taboo elements. Psycho challenged the limits of respectability and paved the road for more graphic fair, such as John Carpenter’s Halloween (starring Leigh’s daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis) which opened the door for a flood of slasher films to burst through (such as Friday the 13th).

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