Archive for Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock Year Revisited

Posted in FILM with tags , , on May 15, 2012 by dcairns

As Regular Shadowplayers may know, I spent 2009 watching all of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, one a week — plus all the TV shows he personally directed for good measure.

But for the benefit of any newcomers, I thought I’d link to a few highlights, in honour of For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon. If you don’t see your favourite there, that’s ’cause my selection is governed by perversity and whim. But if you search for Hitchcock Year in the SEARCH function to the right, all the entries will appear, in reverse order. Or just type the name of the film you’re after.

THE PLEASURE GARDEN. Miles Mander is pretty thin, isn’t he?

Allergic reaction to the German language.

Hitchcock’s lost film — recreated!

“My worst intertitle.”

THE RING.

Carl Brisson, master of nuance.

Sound test for BLACKMAIL — if you ain’t seen it, you need to!

Both BLACKMAILs.

The Hitchcock Tarot Deck.

RICH AND STRANGE.

A Hitchcock Fumetti.

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.

Hitchcock By Numbers.

SABOTAGE.

THE LADY VANISHES.

A short story by Hitch, visualized by me and Hitch.

The DeWinters.

How to seduce Joan Fontaine.

Hitchcock’s magic milk.

NOTORIOUS.

STAGE FRIGHT.

REAR WINDOW.

Some of the least known, but most factual, Hitchcock Facts.

The underrated THE WRONG MAN.

A favourite: The Crimes of Gavin Elster.

A TV piece — with video excerpt.

Watching PSYCHO with mum and dad.

Two TV works.

MARNIE.

Test footage from KALEIDOSCOPE/FRENZY.

FRENZY.

It all ends here.

I know, I know! There’s already ONE blogathon going on… bookmark this page, is my advice. But more importantly, click on this thing below, and donate!

The Sunday Intertitle: Rats

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2012 by dcairns

My main purpose here is to alert anyone who still needs alerting to the great event of the film blogging calendar, For The Love of Film, the film preservation blogathon, hosyed by Ferdy on Film, This Island Rod and the Self-Styled Siren.

You’ll find a wealth of reading material via these sites, but don’t forget the purpose of the thing — donate! (By clicking on this thing below.)

We raise money, we get a free streaming version of THE WHITE SHADOW, scripted by Alfred Hitchcock, directed by Graham Cutts, and we get an original score to go with it.

Graham Cutts was one of the annoying lesser minds Hitchcock banged up against during his early years, a company which also included several producers and studio heads. And that’s how he is chiefly remembered. Hitch and Alma attempted to direct THE WHITE SHADOW by remote control, pointing out shots to the director, helping him along but also incurring his resentment.

Still, Cutts did enjoy some success apart from Hitch, most of it via the series of films he directed with Ivor Novello — THE RAT, TRIUMPH OF THE RAT and RETURN OF THE RAT. Novello, apart from his charming songs, is best remembered today for THE LODGER, Hitch’s first real thriller, hit, minor masterpiece. He was a heart-throb and matinee idol, and although Hitch was prevented from casting him as a serial killer, he tended to write bad-boy roles for himself, albeit with a last-reel redemption — in this sense, the ultimate revelation of his innocence in THE LODGER is quite in keeping with the kind of role he was associated with.

In THE RAT, Novello plays a Montmartre cat burglar entrusted with his devoted young ward daughter Odile (Mae Marsh), who falls in love with sophisticated rich lady Zelie de Chaumet (Isabel Jeans). The Rat finds himself in over his head, especially as his young ward faces a murder rap. Finding in himself a strange form of gallantry, he confesses to the crime — now only Zelie can save him.

Cutts serves this up with a cinematic flair which puts the lie to Hitch and Alma’s claim that he was visually illiterate — unless he had someone else in Hitch’s place, helping him along, this time.

THE RAT is a corking melodrama, and it not only merited two sequels but a remake in 1937. By then, Novello was out of movies for good, his strong Welsh valleys accent apparently considered unsuitable — in his few talkies, he tends to be cast as Eastern European or otherwise foreign, in hopes that his unfamiliar yet musical delivery could be disguised as exotic (not that I’m saying Wales is NOT exotic, you understand. Heaven forbid). So the role went to (drum roll)… Anton Walbrook, a true exotic.

Doesn’t this image make you very happy and excited? It does me.

Adding to the excitement, Odile is played waif specialist Rene Ray from THE PASSING OF THE THIRD FLOOR BACK (who also wrote THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X, intriguingly) and Zelie is embodied by Ruth Chatterton, visiting Britain as part of her downward career spiral. All three actors are ideally cast and excellent, and if director Jack Raymond doesn’t have quite the expressionist chops to paint a really memorable Montmartre demi-monde, he doesn’t do badly.

THE RAT is a fun character, though perhaps not suited to sequels (how many times CAN you be redeemed?) — really, there should have been a Hammer remake in the fifties, and maybe a Woodfall one in the ‘sixties in the wake of TOM JONES. Instead, British cinema dropped the ball and this character has fallen into disuse, slipping out of the public memory until there’s no longer any commercial value in bringing him back. Alas for The Rat!

The silent RAT has one thing the talkie inexplicably omits — a bar called The White Coffin, where all the doorways are coffin-shaped and all the floozies carry a torch for Novello. 

Bathroom Blunders of 1941

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on February 12, 2011 by dcairns

Good Leonard Leff video essay on the Criterion DVD of THE LADY VANISHES. Light, breezy, but smartly observed — it fits the film’s tone. I was surprised he didn’t suggest that the mysterious box Hitch is carrying in the train station doesn’t contain a device for catching elephants in the Scottish highlands, but we all miss a trick now and then.

Also included is CROOK’S TOUR, the best of the ultra-cheap movies made to cash in on the success of Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne’s comic relief Englishmen abroad. For copyright reasons, this is the only one where they star as C&C — but they were paired together under different names in a bunch of films, including DEAD OF NIGHT, and played C&C in a supporting capacity for TLV’s writers, Launder & Gilliat, in other movies. It’s a tangled history.

CROOK’S TOUR, while in no ways a distinguished piece of filmmaking, is pretty enjoyable, although of course there’s no trace of Hitchcockian dazzle or depth. Depressingly, Caldicott has acquired an offscreen wife, which seems like an attempt to stave off any suggestion that these two devoted bachelors might have a thing for each other.

However — it does contain my favourite C&C moment outside of Hitchcock. Charters narrowly escapes assassination in the bathroom of the exotic Hotel Hamilton, as the door leads not to a plumbing facility but to a plunge into the Bosporus.

“It’s labeled ‘bathroom’,” he complains.

“But that’s ridiculous!” protests Caldicott. “It should be labeled ‘Bosporus.”

Naunton Wayne is good with bathrooms.

The Lady Vanishes – (The Criterion Collection)

One more intertitle on Sunday, and then we plunge headfirst into the darkness of For the Love of Film (Noir), The Film Preservation Blogathon, about which you can read more here, and an early sampling at David E’s Fablog.

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