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Troy Howarth
08-04-2008, 05:44 PM
I never thought it would happen, but I seem to be rediscovering a love for Hitchcock's movies. I was once obsessed with his work, seeing everything I could and reading all the books on him that I could find, but then when I discovered Bava, Argento, etc, I grew very cold towards him. Lately, for no reason in particular, I've decided to revisit his films. Just last night I watched two of his 30s films: the original Man Who Knew Too Much and Secret Agent; I had a great time with both. I've got a cheapie box set of his early films sitting around, along with the releases of Frenzy, Shadow of a Doubt, Vertigo, Marnie and a couple of others. After years of finding his work too cold and clinical, I'm beginning to warm up again... I know there are a lot of Hitchcock buffs here, so I thought I'd try to share my reactions to the films as I begin to take them in once again.

Russ F
08-04-2008, 06:30 PM
Welcome back to the fold, Troy. ;)

jrcasey
08-04-2008, 07:29 PM
Troy:
Like you, I went through a period of indifference to Hitch, even though I always loved his films. I still enjoy most of his movies, despite his use of rear-screen projection and other antiquated techniques that continued through FAMILY PLOT(1976)! Hitch's failure to move along with the times is really the only thing I can fault him with. I guess one could label the problem as "soundstage bound." FRENZY was his only "modern" film (IMHO) that broke out from some of his usual technical limitations. To this day, I consider FRENZY his last great film.

I know that these criticisms seem rather harsh.....but I continue to enjoy Hitch films to this day and consider him to be one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century.

Ryan Clark
08-04-2008, 08:22 PM
For the longest time the only Hitchcock films I was familiar with were the two big ones: Psycho and The Birds. I always adored both of those movies, but never really thought about Hitchcock as a director, even after I saw a few of his other films like Frenzy, Family Plot, North by Northwest, and Vertigo (all of which I loved). It's only within the past couple of years that I became truly aware of Hitchcock (mostly due to Brian De Palma's admiration of him) and actively sought out more of his films. I had long considered De Palma my personal favorite of the two, but my opinion has reversed and now I realize that Hitchcock is the true Master of Suspense -- no ifs, ands, or buts about it. :)

Favorite Hitchcock film? I'd say it's a tie between Psycho and Frenzy. Least favorite would be Topaz, although it does contain that gorgeous shot with the purple dress (those of you who have seen it know what I'm talking about).

Troy Howarth
08-04-2008, 08:28 PM
Of Hitchcock's later films, I remember having an intense dislike for Family Plot. Torn Curtain wasn't particularly good, either, as I recall. I'm sure I'll see them both again at some point.

Right now I'm revisiting Sabotage, which I'm enjoying tremendously. It's certainly far superior to his similarly titled 1942 film, Saboteur, which I never cared for.

Troy Howarth
08-04-2008, 08:36 PM
Favorite Hitchcock film? I'd say it's a tie between Psycho and Frenzy. Least favorite would be Topaz, although it does contain that gorgeous shot with the purple dress (those of you who have seen it know what I'm talking about).

I know the shot you mean - and, surprisingly, this is one of the films I was always rather fond of. It's not typical Hitchcock, but I found it interesting - mind you, this is another one I need to revisit.

Troy Howarth
08-04-2008, 08:38 PM
Troy:
Like you, I went through a period of indifference to Hitch, even though I always loved his films. I still enjoy most of his movies, despite his use of rear-screen projection and other antiquated techniques that continued through FAMILY PLOT(1976)! Hitch's failure to move along with the times is really the only thing I can fault him with. I guess one could label the problem as "soundstage bound." FRENZY was his only "modern" film (IMHO) that broke out from some of his usual technical limitations. To this day, I consider FRENZY his last great film.

I know that these criticisms seem rather harsh.....but I continue to enjoy Hitch films to this day and consider him to be one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century.

That's not harsh, nor is it unfair. Even Frenzy is a bit antiquated, seeming to be a bit of a throwback to his early British thrillers, though I enjoy it immensely. He never did use rearscreen photography particularly well, IMO, and I still think some of his technique draws too much attention to itself. Case in point: The Birds. I've always loved this movie. It works very well on the whole. However, that montage of the faces frozen in fear as the man sets fire to the gas pump always struck me as extraordinarily ludicrous - I can see what he was going for, but it doesn't work. That said, I can forgive it - the film as a whole is that good.

Wayne Schmidt
08-04-2008, 08:44 PM
Of Hitchcock's later films, I remember having an intense dislike for Family Plot. Torn Curtain wasn't particularly good, either, as I recall. I'm sure I'll see them both again at some point.You can throw TOPAZ in there as well. On the other end of the scale I think VERTIGO is one of the great films, and would certainly go in my top ten of all time. I love much of Hitchcock's work, but I don't worship at his alter to the point that I can't admit he made some stinkers too. But even his lousy movies have interesting moments and are worth sitting through at least once.

Ryan Clark
08-04-2008, 09:07 PM
Of Hitchcock's later films, I remember having an intense dislike for Family Plot. Torn Curtain wasn't particularly good, either, as I recall. I'm sure I'll see them both again at some point.

Right now I'm revisiting Sabotage, which I'm enjoying tremendously. It's certainly far superior to his similarly titled 1942 film, Saboteur, which I never cared for.

As I said, I love Family Plot, and I don't think it's nearly as bad as people make it out to be. In fact, I think it's one of Hitchcock's best films and shows that he still had it even at the end of his career. It's also a great showcase for his sense of humor. Saboteur is wonderful, too, but I will agree with you on Torn Curtain, which is very middle-of-the-road for Hitchcock: not terrible, but it has nothing to make it stand out from other thrillers of the period.



Case in point: The Birds. I've always loved this movie. It works very well on the whole. However, that montage of the faces frozen in fear as the man sets fire to the gas pump always struck me as extraordinarily ludicrous - I can see what he was going for, but it doesn't work. That said, I can forgive it - the film as a whole is that good.

I have to disagree with you here as well. A big reason why I love directors like Hitchcock and De Palma is they aren't afraid to do the kind of sequences that would be ridiculous if they were shot by any other director. But we expect their films to have stuff like that, or at least I do.



You can throw TOPAZ in there as well. On the other end of the scale I think VERTIGO is one of the great films, and would certainly go in my top ten of all time. I love much of Hitchcock's work, but I don't worship at his alter to the point that I can't admit he made some stinkers too. But even his lousy movies have interesting moments and are worth sitting through at least once.

While we're on the subject of Hitchcock films that don't work (admittedly there's very few, which is pretty good for someone with such a long career!), I'd like to mention The Trouble with Harry. It's a comedy, but my problem was that I didn't find it all that funny. Hitchcock had a good sense of humor, which is evident in nearly all of his films with the exception of maybe Vertigo and Psycho, but The Trouble with Harry was a failure on that score.

Todd J
08-04-2008, 09:08 PM
I'm not a buff, but I do love his movies. I love THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, ROPE, and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. I have a box set of his earlier films I haven't started to watch yet, but I plan on it eventually.

Troy Howarth
08-04-2008, 09:42 PM
As I said, I love Family Plot, and I don't think it's nearly as bad as people make it out to be. In fact, I think it's one of Hitchcock's best films and shows that he still had it even at the end of his career. It's also a great showcase for his sense of humor. Saboteur is wonderful, too, but I will agree with you on Torn Curtain, which is very middle-of-the-road for Hitchcock: not terrible, but it has nothing to make it stand out from other thrillers of the period.




I have to disagree with you here as well. A big reason why I love directors like Hitchcock and De Palma is they aren't afraid to do the kind of sequences that would be ridiculous if they were shot by any other director. But we expect their films to have stuff like that, or at least I do.




While we're on the subject of Hitchcock films that don't work (admittedly there's very few, which is pretty good for someone with such a long career!), I'd like to mention The Trouble with Harry. It's a comedy, but my problem was that I didn't find it all that funny. Hitchcock had a good sense of humor, which is evident in nearly all of his films with the exception of maybe Vertigo and Psycho, but The Trouble with Harry was a failure on that score.

I've no problem with flashy technique - I just don't think the scene I've cited works in any way. It's unintentionally funny to me.

I can't find anything to like about Family Plot, from its bland cast (though I do like Bruce Dern) to its bland look, but perhaps another viewing would do it a favor... we'll see.

The Trouble with Harry, though, is one of his very best films. :)

Troy Howarth
08-04-2008, 09:44 PM
You can throw TOPAZ in there as well. On the other end of the scale I think VERTIGO is one of the great films, and would certainly go in my top ten of all time. I love much of Hitchcock's work, but I don't worship at his alter to the point that I can't admit he made some stinkers too. But even his lousy movies have interesting moments and are worth sitting through at least once.

That's fair enough. I don't know if I'd like Topaz or not at this point, but I did find it interesting when I saw it. Part of the fun of revisiting his stuff after so long is seeing how many of the films work that I didn't use to enjoy.

Sabotage, which I just finished, is a great one - Homolka and Sidney are great in it, and that scene on the bus is masterful. I don't know why it's not better regarded, or why there isn't a better DVD release out there.

dave hartley
08-04-2008, 11:27 PM
Sabotage, which I just finished, is a great one - Homolka and Sidney are great in it, and that scene on the bus is masterful. I don't know why it's not better regarded, or why there isn't a better DVD release out there.
Hitchcock and Truffaut are a little disparaging of it in the interview book. Unfortunately this seems to have coloured perceptions ever since. (One of Hitchcock's oft repeated stories was about the sequence on the bus which he seems to have regarded as a failure - I assume because contemporary audiences didn't like the outcome. I have to say it works for me).

There are good quality R2 versions although mainly as part of box sets. In the US a lot of the early titles were regarded as public domain but Carlton (now Granada) reasserted US copyright in Sabotage in 1997 and I assume MGM have licensed the title from them for the box set they are issuing in October (http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock_Premiere_Collection_-_MGM_Home_Entertainment_(USA%2C_2008)).

Edit: The If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats (http://tsutpen.blogspot.com/) blog has been serialising excerpts (http://tsutpen.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Hitchcock%2FTruffaut%20Tapes?max-results=20) from the original Hitchcock/Truffaut tapes for the last couple of years. The early excerpts were accompanied by a very astute commentary. Here's the link to the mp3 (http://tasutpen.net/hitch/ht6.mp3) file of the discussion of Secret Agent and Sabotage, and heres the blog commentary (http://tsutpen.blogspot.com/2006/05/hitchcocktruffaut-tapes-6.html) on it. Fascinating stuff - particularly the extent of the editing of the version in the book.

Ramon V.
08-05-2008, 02:58 AM
One of my favorite Hitchcock films is Marnie. It is a shame that Alfred Hitchcock only made two films with Tippi Hedren. Out of all the actresses who he worked with more than once she is the most underrated. The casting of Sean Connery as Marnie’s husband is genius. I love Alfred Hitchcock’s reason for casting Sean Connery which is revealed during the making of documentary for Marnie. Are there any other fans of Marnie?

Ramon V.
08-05-2008, 03:00 AM
So what is the best DVD release for the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much?

Ryan Clark
08-05-2008, 03:25 AM
Marnie has really grown on me since I first watched it -- it has some very interesting ideas, and Tippi Hedren is perfection. Sean Connery leaves me somewhat cold, but perhaps that was the intention. I still think somebody like Cary Grant would have been better for the role.

Jonathan Douglas
08-05-2008, 05:48 AM
It's funny isn't it, she's supposed to be the cold one (and she is/frigid and all that), but he's so bland and dull it screams. Connery being dull and bland, it's possible I guess. Wonder how Hitchcock would have dealed with the Scope format, I personally think he'd been just as great there. I'm a big fan of even his lesser colour films, like TMWKTM remake or To Catch a Thief both have quite a few striking sequences, like the taxidermist shop and Grant on the rooftops. I've watched some b/w's recently, Stage Fright and The Wrong Man with Henry Fonda, I especially liked SF with Richard Todd and Jane Wyman, she's terrific here and it's always interesting to hear Peter Bogdanovich's admiration for Hitch (on the Warner discs).

Troy Howarth
08-05-2008, 07:27 AM
I don't think Tippi Hedren is much of an actress - she's OK in The Birds, but Marnie suffers from her inexperience. I like the film on the whole, but I can't help but wonder how much better it would have been with a stronger actress at its center. I think Connery is quite good in it.

Re: Sabotage... thanks, Dave! I agree with you on the bus sequence, and while Hitchcock may have felt it lacking, I don't agree - yet another reason not to accept filmmakers' feelings towards their work as gospel.

Paul H
08-05-2008, 09:42 AM
Tim Lucas reported on his blog that German TV played a pre-US-censored cut of Psycho. Here's Link to the German site and Tim's blog.

http://www.schnittberichte.com./schnittbericht.php?ID=1921

http://www.videowatchdog.blogspot.com

Jonathan Douglas
08-05-2008, 10:14 AM
Regarding Sabotage, the new release will look better than all other previous releases, as it's never been remastered/restored before now AFAIK.

Erik S.
08-05-2008, 01:08 PM
One of my favorite Hitchcock films is Marnie. It is a shame that Alfred Hitchcock only made two films with Tippi Hedren. Out of all the actresses who he worked with more than once she is the most underrated. The casting of Sean Connery as Marnie’s husband is genius. I love Alfred Hitchcock’s reason for casting Sean Connery which is revealed during the making of documentary for Marnie. Are there any other fans of Marnie?

I re-watched MARNIE recently and was struck by the realization that this is a film that could not get a major studio release today. It is just too un-PC. Sean Connery's character, though well intentioned, uses rehabilitation methods that are currently illegal in all 50 states.

I've come to admire Hitchcock's boldness more than ever, and that's something that was lost on me when I originally watched these films.

Troy Howarth
08-05-2008, 05:30 PM
Yeah, Marnie is definitely an edgy film in terms of content. While I have a problem with the rear screen work in many of his films, I think it and the blatantly phoney matte paintings add to the film's oddly expressionistic quality. It's a very worthy film, despite its missteps in casting (really, only Connery is particularly good in this, IMO).

Al Edwards
08-05-2008, 05:36 PM
I think of Marnie as Spellbound's companion piece. My favorite Hitchcock film is Strangers on a Train. I think Robert Walker's Bruno Anthony is one of Hitchcock's most interesting and memorable villains.

Troy Howarth
08-05-2008, 05:39 PM
Strangers on a Train is a great one, I agree. Top Hitchcock villains? Interesting question. Walker is up there. Ditto Barry Foster in Frenzy, Oscar Homolka in Sabotage, Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt and Claude Rains in Notorious... though, I confess, I'm not too crazy about Notorious as a film. I might have to go with Cotten as my favorite Hitchcock villain.

dave hartley
08-05-2008, 06:37 PM
So what is the best DVD release for the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much?
At the moment it will be one of the Region 2 releases - best standalone disc is probably the Universal France disc (http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/wiki/L'Homme_Qui_en_Savait_Trop_(1934)_-_Universal_(France%2C_2006)) (paired with Juno and the Paycock) - however I don't own this disc so I don't know if this has forced French subtitles - some of the Universal France discs do, some don't. The best box containing it is probably the German Concorde box (http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock:_The_Early_Years_-_Concorde_(Germany%2C_2003)) which on balance of weakpoints has the advantage over the UK Network box (http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/wiki/The_Man_Who_Knew_Too_Much_(1934)_-_Network_(UK%2C_2008)) in terms of the films but not the extras.

Regarding Sabotage, the new release will look better than all other previous releases, as it's never been remastered/restored before now AFAIK.
Only if you mean R1 releases - the version in the Concorde box looks pretty good. The Network box version is ok but not quite as good imo. I gather the French TFI box has forced subtitles. All derive from the same elements (I'd guess from the BFI) and I'd expect the MGM version will too.

For anyone who wants to get into the nightmare world of Hitchcock DVD versions the hitchcockwiki.com (http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/wiki/Main_Page) site is the place to start. Details of the different DVD releases with comparative screenshots and much more. It's kept updated (unlike DVDBeavers Hitchcock coverage). Invaluable.

Ramon V.
08-05-2008, 07:26 PM
At the moment it will be one of the Region 2 releases - best standalone disc is probably the Universal France disc (http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/wiki/L'Homme_Qui_en_Savait_Trop_(1934)_-_Universal_(France%2C_2006)) (paired with Juno and the Paycock) - however I don't own this disc so I don't know if this has forced French subtitles - some of the Universal France discs do, some don't. The best box containing it is probably the German Concorde box (http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock:_The_Early_Years_-_Concorde_(Germany%2C_2003)) which on balance of weakpoints has the advantage over the UK Network box (http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/wiki/The_Man_Who_Knew_Too_Much_(1934)_-_Network_(UK%2C_2008)) in terms of the films but not the extras.

Thanks for the info. The French DVD release looks like the best option. :)

Troy Howarth
08-05-2008, 09:24 PM
Thanks for the links, Dave. I'd love to see really nice editions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage and Secret Agent. I really like those films.

I do have the Criterion editions of The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. I've not watched the latter yet (I remember the film well, though, and it's a favorite) but I watched The 39 Steps tonight... clearly it is one of his finest films. Robert Donat is perfect. The mix of humor and suspense is razor sharp and it holds together beautifully. For a story that has so little background - we know virtually nothing of Donat's background, and of course the infamous "MacGuffin" is at play here - it never has a dull moment. The Criterion disc is topnotch, too.

Troy Howarth
08-05-2008, 09:31 PM
Now, my *sense* is that these would be my favorites by decade... clearly, I still need to revisit some films (I have Strangers on a Train and Topaz on order, for example) but even back at my most rabid, there were some Hitchcock films that never "did it" for me... these ones, from what I can tell, are particular favorites (please note, they are not in any particular order):

30s:
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The 39 Steps
The Lady Vanishes
Sabotage
Secret Agent

40s:
Shadow of a Doubt
Lifeboat
Suspicion
Rebecca
Foreign Correspondent

50s:
Vertigo
Rear Window
The Trouble With Harry
Strangers on a Train
Stage Fright

60s:
The Birds
Marnie

70s:
Frenzy

Main ones I really don't care for:
Torn Curtain (painfully protracted murder scene to one side)
Spellbound
The Paradine Case
Rope
I Confess
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Jimmy Stewart)
Family Plot
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Notorious

Todd J
08-05-2008, 10:33 PM
this thread is a great read. Troy, what is it about Rope you don't like? It's one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, although I can not tell you why. I'm not very good at expressing my opinions. But I would love to know your thoughts on it. When did you last watch it, and do you plan on re-watching it with your new found re-appreciation of the man's work?

Ryan Clark
08-06-2008, 12:01 AM
You have to admire Hitchcock for one he did on Rope -- he was able to create an intense suspense film with a small group of people in one location, told with fast-paced, clever dialogue. Most films of that type would be boring, but Hitchcock infused his film with wit, ingenious camera setups (even if the famous gimmick does get old after a while), and a disguised homosexual theme that puts Rope far ahead of its time. I was fortunate enough to see it on the big screen, and it gets better and better every time I see it. I urge Troy to give it another go before dismissing it, as I think it's one of Hitchcock's very best films.

Al Edwards
08-06-2008, 02:23 AM
Favorite by Decade

1920s
The Ring

1930s
Murder!
The 39 Steps
Sabotage
Young and Innocent
The Lady Vanishes

1940s
Shadow of a Doubt
Lifeboat
Notorious

1950s
Strangers on a Train
Rear Window
The Wrong Man
Vertigo

1960s
Marnie
The Birds

1970s
Frenzy

My least favorite Hitchcock is Spellbound. Too much an obsession with Freudian analysis.

Troy Howarth
08-06-2008, 07:22 AM
You have to admire Hitchcock for one he did on Rope -- he was able to create an intense suspense film with a small group of people in one location, told with fast-paced, clever dialogue. Most films of that type would be boring, but Hitchcock infused his film with wit, ingenious camera setups (even if the famous gimmick does get old after a while), and a disguised homosexual theme that puts Rope far ahead of its time. I was fortunate enough to see it on the big screen, and it gets better and better every time I see it. I urge Troy to give it another go before dismissing it, as I think it's one of Hitchcock's very best films.

I actually did see it again within the last couple of months. :) It's based on a true story, so I don't know that it's really so much ahead of its time - beyond that, I just don't find it very engaging. I think Stewart is miscast, and I don't care for Dahl or Granger (much better in Strangers on a Train) in their roles, either. The only convincing performance, for me, is Cedric Hardwicke as the father. I can admire what he intended with the technique, but to me it simply comes across as stagy.

Troy Howarth
08-06-2008, 07:23 AM
My least favorite Hitchcock is Spellbound. Too much an obsession with Freudian analysis.

I wouldn't put it at the very bottom of the pile, but it's close. It's basically a rather tedious soap opera on the whole - but I do love that Dali-designed dream sequence. I like Gregory Peck, but Hitchcock didn't make very good use of him in either this or The Paradine Case.

dave hartley
08-06-2008, 08:20 AM
It's basically a rather tedious soap opera on the whole (...)
I'll have to watch Spellbound again - haven't seen it for a while. Quite fond of the absurd 40s sub-genre of Hollywood Freudianism and particularly liked Spellbound a lot, not least because Hitchcock and Hecht clearly don't take the cod-psychoanalysis very seriously (originally the project was Selznik's idea). Given that, I've wondered what he really thought of Dali. Soap opera... is that the same reason you don't like Notorious very much ?

Interesting to note that Psycho and North by North West aren't turning up on lists.

Troy Howarth
08-06-2008, 04:18 PM
I never found Notorious very involving - it's less overtly melodramatic than Spellbound, but I don't find Grant very appealing in it and the story doesn't grab me. I found myself sympathizing far more with the Rains character, but he's not in it nearly enough.

I need to rewatch Psycho and North By Northwest again - I've always found the former a bit overrated, while the latter was a huge favorite for a long time before I sort of OD'd on it... I'll be interested to see how both of them play now.

Bob Andrews
08-07-2008, 09:14 AM
Great thread :)

Hitchcock has always been my favorite director as he has made so many great movies... I want to recommend the book by Francois Truffaut filled with interviews he's made with Hitch covering all his movies. The best book about Hitch I know of.

I have only seen 24 of Hitchs movies but I don't think I've seen so many movies from a director that often.

My personal list

masterpieces

01. NORTH BY NORTHWEST
02. NOTORIOUS
03. VERTIGO
04. REAR WINDOW

very good

05. SHADOW OF A DOUBT

good

06. REBECCA
07. THE LADY VANISHES
08. DIAL M FOR MURDER
09. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
10. SABOTAGE
11. THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (55)
12. THE BIRDS
13. THE WRONG MAN
14. PSYCHO
15. SUSPICION
16. THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY

average

17. SABOTEUR
18. I CONFESS
19. YOUNG AND INNOCENT
20. THE 39 STEPS
21. THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (34)
22. ROPE

disappointing

23. SECRET AGENT
24. TO CATCH A THIEF


I wanna point out Hitchs effect on actors: I've never seen better performances by actors when playing in Hitchs movies: Jimmy Stewart (apart from his work with Anthony Mann) finally plays some more ambivalent characters; Joseph Cotten (I agree with you, Troy for being the most convincing villain); Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Vera Miles, Kim Novak...
About the suspense-theme: I also want to mention the bus scene in SABOTAGE... I'd never have imagined Hitch going that far, especially considering the time in which the movie was made.

Troy Howarth
08-09-2008, 12:59 PM
The Man Who Knew Too Much: IMO, vastly superior to the slicker but overly padded '55 film. Leslie Banks is wonderful as the sardonic but sympathetic father, and Peter Lorre is his equal as a charming villain. The remake has two great sequences, including one that improves on the original (the Albert Hall sequence) but it lacks the sense of urgency and economy present in this one.

The 39 Steps: Hitchcock's finest film of the period, with a brilliant central performance from Robert Donat. It moves like a house on fire and has more wonderful moments than you'll find in a dozen lesser films.

Secret Agent: Hitchcock apparently wanted Robert Donat to play the lead, and there's no question that would have improved it. That said, it's fun to see a young John Gielgud in so unusual a role. The supporting cast is more interesting, however, notably Peter Lorre as the sex-crazy "General." Lots of great moments, though the hokey coda damages it. Apparently Michael Redgrave makes his debut here, though I didn't spot him.

Sabotage: Really underappreciated in the Hitchcock canon, even by the director himself. The infamous bomb sequence is still a stunner, and it's hard to believe that Hitchcock was able to get away with it in 1936. Oscar Homolka is one of the director's most interesting villains: you can't help but like him, even when he (admittedly inadvertantly) causes the death of a child.

Young and Innocent: A sort-of-template for his later Frenzy, this was reportedly Hitchcock's favorite of his British films. There's a wonderful camera movement which moves from a long tracking shot of a ballroom into the twitching face of the killer in extreme close-up. The usual themes are in place - the wrong man, etc - and like his other British thrillers, it is remarkable for its sheer economy and pacing.

The Lady Vanishes: A wonderful souffle of a movie. The story is pure nonsense, if you bother to stop and think about it - however, it moves along so nicely and is so consistently engaging that it's unlikely to trouble anyone. I can imagine this playing very well for a young audience: the mixture of humor, intriugue, romance and action is perfectly rendered. The entire cast is a joy, notably Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave as the ingenues, Paul Lukas as an oily villain and Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne making their debut as their favorite Charters and Caldicott characters.

Barry M.
08-09-2008, 01:08 PM
Young and Innocent is really likeable. The Frenzy comparison's not off-base, but doesn't really convey the charm & humour of this little cousin to 39 Steps.

That sounds like a great Hitch marathon, Troy. Don't stop now!

Troy Howarth
08-09-2008, 02:14 PM
I think one of the things Young and Innocent and Frenzy *do* share is a delicious sense of macabre humor... that said, yes, Y&I is a more charming film than Frenzy, which is one of the more vicious films of his career.

I plan on watching Jamaica Inn, which I don't recall as being one of his better films, before moving on to the two 40s titles I own of his: Lifeboat and Shadow of a Doubt. From there, I'll move on to the 50s, 60s and 70s titles I own: Strangers on a Train, Trouble with Harry, Rear Window, Vertigo, Stage Fright, North by Northwest, The Birds, Marnie, Topaz and Frenzy. Speaking of Strangers, which version do you recommend I go with first: the release version or the preview one? I've only ever seen the release version, so I'm leaning towards the preview cut and then watching the release edition with Bogdanovich's commentary.

Shaun C
08-10-2008, 10:40 AM
MY TOP 10 HITCHCOCK FILMS
1........VERTIGO
2........THE BIRDS
3.........MARNIE
4.........PSYCHO
5.........FRENZY
6.........NORTH BY NORTHWEST
7.........TORN CURTAIN
8..........STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
9.........REAR WINDOW
10........DIAL M FOR MURDER

Troy Howarth
08-10-2008, 11:25 AM
Jamaica Inn: Stodgy and oddly very dated, even though it's a "newer" film than the others I've watched. Leslie Banks, Marie Ney and Maureen O'Hara give good performances, while Charles Laughton is in full ham mode - and that phoney-looking wig doesn't help matters. Still, it's not a total disaster and it has some nice moments, espeically in the second half.

Shadow of a Doubt: It's easy to see why this was Hitchcock's favorite of his films. Everything clicks here, from the script by Thornton Wilder to the casting to the camerawork to Dimitri Tiomkin's macabre soundtrack. The contrast between the idyllic little town and the evil of Joseph Cotten's Uncle Charlie gives the film a powerful punch, and there's some welcome humor in Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn's on-going discussion about how they would kill each other if they weren't so civilized. Great stuff.

Shaun C
08-10-2008, 12:35 PM
Years ago I remember watching TORN CURTAIN and really being unimpressed. Compared to his other films it seemed slow and uninvolving. Yet recently I have bought the dvd and the film has improved considerably. The photography is luminous and dreamlike and shows Germany in an unusual and romantised light. The killing of Gromick, a suspicoius type typical of Hitchcock's characters, is one of Hitchcocks most tence and expertly crafted sequences.
Set in a small German country farmhouse, Paul Newman and a peasant woman try with much difficulty to kill Gromick with knives, strangulation and gas. Set to silence apart from the hightened noise of grunts, heavy breathing and and pots being thrown against walls, with big close ups and an assortment of unusual camera angles.
TORN CURTAIN has severel beautiful sequences and is a film that is unfairly over looked. Recommended.

robert r.
08-10-2008, 02:16 PM
I'm always in and out when it comes to Hitchcock, i go through different phases, one time i will think he's the greatest filmmaker ever, then i think that his films leave me cold on an emotional level etc etc. He is one of the greats though and he made a lot of films that i count as faves.

My absolute favourite is Rear Window, which i think is one of the most brilliant films ever. No matter how many times i watch it, i still get drawn into that courtyard microcosm. Stewart, Kelly, Ritter and Burr are pitch perfect in their roles also. Some of my Hitchcock re-viewings are not always so succesful, but Rear Window gets me every time.

Troy Howarth
08-10-2008, 02:18 PM
I was absolutely obsessed with his work for a long time - then I petered out when I found Bava, Argento and others who also specialized in suspense. Right now I'm really keen on revisiting his stuff, and I'm finding it very rewarding, but who knows... a month or two from now and I might grow cold again. I, too, tend to go through phases. :)

Troy Howarth
08-11-2008, 07:27 AM
Lifeboat: When people talk of Hitchcock's "experimental" films, Rope is invariably cited for its confined setting and extended takes - forget that the extended takes add nothing to the suspense or drama and comes off as a forced gimmick. Far more interesting is this film, which utilizes a confined setting as well as creative cutting and camera placements. 9 people trapped in the claustrophobic confines of a lifeboat, contrasted with the vast ocean, makes for a really compelling drama. The entire cast performs well, notably Tallulah Bankhead, Walter Slezak and Henry Hull.

RichardJDoyle
08-11-2008, 03:18 PM
Personally, I have never understood what people see in "The Birds". I've always felt that the short sequence that corresponds to the short story is wonderfully constructed, but the rest of the film feels like what it is ... padding to extend a marvellous short story into a dull feature film.

Tippie Hendren is quite a terrible actress to boot.

Troy Howarth
08-11-2008, 06:02 PM
Hedren's inexperience is very evident in Marnie - I love the film, but I can picture it being soooo much stronger with a good actress in so tough a role - but I think she does OK as a shallow socialite in The Birds. Her more emotional moments are a bit, erm, ropey.

Steve R
08-11-2008, 07:05 PM
Hitchcock has always been a top favorite and it's a real pleasure to come back and revisit the films every couple of years or so as your perspcetive changes. I find different aspects stick out.

The production design grabbed me a lot the last go round.

Shadow of a Doubt has held its own for years. The last time I saw it this Winter after I got the box set from Santa. That was the first one I grabbed. Yes, Troy that playful macabre ongoing game between Travers and Cronyn is terrific. Nice balance to the true horror of Charlie...maybe not that he's a killer, but that the favorite relative is no longer there for you.

Rear Window continues to be just amazing. I am in awe through most of it, every time I see it. I could go on for pages. Thelma Ritter....

I found myself really enjoying Rope a lot the last time. Maybe because I had seen John Dall in Gun Crazy and dug the acting btwn him and Farely Granger. They each can come off kind of odd, but I think they work very well together in this one. I like the Orson Welles Compulsion version, but this one catches the playfulness gone too far, the game out of control much better for me. The body in the trunk that they cover and set up for the party as the centerpiece is just a great but of staging. I keep coming back to the production design - that NYC backdrop with the lights slowly going out in the various random buildings and the night skyline changing, fading is wonderful.

Troy Howarth
08-12-2008, 07:26 AM
Stage Fright: What's all this nonsense about a cheat? SPOILERS The flashback is told by a liar and is thus unreliable. It's not a cheat. END SPOILERS It's a pity this myth has dogged this delightful blend of humor and suspense. The acting is top notch, especially Richard Todd and Alistair Sim. There's some wonderful set pieces. The camerawork is superb - look at that extended take of Todd entering the house. Definitely of his most purely *enjoyable* films.

Troy Howarth
08-12-2008, 09:40 PM
Strangers on a Train: This one earns all the praise it has reaped over the years. The script, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith and co-written by Raymond Chandler, is airtight. The characters are appealing - Farley Granger is a likable hero fighting to save his life, and Robert Walker is one of Hitchcock's most interesting perverse villains. The homoerotic subtext is clearly there in Walker's performance and the way his character fixates on Granger. Some nice humorous touches help to balance things out, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. I watched the Preview cut, but it's been so long since I've seen the theatrical cut that I can't pinpoint anything different about it.

Jonathan Douglas
08-13-2008, 02:49 PM
You have to admire Hitchcock for one he did on Rope -- he was able to create an intense suspense film with a small group of people in one location, told with fast-paced, clever dialogue. Most films of that type would be boring, but Hitchcock infused his film with wit, ingenious camera setups (even if the famous gimmick does get old after a while), and a disguised homosexual theme that puts Rope far ahead of its time. I was fortunate enough to see it on the big screen, and it gets better and better every time I see it. I urge Troy to give it another go before dismissing it, as I think it's one of Hitchcock's very best films.

Agree almost word for word. I personally return to this one again and again, when I need a break, from the cut craziness that surrounds us on a daily basis. It's quite a master stroke when you can still enjoy it, and don't really notice the lack of cuts. Definitely in my Hitch Top 10, probably my most watched of his.

Troy Howarth
08-15-2008, 12:19 PM
The Trouble with Harry: Most of Hitchcock's films have humor, but this one provides a better insight into his morbid and ultra-dry sense of humor than any other. People either find it amusing or they don't. It's not a side-splitting farce - it's a rather dark story about eccentric people dealing rather callously with a murder. If you don't click with the humor, no doubt the film will seem intolerable - I, on the other hand, absolutely love it. This is one of the Hitch films I always admired, so I was pleased to see how well it held up - and via this new transfer, I appreciated it's absolutely gorgeous visual quality more than ever. Delightful.

Troy Howarth
08-16-2008, 12:26 PM
Vertigo: One of the greatest films ever made and wholly deserving of its reputation. 'Nuff said. :)

Jonathan Douglas
08-16-2008, 03:52 PM
The colours remind you of Bava, Troy? I can certainly see that, it's quite gorgeous. It's definitely one of the most beautiful films ever made, although, I was a little disappointed in the quality on the Universal SE. Not very sharp picture IMO, surely it can look a lot better than that, the definite version is still to come...

Troy Howarth
08-16-2008, 06:24 PM
Yeah, I can definitely see a parallel - Hitchcock and Bava both understood the psychology of color very well.

Vertigo is due to be re-released as a two disc SE, and it will no doubt be anamorphic. The current transfer looked gorgeous for its time, but yes it can definitely do with an upgrade.

djvaso
08-18-2008, 04:31 PM
Some image comparisons among DVD releases and HDTV brodcast can be found here:
http://www.hitchcockwiki.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=575&highlight=hdtv
So one must be patient and wait for the very first blu-ray release of Hitchcok's movies i.e. "North by Northwest".

Barry M.
08-18-2008, 04:46 PM
Stay out of those image-comparisons unless you want to be upgrading to br. Fair warning.

There's a Paramount logo from Vertigo that met my eyes across the crowded dancefloor, and now I think I'm going to have to go thumb-up the blu-ray forum proposal. Never mind that shot of the bridge...

Patrick O.
08-19-2008, 11:53 AM
I just wanted to show a little love for 2 of my favorite Hitchcock's that haven't gotten too much mention in this thread: The Wrong Man and Dial M for Murder.

TWM isn't necessarily one of Hitchcock's stronger works in terms of overt technical achievement, but I think it really does a great job of creating a group of extremely sympathetic characters (Fonda, Vera Miles), with a downbeat ending that has more in common with the ending of Psycho than, say, something like Dial M for Murder, where everything seems to end happily.

Having said that, I think that DMFM is easily one of the more dense movies I've ever seen in terms of plot. The attempted murder near the beginning is stunningly shot, but never as stunning as Grace Kelly. :) I like that the character she is romantically involved with is pretty much completely clueless about the husband's plan throughout the entire movie. I don't know the name of the guy that plays the Scotland Yard inspector (I know he was in some episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents), but I think I could watch him in anything.

Hitchcock. I could go on and on... :)

Alex P.
08-19-2008, 12:45 PM
I don't know the name of the guy that plays the Scotland Yard inspector (I know he was in some episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents), but I think I could watch him in anything.

Hitchcock. I could go on and on... :)

Cosigned on Dial M.... While it's almost too theatrical for my taste, the fantastic plot makes up for any other gripes I might have

The actor you're referring to is named John Willams. The ending shot of him brushing his mustache as he picks up the phone may be one of my favorite endings ever

Steve R
08-19-2008, 02:04 PM
Frederic Knott who wrote DMFM also wrote Wait Until Dark. He's very good at that sort of thing!

and I really liked how Hitch would find and adapt material from a nice variety of sources. Speaking of NXNW - now that one has a great script!. and Barry, you may be right that some of the shots in it, with the right technicolor look would be the flagship for any new presentation process.

Troy Howarth
08-19-2008, 04:19 PM
Foreign Correspondent: Beautifully paced and acted from top to bottom. There are more great setpieces here than in a dozen similarly themed espionage thrillers, from the sea of umbrellas to the final plane crash. Great, great film - definitely one of Hitchcock's best movies.

Ryan Clark
08-19-2008, 04:50 PM
Foreign Correspondent: Beautifully paced and acted from top to bottom. There are more great setpieces here than in a dozen similarly themed espionage thrillers, from the sea of umbrellas to the final plane crash. Great, great film - definitely one of Hitchcock's best movies.

I completely agree, Troy. I just watched this for the first time a couple days ago and was surprised by how good it was, as it is one of Hitchcock's lesser known pictures. It's a great movie from beginning to end. The scene of the plane sinking into the ocean near the end is extremely intense! I would definitely place Foreign Correspondent in my Hitchcock top ten.

I also watched Suspicion and Stage Fright, and they were slightly disappointing in that they were merely entertaining and nothing more. Suspicion certainly would have been raised a couple of notches if they had used the original ending Hitchcock had in mind (which was never shot). I doubt Stage Fright would have been half as fun without the presence of the great Marlene Dietrich -- though everyone else was very good in their roles, she stole the show.

Troy Howarth
08-19-2008, 05:46 PM
My only real problem with it is the flag-waving speech at the end, but I understand why it's there - you have to accept films in the context in which they were made. It's so damn good that I can't fault it too much for that.

Stage Fright is great - I would say, though, that while I like Dietrich, Alistair Sim steals the show. :)

Ryan Clark
08-19-2008, 05:54 PM
I have to say that Joyce Grenfell also made a big impression in her brief role as the woman at the "Lovely Ducks" booth. What a goofy, toothy actress. :D

Troy Howarth
08-19-2008, 06:06 PM
Yeah, she's great. The film really has a very appealing cast - I'm not normally keen on Jane Wyman, for example, but I like her in this. Kay Walsh, Miles Malleson, Andre Morell, Richard Todd... lots of wonderful actors on display.

Ryan Clark
08-19-2008, 06:11 PM
Yes, the cast is remarkable, which is why I was somewhat letdown when the film turned out to be just average Hitchcock. Of course, average Hitchcock is still pretty damn good.

Troy Howarth
08-19-2008, 06:14 PM
The story is a bit weak, but I love the twist - I'm amazed this was considered a cheat when it's really anything but. In terms of sheer entertainment value, I'd rate the film pretty high - mid-tier Hitchcock, I'd argue, rather than lower.

Troy Howarth
08-21-2008, 07:21 AM
The Wrong Man: Hitchcock's one and only fact-based film is also one of his strongest, and least appreciated. Henry Fonda is wonderful as the titular character - he brings an emotional depth to the film one doesn't always get in Hitch's more calculating movies, and it's to be regretted he never worked with him again. Vera Miles is his equal as Fonda's wife, who gradually succumbs to insanity as her husband's fate seems more and more sealed. Bernard Herrmann contributes another terrific soundtrack, and the use of of camera is restrained in deferrence to the story. Very underrated.

Chuk H
08-21-2008, 03:20 PM
I have no Hitchcock on dvd yet. Would anyone like to recommend the best versions to get?

I am most interested in the following films:

Vertigo
North by Northwest
Torn Curtain
Rear Window
Psycho
The Birds
Notorious
Strangers on a Train

I would also welcome recommendations from you Hitch-philes on any films not on this list!

Troy Howarth
08-21-2008, 05:25 PM
Vertigo, Psycho and Rear Window are being re-released in October; wait on those. The 2-disc edition of Strangers on a Train includes the theatrical and preview cuts. Notorious is also coming out on DVD in October, but I don't think I'll be buying it as it's not a favorite.

Of the ones not there, I'd recommend The Wrong Man, Foreign Correspondent, The 39 Steps (Criterion), The Lady Vanishes (Criterion), Frenzy and Marnie most highly.

Steve R
08-21-2008, 06:20 PM
Chuk,

The Masterpiece Collection is still a very good buy with a killer collection of titles and very nice looking editions. It includes Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, The Birds and Torn Curtain. There were some issues raised with the Birds (I have the earlier release). knda picky..if you are, then read up and maybe pick up the stand alone.

I've not heard the the new releases will be upgraded in terms of transfers.

The Strangers set, as Troy said, is a great one.

I have the previous (current) NXNW and am real happy with it.

dave hartley
08-21-2008, 06:26 PM
I am most interested in the following films:

Assuming you want R1 :-

Warners :
Strangers on a Train - 2 disc special edition
North by North West - 2001 DVD - OOP but not difficult to pick up
both are in the 10 disc Warners Signature collection (the North by North West disc in that is identical to the 2001 standalone)

Universal :
Vertigo
Rear Window
Psycho
The Birds

Currently the best are the 2005 discs in the 15 disc Masterpiece Collection box set (earlier standalone discs were non-anamorphic) BUT as Troy says new 2 disc Legacy Series discs of all four are due to be released in Oct. Whether the extra's on these are going to be worth it is up for debate. (And the cost of all four is a fair chunk of the cost of the box if you shop around).

Universal :-
Torn Curtain currently the 2006 standalone disc - but it's also in the Masterpiece Collection box set.

Notorious :- the best version to date IMO is the OOP Criterion - good luck finding a real one - ebay and Amazon Marketplace have been awash with bootlegs for a long time. MGM are including this with the other Selznik produced titles in the Premiere Collection box set they're issuing in October.

The forthcoming MGM box, the Warners Signature Collection box and the Universal Masterpiece Collection box will give you pretty much his entire US output plus a couple of his British titles. Whether you want that much Hitch is another matter :)

Chuk H
08-21-2008, 08:19 PM
Assuming you want R1 :-


The forthcoming MGM box, the Warners Signature Collection box and the Universal Masterpiece Collection box will give you pretty much his entire US output plus a couple of his British titles. Whether you want that much Hitch is another matter :)

I may end up getting those. I tend to go "whole hog" when I decide to collect a director's works. With all the PD releases out there it's been a little confusing knowing which releases would be "definitive".

Thanks Dave, Troy and Steve for the advice! :)

Al Edwards
08-21-2008, 08:22 PM
I think The Wrong Man is underrated as well. An interesting atypical Hitchcock film with some effective performances all around. I first saw this film at the Harvard Film Archive in 1997 or 1998, and I liked it. I've gotten to like the film more on second and third viewings. The only minus was the ending.

Troy Howarth
08-21-2008, 09:53 PM
What didn't you like about the ending, Al? I thought it worked perfectly well, myself.

Just watched North By Northwest, a film I *really* OD'd on back in the day - had a ball with it tonight, though. Grant is perfect here, and James Mason is always a wonderfully suave villain - wish he was in it a bit more, though. It moves at a terrific clip, despite the length (it's actually Hitchcock's longest film at 136 minutes), and it has plenty of wit and style to spare.

Al Edwards
08-21-2008, 11:47 PM
What didn't you like about the ending, Al? I thought it worked perfectly well, myself.


When I meant ending, I was thinking of the text coda after the last scene in which the wife is revealed to have recovered and got better, when in actuality the real wife that the character is based on did not get better and recover. Just a minor criticism of a film I like overall.

Steve R
08-22-2008, 06:55 AM
NXNW has consistently been my top Hitchcock over all the years. Excitng and a lot of fun. Killer set pieces and use of locations.

It is amazing how quicklyt it moves along, that whole opening sequence with Grant's mother is terrific.

Mason's line delivery is up there with Sidney Greenstreet as one of the most memorable suave cool thriller/adventure villians.

Mr. Thorndyke....... I worked in a film distribution office once where we'd page Mr. Throndyke over the intercom all the time.

Troy Howarth
08-22-2008, 07:24 AM
Al - I wasn't aware the facts were softened for the coda; I can agree with you on that.

Steve - I could watch Mason in anything. The only time he ever stumbled was when he tried for an American accent, something he fortunately doesn't do here. I read he was Hitch's first choice for the lead in Rope, and I'm sure I'd enjoy the film much more with him - no disrespect to Stewart, of course!

Troy Howarth
08-23-2008, 11:04 AM
The Birds: This one still holds up, even from a technical point of view. It's not surprising it took three years to finish this one - there are so many complicated trick shots spread throughout. Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette and Jessica Tandy are terrific - Tippi Hedren less so, though she's acceptable before her character begins to crack. The scene of Hedren sitting on the bench, blissfully unaware that the birds are gathering behind her, is a classic. And that ending is a stunner - I love it. I still hate that silly montage of faces frozen in fear when the gas station explodes, however.

Troy Howarth
08-24-2008, 12:54 PM
Marnie: Oh if only Grace Kelly had said yes to this. The story is fascinating. Connery is perfect, despite being an odd piece of casting for a Philadelphia businessman. It looks great. Bernard Herrmann's music is gorgeous. Then you have Tippi Hedren giving a shrill performance in the lead. With that in mind, I really shouldn't love the film as much as I do - but I do, lousy process shots and all. Truthfully, while it's as much Hitchcock's fault for refusing to update his technique and go on location, I do think the phoney mattes and process shots add to the film's expressionist vibe. It's never terribly realistic, anyway. I just wish he would have gotten a real actress to play this complex role. Oh well, love it just the same.

Troy Howarth
08-25-2008, 07:22 AM
Torn Curtain: If you can get past a sluggish and uninteresting first act, this isn't half as bad as its reputation suggests. Hitchcock and Newman had no rapport, and the gifted actor is stuck playing an unsympathetic hero - he does as well as he can, but without a director to help him bring out nuance, he just kind of sits there. Julie Andrews doesn't fare much better. The DVD allows one to see some scenes scored by Bernard Herrmann - truthfully, it doesn't seem to have been one of his better scores, and I don't know that I can pick between it and the one John Addison did for the final product; neither is exactly stunning. Definitely a lesser Hitch, but with some great scenes: the murder, the bus ride, Newman tricking the professor into revealing his secret, the theatre, etc.

Troy Howarth
08-25-2008, 09:39 PM
Topaz: A bit more compelling than Torn Curtain, though it doesn't really "feel" like Hitchcock movie. Frederick Stafford is a weak and uninspiring lead, but there's some good work from the supporting cast. John Vernon is curious casting as a Cuban, but he gives a solid performance. The same can be said for Karin Dor. It's always nice to see Michel Piccoli and Phillippe Noiret. The cinematography is of a good standard, and Maurice Jarre contributes a fine score. The overhead "flower" shot is the main standout, visually, but it's nicely done on the whole. Not a classic awaiting reappraisal, not even close, but I still enjoyed it.

Troy Howarth
08-28-2008, 04:57 PM
Frenzy: Truffaut was right - this is like the film of a young man. It definitely harkens back to his older films, and the plot may seem a bit old fashioned, but it works beautifully. The cast is flawless, Hitchcock guides it with a sure and steady hand, and there are some magnificnet setpieces. The graphic rape/murder is deeply disturbing because you've been made to care for the victim. Oh, and Ron Goodwin's score is wonderful - definitely one of the best non-Herrmann soundtracks Hitch ever had.

dave hartley
08-28-2008, 09:14 PM
Interesting reading your take on Frenzy which couldn't be more different to mine. I first saw it on initial general release and as a teenager I didn't feel the slightest generational bond. (Ok, I know that's not what Truffaut was talking about...). I found its tone uncertain and inconsistent, for example I thought the running gag about the policemans wife's cooking was pretty feeble and really didn't gell well with the tone of the reat of the film. In his prime Hitchcock could have pulled that off that sort of contrast without any trouble.

It didn't help that it's picture of Covent Garden in no way corresponded to reality. In 1971 when Hitchcock was shooting it (with a good deal of media coverage of his 'return' to the UK) the market was a couple of years from planned closure and a shadow of what it had been. The local economy of the area around it had depended on the market and in consequence was very run down. It had become home to an active community of campaigners against the redevelopment plans together with a fair number of squats and bohemian and hippie enterprises. My personal recollections of Covent Garden in 1971 are things like an Oz magazine benefit in the basement formerly occupied by Middle Earth club, or waiting in the squatted offices of the Street Aid project for news of friends busted on a demonstration, or Londons first comic shop Dark They Were and Golden Eyed. Clearly my experience wasn't everyones. But in Frenzy apart from some of the clothes and hairstyles the late sixties simply hadn't happened. Looking at it with youthful intolerance the following year all I could feel was a mixture of mild disatisfaction and disappointment. It certainly looked to me like an old mans film.

Looking at it now I'm afraid I don't feel all that much different - although as I slide towards late middle age I'm more prepared to cut Hitchcock some slack for not being young :). I think the decision to update the story (taken from a book set just after the war) to the '60s was a serious mistake. Did he want to avoid comparisons with 10 Rillington Place released the year before ? The anachronisms the film retained just made things worse. It's portrayal of policemen looked dreadfully old fashioned ten years after Z Cars had transgformed the way they were represented on UK TV. It looks to me as if Hitchcock was attempting to make a film he might have made in the fifties but without the same censorship retrictions. Some 'lovely' set pieces but imo a seriously flawed film.

Troy Howarth
08-28-2008, 09:44 PM
I can respect your opinion, Dave, even if we're very much opposed. The youthful quality, for me, stems from the film's experimental quality - some great use of image and sound, I think - as well as its basic energy. Unlike you, I did like the running gag with the Alec McCowen and Vivien Merchant characters. True, Hitchcock avoids bringing in "mod" London, but I don't tend to think of his cinema in strictly realistic terms. For me, ultimately, it's as gripping and entertaining a film as he ever made. :)

Jonathan Douglas
08-29-2008, 08:53 AM
Candidate for best suspense sequence ever filmed, is that potato truck ride with Foster and corpse, for me the best part of an already excellent film.

Troy Howarth
08-29-2008, 04:26 PM
The potato truck scene is a gem, no question about it. It's one of his best paced films, I think - much as I love so many of his films, there aren't so many that chug along as well as this one. I don't have any real problems with it, personally.

Tom H Watts
08-29-2008, 06:07 PM
Can I throw in a good word for Topaz? Not in a deliberately contrary sort of way, I think it is one of his classics. I think of the authority and the deliberation with which the camera seems to move, especially in the defection sequence which absolutely knocked me out, Hitchcock's use of silence in scenes where anyone else would just give the exposition or turn up the music, the repeated shots of shining or sparkling things - a sudden flare from a piece of jewellery, a bare light bulb shot from above, and the frequent shots of interiors with a door ajar at the side or an empty bit of carpet - the way so few of the interiors seem lived-in. To me it conveys very powerfully the emptiness and loneliness of politics, and the damage it inflicts on the inner lives of the people involved in or manipulated by it. And for extra, a strong black character, that very tense episode with the suitcase, and that cynical 2nd choice ending (the one on my DVD).

I also have a lot of admiration for Frenzy, which says a lot about what Britain was like in the 70s. People can forget, partly on account of the supposed ruthlessness of the 80s (actually a time, I think, when human kindness flowered alongside the enterprise), how mean and bitter the 70s could be. The casual misogyny I had forgotten, but watching Frenzy it came back to me - the cheap way people talked - as if they knew the country was fucked but they were damned if some stupid bitch was going to spoil their last cigarette. And the smoke filled rooms and the inedible aspirational food. If someone who knew nothing whatever about the UK was told that say, five years after the making of Frenzy, there was a military coup and another five years of intermittent civil war I think they might believe it - and they might have been right! Political violence in those years was very much in the air, and like the best artists, Hitchcock's antennae caught it.

Dave's impressions make extremely interesting reading though - different lives make different realities. I might have spend too much of my life in surburbia among the small shop keepers, but maybe Hitchcock, from his own life, understood particularly well the aspirational working class. Those lives have no connection with Bohemia really.

Mind you, my favourite Hitch's are Notorious and the second Man Who Knew Too Much, both pretty orthodox choices.

Ryan Clark
08-29-2008, 07:11 PM
I never thought about Topaz quite in that way, Tom. Your post has made me want to go back and revisit that film to look for things I didn't notice the first time around. :)

Your thoughts on Frenzy are fascinating, too. Please do post more of your readings of Hitchcock!

Troy Howarth
08-30-2008, 12:18 PM
Interesting thoughts on Topaz, Tom, even if I can't share your enthusiasm for either Notorious (though I will give it another shot) and the second Man Who Knew Too Much. I do think Topaz tends to get a bad rap. Perhaps the lack of star power hurts it - though none of Hitch's post-Torn Curtain films have much in that department, presumably because his experience with Newman and Andrews was so unpleasant. It's a very different film for him, but it's by no means a complete and utter failure. The best stuff in it is absolutely brilliant - I just don't think it hangs together too well as a whole.

Steve R
08-31-2008, 12:02 PM
Thanks for the thoughts on Topaz and Torn Curtain. I've got that Materpiece collectoin and have given them a pass regularly.

I've only seen each once and felt very let down. Frenzy was such a return to form. He truly had fun with what he could now get away with and showed some real flare with more inventive camera shots. There is a renewed sense of threat in the villian, a smarminess that he hadn't be able to look at to closely before. He also had that great sense of black humor running again.

Topaz and Torn curtain just semed to lack his personaltiy to me. Hitch films, even the ones that are toward the bottom of my list all seem to have his point of view...as if he's got an arm around you and is pointing out what interests him. That goes from cool settings, locations, buildings.... to odd crimes... to an appreciation of a villian's point of view ...that classic voyeur leer that nudges you and says hey lookit this (wink wink) ...or better let's look at this but never say we saw it, okay.... he displayed a point of view.

Topaz and Torn Curtain were just kind of okay and dull to me. I never felt he was all that interested in showimg me something in these. But they are his films and I'm glad for your thoughts to fuel another look.

Troy Howarth
08-31-2008, 12:50 PM
Neither are top tier, Steve, but both look like masterpieces compared to Family Plot - I know it has its defenders, but I've seen it several times and always felt it was pretty dreadful. Topaz doesn't have the "feel" of a Hitchcock film, but it seems to me he was trying for something different - and it very nearly works. Torn Curtain is a movie of great moments without sufficient narrative glue or interesting characters to sustain it as a whole.

Troy Howarth
09-14-2008, 05:34 PM
Well, I finished reading Donald Spotto's biography of Hitch, The Dark Side of Genius. Great read, very objective and respectful without being sycophantic. Most surprising was the realization that Hitch's infatuation with Tippi Hedren got disastrously out of control, with him making an overt play for her and being shot down. He was so devastated by being rejected that he threatened to ruin her and lost all interest in the film, hence the shoddy postproduction work. Many won't like to hear it, but the excuses that this stuff was deliberate in an artistic sense are merely that: excuses. Spotto had put forth the whole expressionist angle in his critical study of the films and admits that he was off base, and that the film - still worthwhile despite its flaws - was essentially sabotaged by a jilted director. Fascinating stuff, and very revealing of its enigmatic subject.

Paul A J Lewis
09-14-2008, 05:43 PM
Ach, in the month when I'm not around there's a massive Hitchcock thread on the go. Typical, eh? :D

When I've got the time I shall read through the thread and chip in my tuppen'orth.

Jeffrey Allen Rydell
09-14-2008, 07:31 PM
objective
Not a term Spotto's many critics often choose to employ.

Troy Howarth
09-14-2008, 07:32 PM
Would you care to expand on that, Jeffrey?

Troy Howarth
09-14-2008, 07:34 PM
Ach, in the month when I'm not around there's a massive Hitchcock thread on the go. Typical, eh? :D

When I've got the time I shall read through the thread and chip in my tuppen'orth.

I figured you'd be happy to hear I've come around to Hitch. :)

Right now I'm watching Under Capricorn - handsome film, but it's too early to tell whether I think it really works or not.

Jeffrey Allen Rydell
09-14-2008, 07:59 PM
Would you care to expand on that, Jeffrey?
Didn't find much online about it, otherwise I would've added to my original. My understanding is that there are quite a few Hitch fans who feel Spotto is more than a bit of a gossip-monger, and that his work in general (and Hitch in particular) should be taken with a bit of salt.

Could just be some ruffled feathers over bringing an icon down to earth, but the animus is definitely out there. It seemed to crop up more a few years back, now that I think about it.

CarterStevens
09-14-2008, 08:23 PM
the film - still worthwhile despite its flaws - was essentially sabotaged by a jilted director.

This happens more than you would think. I worked on one film as Associate Producer and the Director and lead actress were having an affair, All through production and post production. It was a stormy relationship to say the least and every time you looked at the edit of a scene you could tell if they were fighting or were lovey dovey. The editor of the film was George Bowers a top notch editor and everytime I would question an edit he would shrug and say "Director's prerogative."

dave hartley
09-14-2008, 08:56 PM
I thought Spoto's 'Dark Side' was interesting when I first read it but over the years since I've come to revise my view of it quite strongly. Two reasons for that. Firstly I've come to mistrust it. I note that while Spoto is careful to cite sources, for the crucial few pages giving his account of Hitchcock's advances to Hedren and it's aftermath there isn't a single citation. I haven't read his new book on Hitchcock "Spellbound by Beauty" but when I read in a review that it's based on interview material he was asked to suppress until his sources were dead I'm afraid I start smelling a very large rat.

His suggestion that Hitchcock 'lost interest' in Marnie after being rejected by Hedren is contradicted by the production and post-production history in Tony Lee Moral's book 'Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie" (Large extracts can be read here in Google books (http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&id=hTFAC7wSuW4C&dq=tony+lee+moral&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=UvOyJHoCTT&sig=WFEpWlP6UnSrGI1BuwjvdbdZV9c&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result)). At the very least this suggest's that the film's visible flaws such as the process work can't be accounted for in the way that Spoto's narrative does.

And I find this 1999 round table discussion (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3768/is_199901/ai_n8846083/print) with a number of his actresses about his treatment of them more compelling than Spoto's broad thesis on the subject.

The other reason I've come to revise my view of Spoto's book is the tiresome 'Dark Side of Hitchcock' industry it launched. Here's a notable example in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/friday_review/story/0,,281738,00.html). In the round table discussion I linked to above Hedren discusses the reality of one often told incident in which Hitchcock sent a present of a doll to her daughter Melanie Griffith which upset her. Compare that to the account in this Guardian article which goes on to suggest "This might explain why Griffith turned into such a wild child." Jesus fucking wept.

There's a degree of irony about the fact that Hitchcock - one of the directors most actively involved in marketing himself and in controlling his public persona - should thereby have also laid the foundation on which this posthumous industry of bollocks could be built. The difference is that while Hitchcock's well oiled PR may often be pretty misleading it is at least interesting as part of the mechanism by which his career was developed. The 'Dark Side' industry is simply selling a dubious moral narrative about him.

Troy Howarth
09-14-2008, 09:12 PM
Didn't find much online about it, otherwise I would've added to my original. My understanding is that there are quite a few Hitch fans who feel Spotto is more than a bit of a gossip-monger, and that his work in general (and Hitch in particular) should be taken with a bit of salt.

Could just be some ruffled feathers over bringing an icon down to earth, but the animus is definitely out there. It seemed to crop up more a few years back, now that I think about it.

Interesting. I'm inclined to think that it's likely as you say it is - ruffled feathers and all that - but at the same time, as we know, it's not always a good thing to believe everything one reads. That said, being that Spotto is clearly an enormous fan of the man's work, I don't think it necessarily fair to assume he's just gossip-mongering. Often times, people like to put their idols on a pedestal - Hitchcock was ultimately a human being with many fine points and some bad ones, and I think Spotto's book reflects that very well.

Steve R
09-14-2008, 11:05 PM
First off , you gotta say the whole rumor, , "Hitchcock sent a present of a doll to her daughter Melanie Griffith" The stroy goes he gave the little girl a a present. She unwapped it to find a small perfect replica of a coffin. Inside was a doll, done up to look just like her mother.

Spotto is not well regarded in film crit as he does dwell more on the gossip. There are many others who will go further, and off the deep end in analysis of his films. There are many other Hitch books that are better. However most have read several and it's best to do so to get a more well rounded look at him. I must have read four or five...

I've heard the Making of Pyscho book is very good. That's on my list for a Winter read

Troy Howarth
09-15-2008, 07:25 AM
Trouble is, it seems like so much that's out there is basically just fan stuff - nothing wrong with that, but is an adoring, sanitized look really all that more insightful than one that is willing to tackle the less than savory aspects? I mean, like I said, nobody is perfect.

Troy Howarth
09-15-2008, 04:15 PM
Under Capricorn: As far as Hitchcock costume melodramas go, this is a damn sight better than Jamaica Inn... not that that is a ringing endorsement in itself. The performances and cinematography are excellent, though it seems Bergman lost her Irish accent after the first couple of scenes. Hitchcock carries over the anti-cinematic long take approach from Rope, but only sparingly - and it works a bit better because of it. Not top tier Hitchcock, but worth a look for completists.

Troy Howarth
09-15-2008, 05:30 PM
Dial M For Murder: I dunno... this one isn't so great, IMO. It comes from a stage play, of course, and it remains a stagey experience. Ray Milland, John Williams and Anthony Dawson are great, Grace Kelly is gorgeous, and I can't stomach Robert Cummings. It has one GREAT setpiece (the attempted murder that goes wrong) but much of it unfolds in a rather indifferent manner.

Steve R
09-15-2008, 06:01 PM
Fred Knapp who wrote Dial M also wrote Wait Until Dark. Another stage play made into a super successful movie. There is a wonderful set piece closer in this one, too.

Yes they are both kinda stagey but Hitch, and Alma, read and saw alot. I think it is very telling the vast amount of stories, books and plays that he adapted into his films. Look how he opend up Rope without taking it anywhere. Just the opposite, he held to that one set and really cooked it. Can you imagine how he always had his antenna up for any potential story. So many directors today will write drivel cause they are some kind of auteur. Hitch looked for a good story simply becuase he knew you needed a good story to start with. My point. He read alot and really knew the genre he worked in. Surpirses me how little some today know about the field. I wonder if he ever read any Jim Thompson? Wouldn't you love to see a jukebox style list of what books were on his nighttable?

Troy Howarth
09-15-2008, 07:10 PM
See, I think Wait Until Dark is much better - it feels much more like a film, whereas I think Dial M feels primarily like a filmed play. I don't know that Hitchcock really believed in the film, so much as he was looking for an easy hit - he purchased the rights to the play knowing it to be a sure fire proposition, and was content to just shoot it. There is something to be said for that, sure, but it doesn't make for dynamic cinema, IMO.

Jonathan Douglas
09-16-2008, 01:47 PM
It's Kelly's best role for him though, she was a gorgeous woman but a good actress she was not IMHO. Hedren, she could actually act. Incidentally, Psycho was on TV last night so I watched it again for the first time in some years, and it's still such a kick-ass wonderful film. I like it now a lot more than I used to, thought it a tad overrated before, but I didn't recognise or appreciate the beauty of the performances then. In particularly Perkins and Balsam blew me away this time, Leigh's great too of course. The rave is well deserved.

Troy Howarth
09-17-2008, 07:23 AM
I think she's better in Rear Window, personally.

Bill Pissott
09-17-2008, 09:06 AM
Topaz and Torn Curtain were just kind of okay and dull to me. I never felt he was all that interested in showimg me something in these. But they are his films and I'm glad for your thoughts to fuel another look.


I would definitely give TORN CURTAIN another look Steve. Personally, I'm a sucker for those cold war era espionage flicks but this Hitch vehicle works for me. I don't think it's the clunker a lot of folks think it is. The pace is definitely deliberate but also on the move at the same time. Photography is very nice and very colorful and what Newman and his cohort do to that East German spy in the farmhouse is one of the most brutal things I have ever seen. I think it's an underrated film myself.

Steve R
09-17-2008, 02:01 PM
That's two recommends from people whose taste I admire, so I'll give it another look. I'll save it for a nice really cold Winter afternoon. I have it in the red crushed velvet Masterpiece set with the famous portrait outline on it, so every time I pass, Hitch will be reminding me to give it another look now. I'll let you know.

Bill Pissott
09-17-2008, 03:34 PM
I hope you enjoy it more this time around Steve. Definitely let us know.

Troy Howarth
09-17-2008, 04:14 PM
I would definitely give TORN CURTAIN another look Steve. Personally, I'm a sucker for those cold war era espionage flicks but this Hitch vehicle works for me. I don't think it's the clunker a lot of folks think it is. The pace is definitely deliberate but also on the move at the same time. Photography is very nice and very colorful and what Newman and his cohort do to that East German spy in the farmhouse is one of the most brutal things I have ever seen. I think it's an underrated film myself.

I don't think it's a clunker, but I don't particularly agree that it's underrated, either. I think it's a film of magnificent sequences, but it doesn't hang together as a whole. The script wasn't any good to start with, something that really upset both Newman and Hitchcock, and it never really came together. The film is definitely worth seeing, however, and, again, it has some terrific setpieces.

Steve R
09-24-2008, 08:25 AM
Seeing this again for the first time in many years, on the DVD from the Masterpiece collection, I was struck at how gorgeous the photography was. Really deep rich colors. And the composition and framing was deliberate as usual, but just gotta stop and say that Hitch seemed to get more perspective out of that 1:85:1 widescreen ratio than anyone else. We all remember the classic shots and set pieces, but even that office scene where Julie Andrews decides to defect so she can be with Newman, he sets up all these triangles with the Germans. One right next to me, pushed up close to the edge of the frame, one off center and one way, way, way back almost leaving the scene through that large window frame.

Yes that farm sequence holds up magnificently. Loved how it started with the bowl of gruel being thrown at the phone and splattering all over the wall as all the music drops out. Gromik was a terrific character, menacing and that little trick of hanging onto those American phrases, chewing gum, and alway leaning set him up as being very evil. However once he was gone,for me, all the threat of the movie went with him. There was no one else that seemed like any real danger. Someone really should have picked up the script and said, your climax is Newman and that old guy trading math equations on a chalk board?

I enjoyed it and actually liked it a bunch more than I had thought I would. Hitch is such a class act.

Bill Pissott
09-24-2008, 08:55 AM
Glad you liked it better this time around Steve. Yeah, it has it's problems but it's one of my faves.

M Sanderson
09-24-2008, 05:10 PM
Hitchcock's great. The critics went way overboard in the 50s & 60s (Hitchcock as profound moralist). To me, he's a cinematic mischief maker, with a precise mastery of form and a good sense of humour in the thriller genre.

I also see him as a bit of a conservative filmmaker. He wasn't one to rock the boat (even regretting killing the boy off in SABOTAGE). The "transference of guilt" theme has long been over emphasised. As Raymond Durgnat wrote, the guilt theme was quite limited. The punishments of "naughty" characters are out of proportion to what they did, or thought of doing. Other directors would have made the screenplays more morally complex than Hitch did - wouldn't it have been awesome if Blaney took a crowbar to a live woman's head, at the end of FRENZY, for instance? Wouldn't that be some transference of guilt?

Sad to see that Hitch never made an outright film noir. Could he have done dark stuff comparable with the great films noirs? I don't think he had the temperament. But I think his films could have been deeper perhaps if he had made such films (not that AH ever claimed to be a profound filmmaker, on the contrary; asnd not that a great director has to have a great theme that he returns to each film).

In praise of Hitchcock, he did a great deal for sound cinema, had an amazing feel for rhythm and movement, etc etc.

Troy Howarth
09-24-2008, 05:42 PM
That's a very sensible analysis. I've rediscovered love for his work, but I wouldn't say he was always on form, that everything he did was worthwhile, etc, but he did produce more than his fair share of wonderful films. There are some films of his that I find to be a bit overrated - Spellbound, Dial M for Murder - while there are others that strike me as being very underappreciated - Stage Fright and The Wrong Man, for instance.

Jonathan Douglas
09-25-2008, 04:33 AM
Has anyone mentioned The 39 Steps yet? That's classic Hitchcock through and through, I love every frame of that film, it's one of his most famous for sure. Everybody knows this film, or they know the title anyway, Hitch in the 1930s doesn't get any better than this early masterpiece of suspense cinema.

Al Edwards
09-25-2008, 05:45 AM
I liked the scene(in the 39 Steps) where the main character is looked upon to make a speech and makes one while thinking along of what to say.

Jonathan Douglas
09-25-2008, 06:30 AM
Yes, Robert Donat, he's terrific in this film. Hitch's best wrong man, IMO.

http://img229.imageshack.us/img229/6614/39stepstw2.jpg http://img229.imageshack.us/img229/287/39stepsrobertdonat1jz3.jpg

Troy Howarth
09-25-2008, 07:21 AM
I did a mini-review of 39 Steps a while back - definitely one of Hitchcock's finest films, and I agree that Donat was perfect. Hitch tried to get Donat several more times - for Sabotage, Secret Agent and Rebecca - but it never worked out.

Steve R
09-25-2008, 01:50 PM
I always had the feeling, though never substantiated, that Hitch liked to work with good actors who were self sufficient. Ones who could handle their own acting craft, motivation and character. Thus freeing him to re-create the magnificent tableaus he envisioned for each film without having to fuss over their egos and needs.

I thought that's why he returned to certain actors again and again. And conversely only worked with some once.

Jonathan Douglas
09-26-2008, 04:00 AM
Some actors he worked too much with, Like Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Quite a few actors I'd liked to have seen he'd worked more with, Leslie Banks, Henry Hull, Frank Cellier, Peter Lorre, Gerald Sim and Sylvia Sidney. And of course many more he never worked with, from Karloff to Monroe, some perhaps due to prejudice so widespread in the past.

Troy Howarth
09-26-2008, 01:00 PM
I always had the feeling, though never substantiated, that Hitch liked to work with good actors who were self sufficient. Ones who could handle their own acting craft, motivation and character. Thus freeing him to re-create the magnificent tableaus he envisioned for each film without having to fuss over their egos and needs.

I thought that's why he returned to certain actors again and again. And conversely only worked with some once.

Hitchcock and Bava were much alike in this regard: they loved actors who knew their job, did it well and didn't ask too many questions.

I can't agree Hitchcock worked too much with Cary Grant (four times is too many??), especially since they worked so well together and brought out the best in each other, but I do agree that he would have done well to use some other actors more often than he did.

Jonathan Douglas
09-26-2008, 01:11 PM
Well, I'm not the world's biggest fan of Grant's acting, so many other actors could've done just as good as Mr. Tanned Surprise. Mocking it up in Arsenic and Old Lace he's fine, but romance (which Hitch always added a lot of) is not why I like Hitchcock films.

Steve R
09-26-2008, 01:25 PM
Cary Grant is one of my top Hitchcock actors. I thought he brought just that right amount of romantic breeze to the character yet could also handle the adventure. NXNW has some very funny scenes with his mom and very harrowing bits as well - cropduster. He really shines for me in Suspicion, too.

I think that's one of the reasons that Torn Curtain lags behind the others for me. Newman seemed to be playing a very heavy dramatic role. Julie Andrews appeared apprehensive throughout. There was a lack of humor and daring-do in the film. However I do find myself appreciating it more for other reasons.

Even when Hitch was at his darkest (with a couple exceptions) they was a playfulness. Maybe not as broad as Hume Cronyn and his friend in Shadow of a Doubt, but still there. I think it takes a certain kind of actor to pull that off. It's a delicate cocktail and although the script has to be there, particularly in the dialogue, it really is served mostly by the actor. I think Hitch worked very hard to cast those who could bring that to his films, without his having to explain it all. Those that got it, he worked better with.

Jeffrey Allen Rydell
09-26-2008, 01:40 PM
Well, I'm not the world's biggest fan of Grant's acting, so many other actors could've done just as good as Mr. Tanned Surprise. Mocking it up in Arsenic and Old Lace he's fine, but romance (which Hitch always added a lot of) is not why I like Hitchcock films.
So, Grant's not the problem, it's Hitchcock's shoehorning in of romantic elements?

Troy Howarth
09-26-2008, 02:40 PM
Well, I'm not the world's biggest fan of Grant's acting, so many other actors could've done just as good as Mr. Tanned Surprise. Mocking it up in Arsenic and Old Lace he's fine, but romance (which Hitch always added a lot of) is not why I like Hitchcock films.

I get ya. I like Grant, personally, so I was happy to have him in Suspicion and North By Northwest. I'm not keen on To Catch a Thief or Notorious, though.

Jonathan Douglas
09-26-2008, 03:15 PM
So, Grant's not the problem, it's Hitchcock's shoehorning in of romantic elements?

It's both really. I prefer the Hitchcock anti hero, ala Finch or Todd, an actor not screaming I'm the handsome hero at you. With Grant you know he's going to make it, but it doesn't mean I can't enjoy the film.

Troy Howarth
09-26-2008, 06:45 PM
Richard Todd is certainly an actor Hitch should have used again; Alistair Sim, also in Stage Fright, is another one.

Troy Howarth
10-09-2008, 07:22 AM
Got the three new 2 disc SEs from Universal yesterday: Psycho, Rear Window and Vertigo. Popped Vertigo in for a spot check, as it's the one that most needed a remastering, and it looked very nice. It also includes the mono track, which I think the previous release was lacking.

Jonathan Douglas
10-09-2008, 12:25 PM
I ordered only Psycho this month to begin with, and the new MGM box, looking forward to seeing that set particularly. Will you be reviewing any Hitchcock in the coming future, Troy?

Steve R
10-09-2008, 01:37 PM
Troy,

With the very minimal new features, these sets seemingly stand on the new transfers. I've heard some rumblings..... let me know what you think. Be curious to see what some of our resident color experts have to say.

I thought that the old transfer of Rear Window was pretty damn spectacular anyway. Psycho seemed fine, too and that edition -whether bought stand alone or in the big masterpiece box had some astounding extras. The same one in this new one.

Please weigh in with your thoughts after you've checked 'em out.

Steve

Troy Howarth
10-09-2008, 04:30 PM
Vertigo offers a new commentary by William Friedkin. Rear Window has a commentary, whereas the old release did not.

As to reviews... don't think so, but I'll surely share my thoughts!

dave hartley
10-10-2008, 06:56 PM
DVDBeaver comparisons for Vertigo (http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/vertigo.htm) and Rear Window (http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare6/rearwindow.htm).

Look like clear upgrades (although not as much of an upgrade as the Masterpiece collection versions were over their predecessors). However lots of other things I want this month so these will have to wait a while.

Hmm, why do I get the impression I'm going to really really dislike Friedkin's commentary :)

I gave it a good kicking in this thread (http://avmaniacs.com/forums/showthread.php?t=34354) but Network's R2 'Hitchcock The British Years' collecting his Gainsborough/Gaumont British/Mayflower films is currently £17.99 at HMV (http://hmv.com/hmvweb/simpleSearch.do?searchUID=&pGroupID=-1&adultFlag=false&primaryID=-1&simpleSearchString=hitchcock+the+british+years&btnSubmitSearch.x=0&btnSubmitSearch.y=0) which is a pretty good deal.

Dick Ringeisen
10-10-2008, 07:09 PM
DVD BEaver's comparison shows minor improvment over the masterpiece collection. I'm hoping this means there is a new master, and Blu-rays of the Hitchcock movies are on the way.

That is what has held me back on the Hitchcock Premiere collection. Though it has many of the former OOP Hitchcock titles, for the price, I can't see myself paying for DVD's, when I know Hitchcock films will certainly be on Blu-ray sometime in the future.

.

John P
10-10-2008, 08:40 PM
Best Buy has a special online offer: 2 for $30.

Troy Howarth
10-10-2008, 08:41 PM
I never owned the previous release(s) of Psycho, but this new edition looks pretty comprehensive. I'm very pleased with Vertigo based on my initial - and admittedly cursory - scan of it. The old release was fine for its time but needed an upgrade. I am disappointed to hear, though, that the mono track is not the original mono track. Oh well, I guess it'll do.

Ian Jane
10-10-2008, 08:52 PM
The new Psycho is a really nice set. We watched it a week or so ago and I hadn't seen it in years. I forgot how much I love the film. I picked up the Rear Window and Vertigo SE's today and look forward to delving into those soon. Yeah, they'll be on BR soon enough I'd imagine, but I couldn't resist and found'em early for $18 each.

Ryan Clark
10-10-2008, 09:39 PM
From those screenshots, I see a slight improvement on Rear Window (it's a little sharper), but Vertigo looks like the same transfer from the Masterpiece Collection. I don't know why people are saying it looks better, because it looks exactly the same to me.

Troy Howarth
10-11-2008, 11:05 AM
I'm saying it looks better because I didn't own the Masterpiece Collection. I owned the previous release. In any event, screenshots don't always do the best job of capturing the nuances of a new transfer.

dave hartley
10-13-2008, 03:12 PM
I can't find running time details online for MGM's Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection due out tomorrow. If anyone picks this up I'd be very interested in the running time of this version of The Lodger.

Jonathan Douglas
10-13-2008, 03:18 PM
My set arrived today, says the film runs 100 minutes.

dave hartley
10-13-2008, 08:21 PM
Thanks, that's very interesting. Making the appropriate adjustments for PAL speedup the R2 Concorde version runs 73mins odd, the R2 remastered Network version runs just under 94mins and the BFI Video version runs just under 97mins. They are all different transfers from the same BFI restored print. Assuming for the sake of argument that the BFI print is the same length as the original (supposedly 7685 ft) that gives the following effective frame rates :

Concorde - 28fps
Network restored - 22 fps
BFI Video 21/22 fps
Applying the same assumptions to the MGM print gives us an effective frame rate of 20/21 fps, a little slower than the BFI Video. Doesn't sound wildly inappropriate - be interesting to see how it plays.

This is based on some assumptions so I wouldn't take these speeds too seriously but I think it does show the relative differences between the different transfers correctly.

Why have MGM gone for this speed ? Probably because it meant they could match their transfer to the Ashley Irwin score. Irwins homepage (http://www.ashleyirwin.com/music.html) tells us this was specially composed for ZDF TV in Germany in 1999. And this useful Danish comparison page (http://www.hitchcock.dk/lodger/lodgerdk.htm) by martin-f confirms that version ran 99 mins - pretty close to the MGM version.

Steve R
10-17-2008, 03:08 PM
For anyone who has the set or the new Notorious disc.

I noticed they list in the extras the AFI Tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. There was a very short excerpt of this, just Hitch's taped speech at the end, on the Masterpiece Collection.

Is this in fact the entire special that was on TV, 1979 I think? It was in a two hour slot so prob is 85 minutes or so?

Lemme know. Thanks!

dave hartley
10-17-2008, 08:54 PM
The DVDBeaver (http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/notorious.htm) comparison page says it's just a 3m19s excerpt. Since it's titled The Key to Hitchcock I guess this is the part of the Tribute where Bergman gave him the original wine cellar key from the film.

Steve R
10-18-2008, 11:23 AM
Dave, Thanks, you're right. damn. You'd think they'd release that tribute in in it's entirety in one of the big Hitch sets....:(

I remember really enjoying it. Seemed like such a natural choice

dave hartley
10-18-2008, 03:37 PM
Eleven chunks of it are currently up on youtube (google search link (http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=hitchcock+afi&btnGNS=Search+youtube.com&oi=navquery_searchbox&sa=X&as_sitesearch=youtube.com&hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=TcH)).

Always had mixed feelings about it myself - almost the classic case of a public award when the person honoured is a little too close to being unable to accept it.

Steve R
10-18-2008, 04:50 PM
Dave, You're right about that. Four or five years earlier would have been a lot better!

Al Edwards
10-30-2008, 07:50 PM
http://www.classicflix.com/hitchcock-singles-february-a-366.html

Ryan Clark
10-30-2008, 08:33 PM
Great news, Al! I'm thinking of buying them separately, because a lot of people have been reporting problems with the set at Amazon.

Al Edwards
10-30-2008, 08:51 PM
I am also glad the four titles are getting separte releases because I already have the others(Notorious, Spellbound, Lifeboat, Rebecca) that were part of the boxset.

CarterStevens
10-31-2008, 12:27 AM
Just bought a boxed set of 20 VERY early titles (mostly if not all B&W from his English period and a couple of episodes also b&w from Alfred Hitchcock Presents) for $5 from the Wal-mart bargain bin. Don't know the quality as I haven't unwrapped it yet but hell for $5 I couldn't leave it laying there.

Steve R
11-03-2008, 10:56 PM
Saw the stand alone copy of Notorious I bought tonight. No problems viewing it all all, played fine.

The transfer is good, not great, but good. The extra looks ok though I'm still miffed that the whole AFI tribute is not included, only one small portion.

Steve R
11-05-2008, 01:33 PM
Started Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.

So far it is a richly detailed account of this movie soup to nuts.
First chapter was the real Ed Gein story and now we're checking out what Robert Bloch did with it.

(I still remember that awful pun Forry used to put in FM that Robert Bloch rode a bi-psycho built for two)

Steve R
12-31-2008, 11:43 AM
Carter, I just picked up that same Hitchcock set, The Legend Begins(Millcreek). 20 early British titles and two TV episodes for five bucks at Wal-Mart.

I saw The Chaney Vase, from the first year of the TV series with Darren Mcgavin. The print reminded me of staying up late to catch it on TV. Scratchy and had hole punches... I loved it. Beat up old TV print suited me fine. McGavin is outstanding!

Lady Vanishes - Still a terrific picture and nice to see that wicked sense of humor in full force! The print was fine. A bit light in spots and a couple of audio dropouts but very similar to what we wouldhave seen on TV years back and been totally satisfied with.

I love print restorations and really value the time spent to properly ressurect and return a film to it's initial release glory. The Lowry Bonds are outstanding. However I like that Millcreek and others keep these PD titles in cirulation. So far this is a nice set - just counrting these two, I'm already ahead for five bucks!

Troy Howarth
12-31-2008, 04:57 PM
If you want to see a truly pristine edition of Lady Vanishes, however, check out the Criterion edition - great transfer, and some wonderful extras...

Steve R
06-16-2009, 02:05 PM
I had always kinda backed off from Vertigo. Too much Cahiers Du Cinema hype.
Plus the plot was kinda thin. I saw it twice many years ago and hadn't seen it again since it went out of circulation.

Last night I saw the new DVD restoration and really fell for it. Safe to say you've got to either see an IB Tech print or this new DVD on a nice rig. I was just seduced hook line and sinker. Never before had I really bought into it. And the big revelation was that when Stewart meets Judy after he's barely recovered from the death of Madeline.... she is stunning and much more attractive, fragile. I'd never really fully grasped that Hitch would put a woman like that up on the screen. So opposite to his usual blond ice princesses.

Certainly this works for the story, but you've got this gorgeous woman, just wanting to be appreciated for who she is. Kim Novak plays her emotions much more upfront in contrast to the "other" woman. She lets it all hang out, literally pushing that sweater in ways that I just can't believe Hitch would allow. She plays it loose and carnal. And the real tragedy is that we watch as Jimmy Stewart's character changes her, molds her....and Hitch too carves her into his cold supermodel look, again hiding that beautiful personality, body, and yearning eyes behind that fascade.

I almost think she jumped rather than be twisted again into someone she can't be. Always liked Stewart, Hitch, the fabulous camera work, film tricks and Bernard's score, but Kim Novak really stood out here for the first time to me. I really felt for her character. Good for her! Great performance and nice to see it come through this time. So nice to be able to catch stuff you've missed...in a film that you already know, but never really caught the real inner workings of till this most recent viewing.

djvaso
07-03-2009, 09:26 AM
According to British Video Association, there will be 50th Anniversary Edition of North by Northwest on blu-ray.
Link: http://www.bva.org.uk/node/617663

Jens Thomsen
07-04-2009, 10:20 AM
Can anyone fill me in on why the ALFRED HITCHCOCK PREMIER COLLECTION is already discontinued? I mean, it was only released last year, right?

Steve R
07-04-2009, 03:38 PM
Jens,

There were massive reports and complaints that many of the discs froze and skipped. There were complaints that the discs were packaged in such a way that invited much scratching.

I didn't know it was OOP. Several of the titles were released as singles when is came out - Notrious, Spellbound, Rebecca. A few had already been released in excellent shape already like Lifeboat.

I also suspect the size of it hurt sales. It was not shelf friendly.

Jens Thomsen
07-05-2009, 10:41 AM
Okay. Sounds like I should avoid the temptation to buy it on eBay then. Thanks for filling me in, Steve. :)

djvaso
07-09-2009, 08:36 AM
First movie on blu-ray in UK will be North by Northwest, as I said:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B002CYIR5W

Josh S
12-04-2009, 04:32 PM
I'm thinking about picking up The Masterpiece Collection since it's only $55, but I've seen people talking about transfer and syncing issues among other things. I'm neither an audiophile or videophile (is that a word?), so I'm wondering if these issues would be a big deal for me.

Paul Casey
12-04-2009, 05:58 PM
I'm thinking about picking up The Masterpiece Collection since it's only $55, but I've seen people talking about transfer and syncing issues among other things. I'm neither an audiophile or videophile (is that a word?), so I'm wondering if these issues would be a big deal for me.

I have it and didn't notice anything. $55 is rad! DO IT!

Todd J
12-04-2009, 06:59 PM
I didnt have anything wrong with mine. It's a great set.

Jack J
12-04-2009, 08:05 PM
Sorry if this has already been mentioned at some stage in the 12 previous pages but I just wanna ask about the correct ratio for VERTIGO; I just bought the Danish dvd release which is identical to the UK dvd from Universal. On Dvdcompare all the Euro dvd's are listed as having a ratio of 1.78:1 whereas the US releases have one of 1.85:1. :confused:

Is the Dvdcompare info correct and which one is the correct ratio? To confuse things even worse Amazon Uk lists the UK disk as being in 1.85:1.


http://i304.photobucket.com/albums/nn199/mrsick_scans/Vertigo.jpg

Josh S
12-04-2009, 10:06 PM
I have it and didn't notice anything. $55 is rad! DO IT!


I didnt have anything wrong with mine. It's a great set.

Thanks fellas. :)

John G.
01-16-2010, 06:23 PM
I rewatched SHADOW OF A DOUBT today, a very likable film that eschews big setpieces and directorial flourishes for a smart script. I especially appreciated one scene where Uncle Charlie drags his niece out of the wholesome small-town street into a seedy bar that is almost suffocating with smoke. The waitress, a childhood friend, sounds drained and remarks that she never would have guessed that Charlie would ever come into a place like that. Of course this, the dark underbelly of the town, becomes the backdrop for Joseph Cotten's great speech about how the world is a "foul sty" - David Lynch would go on to deal with a lot of these same themes later in BLUE VELVET and TWIN PEAKS.

Troy Howarth
01-17-2010, 03:54 PM
That's a great film, one of his best for sure. I can understand why it was his personal favorite of his work. Cotten was arguably never better.

Martijn dB
02-01-2010, 06:34 AM
Yesterday I watched my first silent Hitchcock, THE RING (1927) and although it took 15 minutes to get into the film I was mesmerized by this simple, bit controversial (I think for the time) story about a love triangle; 2 boxers fight for the love of a woman. I liked it a lot more than I thought I was going to.
I have to admit Iam not really familiar with silent movies at all, but after watching METROPOLIS recentely I am getting more interested in them.

Did somebody else see THE RING or other early Hitchcocks?

Troy Howarth
02-01-2010, 09:11 PM
I love silent cinema - I've seen a ton of them in recent months, and it's interesting that so much was perfected by the time sound came along - that retarded the process for a while as filmmakers sought to grapple with the new technology.

As to Hitch's silent films - I've only seen The Lodger, and it's a very good film. Truthfully, though, I prefer John Brahm's 1944 version.

I recently revisited Notorious, as well... it's much more engaging than I remembered. Rains is brilliant. Grant excells in an unsympathetic role that becomes more sympathetic, even if he remains a bit of a pig. It's a fine film, for sure.

Garrett Sorensen
03-03-2010, 12:14 AM
I've been going through a public domain collection of Hitchcock's early stuff because they are great to go to sleep by (the silent ones at least.) I watched Easy Virtue last. Melodramatic but some good directorial touches like the opening scene. A very silly laughable ending line, but this story certainly plays better in 1928 than in the more recent Jessica Beal version. That latter remake just showed how dated the material had become. It just came off as a mild Meet the Parents. They could have at least changed the girl's past into "having starred in pornos" and updated it to modern times. Something...

I am thinking of watching more Hitchcock, but his idea of irony isn't all that amusing to me, if his show is any indication.

John G.
03-17-2010, 07:52 AM
Two very different Hitchcock's recently (and probably more in the very near future)...

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY - An amusing (and atypical) black comedy. I really had a great time with this one!

TORN CURTAIN - Critics apparently weren't too kind to this one, and perhaps it doesn't have the focus of Hitchcock's best efforts, but there were some great setpieces, such as that amazing fight in the cabin, the bus scene and the suspensful ballet sequence. It's great to see Newman in almost anything.

Steve R
03-17-2010, 12:08 PM
John,

I thought that Bernard Hermann's music for Trouble With Harry was exceptional. Perfectly capturing that whimsical, winking at you while getting away with it nature of Hitch.

Oboe and some really clever use of woodwinds. Everyone always associated him with strings (Pyscho) and the big brass stuff(NXNW), but this one and Journey to the Center of the Earth are exceptional works. Very distinctive colorings.

Steve

John G.
03-17-2010, 02:07 PM
John,

I thought that Bernard Hermann's music for Trouble With Harry was exceptional. Perfectly capturing that whimsical, winking at you while getting away with it nature of Hitch.

Oboe and some really clever use of woodwinds. Everyone always associated him with strings (Pyscho) and the big brass stuff(NXNW), but this one and Journey to the Center of the Earth are exceptional works. Very distinctive colorings.

Steve
It's funny you mention Herrmann because I've been listening to a lot of his soundtracks lately... and you're right about the soundtrack to TROUBLE WITH HARRY, it's fantastic.

Herrmann's best soundtrack, though, is VERTIGO. The opening theme must have been ripped off countlessly by composers who wanted to evoke a "dreamlike" atmosphere.

Troy Howarth
03-18-2010, 07:18 AM
Two very different Hitchcock's recently (and probably more in the very near future)...

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY - An amusing (and atypical) black comedy. I really had a great time with this one!

TORN CURTAIN - Critics apparently weren't too kind to this one, and perhaps it doesn't have the focus of Hitchcock's best efforts, but there were some great setpieces, such as that amazing fight in the cabin, the bus scene and the suspensful ballet sequence. It's great to see Newman in almost anything.

Harry was the only Hitchcock flop that he never apologized for. It was a dark comedy and he knew people just didn't warm to the humor, but whereas he would often apologize for his flops, he was always warm towards this film. It's one of my favorites.

Torn Curtain is a film of a couple of great setpieces, but it doesn't work well on the whole. Newman didn't get along with Hitchcock, and he walks through his role with an air of disinterest. Julie Andrews isn't much better.

Troy Howarth
03-18-2010, 07:19 AM
I've been going through a public domain collection of Hitchcock's early stuff because they are great to go to sleep by (the silent ones at least.) I watched Easy Virtue last. Melodramatic but some good directorial touches like the opening scene. A very silly laughable ending line, but this story certainly plays better in 1928 than in the more recent Jessica Beal version. That latter remake just showed how dated the material had become. It just came off as a mild Meet the Parents. They could have at least changed the girl's past into "having starred in pornos" and updated it to modern times. Something...

I am thinking of watching more Hitchcock, but his idea of irony isn't all that amusing to me, if his show is any indication.

It would be a mistake to base your opinion of Hitchcock on a program that he very rarely directed himself.

Steve R
03-18-2010, 11:21 AM
Troy,

Seems like Garrett is referring to the early British period, here. (Not the TV series). I have a nice PD set with most of them too.

It will say that Hitch came much more into his own when he arrived in the US and began to develop his projects more from the ground up. He taste and style permeated much deeper for me. Not that there aren't some great Brit Hitches (lady Vanishes, Man Who Knew Too Much) but he got so much better at expressing his style as he worked more. Plus modern taste was more accepting of his murderous sordid tales.

Garrett, That irony, that smirking getting away with it and getting an unusual come-upence was a trademark of Hitch's throughout his career. Granted sometimes more successful than in others.
I'd suggest Shadow of A Doubt, Rear Window and if you don't get put off by the long shot gimmick, Rope.

Steve

Troy Howarth
03-18-2010, 04:41 PM
I'm not sure - perhaps Garrett will confirm it one way or the other. I've always enjoyed the peak films of his British period immensely. It took him a while to find his "voice," and even then he was sometimes saddled with indifferent material, but films like The Man Who Knew Too Much (vastly superior to the overdone remake), The 39 Steps, Sabotage, The Lady Vanishes and Young and Innocent are among his best.

John G.
03-18-2010, 07:10 PM
I don't know why you're so hard on THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (haven't seen the original). It's easily my least favorite of the Hitchcock-Stewart collaborations but it's a good film IMO.

TOPAZ - Watching this thriller (the second in a row from the director to deal with cold-war issues) and it makes me appreciate TORN CURTAIN all the more... TOPAZ is like TORN CURTAIN minus the bravura setpieces. There's some interest to be sure but the pace is really slow and I wish Hitchcock would have zeroed in on one aspect of the story instead of attempting to include everything (might have worked in the novel but as a film it feels like it lacks focus). FRENZY tonight...

Troy Howarth
03-18-2010, 07:13 PM
I don't think I'm being too hard on it at all. Stewart is good, but except for one or two scenes (notably the Albert Hall finale) it doesn't improve on the original in the least. Doris Day always sets my teeth on edge, anyway. It's not a terrible film or anything, but it's definitely lesser Hitchcock - he'd have done well to left well enough alone with regards to the original film.

Now, Frenzy is a wonderful film - I hope you enjoy it!

Steve R
03-18-2010, 10:31 PM
Frenzy?

In a word, Love..ly. ;)


The best of his twilight, final films.

John G.
03-18-2010, 10:35 PM
How could I not enjoy a film like that? :)

I find it somewhat amusing that since Hitchcock influenced Argento and the giallo filmmakers that he should deliver a more explicit and stylish thriller this late in his career. Superb cast, wonderful script by Shaffer and some very funny dark comedy... a classic!

Troy Howarth
03-19-2010, 07:29 AM
Figured you'd like it. One of our posters - I can't remember who offhand, he may not even be here anymore - really dislikes it and offered up a lengthy analysis of how anachronistic and out of step with the times it was; it made for interesting reading, but Frenzy still remains one of my top Hitchcock films. Between this and Polanski's Macbeth, Jon Finch seemed poised for a great career. I know he had to bow out of Alien (he was signed to play Cane) due to complications from his diabetes, so I wonder if it was health problems that got in the way of his career really taking off?

In any event, Frenzy is the last notable Hitchcock film - he made one more, Family Plot, which is pretty dismal.

John G.
03-19-2010, 08:10 AM
I actually like FAMILY PLOT. ;)

EDIT: Not a great film, mind you, but it has a real sense of fun and you can tell that Hitchcock was having a good time making it. I wish I got that sense of fun from the newer films of Argento, for instance, or DePalma (still need to see GIALLO).

John G.
03-19-2010, 08:33 AM
So I need to see some of the man's early stuff... most of the public domain boxsets get crummy reviews but this seems to be the best:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51VOKFfjToL._SS500_.jpg

1. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Chaney Vase
2. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
3. Blackmail
4. Champagne (Silent)
5. Easy Virtue (Silent)
6. Farmer's Wife, The (Silent)
7. Jamaica Inn
8. Juno and the Paycock
9. Lady Vanishes, The
10. Lodger, The (Silent)
11. Man Who Knew Too Much, The
12. Manxman, The (Silent)
13. Number Seventeen
14. Rich and Strange
15. Ring, The (Silent)
16. Sabotage
17. Secret Agent
18. Skin Game, The
19. Thirty-Nine Steps, The
20. Young and Innocent

Steve R
03-19-2010, 11:51 AM
John,

I have this exact set. Picked it up ridiculously cheap.
Some of the films come across just fine, very much like watching
them on television in the days before cable.
I've been very happy with it. Able to revisit the early Brit stuff and
see a couple for the first time. A couple have inspired me to seek out
real quality copies (Lady Vanishes)

Man Who Knew Too Much is very well done.
Good Peter Lorre role and you get to see that neat mix of solid suspense and romanticized adventure that he did so well.

39 Steps is another great one in that same vein.

Sabotage - this one really rocks. It is pretty down and dirty, for any film of that time, really.
After you see it, you'll be shocked at some of the choices made. Stand out film and I can see why more people don't embrace it as it crosses the line.

Lodger - made me long to see a better version, and there is one :D

I'd heartily recommend this one. A very solid collection of his early Brit sutff with passable quality.
Better than the other PD sets. Just watch with a grain of salt on the PQ.
(The Chaney Vase is a great TV Hitch, poor pic quality, but that's just the reception on the TV)

Troy Howarth
03-19-2010, 04:24 PM
I actually like FAMILY PLOT. ;)

EDIT: Not a great film, mind you, but it has a real sense of fun and you can tell that Hitchcock was having a good time making it. I wish I got that sense of fun from the newer films of Argento, for instance, or DePalma (still need to see GIALLO).

I'll give you DePalma, but Argento's recent films can hardly be accused of being stodgy - if anything, they're among the most playful of his career. Whether they're any *good* is open to debate, of course. With regards to Family Plot, I just think it's an abysmal piece of work - it looks and plays out like a TV movie.

John G.
03-19-2010, 05:56 PM
Is it fair to complain about FAMILY PLOT's look when MOTHER OF TEARS has all that poor CGI? ;)

Tom H Watts
03-19-2010, 07:25 PM
And Family Plot does have some great set pieces - the kidnapping of the bishop for example is done with superb economy. The poorest scene is the car careering down the mountain road, but didn't Hitch's health prevent him working on location much or at all at the time?

Troy Howarth
03-19-2010, 07:41 PM
Is it fair to complain about FAMILY PLOT's look when MOTHER OF TEARS has all that poor CGI? ;)

Sure, given that I thought much of it looked perfectly acceptable - quite in contrast to the miserable rear screen photography that dogs so much of FP. ;)

Troy Howarth
03-19-2010, 07:42 PM
And Family Plot does have some great set pieces - the kidnapping of the bishop for example is done with superb economy. The poorest scene is the car careering down the mountain road, but didn't Hitch's health prevent him working on location much or at all at the time?

The fact of the matter is that Hitchcock NEVER liked working on location. I've no problem with this, but I do think that his use of bluescreen was often rather jarring. I don't know if this was deliberate on his part or not, but it often takes me out of some of his films. I can't say I was impressed with anything in this film, whereas I find most of his other films to have at least SOMETHING going for them.

Garrett Sorensen
03-28-2010, 08:14 PM
It would be a mistake to base your opinion of Hitchcock on a program that he very rarely directed himself.

I am not so sure. I have seen a majority of his US films (except Paradine and Torn Curtain) and his sense of winking irony seems to attract him to certain kinds of material. I recently watched Stage Fright for the first time and found it to be quiet a snooze till the last couple minutes, it really reminded me of a feature length Hitchcock presents episode with an annoyingly one note performance by Jane Wyman. Maybe he didn't direct the show all the time (although Cheney Vase underlines the corny ironic endings) but you would think he set up the show to play into his ideas on entertainment. I've only really seen him cross the line into seriousness with the Frenzy rape and a bit of Psycho. I also recently saw Blackmail for the first time and it also had a bit of the show's feel. Hell, it also probably had less scenes than the average show had.

PS: I also prefer the british Man Who Knew Too Much

Troy Howarth
03-28-2010, 09:06 PM
I can't say I agree with your take on Hitchcock, but that's OK. I certainly don't agree with the hypothesis that the show was indicative of his work as a whole - like I said, he directed only a handful of episodes, and his contribution to other episodes was pretty much limited to the intros. I don't see a parallel between the shows, by and large, and his cinematic output.

Garrett Sorensen
03-28-2010, 09:26 PM
I like Hitchock. But I have long since moved on from him. He had a limited idea of what movies are for IMO, or how they should be made. He never really swayed from his ideas on creating suspense for instance, many of his films have the same sort of sequences, like the car exhaust scene from Shadow of a Doubt. But then again he was making his big films in the wrong decade for me, I would have liked some great noir entries in the 40's (Stranger on a Train works) and then more horror in the 60's. He made some classics, this is definitely true. But a notable amount of repetition (wrong man films, films that suddenly become horror) is evident, plus the big setpieces at big landmarks (starting from Blackmail no doubt.) I recently watched Rear Window on the big screen and really had fun with it, he did stretch sometimes, but I can't think of one film of his I would call pretentious. And on occasion, I like a director to take what he does that seriously.

PS: His show and Trouble With Harry?

Steve R
03-28-2010, 11:05 PM
Garrett,

Not quite getting your point here. Suffice to say that Hitch's films will be here for you whenever you get around to them again. I've found them to be a great source of enjoyment over the years.

I did an in depth paper on him during college, oh so long ago. I remember asking to see the professor(he's been on a few DVDs, bless him) shortly after I turned it in. We met in his small little office and as I referenced various set ups and POV shots. I asked him to stand over here, lean that way, and please stand up on the desk. I had a very salient point about how Anthony Perkins looks down on Janet Leigh and her sandwich, at the exact same angle as one of Perkin's stuffed and mounted birds of prey on the wall. We both had a great time. Lots of enthusiasm and super detailed analysis.

If you want to dig deep on Alfred, the digging is very good. You can go from technical to creative to pushing the envelops to phychological trauma (both sufffered and doled out), to his gentle wry fun way with murder, to some more insidious goals. Just look up Donald Spoto if you want to see someone go off the deep end on Hitch.

So no, I'm not rushing to defend him or my like of him. He and I don't really need it. Nor do your current feelings, either. To each his own. Just wanted to point out that there is loads of material to discover in his work. One could argue and hold court ony any topic related to his films quite easily. The bottom line, for me, film is to be enjoyed. I like the criticism to enhance one's appreciation, understanding and affection for any given film, director, writer... I am generally not one to dwell on the negative.

Garrett, my man, I perscribe one viewing of High Anxiety and urge you to take a rest from Hitch. Check out something of his in another year or so and see how it sits with you then. Happy to suggest something then.

Hard to change his perspective now but we can change ours.

Steve

Garrett Sorensen
03-29-2010, 12:36 AM
I really have seen Hitchock films, I didn't mean to imply I was a newbee (I suppose High Anxiety would be fun to watch again.) I like his films, but only when I am in the mood. I guess my problem is his films seem either impersonal, or directed by someone with such a comically cynical attitude of the world it doesn't amount to much weight, ala Woody Allen. I suppose Bava would be in the same boat but at least he tackled things as dry as Rabid Dogs, or personal as Lisa and the Devil/Hatchet for the Honeymoon. I'm not tired of Hitch, I actually had already taken a long break. But Stage Fright did underline some of my problems with him.

I must confess that one of the most refreshing was Mr. and Mrs. Smith. My wife and I had watched many screwballs and heard this film called average. I found it almost as continually hilarious as The Awful Truth. It aged well and actually has some great sexual imagery and gender role insights.

I should give Notorious a look again, the first time I really didn't get the big reputation, of course back then I was more into the campier pleasures of films like Spellbound. I should also give Vertigo another spin, it is supposed to grow on you.

Troy Howarth
03-29-2010, 07:23 AM
I like Hitchock. But I have long since moved on from him. He had a limited idea of what movies are for IMO, or how they should be made. He never really swayed from his ideas on creating suspense for instance, many of his films have the same sort of sequences, like the car exhaust scene from Shadow of a Doubt. But then again he was making his big films in the wrong decade for me, I would have liked some great noir entries in the 40's (Stranger on a Train works) and then more horror in the 60's. He made some classics, this is definitely true. But a notable amount of repetition (wrong man films, films that suddenly become horror) is evident, plus the big setpieces at big landmarks (starting from Blackmail no doubt.) I recently watched Rear Window on the big screen and really had fun with it, he did stretch sometimes, but I can't think of one film of his I would call pretentious. And on occasion, I like a director to take what he does that seriously.

PS: His show and Trouble With Harry?

Hitchcock took his work serously. His sense of humor may not appeal to you, but that hardly indicates that he didn't take his films seriously.

I'm unclear on your last question... if you're implying Harry is just an extended episode of the show, I'd say that's way off the mark.

Troy Howarth
03-29-2010, 07:25 AM
I really have seen Hitchock films, I didn't mean to imply I was a newbee (I suppose High Anxiety would be fun to watch again.) I like his films, but only when I am in the mood. I guess my problem is his films seem either impersonal, or directed by someone with such a comically cynical attitude of the world it doesn't amount to much weight, ala Woody Allen. I suppose Bava would be in the same boat but at least he tackled things as dry as Rabid Dogs, or personal as Lisa and the Devil/Hatchet for the Honeymoon. I'm not tired of Hitch, I actually had already taken a long break. But Stage Fright did underline some of my problems with him.

I must confess that one of the most refreshing was Mr. and Mrs. Smith. My wife and I had watched many screwballs and heard this film called average. I found it almost as continually hilarious as The Awful Truth. It aged well and actually has some great sexual imagery and gender role insights.

I should give Notorious a look again, the first time I really didn't get the big reputation, of course back then I was more into the campier pleasures of films like Spellbound. I should also give Vertigo another spin, it is supposed to grow on you.

Vertigo is one of the great films by any director. I didn't care for Mr. & Mrs. Smith at all, but Notorious really grew on me. Stage Fright is minor Hitchcock, but it's not bad. Really, I'm not quite getting where you're coming from to a degree - he was a prolific director and like all prolific directors he had his hits and misses. Some of his films work better than others, but this is to be expected.

Troy Howarth
03-29-2010, 07:26 AM
Garrett,

Not quite getting your point here. Suffice to say that Hitch's films will be here for you whenever you get around to them again. I've found them to be a great source of enjoyment over the years.

I did an in depth paper on him during college, oh so long ago. I remember asking to see the professor(he's been on a few DVDs, bless him) shortly after I turned it in. We met in his small little office and as I referenced various set ups and POV shots. I asked him to stand over here, lean that way, and please stand up on the desk. I had a very salient point about how Anthony Perkins looks down on Janet Leigh and her sandwich, at the exact same angle as one of Perkin's stuffed and mounted birds of prey on the wall. We both had a great time. Lots of enthusiasm and super detailed analysis.

If you want to dig deep on Alfred, the digging is very good. You can go from technical to creative to pushing the envelops to phychological trauma (both sufffered and doled out), to his gentle wry fun way with murder, to some more insidious goals. Just look up Donald Spoto if you want to see someone go off the deep end on Hitch.

So no, I'm not rushing to defend him or my like of him. He and I don't really need it. Nor do your current feelings, either. To each his own. Just wanted to point out that there is loads of material to discover in his work. One could argue and hold court ony any topic related to his films quite easily. The bottom line, for me, film is to be enjoyed. I like the criticism to enhance one's appreciation, understanding and affection for any given film, director, writer... I am generally not one to dwell on the negative.

Garrett, my man, I perscribe one viewing of High Anxiety and urge you to take a rest from Hitch. Check out something of his in another year or so and see how it sits with you then. Happy to suggest something then.

Hard to change his perspective now but we can change ours.

Steve

I went through a summer back in high school when I watched nothing but Hitchcock movies. I burned out completely and I couldn't bear to look at his films for years. I then went through a period when I found his work sterile and cold. Last year (or was it the year before?) I started revisiting his films, and I liked what I found. He definitely deserves his reputation as one of the greats.

Garrett Sorensen
03-29-2010, 01:56 PM
I don't get how I'm not getting got here (say that 5 times.) If anything Troy, you said in your last that you once found his work sterile and cold. That is pretty close to impersonal in my book. So instead of argue that side I will simply ask which film is Hitch's most personal and serious statement? I will watch it (again.)

Way off the mark? Sure, it is too morbid a black comedy for his show, but I was arguing that his sense of humor found in his show is reflected in his films, not that the film plays just like an episode. I really do find significance in the Woody Allen comparison, a very cynical director who expressed it in comical films, sometimes straying, but never really attempting any solid message, just a bunch of cynicism. Allen was certainly more personal though. But so what, he is always reliable for that kind of film, just as Hitch will be known for edge of your seat suspense and big setpieces. Not a bad place, but you would think someone that prolific would have delved into catharsis or pretention at some point. Maybe he did. I think I'll pull out I confess again, maybe there was some stuff in there.

Steve R
03-29-2010, 02:26 PM
Most personal film? To me I guess Rear Window hits that mark.

Steve R
03-29-2010, 02:32 PM
Hitch was one of the first directors to get such a loyal public following. Certainly for many he was the most recognizable, for a time. Add to that his predeliction for the macabre and you have the makings of a brand. The TV show was launched to capitalize on that brand. His intros only reinforced that image. But please make no mistake about it, that was a manufactured image for a TV show.

His films influenced that show. Not the other way around. Except in the case of Psycho. The quick and lean production style he used for the few shows he directed for the series, allowed him to do the same on the feature so he could get Psycho made for the slim budget he agreed to. Granted he had his sequences that drove the crew nuts (Aborgast falling down the stairs) but by and large it was a very mangeable shoot. Like an extended TV shoot.

The TV series is not really a valid extention of him as a filmmaker. Read the credits. His "character" from the show gets confused with him a lot, but its not him.

Garrett Sorensen
03-29-2010, 02:35 PM
I might agree on Rear Window at least being his most serious statement. I think that is why I go back to that one so much. His most serious film is likely The Wrong Man, but hardly a big statement. Maybe comparing Hitch to Lubitsch (rather than Woody) would be better. Left I have Torn Curtain, Paradine Case (maybe Marnie) and a number of his lesser talked about british films. I am curious about Curtain despite it's rep.

Right now I am watching the series of Hitch trailers on the PD collection. I love the black and white look. I really do have a bias against the gaudy technicolor films of the 50's, I far prefer the look of Psycho and Strangers on a Train and Rebecca. Will be sure to move on from Stage Fright and stop talking out of a 5 year memory of his films.

I am also thinking Hitch's popularity limited his films. He became more a studio pawn and star vehicle kind of director than the underground "shocking" director he seemed best at. The films he intentionally made with unknowns are some of my faves.

Steve R
03-29-2010, 02:50 PM
Garrett,

Why the need for a "serious" statement?

For all we know the confusion at the heart of Vertigo, the need to turn one woman into another may have hit home the closest for him. Perhaps Shadow of a Doubt is the most serious statement, recognizing the murderous intent that can so easily creep into small town in American? Does Rope, which posits the question of the Leopold and Loeb case - can two clever students of human behavior get away with it? Is the consideration of such a thing a crime? Is it really an intellectual exercise, or is it much more. And what over the overtones between the two guys and their professor? Sheesh maybe Marnie is serious? Not too successful for me. though.

None of that negate the wonder that is North by Northwest. Romantic adventure. Thrills, mistaken identity, great locations and some fun sexual inuendo. He mixed a great cocktail there.

Hitch made over 50 films. You can find a variety of things there.

Garrett Sorensen
03-29-2010, 03:00 PM
Mario Bava isn't know for big artsy important European films. However, at the end of Rabid Dogs, Bay of Blood, Four Times that Night, Whip & the Body, The Wurdulak, Lisa and the Devil and Venus of Ille I feel a statement by a director not diluted by audience pandering romantic plot resolutions and commercial endings. The films of Hitch feel more like vehicles for producers and actors than a real risky bit of filmmaking. Maybe Vertigo is closest to what I am saying. Turn Stewart into a bad guy and end on a downbeat note uncommercial note. I should pull that one out, that might be the diamond I need to look longer at.

Steve R
03-29-2010, 03:02 PM
One thing that gets overlooked in these discussions is that fact that Hitch was not a writer. He read through tons of stuff, had a devoted staff that combed every avenue to source out material for him. Look at the writers he worked with, the books and stories he developed. Granted he had a taste and preference but there was a style that he imparted to material that got there no matter what the story's themes. And yes there were themes he was attracted to again and again. The fact that they fell in line with his commerical appeal is not at all lost on anyone who follows his career.

Maybe that's one of his genuine strengths. You seem to be searching for the hidden gem, the overlooked real serious artistic statement. I'd argue that that serious devotion to his craft can be found in almost all of his works.

Ryan Clark
03-29-2010, 05:45 PM
I think Vertigo is Hitchcock's most personal film. It's not my favorite, but to me it just seems like the film that Hitchcock poured the most of his heart and soul into. It also eerily reflects his later "friendship" with Tippi Hedren.

Troy Howarth
03-29-2010, 06:18 PM
I don't get how I'm not getting got here (say that 5 times.) If anything Troy, you said in your last that you once found his work sterile and cold. That is pretty close to impersonal in my book. So instead of argue that side I will simply ask which film is Hitch's most personal and serious statement? I will watch it (again.)

Way off the mark? Sure, it is too morbid a black comedy for his show, but I was arguing that his sense of humor found in his show is reflected in his films, not that the film plays just like an episode. I really do find significance in the Woody Allen comparison, a very cynical director who expressed it in comical films, sometimes straying, but never really attempting any solid message, just a bunch of cynicism. Allen was certainly more personal though. But so what, he is always reliable for that kind of film, just as Hitch will be known for edge of your seat suspense and big setpieces. Not a bad place, but you would think someone that prolific would have delved into catharsis or pretention at some point. Maybe he did. I think I'll pull out I confess again, maybe there was some stuff in there.

I stand by my assertion that it's way off the mark to suggest that Harry plays like an episode of the show; that's not an insult, it's just that I don't see the parallel at all.

I wasn't clear on where you were coming from with regards to his irony or his "seriousness" as a filmmaker - and truthfully, I still don't. Again, that's not a put down. I said I went through a phase when I found his work sterile and cold; I've reassessed this stance since then. I'd say if you really want to give Hitchcock a fair shake, watch this triple bill: Rear Window, Vertigo and Shadow of a Doubt.

John G.
03-30-2010, 08:27 AM
Mario Bava isn't know for big artsy important European films. However, at the end of Rabid Dogs, Bay of Blood, Four Times that Night, Whip & the Body, The Wurdulak, Lisa and the Devil and Venus of Ille I feel a statement by a director not diluted by audience pandering romantic plot resolutions and commercial endings. The films of Hitch feel more like vehicles for producers and actors than a real risky bit of filmmaking.
Having just watched THE BIRDS, I can say it has one of the most unusual endings to a major film... there is certainly nothing "commercial" about the ending to that film.

Also, I would say the complete absence of music in the film is also pretty innovating.

Troy Howarth
03-30-2010, 05:11 PM
I'd agree with that. Hitchcock was a showman with an eye towards the marketplace, no question about it. When his films failed to go over well, he always blamed himself and didn't make excuses - the exception being Trouble with Harry, where he knew the film was just too strange to find a mass audience; he never apologized for that one. But I think that he struck a fine balance between art and commerce - nobody makes films to lose money, afterall, so to criticize him just because he worked in a commercial venue seems a little strange.

John G.
03-30-2010, 05:35 PM
I would also say that Hitchcock's extensive use of storyboarding was a testament to the control and visual style of his films... the word "commercial" seems to smack of "hack" when used as a negative connotation.

Garrett Sorensen
03-30-2010, 06:27 PM
I'd agree with that. Hitchcock was a showman with an eye towards the marketplace, no question about it to criticize him just because he worked in a commercial venue seems a little strange.

But there is a big difference between the commercial asthetic of a film made for the drive in circuit and the ones made for regular theaters. I do sort of blame him for living off the fat of his calling card films rather than challenging himself more often and letting them play the drive ins if it must. But he did make the occasional odd film that showed he hadn't sold out and he seemed to try and escape the mainstream a bit towards the end. It is those films that I watch to judge his merits, and usually they are his most morbid films. However, even those films have commercial elements to try and ensure a moviehouse audience. Even Psycho, compared to Hatchet for the Honeymoon, is sure to obscure the focus on abnormal pathology to not lose the mainstream audience. Hitch's films have "the good" firmly in place to counteract the offputting "bad," whereas much noir and horror gave us shades of gray. Vertigo and Frenzy did contain these gray heroes however, maybe they are elsewhere too in his massive oerve but they are more nuanced than my memory can conjur.

John G.
03-30-2010, 07:02 PM
However, even those films have commercial elements to try and ensure a moviehouse audience. Even Psycho, compared to Hatchet for the Honeymoon, is sure to obscure the focus on abnormal pathology to not lose the mainstream audience.
Can you clarify this observation about PSYCHO... I'm not sure I understand you.

Garrett Sorensen
03-30-2010, 07:30 PM
When all the creative twists have played out we are left with an average good person to identify with, and even Norman is only revealed at the end to be totally at fault and not as sympathetic as we once thought. This is to quell the 1960 housewife from getting too turned off by unlikable characters. Psycho toys with this brilliantly I must say, but it is still a bandaid to pull in the mainstream crowd while attempting seedy issues. However starting of with a self aware self involved psychopath and offering no real reprieve from that gaze is a far less commercial and therefore riskier proposition. In hindsight it is sort of obvious that Hitchock was going to remove or replace such a gray area (cold, selfish) character as Marion since his films don't often toe the line of the "good" main characters.

Steve R
03-30-2010, 07:54 PM
What's wrong with being commercial?
Many,many directors worked in a studio driven system where success counts.
That's just how films were made them. And it really was a producer's medium, a studio president's medium way before there was any consideration of what a director was.

You don't get extra points for being subversive. What's wrong with being talented and mainstream?

The directors that were talented and successful got some leeway sure. And some of them that had other than mainstream tastes were able to indulge those tastes. Does that mean that Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard is any less or greater a film than say Some Like It Hot? Not at all. It is apples and oranges.

Garrett Sorensen
03-30-2010, 08:02 PM
Nothing wrong for most people. As for me, I like a world filled with cynicism at times and I think that is Hitchock's compulsion in many ways, but I feel his need for commercial elements kept him from focusing too much on the unlikable. I think at heart he was capable of his Rabid Dogs/Bay of Blood/Sunet Blvd/Ace in the Hole and would have made some wonderfully negative noirs (Vertigo is closest in pessimism), but that would have been easier for a B movie director that doesn't have to appease a mainstream old fashioned crowd (or an A lister that doesn't care so much for popularity.) I like Alfred a lot, I am merely pointing out my regrets concerning his output.

Troy Howarth
03-30-2010, 09:08 PM
But there is a big difference between the commercial asthetic of a film made for the drive in circuit and the ones made for regular theaters. I do sort of blame him for living off the fat of his calling card films rather than challenging himself more often and letting them play the drive ins if it must. But he did make the occasional odd film that showed he hadn't sold out and he seemed to try and escape the mainstream a bit towards the end. It is those films that I watch to judge his merits, and usually they are his most morbid films. However, even those films have commercial elements to try and ensure a moviehouse audience. Even Psycho, compared to Hatchet for the Honeymoon, is sure to obscure the focus on abnormal pathology to not lose the mainstream audience. Hitch's films have "the good" firmly in place to counteract the offputting "bad," whereas much noir and horror gave us shades of gray. Vertigo and Frenzy did contain these gray heroes however, maybe they are elsewhere too in his massive oerve but they are more nuanced than my memory can conjur.

This kind of reminds me of my old take on somebody like Spielberg. I went through a period of trashing his work because, well, I figured that's what a real cineaste should do. But art and commerce ARE interrelated, and the practical side of the business cannot be so easily dismissed. A filmmaker, particularly in the current marketplace, is only worth anything if his work is performing well. The odd "respected" filmmaker will continue to get employment regardless of this, but it certainly doesn't hurt when even they have a hit at the box office. Hitchcock was never pretentious. He wanted to entertain, but he also managed to do so in a rather perverse way. He explored the darker dimensions of the medium in a way that was both provocative and popularly appealing. I guess if one feels that filmmakers are only worth their salt if they fall outside the mainstream they'll inevitably dislike those who do function well within the mainstream - but I don't think that's a particularly practical or even logical point of view. Mind you, like I said, I used to feel the same way - and please, don't misinterpret this as a slam against you - but I'm glad that I was able to grow out of it.

Personally, I hate to compare Hitchcock with Bava and Argento. Argento is the more "mainstream" of the two Italian genre directors, in that he promoted himself and achieved a level of success at his pinnacle that was unusual, but whereas Hitchcock's films aim for suspense, Argento's are far more visceral. Bava worked in the horror and suspense films, but if we are to take directors to task for being ironic - well, Bava was the most ironic of filmmakers I can think of. Most of his films are dark comedies at heart, and even he wasn't above taking his frustration over poor scripts or ridiculous shooting schedules out on a film that he was making - it's this attitude which damages Five Dolls for an August Moon, for example, even if it is a really slick and imaginative piece of work on the whole.

Troy Howarth
03-30-2010, 09:10 PM
When all the creative twists have played out we are left with an average good person to identify with, and even Norman is only revealed at the end to be totally at fault and not as sympathetic as we once thought. This is to quell the 1960 housewife from getting too turned off by unlikable characters. Psycho toys with this brilliantly I must say, but it is still a bandaid to pull in the mainstream crowd while attempting seedy issues. However starting of with a self aware self involved psychopath and offering no real reprieve from that gaze is a far less commercial and therefore riskier proposition. In hindsight it is sort of obvious that Hitchock was going to remove or replace such a gray area (cold, selfish) character as Marion since his films don't often toe the line of the "good" main characters.

That doesn't change that fact, however, that the only two likable, interesting characters for the audience to identify with are the flawed Marion (a thief and an adultress, if we wish to hit the nail on the head) and the psychotic mamma's boy Norman. That he is revealed to be a psychotic killer doesn't make him any less endearing to the audience; the character proved fascinating enough, in fact, to spawn a series of sequels.

Troy Howarth
03-30-2010, 09:21 PM
Nothing wrong for most people. As for me, I like a world filled with cynicism at times and I think that is Hitchock's compulsion in many ways, but I feel his need for commercial elements kept him from focusing too much on the unlikable. I think at heart he was capable of his Rabid Dogs/Bay of Blood/Sunet Blvd/Ace in the Hole and would have made some wonderfully negative noirs (Vertigo is closest in pessimism), but that would have been easier for a B movie director that doesn't have to appease a mainstream old fashioned crowd (or an A lister that doesn't care so much for popularity.) I like Alfred a lot, I am merely pointing out my regrets concerning his output.

Truthfully, I think it can sometimes be easier to be cynical than to be optimistic or warm - in life and in art. Mind you, I do cringe at cheap sentimentality.

Garrett Sorensen
03-31-2010, 01:59 AM
At the end of Psycho the remaining "good character" was Marion's sister, the boyfriend was as well I suppose. There is a brief time when in the absence of a main character we focus on Norman which is a really brilliant way to ask the audience to sympathize with his plight, but otherwise we are left with a pretty one note sister to side with. That is part of the thing that divides Hitch from Spielberg, I feel like Steven likes these sentimental films with goody goody characters but Hitch seemed to often be very flippant with them and they wind up pretty one dimensional, as if all we need to know is they are good and therefore a projection of the audience. The exceptions would be films in which his lead was played by the least dry actors available, Grant and Stewart.

It is true that Bava's films smack of black comedy but then again they are really fucking black. The sense of irony at the end of Bay of Blood underscores an entire film of dispicable characters and pure greed (as of course you well know.) Hitch's sense of irony is a more winking British humor which I don't find as intriguing and it doesn't really seem to say anything. I admit I am a glass hlaf empty kind of guy. I walk out of films thinking about what could have been. I think Hitch had the talent and interest to make a truly sexually perverted film, if only the mainstream allowed.

Troy Howarth
03-31-2010, 07:19 AM
Those characters are dull cyphers, and I suspect Hitchcock knew that. The sister, the lover... they elicit little emotion. Marion and Norman are the only really likable people in the film.

Aleck Bennett
03-31-2010, 12:17 PM
Those characters are dull cyphers, and I suspect Hitchcock knew that. The sister, the lover... they elicit little emotion. Marion and Norman are the only really likable people in the film.

Yep. That's kind of the point. Hitchcock never intends for the audience to side with those characters. Marion's sister is grating and unlikable, her boyfriend is empty and bland, and Arbogast is arrogant and pushy. The point is to put the audience in the position of sympathizing with Norman all the way once Marion is disposed of. It's important to remember that audiences going in blindly are being led to believe that Norman is a victim of circumstance -- trapped in a dead-end motel by his manipulative and murderous mother, then put upon by detectives both professional and amateur, all of whom are forcing Norman's back against the wall. Up to the climax, the audience is left in the uncomfortable position of being sympathetic toward someone who is explicitly depicted as being a pervert (which winds up not being insurmountable, since his perversion is "watching" -- something that the audience is itself guilty of). Nobody in the movie is "good" and the audience is left with nobody, ultimately, to side with after Mother pulls back the curtain.

Steve R
03-31-2010, 02:15 PM
Hitch was meticulous with keeping control of just how an audience reacted. He spent many story conferences going over little details that would throw someone out of the mood or reality of the story. Anything that just didn't read right or was a technical mistake was corrected. IIRC there is a Christmas tree barely glimpsed in one of the exterior pick up scenes with Janet Leigh, so in went a line setting the sunny California setting in the winter months so the tree wouldn't look out of place.

You can bet he knew damn well who the star of Psycho was.

Troy Howarth
03-31-2010, 04:56 PM
Yep. That's kind of the point. Hitchcock never intends for the audience to side with those characters. Marion's sister is grating and unlikable, her boyfriend is empty and bland, and Arbogast is arrogant and pushy. The point is to put the audience in the position of sympathizing with Norman all the way once Marion is disposed of. It's important to remember that audiences going in blindly are being led to believe that Norman is a victim of circumstance -- trapped in a dead-end motel by his manipulative and murderous mother, then put upon by detectives both professional and amateur, all of whom are forcing Norman's back against the wall. Up to the climax, the audience is left in the uncomfortable position of being sympathetic toward someone who is explicitly depicted as being a pervert (which winds up not being insurmountable, since his perversion is "watching" -- something that the audience is itself guilty of). Nobody in the movie is "good" and the audience is left with nobody, ultimately, to side with after Mother pulls back the curtain.

I was going to add, actually, about the authority figures played by Balsam and Oakland being very arrogant and condescending... if they are interesting at all, it's simply because Oakland and Balsam were such fine character actors.

Aleck Bennett
03-31-2010, 05:34 PM
I was going to add, actually, about the authority figures played by Balsam and Oakland being very arrogant and condescending... if they are interesting at all, it's simply because Oakland and Balsam were such fine character actors.

Absolutely. In both cases, they take a smug know-it-all approach to Norman and his situation; and both seemingly wind up being, ultimately, full of shit. You get the feeling that Oakland's psychologist is just stabbing in the dark (no pun intended) when he's attempting to explain Norman's relationship with Mother, attempting to rationalize and contain something that is so inherently irrational that it can't be summed up in a pat little speech. And Mother ultimately wins -- she, via Norman, is already establishing sympathy with the policemen in the station ("He feels a chill; can I bring him this blanket?"). Just like the audience has been for the previous 100-or-so minutes, the police are getting played.

Troy Howarth
03-31-2010, 06:13 PM
I used to hold the opinion that the Oakland scene was misplaced, that it offered a cozy explanation to put the viewer at ease... now I'm not so sure. As you say, he comes off as long winded, but none too insightful.

John G.
03-31-2010, 06:43 PM
I always saw that final scene as explicitly armchair-psychology, in that Hitchcock deliberately went out of his way with PSYCHO to film in the trappings of an exploitation film (low budget, etc.) and essentially that coda is what the material "required." It otherwise makes no sense that Hitchcock would go from the nuanced and multi-layered VERTIGO just two years previous to the blatant psycho-babble of PSYCHO.

My latest Hitchcock obsession continues... rewatched REAR WINDOW today, having seen it again only a couple of weeks back. I'm very fascinated with the carefully controlled and vividly realized apartment milieu that Hitchcock creates with this film.

Steve R
03-31-2010, 06:43 PM
The Simon Oakland shrink scene was shoe horned in after the final draft. The story goes that a clearer explanation was needed according to studio brass and it was written, shot and inserted at their request. The book by Robert Bloch and the earlier drafts by Sefanko did not have it.

There is a really good book about this, "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" by Stephen Robello. One of the things it talks about is how Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les Diaboliques (1955) was seen by Hitch as almost a gauntlet thrown down. He thought he was being trumped at his own game. The clever twist and stylistic approach of the film clearly weighed and preyed on his mind. He thought it was incredible, in many ways. Certainly the rug got pulled out from under the audience and that was very appelaing to him. The look of the film and the creepy touches also appealed. This was horror. Bloch's book, Psycho was just the ticket for him to one up the Frenchman. I think he knew exactly what he had from the get go with Psycho.

The clever bit with Killing off Janet Leigh's character so early was clearly done to unbalance the audience. It's just a great set up. There is still Hitch's playfulness but he is delightedly sitting at the adults only table now. And he so wants you to notice. Janet's Bra was the subject of much debate with Hitch wanting the absolute maximum impact in the scene.

Troy Howarth
03-31-2010, 06:57 PM
I always saw that final scene as explicitly armchair-psychology, in that Hitchcock deliberately went out of his way with PSYCHO to film in the trappings of an exploitation film (low budget, etc.) and essentially that coda is what the material "required." It otherwise makes no sense that Hitchcock would go from the nuanced and multi-layered VERTIGO just two years previous to the blatant psycho-babble of PSYCHO.

My latest Hitchcock obsession continues... rewatched REAR WINDOW today, having seen it again only a couple of weeks back. I'm very fascinated with the carefully controlled and vividly realized apartment milieu that Hitchcock creates with this film.

It is armchair psychology of the worst order - the question is, did Hitchcock really buy it, or was he having a bit of fun with convention. Read as a straight-forward explanation, it's a cop out and undermines the film... but as a bit of a joke at the expense of the armchair Freudians, it works better.

Aleck Bennett
03-31-2010, 07:21 PM
It is armchair psychology of the worst order - the question is, did Hitchcock really buy it, or was he having a bit of fun with convention. Read as a straight-forward explanation, it's a cop out and undermines the film... but as a bit of a joke at the expense of the armchair Freudians, it works better.

Well, Hitch has a definite problem with "authority" figures, particularly in this film (which also demonstrates his fear of policemen in Marion's flight), so I have no problem believing that he views the police psychologist with contempt. The implication that Norman/Mother has outsmarted him in his/her own way tends to support that. He's never going to be able to fit the psychosis Norman possesses into a neat box like he seems to presume. Hitch doesn't believe Oakland for a minute, and he doesn't really want the audience to walk away assured by those words, either.

Troy Howarth
03-31-2010, 07:27 PM
That's the way I've grown to read the film - and it's that reading that has helped to improve the film for me. Now I admit, it's still not among my favorites of his films - but I have grown to like it more than I once did.

Garrett Sorensen
03-31-2010, 07:47 PM
Does anyone find themselves pulling out the Psycho sequels more than the first? I find the first very classic and influential but I love Norman as a character and he just isn't in the first one enough for me to revisit all that often. I guess as much as I like a good twist I like films where the veil isn't there and from the get go it is simply "here is a psychopath and we are going to try to make you like him." I would put The Stepfather and any Hannibals in that boat as well. Psycho 2 may be my favorite of the series.

I need to track down Vertigo because that may be the film where Hitch really learned his lesson, due to poor box office, to not put his unsavory characters front and center. Thus it may be his least diluted work of art IMO and exactly what I am looking for. Plus, in Strangers on a Train did Hitch imply at any moment that Farley Granger was happy his ex had died? I haven't seen that one in a while.

Aleck Bennett
03-31-2010, 08:00 PM
That's the way I've grown to read the film - and it's that reading that has helped to improve the film for me. Now I admit, it's still not among my favorites of his films - but I have grown to like it more than I once did.

It's not my favorite film of his, but I do tend to go back to it a lot more than many of his others, and I always find little details that I appreciate more on repeat viewings. Others are more fun (NORTH BY NORTHWEST), others are more explicitly "deep" (VERTIGO), and others are more tightly constructed (REAR WINDOW), but PSYCHO is deceptively layered. It seems so straightforward, so seemingly superficial, but there's a lot brewing down there. In other hands, the secondary characters *would* be more likable. They *would* become audience stand-ins, uncovering the mystery as the film progresses. But what makes it interesting is that we already *know* (or presume we know) what happened, and thus our interest isn't centered on the deliberately unpleasant duo of Sam and Lila and their quest to uncover the truth. Instead, every time the camera isn't on Norman, we're left wondering what's happening down at the Bates Motel. Why is Norman under the thumb of that horrifying old woman? It's him we sympathize with. When Sam questions him at the check-in desk, hammering away at him with questions that are so obviously wrong-headed that you can't help but feel for him if you don't know what's about to happen in 10 minutes or so. You almost want to scream at Sam Loomis, "you goddamned idiot, he didn't even *know* about the money!" When the chair turns around and the wig comes off, though, everything shatters. We've all been had.

And if anything clinches the failure of Oakland's character to pin down what makes Norman and his mother tick, it's that final shot. The melding of Perkins, the car being surfaced, and the deaths-head all add up to signify that there's a deadly ugliness lurking deep, deep within Norman's psyche, and that he can (or believes he can) outwit those around him by simply waiting it out and playing nice. He knows the game. He's been playing it for years. And he's got nothing but time.

Aleck Bennett
03-31-2010, 08:02 PM
Does anyone find themselves pulling out the Psycho sequels more than the first?

No.

(Comment was too short. So there you go. Extra words.)

Garrett Sorensen
03-31-2010, 08:06 PM
No one does? Damn. I sure wish I was anyone, then I could change that.

Aleck Bennett
03-31-2010, 08:23 PM
No one does? Damn. I sure wish I was anyone, then I could change that.

I'm just speaking for myself, so I answered "no." I don't. I don't care for the sequels much as continuations of the storyline. I think III is well-directed, and II is probably better-written than III, but I don't like the direction in which they took Norman's character. I much preferred the implication of the original's ending, that Mother is just going to wait it out as long as she has to. II pretty much tears down the underlying menace of part I's climax, assuring us that Norman can be "cured" (and is, until others convince him that he is mad, which ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy).

Garrett Sorensen
03-31-2010, 08:30 PM
I see your point there. There was something ominous about that last scene which having him be (sort of) cured kind of dissipated.

Anyone on the Strangers on a Train question?

Also, is it just me or did Frenzy start out implying our eventual lead was a rather unlikable and stiff character while the eventual villain started out far more lively and appealing? I haven't seen it in a while, but if I remember correctly that rape did subvert expectations.

Troy Howarth
03-31-2010, 09:06 PM
Regarding the sequels... the only one I could tolerate was the first sequel. It is only a mere shadow of the original, however, and the others are worse still.

Regarding Hitchcock's body of work... I guess if I had to pick a top ten, it would read thus:

Vertigo
Rear Window
The 39 Steps
Shadow of a Doubt
Frenzy
The Birds
The Lady Vanishes
The Trouble With Harry
Strangers on a Train
The Man Who Knew Too Much ('34)

That list is in no particular order, of course.

Strangers on a Train... Well, I think it does come off that Granger has mixed feelings. I don't know that he's necessarily PLEASED, per se, but he runs a gamut of emotions.

And yes, definitely, Jon Finch's character is meant to come off as a prick, whereas Barry Foster's killer is personable and charismatic. That's how they are defined, and the film therefore plays on audience emotions in this respect - we feel we HAVE to identify with Finch because he's innocent, but he's not really a nice guy... Foster is a total psycho, but he's an engaging one.

John G.
03-31-2010, 09:35 PM
I think the depiction of Foster as a charismatic villain has a lot to do with how fun FRENZY ends up being in the end... while Finch is initially off-putting in the film, one eventually gets the sense that the character has such bad luck that we end up being frustrated with his plight more than anything else. :)

Troy Howarth
04-01-2010, 07:26 AM
Finch was particularly adept at playing unlikable characters - but he didn't come off as being completely inhuman, merely flawed and irritated with his bad luck.

Garrett Sorensen
04-01-2010, 01:38 PM
VERTIGO SPOILERS

Just saw Vertigo last night. What an amazing restoration print, even watching instantly through netflix. As a film it was exactly what I was looking for and I must give Hitch huge props for taking the most beloved folksy actor of this century and giving him his first really creepy role (discounting my favorite Thin Man film.) I didn't remember the choice dialogue and the subtle things that made even the slow stretch at the end quite involving. The film reminded me quite a bit of Scarlet Street thematically as well, my go to noir for newbees. I think I need to watch his more modern stuff again because only now am I picking up on subtle inferences. For instance, is it implied that Sam and Midge had a professor/student relationship in college? I mean he was nowhere near her age. I personally missed Midge later in the picture, she seemed to be just as off center as Sam. Their chemistry and past also made it feel like this could have been a Rear Window sequel. As for Novak, did anyone else think she resembled a drag queen? I really couldn't shake that thought, but it did't hurt my impression. Indeed, maybe Sam had a hidden fetish.

Loved the California scenery, and I loved how Hitch kept true to it. For instance, on the way to San Juan Bautista mission there is a curious bunch of Eucalyptis trees you drive through, just like in the movie. I had a fascination with the missions and visited most in my youth, and my memory of them just added to the desolate feel of the most off the path ones (especially La Purisima and San Antonio.) Anyhow, I was thinking about the ending of the film and I used to think the shadowy figure was briefly suggested to be the wife back from the dead but it occurred to me that Kim would have been most afraid if it was herself coming up the steps while she WAS the wife in the exact spot from earlier. Once again, probably obvious stuff that had gone over my head before.

I really enjoyed the film in reference to Hitch. It certainly implies that he was one to be attracted to certain characters and not really the histrionic actresses playing them. It is also appropriate a film with at least 4 cases of obsession would be obsessed over by an audience. Personally I wish Hitch had more time on the clock. His later films proved to be more challenging and with giallo the main character was once again allowed to be a shade of gray. Guess Frenzy would be the best follow up now.

Steve R
04-01-2010, 02:03 PM
Garrett,

"taking the most beloved folksy actor of this century and giving him his first really creepy role"

I'd credit Naked Spur and the other Anthony Mann westerns with helping to shake that image of Stewart.

Glad you liked Veritgo. I'll admit to not really warming to it till later on in my life. When I first saw it, I just admired the tech but it didn't really connect. The last couple times I've loved it.

(Scarlett Street is one of my top noirs as well)

Steve

Garrett Sorensen
04-01-2010, 02:12 PM
I'll have to hunt out those Westerns. The Thin Man film probably came too early to be a career changer for him. As it is now I have to make a biillion calls (part of my job) and I am browsing all the Hitchock watch it nows to entertain me (of which there are several.) Haven't seen Torn Curtain, but might need some mindless eye candy like Saboteur. Will be sure to follow up.

John G.
04-01-2010, 03:32 PM
I watched SPELLBOUND today... genuinely this is considered one of Hitchcock's lesser works and, well, I can see their point. Still, I love the more overt emphasis on psychology this time around (perhaps his first film to deal with psych-elements in an overt manner?) and Dali's famous dream sequence is wonderful. Of course these concepts would later be integrated more skillfully in his later films, such as the Freudian visual pun of the train going into the tunnel at the end of NORTH BY NORTHWEST. :)

John G.
04-01-2010, 03:33 PM
Garrett, I think you'll get a real kick out of FRENZY although really it's nothing like VERTIGO. :)

Troy Howarth
04-01-2010, 04:32 PM
Garrett,

"taking the most beloved folksy actor of this century and giving him his first really creepy role"

I'd credit Naked Spur and the other Anthony Mann westerns with helping to shake that image of Stewart.

Glad you liked Veritgo. I'll admit to not really warming to it till later on in my life. When I first saw it, I just admired the tech but it didn't really connect. The last couple times I've loved it.

(Scarlett Street is one of my top noirs as well)

Steve

Hell, if it comes to that, Hitchcock's usage of him in Rope and Rear Window was also breaking from his image.

Still, I'm glad Garrett liked Vertigo so much. It's a truly wonderful film, and it's one of those classics that holds up as entertainment, too.

Troy Howarth
04-01-2010, 04:32 PM
I watched SPELLBOUND today... genuinely this is considered one of Hitchcock's lesser works and, well, I can see their point. Still, I love the more overt emphasis on psychology this time around (perhaps his first film to deal with psych-elements in an overt manner?) and Dali's famous dream sequence is wonderful. Of course these concepts would later be integrated more skillfully in his later films, such as the Freudian visual pun of the train going into the tunnel at the end of NORTH BY NORTHWEST. :)

The dream sequences are good, but the rest never did much for me. I like Peck, but I don't think he was particularly effective in either of his films for Hitchcock.

Troy Howarth
04-01-2010, 04:33 PM
I'll have to hunt out those Westerns. The Thin Man film probably came too early to be a career changer for him. As it is now I have to make a biillion calls (part of my job) and I am browsing all the Hitchock watch it nows to entertain me (of which there are several.) Haven't seen Torn Curtain, but might need some mindless eye candy like Saboteur. Will be sure to follow up.

Torn Curtain and Topaz are decidely "meh," though they both have stunning sequences. I'd say Saboteur was one of his weakest films.