Kaleidoscope

This 1999 BBC documentary in the Reputations series uses stills and extracts from Hitchcock’s test footage for KALEIDOSCOPE / FRENZY, the movie he tried to make before TOPAZ. This material was assembled partly to convince Lew Wasserman and Universal to let Hitch proceed with the shoot. It may have had the opposite effect. In the late 1960s, nudity was still a controversial area — in just a year or so the film would probably have become quite safe for a major studio, but Hitch was just far enough ahead of fashion to run afoul of the risk-averse Wasserman.

The clip above shows the influence both of colour supplement fashion photography and Antonioni. Parick McGilligan, writing of this film in 1999’s Alfred Hitchcock, A Life in Darkness and Light, doesn’t seem to have seen the footage, talking about the movie’s European influence but conflating the nouvelle vague and Antonioni (both of whom, it is true, had greatly impressed the Master) and at one point referring to the proposed film as a black-and-white production.

We also get to hear from Norman Lloyd, currently being portrayed in ME AND ORSON WELLES, a film he’s been avoiding since he didn’t like the novel it’s based on. I saw the movie this week and hope to write something about it here on Thursday.

23 Responses to “Kaleidoscope”

  1. The films Hitchcock was fascinated by was Il Deserto Rosso and Masculin-Feminin. Hitchcock was a lifelong cinephile who insisted on playing movies in his private offices at Universal. When they were making The Birds, he ran Murnau movies for his crew, the kind of thing Scorsese does and well before both film-makers’ practices became fashionable. One can only wonder what other kinds of movies he saw.

  2. Apparently he dutifully watched all Universal’s new stuff, kept up with the Bond movies, and followed French and Italian developments with interest. There was a log of everything he watched until the last year or so, but nobody’s reproduced it in detail so far as I know.

  3. Well they should reproduce it…

  4. Rivette is another one for running films for his cast and crew. He screened The Seventh Victim prior to starting Duelle and Moonfleet before Noroit

  5. Rather fascinating that at this point in his career he sought out such material. Torn Curtain clearly convinced him that Big Stars were of no use to him at all But making a criminal psychopath his protagonist is a logical next step from Psycho.

    Kaleidoscop almost sounds like Hitch’s Peeping Tom And Frenzy features Anna Massey, so he was obviously thinking of “Mickey” quite a lot. She, of course, is murdered — in one of Hitch’s greatest coup de cinema. Thnakfully that’s off-screen. More than a little creepy watching him instruct Barbara Leigh Hunt how to die.

    At the last, of course, he pushes this all aside for the wonderfully droll Family Plot — which will bring your Hitchcock Year to a close.

  6. Hitchcock and Powell have a great trade-off relationship. When Powell was looking for an all-American girl for A Matter of Life and Death he came to LA and knocked on Hitch’s door and he suggested an actress who read lines to actresses during auditions for Notorious – Kim Hunter(whose career began with a small role in a little seen film called The Seventh Victim).

    Then Scorsese points out the influence of certain dissolves and colour effects on Hitchcock’s later films in Black Narcissus, contrariwise the opening of Peeping Tom with the close-up of the iris summons up Vertigo or maybe it summons up Luis Bunuel who both directors admired greatly. Anna Massey also has a small role in Bunny Lake is Missing which with it’s Freudian subtext seems highly influenced by Peeping Tom although Preminger, another one unlikely to wear influences on his sleeves, cited Godard’s A bout de souffle.

    There’s a lot of Modernist influence in Family Plot too.

  7. I have no doubt Belle de Jour knocked Hitchcock’s socks off. It’s a shame he never worked with Deneuve.

  8. ———————-
    I have no doubt Belle de Jour knocked Hitchcock’s socks off. It’s a shame he never worked with Deneuve.
    ———————–
    Deneuve’s role in Melville’s Le flic is testament to her Hitchcockian abilities.

  9. La Deneuve was asked which Hitchcock she would have done had she been given a choice and she said, “Marnie”. She and Truffaut once had lunch with Hitchcock and she found him quite charming.

    Hitchcock admired Tristana more, it seems. He rhapsodized about “that leg” to Don Luis. That’s Catherine Deneuve’s favourite too of her films with the great Aragonese, she complained in an interview for Film Comment with Arnaud Desplechin that people got some weird ideas about her based on “Repulsion” and “Belle de Jour”…how “Tristana” changes things is beyond me!!!

  10. Man, I would love to see more Hitchcock test footage. Of anything. And it seems a shame that somebody of his stature couldn’t just make a deal elsewhere to make the movie. He was arguably the most powerful director in the world at that point.

  11. One would have thought — and yet, Mary Rose and Kaleidoscope both remained unmade, despite being fully developed and ready to roll.

    Anna Massey has a great psychopathic trilogy with Frenzy, Peeping Tom and Bunny Lake. Of course she’s connected to Powell not just through PT but through her famous father.

    More test footage would certainly be nice! Hitch didn’t go in for it much with other projects but he was trying to overcome Universal’s reluctance by presenting them almost with a fait accompli.

  12. Just saw Me and Orson Welles last week–it’s far from a good film, but Christian McKay is brilliant as Welles. As we left the cinema, I pondered aloud whether or not Norman Lloyd had seen the film, and whether or not he approved of his characterization as a sex-crazed Bowery Boy. I guess now we have the answer!

  13. Marnie would suit Deneuve to a tee, wouldn’t it? I guess they’d need to explain her accent, but that wouldn’t be too hard. They didn’t worry overmuch about Connery’s.

    One odd thing is that Hitch chose Benn Levy as screenwriter for his modernist psycho-thriller. Levy had worked on The Old Dark House and Blackmail, and directed Lored Camber’s Ladies, which Hitch produced, but hadn’t worked in movies for 3o years.

    Gilbert Taylor, who shot Repulsion, also shot Frenzy.

  14. I really enjoyed the guy who played Norman Lloyd, but he wasn’t very Lloyd-like, was he? More like a ginger Allen Jenkins. In the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode Maria, Llloyd does play a low-class creep kind of like that, very convincingly, but it’s some distance from his regular self!

  15. As far as unavailable Hitchcock material is concerned … what I’d like to see is the Samuel Taylor screenplay for “No Bail For The Judge.” Or has somebody already made this available?

  16. I think maybe the fellow who has Mary Rose up on his website is planning to upload this, but hasn’t yet. Yes, that’d be a very interesting one to read.

  17. The main question was, was Hitchcock willing to go independent and make those films. Because that’s what Otto Preminger was able to do and what John Ford did when he moved to Republic in the 50s for a few years and of course Kazan and Huston. Hitchcock carved his own niche in the studio system and made this amazing space for himself within that but when things were shaking in the 60s, he didn’t jump ship even if he knew things were changing. Then there is the question of age and health which could have put a damper to youthful refreshing ideas like that. There’s a certain amount of defeatism if you will, in the way he continued to work with Lew Wasserman. Which isn’t to say he phoned it in, flawed as they are his last three films are full of life and wit and joy but there’s also an air of resignation in those films.

  18. Not in Family Plot. It’s very bright and up and playful. Barbara Harris inspired him.

  19. Well one of the themes of Family Plot is death. It is relaxed in dealing with it but it’s there. But yeah it’s a fun pleasurable film and Barbara Harris is the best part of that film.

  20. david wingrove Says:

    Not to mention the ever-glorious Karen Black, in possibly her best-ever role!

  21. Hitchcock snogged her — and at last found an actress with an air of amused tolerance for his misbehaviour. She wasn’t freaked out at all. “He was an impulsive man,” she decided. His history in this department suggests a man whose impulses would get the better of him at surprising intervals and with often unpleasant results. At least at his advanced age, Black wouldn’t have felt in any way threatened by him — after all, he’d already showed her his pacemaker.

  22. Her best ever, IMO, was Faye Greener in Schlesinger’s scandalously underrated film of The Day of the Locust. Karen Black is a truly rare commodity in the commercial cinema — a genuine original. From Five Easy Pieces to camp classic Trilogy of Terror to a more recent indie that found her co-starred with Tilda Swinton — Technolust — she’s utterly uncanny. No surprise that Hitch didn’t throw her.

  23. david wingrove Says:

    Yes, she is truly superb in DAY OF THE LOCUST (but then again, so is everyone else!) I even love Karen Black in ultra-cheesy 70s flicks like BURNT OFFERINGS and AIRPORT 1975.

    Her other great moment is in Altman’s COME BACK TO THE 5 AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN where (look away now if you haven’t seen the film) she plays a wholly convincing transsexual.

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