Genius or Lifeboat?
Comedian Paul Merton’s show about early Hitchcock airs tonight, at 9, on BBC4, which is terrific timing in terms of what I’m doing with Hitchcock Year, finishing up his silent output this week.
Merton’s previous film show, dealing with the great silent clowns, featured some great clips, some amusing lines, and some nice stories. My only problem was the lack of real critical analysis — because the episodes were structured as critiques, not as biographies or histories. I have a suspicion that the Hitchcock show will have some of the same issues — in an article for The Times, here, Merton makes some good jokes, (‘One newspaper wrote a headline: “Hitchcock — Psycho or Genius?” Why not say: “Hitchcock — Lifeboat or Genius?”’) and partially explains his interest in Hitch; but doesn’t seem able to describe the films or express much about what’s interesting in them. The idea of Hitch as master manipulator of audiences only goes a short way towards evoking his artistry, and it’s even less relevant to why his earliest films are interesting.
But I think it’ll be good fun as far as it goes. My only other complaint is that, as far as I know, the show is really looking at Hitch’s silents, but the accompanying mini-season of films are all talkies, the earliest of them from 1935 — a case of BBC4 not quite having the courage to be a genuinely highbrow channel that respects its audience’s intelligence and interest.