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The Top Ten Alfred Hitchcock Films

Today is Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. He was born in 1899 in London. I thought I would put together a ranked list of the ten films that I consider to be his best. As you all know, I am a major fan of Hitch’s films, so it has proven to be quite a challenge for me to only pick ten films of his to rank. 

I’d love to get your thoughts on these ten films. I’d also love to know what your own top ten Hitchcock list looks like. Please do leave your own choices in the comments below. 

 

10. The Birds (1963)

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Melanie, Cathy and Mitch hide from the birds. Screenshot by me.

Hitchcock proves he has a talent as a horror director with this film about birds attacking humans. A clever mix of real birds, fake birds and matte shots convince us that the bird attacks and mass gatherings are real.

Featuring a strong debut performance by Tippi Hedren. I also love this one a great deal because of the relationship which develops between Mitch and Melanie.  

 

 

 

9. Sabotage (1936)

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Sylvia Sidney as the horrified wife. Screenshot by me.

Featuring a bus ride which becomes one of the most shocking and suspenseful sequences in any of Hitchcock’s films. The other standout sequence in the film is the dinner scene where the wife gives her evil husband quite the fright. 

Sabotage is a suspenseful drama about the British police trying to prevent a terrorist attack in London.

Sylvia Sidney is excellent as the young wife who slowly comes to realise her husband is a cold and deranged murderer, and that he doesn’t care who gets hurt.

I think this is Hitch’s best British film. 

 

 

 

8.Notorious (1946)

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Devlin and Alicia. Screenshot by me.

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman play against type in this thrilling film about spies, romance and murder. The daughter of a Nazi(who doesn’t share her father’s views) is asked to spy on a Nazi group who live in America.

She accepts the task and soon finds herself in great danger. She is also romantically torn between two very different men (Cary Grant and Claude Rains).

Cary is all toughness and cynicism as the American agent unwilling to admit he is in love with the woman he is sending into danger.  Ingrid plays a disreputable, fun-loving woman, whose heroic actions redeem her self destructive behaviour. Superb support from the great Claude Rains and Leopoldine Konstantin. 

 

 

7. Rope (1948)

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Phillip, Rupert and Brandon. Screenshot by me.

I’d say this has to be the most macabre Hitchcock film. Two men murder one of their friends, put his body into a trunk, and then use the top of the trunk as a buffet table.

They invite a group of their friends(including the victims father and fiance)to dinner in the apartment to eat off the trunk. The suspense lies in whether or not the dead body will be discovered.

John Dall is chilling as the evil, cold and possibly psychopathic, Brandon. Farley Granger is equally excellent as the twitchy Phillip, who unlike Brandon, is actually unhappy about what they have done and is nervous about getting caught.

Rope is notable for seemingly having been shot all in one take, and also for the homosexual undertones to the relationship between Brandon, Phillip and their friend and former teacher, Rupert(James Stewart). The film was inspired by the real Leopold and Loeb murder case.  

 

 

 

6. Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

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Uncle Charlie and his niece. Screenshot by me.

Hitch shows us that all is not as it seems in small town America. Joseph Cotten delivers a career best performance here playing Uncle Charlie, a charming serial killer who is being pursued by the police.

The film becomes a thrilling cat and mouse game once Charlie’s niece finds out his dark secret. 

This film is all about shattered innocence, misperception and danger. The fascinating relationship between Charlie and his niece is something that has been much discussed and interpreted(the pair are almost like twins in some ways, and there is also a hint of a strange tension between them which could be sexual), and it is one of the most memorable aspects of the film. Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright both deliver excellent performances.  

 

 

 

5. Vertigo (1958)

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Madeleine reborn. Screenshot by me.

In my opinion this is Hitchock’s darkest and most fascinating film. The film also features the best Hitchcock score (in my opinion) composed by Bernard Herrmann. This haunting Noir is part suspenseful mystery, part twisted and tragic love story, and part eerie ghost story.

This is one that can be interpreted in so many different ways, which means that it is one that you can have a great deal of fun watching and analysing. 

James Stewart and Kim Novak are both at their best as the ill-fated lovers, Scottie and Madeleine. This is one of the darkest and complex performances that James Stewart ever gave. Kim Novak convinces in a duel role as two very different women. 

 

 

 

4. North By Northwest (1959)

 

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Eve and Roger hang on to Mount Rushmore. Screenshot by me.

This one is a real thrill ride from start to finish. The best of Hitch’s wrong man on the run films in my opinion. This film is part thriller, part comedy, part romance and part spy story. It looks gorgeous visually and the cast all look so stylish and glamorous.

The film features two of the most iconic moments in film history(the crop duster attack and the Mount Rushmore sequence). Cary Grant at his best ably supported by Eva Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau. 

 

 

 

3. Rebecca (1940)

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Mrs. Danvers distresses the new bride. Screenshot by me.

This gothic ghost story is expertly directed by Hitch. The film begins with a sweet love story, the film is also very brightly lit at the beginning and everything looks idyllic. 

The mood and lighting of the film quickly become much darker once Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier’s characters return home to England.

All shadows and billowing curtains, this atmospheric and suspenseful drama features career best performances from Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson. I love how Hitch makes us sense the oppressive presence of the dead Rebecca.

 

 

 

2. Psycho (1960)

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Lila gets a fright. Screenshot by me.

The film that changed everything. Starting off as a film about a woman on the run, the film takes an unexpected detour into horror territory and makes film history in the process.

Featuring the scariest shower sequence ever filmed, one of the creepiest houses in film history, and a brilliant twist at the end which makes you reassess everything that you have just watched.

Scary, suspenseful and featuring a remarkable performance by Anthony Perkins. Strong support from Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam and John Gavin. 

 

 

 

1. Rear Window (1954)

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Lisa and Jeff witness something strange. Screenshot by me.

I struggled for a very long time over which film should be in first place. In the end I decided that this film should be number one.

I think it easily qualifies to be the best Hitchcock film as it so perfectly encapsulates what Hitchcock’s films are all about. The plot of the film and the way everything is all set up, means that this film is still effective and doesn’t feel dated when viewed today. 

Rear Window is filled with suspense, murder, relationships, obsession, mystery, danger and thrills. Hitch also cleverly makes the audience obsessed voyeurs, just like Jimmy Stewart’s character is, by making us see everything from that characters perspective. Featuring terrific performances from James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr. 

 

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The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Concludes

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Sadly our time spent with the master of suspense has drawn to a close. I want to say a huge thank you to you all for taking part. Your articles and reviews were all interesting and a lot of fun to read. I really appreciate so many people taking part. It has been so much fun.

My apologies to those of you with none WordPress blogs, I have been having trouble for a long time now leaving comments on none WordPress sites. If these sites have their comments section set to accept name and URL I have found I can comment, but I have trouble commenting when signed in directly from WordPress. I have replied to your messages letting me know you’ve posted, and I have shared my thoughts on your entries that way. 

You can find all of the terrific entries right here

If things are well with me next year, I will certainly try my best to host this for a third year running. I do hope you will all be able to join me again for another celebration of all things Hitch. 

You are all invited to take part in my next blogathon(I know, I’m addicted to blogathons 🙂 )being held in two weeks time. It is a celebration of the films of director David Lean. You can learn more and sign up here

Thanks again.

Uncategorized

The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Begins

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The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon has finally arrived!

Over the next two days, a large number of truly wonderful bloggers will be submitting their articles on all things Hitch.  Check back to this post today and tomorrow, I will be updating it as regularly as I can linking to all of the entries.

I can’t wait to read all of your posts. Thank you so much for taking part.

The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon participants gather together in the hotel lounge. The strains of Bernard Herrmann’s music can be heard floating through the air.

Someone kindly informs us that lunch is now ready. We all tuck into a delicious buffet, this is laid out for us on top of a suspicious looking chest belonging to some guy called Brandon.

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Day 2 Entries

The Wonderful World Of Cinema goes out to sea in order to discuss Hitchcock’s ocean set thriller Lifeboat

 

Poppity flees from crop dusters as she reviews the Hitchcock classic North By Northwest.

 

Silver Screen Classics goes on a journey with Richard Hannay to uncover the mystery of The 39 Steps.

 

Vinnieh tells us what happened when Uncle Charlie came to town in Shadow Of A Doubt.

 

Taking Up Room discusses an early film which would become the only film of Hitchcock’s that he would ever remake. The film is  The Man Who Knew Too Much

 

Cracked Rear Viewer discusses the suspenseful 3D Hitchcock film Dial M For Murder.

 

Sat In Your Lap discusses the powerful Hitchcock film The Wrong Man

 

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society discusses the haunting and suspenseful film Rebecca

 

Retro Movie Buff encounters spies and windmills in her review of Foreign Correspondent.

 

 

Day 1 Entries

Down These Mean Streets spent some time with Devlin, Alicia and Alexander, and she writes about that experience in her review of Notorious

 

Cinema Essentials discusses Hitchcock’s suspenseful 3D film Dial M For Murder.

 

The Midnite-Drive In discusses the terrifying 60’s shocker Psycho and also the biopic Hitchcock. 

 

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest joins Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly to look out at the Rear Window

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews discusses Four O’ Clock, a Hitchcock directed episode of the TV series Suspicion.

 

Silver Screenings joins a party hiding a grisly secret in Rope.   

 

Bonnywood Manor gets caught up in the thrilling spy story Topaz.

 

Caftan Woman invites us all to join her at the theatre to discuss Stage Fright.

 

The Stop Button takes a look at one of Hitchcock’s early British films Young And Innocent.

 

dbmoviesblog takes a trip to Bodega Bay and witnesses nature striking back in The Birds.

 

Taking Up Room tells us all about Hitchcock’s first ever sound film Blackmail.

 

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You talks about the disappointing Hitchcock film Torn Curtain.

 

Sparks From A Combustible Mind discusses the time when Hitchcock went comic in The Trouble With Harry.

 

I take a trip to Manderley to meet Rebecca.  I also write about the 60th anniversary of the release of  Vertigo

Blogathons, Films I Love, Romance

The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Rebecca (1940)

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This is my entry for my Alfred Hitchcock blogathon being held in a few days time. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. If you would like to join in there is still plenty of time for you to do so. Learn more and sign up here. See you all on the 6th and 7th of July. 

There are not enough words available for me to be able to use to accurately describe how much I love the film RebeccaI consider it to be one of the best Gothic films ever made, and I consider it to also be one of the most engrossing and visually interesting Alfred Hitchcock films. 

Rebecca is a haunting, gripping, suspenseful and creepy film. It is also a film that lingers on in the memory long after you’ve finished watching it.   

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Mrs. Danvers upsets the new bride. Screenshot by me.

The film features Joan Fontaine delivering one of her best screen performances, that of the shy, tormented and emotionally fragile young woman who attempts to take the dead Rebecca’s place as mistress of the Manderley estate(based on Daphne Du Maurier’s house in Cornwall, which was called Menabilly). Judith Anderson delivers the other standout performance in the film as the sinister and obsessed housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. 

Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film, and it was also his first film made under contract to the producer David O’ Selznick. The film was based upon the novel of the same name written by the great Daphne Du Maurier in 1938. The novel is one of my favourites and I especially love how vivid and intriguing it is.

Rebecca is a book that really draws you in. I think that Hitchcock’s film does the same thing. He also did a terrific job of capturing the eerie atmosphere of the novel. He makes us actually feel the oppressive presence of the dead Rebecca de Winter, and he does so without ever showing us her face.

We don’t need to see Rebecca in flashbacks or photos to know what she was like, instead we learn what we need to know about her just as the new Mrs. de Winter learns it. We  also only become aware of Rebecca’s lingering presence and influence just as the new wife becomes aware when she takes up residence in Manderley.   

Besides being extremely atmospheric and intriguing, this film is also a real character piece. It is the unseen Rebecca who is the most memorable of all the characters in the film. The memory of Rebecca haunts most of the main characters who we follow throughout the film.

We also learn more about Rebecca’ s personality as we see why the various main characters loved her or hated her. We also learn that while she may have beautiful on the outside, on the inside she was anything but, and she also did a great deal of damage to people.

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Rebecca is always present in some way. Screenshot by me.

The second Mrs. de Winter is shown constantly comparing herself to Rebecca. She fears that she can never become the type of woman that Rebecca was, a woman who is beautiful, accomplished, fearless, confident and strong. She is intimidated by Rebecca and by the beautiful, large and well run home which Rebecca organised and arranged.

The second wife isn’t alone in being unable to escape Rebecca. Other people who knew her cannot escape her either. Maxim is unable to stop experiencing his mixed feelings for Rebecca(he both loathed and loved her)and he is also haunted by what happened in her final moments of life. Maxim has become a tortured soul desperately seeking peace and salvation(which he finds in the form of his new wife).

Mrs. Danvers is devastated by the loss of Rebecca, and she is haunted by the memory of this young woman who was so full of life and whom Mrs. Danvers loved, adored and doted upon. Jack Favell is haunted by the memory of the passionate and vibrant Rebecca; a woman who shared his temperament and tastes, and with whom he had a long running love affair. 

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Maxim and his new wife talk about Rebecca. Screenshot by me.

Rebecca may well be dead, but she lives on in the memories of all who knew her. The memory of her reaches out from beyond the grave to crush the happiness of those left alive. The living may find some amount of happiness, but try as they might, they can never truly escape the memory of this woman,they also cannot forget the things she said and did while she lived. 

We don’t need to see a photo or portrait of Rebecca to be able to form a picture of her in our minds as we watch the film. We know she was beautiful, we know she was a woman who commanded and received constant attention and admiration by all who knew her, and we know that she was a teasing and manipulative woman too. When I read the book or watch the film, I always picture Rebecca as looking like a cross between the actresses Vivien Leigh and Margaret Lockwood. 

Interestingly Vivien Leigh desperately wanted to play the second Mrs. de Winter in this film, alongside her husband Laurence Olivier as Maxim. Vivien even made a screentest for the part. I have to say that having seen the screentest I’m afraid that she is all wrong for the character.

Vivien displays none of the shyness, the fragility, or the naive quality that the second Mrs. de Winter needed to have about her. I think that Joan Fontaine was undoubtedly the right woman for this particular role. Had they gone down the flashback route with the film, then I think Vivien would have been perfect for the role of Rebecca.

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A rare happy moment for the couple.Screenshot by me.

The film begins in Monte Carlo. The brooding, middle aged, wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier)is about to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. Maxim is stopped from jumping by a young woman(Joan Fontaine, playing a character who is never named in the book or film)who sees him and is concerned about what he is about to do. 

He later discovers that she is staying at the same hotel that he is. He finds that she is working as a paid companion to the odious Mrs. Van Hopper (a scene stealing Florence Bates). Maxim and this young woman gradually begin to befriend one another and fall in love. 

She loves him because he is kind to her and genuinely takes an interest in her, and because he allows her an escape from her current life and social station. He loves her because she is pure, fresh, kind and innocent; with those personality traits she is the polar opposite of his dead first wife, a woman who haunts his memories.

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The couple arrive home to be greeted by all the staff. Screenshot by me.

They marry and return to England, to stay in Maxim’s family estate of Manderley. Once in her new home, the second Mrs. de Winter must try and fit in with her husband’s upper class lifestyle, and also try and compete with the lingering memory of his dead first wife, Rebecca. The first Mrs.de Winter drowned in the sea, but there is actually much more to her death than we first believe.

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Rebecca’s monogrammed stationery. Screenshot by me.

Traces of Rebecca linger in every part of the house. Rebecca’s bedroom is kept exactly as it was when she lived. Her clothes are still hanging in the wardrobe, the furnishings, menus and the flower arrangements in the house are all still hers.

The study is still filled with her monogrammed stationery and address books. Staff and friends also talk about Rebecca quite often, and their words remind the second Mrs. de Winter of the great differences between herself and Rebecca.

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Rebecca’s monogrammed pillowcase. Screenshot by me.

The housekeeper of Manderley is Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) and she is a sinister, creepy and highly manipulative woman who is obsessed with Rebecca, and she feels very threatened by the presence of the new Mrs. de Winter.

The young woman is scared of the housekeeper and she also becomes more and more nervous as her worries and feelings of inadequacy grow. She keeps comparing herself to Rebecca and she starts to think she is no good for Maxim. At one point Mrs. Danvers even tries to take advantage of the young woman’s fragile state of mind by attempting to persuade her to commit suicide.

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Jack drops by and causes trouble. Screenshot by me.

A visit to Manderley by the suave and smarmy Jack Favell(George Sanders), who was Rebecca’s cousin and lover, makes it very clear to us that Rebecca had some major secrets. These secrets piques the interest of the second Mrs. de Winter. As the film goes on, hearts get broken, dark secrets are revealed, and nothing will ever be the same again. 

Joan Fontaine is superb as the fragile and tragic young woman trying so hard to stay strong, but who feels her control of her life slipping away.

I love how she also manages to convincingly convey the massive change that her character goes through, as she gradually transitions from the shy and fragile innocent and becomes a much stronger and dominant woman standing up to Mrs. Danvers and to the memory of Rebecca. The moment where she finally asserts her authority and makes a stand against the memory of Rebecca is unforgettable.

Joan really makes you feel for this woman and she is totally convincing as a woman on the verge of a breakdown. Joan was Oscar nominated for her work here but she lost out to Ginger Rogers for Kitty Foyle.

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Joan Fontaine. Screenshot by me.

Joan would take home the award the following year for her performance in another Hitchcock film, Suspicion; in that film Joan plays a similar character to Mrs. de Winter with both characters being in great emotional distress, both of them are also fragile and consumed by fear and worry. Rebecca would go on to become the only Hitchcock film to win the director a Best Picture Oscar. 

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Laurence Olivier. Screenshot by me.

Laurence Olivier is excellent as the tormented Maxim. He convincingly conveys this man’s changing nature, being relaxed and happy with his new bride one moment, and becoming short tempered, distant and sad when he is made to think of Rebecca.

I quite like Laurence and I think that he is a good actor, but he’s never been a favourite of mine. I have also never understood all the hype surrounding his acting skills. I think he is very good in this role though and he subtly conveys so much to us with his eyes and expressions. 

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Judith Anderson. Screenshot by me.

Judith Anderson steals every scene she is in as Mrs. Danvers. Watch her eyes and her body language, she says so much without uttering dialogue. This is one of her best performances for sure.

I like how Mrs. Danvers is a complex villain. She may well be scary and cruel, but she was made that way after becoming unhinged by the grief of losing Rebecca. Grief can do strange things to people, and it has really damaged this woman. 

George Sanders also steals all the scenes he is in. He also provides a tiny bit of comic relief as the sarcastic and interfering Jack Favell. This was the first film that I ever saw George in and I became an instant fan of his.  He plays Jack as a man for whom words are weapons. He has great fun in the role and gets to deliver some brilliant lines. 

The film is shot in black and white and this really adds to the gothic atmosphere. The cinematography by George Barnes is beautiful and memorable. I especially love the cinematography in the scene where we see Rebecca’s bedroom for the first time, and also the scene where Mrs. Danvers tries to make Mrs. de Winter jump to her death.

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Exploring Rebecca’s beautiful bedroom. Screenshot by me.

The film also features some stunning lighting and some interesting camera movement. There are scenes where the camera pulls back from Joan Fontaine and I think that was done to make it seem like Rebecca is in the same room with her, watching her, moving around her and sharing her space. Joan Fontaine is also filmed in a way that makes her appear small in comparison to her surroundings and other characters.

I also love the score by Franz Waxman. I think that the score captures the romance, the dread, the mystery and the eerie aspects of the story perfectly. 

If there is one thing about both the novel and the film that really annoys me, it is that the second wife is never named. I get why this was done (to make her seem insignificant in comparison to Rebecca), but I really think that could have still been achieved if the character had been given a name. 

My favourite scenes are the following. Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter meeting for the first time on the clifftop. The “I am Mrs. de Winter now!”scene.  Maxim’s marriage proposal. The scene where the second Mrs. de Winter goes downstairs wearing the same dress that Rebecca once wore. The scene where Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter watch their honeymoon video. Chasing Jasper on the beach and finding the cottage. The confession scene. Exploring Rebecca’s bedroom. Jack trying to blackmail Maxim in the car. 

It has often been noted that the story of Rebecca bears many similarities to Jane Eyre. I think this is true. Maxim and his second wife are so similar to Jane Eyre and Rochester. Maxim is desperate to escape a hellish past and find peace and happiness with a pure and decent woman (just as Rochester is). The second Mrs de Winter is quiet and shy, and she has been bullied and used by many people, in Maxim she finds someone who loves her and will be kind to her (just like Jane). Both the second Mrs de Winter and Jane also become very strong and determined women as their stories go on. It’s fun to study the film and spot the similarities and to compare characters and situations. 

This is one of my favourite Hitchcock films. It is also a film that I never get tired of watching. If you enjoyed this film and the book, then I would also recommend an excellent miniseries adaptation of Rebecca. The series is from 1979, and it stars the great Jeremy Brett as Maxim and Joanna David as the second wife. The series is very close to the book and is allowed more time to develop the characters. I also quite like the 1997 miniseries starring Charles Dance as Maxim. 

What are your thoughts on this Hitchcock film?

Blogathons, Uncategorized

Announcing The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon

Last year I held an Alfred Hitchcock blogathon, it was a huge success and featured so many terrific Hitchcock related reviews and articles.The event ran for three days and you can read day 1 entries here, day 2 entries here, and day 3 entries here.

I have decided to run this blogathon again this year. I do hope that you can all join me in celebrating Alfred Hitchcock’s films. You can write about any of Hitchcock’s films. You can write about his TV series. You can write about Hitchcock himself, or about the actors and characters featured in his films and series.

You can write more than one entry if you wish to do so. I will accept two duplicates per film title. Previously published reviews and articles are more than welcome.

The blogathon will be held for two days on the 6th and 7th of July, 2018. 

Just let me know what you would like to write about in the comments section below.Check the participation list to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners from below and pop it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun writing!

Participation List

Maddylovesherclassicfilms: Rebecca and Vertigo

Silver Screen Classics: The 39 Steps

Down These Mean Streets: Notorious

The Humpo Show: Saboteur

Sat In Your Lap: The Wrong Man

Caftan Woman: Stage Fright

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest: Rear Window

Sparks From A Combustible Mind: The Trouble With Harry

Cracked Rear Viewer: Dial M For Murder

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Four O’Clock(episode of the TV series Suspicion)

dbmoviesblog: The Birds

Bonnywood Manor: Topaz

Vinnieh: Shadow Of A Doubt

Films On The Box: The Skin Game

Silver Screenings: Rope

Poppity: Marnie and North By Northwest

Retro Movie Buff: Foreign Correspondent 

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: Lifeboat

The Stop Button: Young And Innocent

Taking Up Room: Blackmail and The Man Who Knew Too Much(1934)

The Midnite Drive-In: Psycho and Hitchcock(biopic of Hitch starring Anthony Hopkins)

Cinema Essentials: Dial M For Murder

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Mr. and Mrs. Smith and North By Northwest

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You: Torn Curtain

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Rebecca

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Hitchcock Blogathon 3

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David Lean 1I am also hosting another blogathon celebrating the film director David Lean. I’d love you to take part in that too. You can learn more and sign up here. 

Films I Love, Thriller

Rear Window(1954)

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Jeff watches his neighbours. Screenshot by me.

I consider Rear Window to be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s cleverest and most absorbing  films. Few films can claim to be perfect, but I think this is one of the few that can be considered such.

This is one of Hitchcock’s best films (and that is saying something)and his attention to even the smallest of details is very evident in every scene. The film is the perfect package and it contains something in it for everyone to enjoy.

The way Hitchcock directs this film makes his audience become voyeurs just like James Stewart’s character is. The more of the film we watch, the more it seems like we are right there in that apartment with him looking out at the neighbouring apartments and focusing on what is happening inside them. 

I always feel quite uncomfortable whenever I watch this one because it feels like I’m being nosy and am actually looking in on all these peoples lives. I felt like I have become James Stewart’s character in a way.

Rear Window is a very dark and thrilling film which tackles issues of obsession, curiosity, romance, murder and voyeurism. The film features glamourous clothes, black comedy, fascinating characters, plenty of suspense and one of the most realistic film sets in American film history. The film also shows that sometimes being nosy and suspicious isn’t a bad thing. 

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Jeff and Lisa can’t stop looking out the window. Screenshot by me.

I really like how we are not entirely sure whether to accept the suspicions of Jeff or not. Even though we see and hear the same things he does, we don’t really know what incidents are worth being concerned about. At some points we are not entirely clear about what we’ve actually just witnessed. 

Photographer L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart)is wheelchair bound at home during a heatwave after he breaks his leg.

Jeff lives in an apartment complex and he starts looking out of his window at his neighbours because he needs something to do to help him pass the time when he can’t sleep because of the heat. However what begins as a casual curiosity, soon develops into an obsession when he can’t stop looking at what’s going on in the neighbouring apartments. 

Jeff’s glamourous girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly)loves him dearly, but the two are complete opposites in background, life and society. Lisa begins to get concerned about Jeff’s obsession with the neighbours and she tries to get him to focus on her instead. Soon Lisa gets drawn into Jeff’s obsession. The pair begin to suspect neighbour Lars Thorwald (a menacing Raymond Burr)of having murdered his invalid wife and taken her body out of their apartment late at night.

Jeff and Lisa begin their own investigations into the possibility of foul play having been committed. They are helped in their investigations by Jeff’s nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter) and Jeff’s detective friend Doyle (Wendell Corey). Hitchcock keeps us guessing as to whether Thorwald is innocent or guilty right up to the end of the film. We even begin to wonder at points in the film whether Jeff is correct in his suspicions or not.

I love the apartment complex set because it looks so realistic. How it’s set up works for the story as Jeff’s window has a clear view of all of the other apartments opposite and around his own. All the apartment sets were also designed inside, with furniture etc added to the interiors which could be seen through the windows. I also love the excellent sound work heard during the apartment complex sequences where we hear conversations, music, and other sounds at various different levels, just as you would in reality. 

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The apartment complex. Screenshot by me.

The one thing about this set up that always makes me laugh is how everyone in all the apartments has their windows open with the lights on and nobody (apart from the newlyweds)ever has their curtains or blinds drawn. This seems to be a recurring thing in American, Swedish and Danish films and series; here in the UK, once it’s evening the curtains and blinds are firmly shut, we’d never dream of having the lights on so that everyone outside could see in. Do none of the characters in this film value their privacy? Do they not think that someone across the courtyard could be seeing everything they’re doing?

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Miss Loneleyheart. Screenshot by me.

Not only is the film suspenseful and thrilling, but it is also a terrific character piece with a great deal of character development occurring throughout. Even Jeff’s briefly glimpsed neighbours come across as very real people with all their various quirks and flaws.

I don’t know about you but the action taking place in the individual apartments is as intriguing to me as the main story of Jeff obsessing over Lars Thorwald. I’m most fascinated by the Miss Lonelyheart story. This woman is single and is depressed because she doesn’t have anyone in her life. This storyline is so well conveyed that I find myself really feeling for this woman and wanting to comfort her.

I also like seeing how Jeff slowly comes to see what a treasure he has in Lisa. As the film goes on he is more focused on what is going on in the other apartments to be able to properly focus on his own life. Lisa and Jeff genuinely do love each other, but they each have such different lives and interests that their relationship isn’t easy. Lisa also wants them to get married but Jeff doesn’t want that.  

By the end of the film though, Jeff realises that he does love Lisa very much. He finds that he can’t be without her, and he starts to see that she is a resourceful and brave woman. Grace Kelly is as glamorous and beautiful as ever but she gets to show there is more to her character than her physical appearance. Lisa ends up becoming one of the bravest characters in the film. Grace also shows us Lisa’s vulnerable side and her desperation for Jeff to fully accept her in his life.

James Stewart portrays Jeff as a man who is very set in his ways, but who slowly comes to realise that there is room for Lisa in his life after all. James does such a good job of conveying Jeff’s growing fascination and obsession with the mystery in the apartment opposite his. James again goes to some dark places for Hitch as he plays a character obsessed with murder and someone who seems to be at his happiest watching the lives of others. In this film he delivers one of his finest performances. 

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Thelma Ritter as Stella,  and James Stewart as Jeff. Screenshot by me.

Thelma Ritter provides comic support as the sassy and no-nonsense Stella. She also thinks Jeff needs to stop watching, but then she and Lisa begin to think he may be right after all. Thelma was one of the greatest character actresses and she steals every scene she is in here.

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Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald. Screenshot by me.

Raymond Burr is almost unrecognisable in this as Lars Thorwald. I love Raymond when he plays good guys like Ironside, but he was superb when playing dubious and evil characters. He really keeps you guessing about Thorwald right up to the final scene. 

This is a thrilling film that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. It also makes you see just how easy it is to slip into obsession. Excellent performances throughout and skilled direction from Hitch make this a must see.

My favourite scenes are the following. Lisa sneaking into Thorwald’s apartment. Our first introduction to Lisa. Doyle seeing that Lisa is going to spend the night with Jeff. The opening sequence of the apartment complex. The entire final sequence involving the camera flash. 

What do you think of Rear Window?

 

Films I Love, Romance, Thriller

North By Northwest (1959)

 

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Roger Thornhill tries to hide while on the run. Screenshot by me.

For many people, North By Northwest is considered to be Alfred Hitchcock’s best film. It isn’t hard to see why this one is so beloved and highly regarded by fans and critics alike.

This film contains all of the essential elements of Hitchcock’s films; suspense, thrills, a case of mistaken identity, an innocent person wrongly accused, comedy, and a cool and beautiful blonde woman. In short, I think that this film really is the perfect Alfred Hitchcock package.

I love this film so much. This is a film in which something is always happening and I find it interesting that in this film the characters are always on the move. From the opening titles, designed by Saul Bass (and accompanied by one of Bernard Herrmann’s best scores) the characters are continuously seen being on the move, they never really stop moving until the final scene onboard the train. The film is an exhilarating thrill ride and is a great deal of fun to watch. I also love the photography by Robert Burks. I especially love the overhead shots he does during the scenes where Vandamm questions Roger, and also in the scenes at Vandamm’s mountain house.

I also like how stylish and elegant the film looks overall. The characters are so well dressed and the film transports us back to a bygone era of class, style and elegance. Part of why I love classic films so much is because they show me how past generations dressed and lived. I love the 1950’s glamour and elegance captured by Hitch and featured in this film.

There are also so many interesting and intriguing characters in this film and their presence makes this film one that I like to return to again and again.There’s plenty of twists and turns and you’re never sure who to trust or take at face value. I also love the way these characters all interact with one another throughout the film. Characters perceptions of one another also change as the film goes along and our perception of them changes too.

I like seeing Roger Thornhill start out as being in control and as being a bit self absorbed. As the film goes along he changes when he realises he’s not as in control as he once thought he was. We see him turn into a man who comes to care about someone else, we also see him realise there is more outside of the life he had been leading up to this point in time.

I also like how Roger becomes braver and more heroic as the film goes on. He is scared and confused by what is happening to him at first, but then he takes it in his stride and we see him become less and less like the self absorbed man at the start of the film. I also like how he later willingly puts himself in danger as he rescues the woman he loves from certain death. 

The scenes between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are very playful. Their scenes are filled with sexual tension and a great deal of warmth, fun and affection too. I especially love their dinner chat and flirting on the train. These characters and their relationship with one another are the heart of the film for me.

                                   Roger and Eve flirt over dinner. Screenshot by me.

The growing relationship between Cary and Eva’s characters is fun to watch and I find myself coming to care very much for them both. The scenes between Cary and Eva are a real highlight of the film for me. Their scenes on the train are erotic, tender, interesting and very funny. 

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Roger and Eve get intimate. Screenshot by me.

Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant)is a Madison Avenue advertising man. He has a very good life, a life that he believes he is in complete control of. His ordered life is turned on its head when he is mistaken for a C.I.A agent, called George Kaplan. Suave spy, Phillip Vandamm (a sinister James Mason) has been aware of Kaplan following him and his group for some time. He wants Kaplan dead. Thornhill can’t persuade him that this is a genuine case of mistaken identity and that he is not the man that Vandamm thinks he is.

So begins a non stop chase across the country. Thornhill tries to avoid Vandamm’s men and also tries to avoid getting arrested by the authorities, after Vandamm frames him for murder. Thornhill also tries to get someone else to believe him that Vandamm is the real villain and is trying to kill him.

Enter the resourceful, mysterious and cool blonde, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). Eve helps Thornhill when he gets into difficulty aboard a train that she is travelling on. A genuine bond develops between the two and they begin to fall in love, but can Thornhill trust her or not? I consider Eve to be one of the strongest and most interesting of all of Hitchcock’s leading ladies. 

A C.I.A official, known only as the professor (Leo G. Carroll), finds out about Roger Thornhill’s situation and tries to help him. The professor is also on the Vandamm case and he also has an agent of his own working right under Vandamm’s nose. Who is this agent?

I love how many things in this film actually defy logic when you think about them long enough. Somehow though you actually never seem to realise the illogic when you are watching these moments in the film. It’s only afterwards when you suddenly stop and think about some of the things you’ve just watched. I’m thinking mainly of the scene where Thornhill is forcibly made drunk in order to be got rid of. If Vandamm wants him dead so bad, why not just shoot him to make sure he is dead?

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Roger is about to be forced to drink all of this. Screenshot by me.

The same goes for the famous crop duster sequence, why not just get Roger Thornhill out to that road and shoot him and bury him somewhere, instead of chasing him with a plane? Yet the illogic of these moments actually work when you watch the film. This is a testament to Hitch I think, in that he can make you so invested in the story that certain things don’t strike you as odd until much later. I have to say that I actually think the scene where Thornhill watches that glass of booze getting poured out is quite chilling. Thornhill is going to be forced to drink such large amounts and he has no way of being able to fight back against this. That’s pretty grim when you stop to think about it for a moment.

There’s so much to enjoy about this film. From the great performances throughout, the exciting Bernard Herrmann score, and two of the most famous of all Hitchcock sequences. The crop duster chase and that suspenseful finale up on Mount Rushmore, have both gone on to become two of the most famous scenes in cinema history.

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Roger is sent to the middle of nowhere and is about to encounter a crop duster. Screenshot by me.

The crop duster sequence really builds up suspense and tension. The sequence is perfectly edited together and it is exciting, suspenseful and dramatic throughout. I like that it starts off slow and that Hitch gradually builds up the mystery and suspense. Is Roger Thornhill going to meet someone? Is he going to get attacked or killed? How will that happen if so?

The beginning of the crop duster sequence plays out almost like a silent film with Thornhill out in the middle of nowhere and us seeing what unfolds through his eyes. There is no need for any dialogue in this sequence. Then the crop duster plane is spotted and it slowly turns then it speeds towards him and begins shooting at him. That moment where it swoops towards him and he runs has become one of the most iconic scenes in film history. 

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Roger and Eve in a literal cliffhanger moment. Screenshot by me.

The Mount Rushmore sequence has me on the edge of my seat throughout because it is so suspenseful. I don’t like heights at all, and so the scenes where Roger Thornhill and Eve Kendall slip or nearly fall from that famous mountain really do make me squirm in discomfort and cry out “be careful!”. This sequence is a tie for me with the Statue Of Liberty sequence in Saboteur for the title of most suspenseful Hitchcock scene.

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Eve and Roger climb down the mountain. Screenshot by me.

The scenes in the Mount Rushmore sequence are perfectly matched to Herrmann’s score. I think that the music definitely adds even more tension and an air of danger to that which we already feel watching these moments.

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Eve falls down the mountain. Screenshot by me.

The scene where Eve’s shoe heel snaps and she falls down really makes me watch through my fingers, I really can’t stand that scene. It also makes me laugh that Eve doesn’t seem to have thought that it might be a good idea to take off those high heels before trying to climb down the mountain. LOL. Ah, only in the movies. 😉

The film also has two big twists concerning the identity of two main characters, and that really keeps you trying to figure out just who you can trust, or who you can even take at face value as the film goes on.The film is also very funny in places. I especially love the hysterical auction distraction scene “three thousand, I bid three thousand!”. Cary really gets to show off his comedy skills in this film. Cary reels off many comic lines and he also does one of the funniest and best drunk impressions I’ve ever seen on film. I love the scene where Roger is at the Police station and rings his mum. When he is on the phone to her, he tells her they forcibly made him drunk, then he delivers this sidesplitting line in response to a question from her – “No, they didn’t give me a chaser!” LOL. 🙂 

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The unsupportive Mrs Thornhill. Screenshot by me.

Jessie Royce Landis is absolutely hysterical as Roger’s mother. Mrs. Thornhill doesn’t believe her son’s story of being framed and hunted down and she has quite a few laughs at his expense.

I love the way she silently laughs at him and jokes about his stories. Some supportive mother he has!  Jessie and Cary were actually quite close in age, yet you somehow believe she is his mother in this film. 

 

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Vandamm. Screenshot by me.

James Mason is chilling, smooth and menacing throughout. He plays a character who won’t get his own hands dirty, but who has no qualms about ordering someone to be killed.

You know that he is a nasty piece of work. This is one of James’s greatest villain roles in my opinion. I like how he plays a man of great intelligence who is not to be trusted or underestimated. 

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Leonard. Screenshot by me.

Martin Landau provides solid support as Vandamm’s loyal henchman, Leonard. He lurks in the background of many scenes and you can see him desperate to start hurting Thornhill and other characters. Landau plays this guy as a real sadist.

My favourite scenes are the following. Thornhill and Vandamm’s first meeting, I love where they circle around each other sizing each other up. The Mount Rushmore finale. The entire section aboard the train. Roger and Eve’s dinner talk. The auction scene where Roger does some random bidding so he will get arrested, which then means he can get away from Vandamm. The drunk scene at the police station. Thornhill trying to rescue Eve. Eve and Roger’s goodbye at the train station. The crop duster attack. The scene in the Mount Rushmore restaurant. 

I can happily watch pretty much all of Hitch’s films again and again, but this one in particular is one that I can enjoy over and over again. It is such a good film and so seamlessly put together. It looks amazing too, from the photography, to the elegant clothes and to the use of Technicolor. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray to see it looking crystal clear and looking its very best.
Are you a fan of this film? Please share your thoughts on the film. 

Blogathons, Drama, Films I Love

The Doris Day Blogathon: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Doris Day BannerMichaela over at Love Letters To Old Hollywood is hosting this blogathon in celebration of the actress and singer Doris Day. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself. When I saw that Michaela was hosting this blogathon, I knew that I just had to sign up to take part right away. I am a big fan of Doris Day. I first became aware of her through her singing. I often heard her songs on the radio growing up. My mum and dad both like her a lot too and they have recommended more of her songs to me over the years. I didn’t see any of Doris’s films though until I was in my late teens. 

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Doris as Jo McKenna. Screenshot by

The first film of Doris’s that I ever saw is the one that I’ve chosen to write about for this blogathon. Her performance in this film is what made me a fan of her work. I’m only sorry that she didn’t get to star in many more serious films during her long career. I’m writing about her performance in the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Man Who Knew Too Much. 

This 1956 thriller is a remake of Hitchcock’s earlier film The Man Who Knew Too Much(1934). Hitchcock much preferred his remake to his earlier version of the film. The remake is also quite popular with many of Hitchcock’s fans too.  

I personally much prefer this remake to his earlier version. I think that this remake is much more exciting and suspenseful than the original is. I also think that it makes you really care for the characters and what they are going through. I’ve chosen this particular film, not only because it is a film which I love a great deal, but also because it offered Doris a rare opportunity to star in a much more serious and darker film than she usually would have appeared in at this time. Her performance in this film highlighted the fact that she was a very good dramatic actress and that she could more than handle darker screen material.  

Doris Day was mostly known at this point in her career for her bubbly, energetic and bright screen persona. She usually acted in romantic comedies and those films are still what she really remains most well known for today (besides her singing of course). Doris Day’s smile and laugh were infectious, and her warm and powerful singing voice ensured she also found her way into the hearts of music fans around the world.

In 1956, Doris Day starred alongside James Stewart in The Man Who Knew Too Much. This film is a thriller about a married couple who must try and find their son after he is kidnapped. You may think that this material doesn’t sound like the right fit for Doris Day to appear in. But you see there in lies the genius of the director Alfred Hitchcock.  

Alfred Hitchcock had a real knack for picking actors to work with him and for giving these actors roles which changed the way they would be perceived by audiences and critics alike. For example, Hitchcock gave Grace Kelly roles in his films which allowed her to come across as cool and sexy, as opposed to the other film characters she had played before working with him. He gave James Stewart, Cary Grant and Joseph Cotton much darker roles than they had ever had before in their careers. 

Hitchcock gave Doris a much more serious role than she’d really had before. The material he gave her to work with really lets her show off her dramatic acting skills. In this film she goes from a happy and outgoing woman to a desperate, worried, worn out, and very scared woman. She plays a woman whose grief about her boy being taken from her is tearing her apart inside. I think it is one of the best performances that Doris has ever given on screen. 

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Jo singing. Screenshot by me.

Doris also gets to sing in this film. The song she sings would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Song. The song has become the song that she is best known for. The song is Que Sera, Sera.

The song first appears during a cute duet scene between Jo and Hank, this version she sings in a fun and happy way. The second time that this song is sung, Doris sings it in a very different way indeed. She sings as though her life depended on it and she fills the words with real emotion and strength. The later use of the song is an attempt by Jo to try and let Hank know that she and his dad have found him where he is being held hostage.    

Dr. Ben McKenna(James Stewart), his wife Jo( Doris Day)who is a retired world renowned singer, and their young son, Hank (Christopher Olsen) are on holiday in Morocco. The family are having a lovely time and they are enjoying seeing a different culture to what they know back in the States.

The family are befriended by the charming Frenchman, Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin). Ben likes him right away, but Jo is suspicious of him because he asks them a lot of questions and is obviously prying into their lives for some reason.

The following day Louis Bernard is stabbed and he dies in Ben’s arms in the market place. Before he dies, Louis tells Ben about an assassination being arranged in order to kill a politician in London. Ben later learns that Louis was a French Intelligence Agent and that he was tailing a couple involved in the plot. Hank is then kidnapped by the middle aged couple who Louis initially mistook the McKenna’s to be. Hank is kidnapped to ensure the McKenna’s silence about the plot. Jo and Ben must race against time to get their son back and try and stop the assassination attempt.  

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Ben and Jo share a happy moment. Screenshot by me.

I really like that the heart of the film is the relationship between Ben and Jo. They clearly adore one another and there are lots of scenes where we see their playful banter. They are a fun and happy couple. These two are simply an ordinary couple who are thrown into an extraordinary situation.  

I like seeing how they try and help each other deal with their fears, shock and grief over Hank being taken from them.  You can see them struggling with their worry in every scene, yet you can also see them trying to restrain their feelings in order to stay focused on finding him. I also quite like watching them trying to track their boy down in London. Investigating is something totally alien to this couple. I really like how despite that, they really waste no time in turning private eyes to look for Hank.  

I think that Doris and James totally convince as a married couple. They both convey a genuine love and affection for one another. I really wish that they had acted together again playing a couple. I think that both Doris and James also both do a terrific job of conveying their desperation and fear following their Hank’s kidnapping. The scene in this film that always stays with me is when Ben has to break the news to Jo that their boy has been kidnapped. 

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Ben delivers some bad news to Jo. Screenshot by me.

Ben gives Jo two sedatives before he will tell her the news about the kidnapping. He does this to stop her from getting overly hysterical and trying to run out after he tells her. I always find that scene very moving. I also think that James is very good in this scene because he lets you see how upset Ben is and how he is struggling to hide his emotions before Jo takes the pills. 

I also find this scene a bit weird if I’m being honest. I mean who actually takes two pills just because their spouse or partner says they think it would be a good idea if they did in exchange for some news? Anyway, when Ben tells Jo the news, Doris just breaks my heart with her emotional reaction. It is one of the most powerful scenes in the entire film.  

The most memorable sequence in the entire film is the Albert Hall assassination attempt. I strongly believe that this sequence inspired the makers of the film Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation for their concert hall set sequence of suspense. 

                                      Ben and Jo see the assassin. Screenshot by me.

In the Albert Hall sequence, Jo and Ben discover that the politician who is going to be killed is attending a concert at the hall. The pair, along with the Police ,try and find the assassin and save the politicians life. The assassin plans to fire his kill shot at the exact moment that the cymbals crash near the end of the concert. Can Ben and Jo stop him before he takes aim? It is a real tense sequence and is edited together perfectly. 

During the Albert Hall sequence, Bernard Herrmann, the regular composer for many of  Hitchcock’s films, conducts (he is seen on screen in person)the choir and the orchestra performing the Storm Clouds Cantata. This choral piece had been written by composer Arthur Benjamin and it had been written specifically to be used in the 1934 version of this film. The music really sets the mood and adds a great deal to an already dramatic, suspenseful and epic sequence. It is one of my favourite sequences in any Hitchcock film.

This is a very thrilling film. It will have you on the edge of your seat for sure. It’s filled with excellent performances, some memorable locations and a likeable lead couple. I consider this to be one of Hitchcock’s best films. Both James and Doris deliver performances here that rank among their best screen work in my opinion.  

Doris more than proves here what a good actress she was. I think it is a real shame that she ended up receiving so few serious and dramatic roles in her career. As much as I enjoy the fun films she made, I for one would really have liked to have seen her in more serious films like this one. 

What are your thoughts on this film?  What do you think of Doris Day’s performance?

If you’re after more serious performances from Doris Day, then do check out the following films: Love Me Or Leave Me. Storm Warning. Midnight Lace

My favourite Doris Day films are the following: Pillow Talk. The Man Who Knew Too Much. Young At Heart. Teacher’s Pet. Love Me Or Leave Me.

Doris is celebrating her 96th birthday on Tuesday. Happy Birthday Doris. Have a lovely day. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drama, Films I Love, Horror

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo At 60

This year is the 60th anniversary of the release of an Alfred Hitchcock film called Vertigo. This dark and powerful film wasn’t all that well received upon its release back in 1958, but over the following decades it has been reassessed and it is now considered to be one of Hitchcock’s greatest film achievements.

The film has since been showered with many accolades. It has even been called the greatest film ever made by some film critics. It is a film that I have come to love a great deal. I was entranced by its story of mystery, sadness, love, horror and tragedy the first time that I saw it. It has since become a firm favourite. 

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Scottie and Madeleine kiss. Screenshot by me.

This film is really several types of film all rolled into one, it is part Film Noir, part horror, part mystery, part romance and part tragedy. It is a film about obsession, mystery, death, love, longing, desire, fear and guilt. I consider this film to be Hitchcock’s most fascinating, haunting, dark and unforgettable film.It is a film that really gets under my skin.

The film was based upon the 1954 novel The Living And The Dead, which was written by Pierre Boileau and Pierre Ayraud. In my opinion this was the darkest film that Hitchcock had made up to this point in his career.

The obsession that James Stewart’s character has for the woman he fixates on makes for some very uncomfortable viewing,his behaviour really borders on stalker behaviour. Hitchcock takes his characters and the viewer on a very dark and unsettling journey in this film. It may be a difficult viewing experience to endure at times, but it is one which is well worth seeing through to the end. 

The film was shot out on location in San Francisco and the history and beauty of that city ended up being the perfect backdrop for the film. The city almost becomes another character in the film, with the city streets and iconic locations featuring heavily in the vast majority of scenes. 

At the heart of Vertigo is the growing bond between Scottie (James Stewart)and the mysterious and troubled Madeleine (Kim Novak). Scottie is a former Police Detective who has quit the force after developing vertigo and acrophobia. He develops these conditions after nearly falling from a building during a police chase. Scottie also blames himself after a colleague died while trying to save Scottie from falling from the roof. He is wracked with guilt and fear following this incident.  

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Midge comforts Scottie. Screenshot by me.

Scottie is aided in his recovery from this incident by his friend and former fiancé, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). Midge is the woman for him, she is a real woman and she adores him and is there for him no matter what. Scottie ends up ignoring her though in his pursuit of a femme fatale (typical Noir guy there then 😉 ).

Scottie is hired by an old friend, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore)to work as a private detective to keep an eye on Elster’s wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak).Elster tells Scottie that he is very worried about his wife, he fears that she may be possessed by the spirit of a dead ancestor. She is acting very strangely and he fears she may also be suicidal.

Scottie follows Madeleine, he soon becomes convinced that something is not right with her at all. He also comes to accept that as odd as it may seem, Elster may well be correct when he suspects that Madeleine could be possessed.

Scottie ends up falling in love with this mysterious woman. He is left wracked with guilt and despair once again, after he fails to prevent her from jumping to her death. Some time after her death, Scottie meets Judy (Kim Novak), a young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead Madeleine. Scottie soon learns that all may not have been as it had initially seemed to him. So he sets out to do some investigating. 

Scottie and Madeleine are two troubled and sad souls clinging to one another, they remind me of the way a drowning person clings to a lifebelt or piece of wood to try and stay afloat. Scottie feels protective of Madeleine, he is drawn to this gentle and shy woman of mystery. Scottie can’t see that all may not be as it seems with Madeleine’s situation at all, he is so blinkered by love and desire, that he ignores the reality before him. In his attitudes he is the typical Noir detective, slowly being drawn to his doom by the femme fatale that he desires above all else in his life.

The irony is that the woman he loves isn’t real in any sense of the word. The woman that Scottie sees before him isn’t even the real Madeleine. Her actions and personality are not even those of the real woman pretending to be Madeleine.

Scottie is basically in love with a woman who doesn’t exist. The woman he loves and longs to have is nothing more than a phantom. Madeleine is the ultimate Noir femme fatale, she leads Scottie on and is forever unattainable. 

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Scottie and Madeleine in a rare happy moment. Screenshot by me.

Madeleine likes Scottie very much and she can’t deny her feelings for him in return, but she never lets him too close to her. She feels safe with him and yet she runs from him, never allowing herself to stay with him for long periods of time.

Madeleine always runs away from Scottie or pushes him away from her. They want to be together but can’t. We in the audience want a happy ending for them but we know that it is highly improbable they will get one.  This is Noir and Horror territory that we are in after all. 

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James Stewart as a traumatised Scottie. Screenshot by me.

James Stewart and Kim Novak deliver career best performances here. James in particular goes places we have never seen him go before.

This is one of the darkest roles that James ever had in his entire career, and I think he does a superb job in playing this very troubled character. He really makes us feel Scottie’s obsession, lust, love, grief and longing.

I think that James also does a superb job of conveying the crippling fear when Scottie has an attack of vertigo and is left helpless and paralysed in terror, shaking and sweating and desperate to get away from wherever he may be at the time. 

                                 Kim Novak as both Madeleine and Judy. Screenshot by me.

Kim is superb in the dual role of the ethereal, glacial, refined and regal Madeleine, and the fun loving, independent and sexy Judy. She does a terrific job of conveying Madeleine’s fear and vulnerability. 

Kim also excels at conveying Judy’s longing and fear much later in the film. Kim’s role was originally going to have been performed by Vera Miles, she unfortunately had to give up the role after becoming pregnant. I really wish we could have seen how Vera would have played this dual role, but I’m convinced that she wouldn’t have been able to match what Kim did with these two roles. 

Hitchcock made three films in his career that I think can be considered to be horror films, Psycho, The Birds and Frenzy. Vertigo is the closest he ever came though to making a ghost story. The first half of the film plays out like a ghost story. It appears that Madeleine is possessed by the spirit of a dead ancestor who went mad and committed suicide aged 26.   

Kim gives Madeleine an otherworldly and ethereal air in these sequences, she really makes you believe that this woman is torn between the realm of the dead and the world of the living. There is a far and away look in Kim’s eyes during the scenes where Madeleine is possessed.

When I watch the character in these scenes I believe that she is someone else and is a deeply troubled woman. Some of the scenes in the first half are very eerie. Look at the sequence in the forest for example, that scene is very eerie and would not be out of place in a horror film. Don’t forget the scenes where she visits the graveyard and the old hotel too. Seeing these scenes makes me wish that Hitchcock had tried his hand at making a ghost film.

Madeleine throws herself to her death from the roof of a bell tower. Scottie tries to save her from jumping but he is prevented from doing so by a vertigo attack. In the second half of the film, we see Scottie haunted by the memory of the dead Madeleine. He has a breakdown brought on by his guilt at being unable to save her, and his deep grief and pain at losing her.

When Scottie recovers from his breakdown he wanders the city streets and constantly runs into women and places who remind him of Madeleine and their time together. Scottie then meets Judy (Kim Novak) and we see another type of horror as a living woman is remoulded into the image of a dead one, and we see a dead woman resurrected.

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Judy becomes Madeleine. Screenshot by me.

This second section of the film plays out to me like My Fair Lady meets Frankenstein. I find this part even more disturbing and sad than the first half to be honest.

In this half of the film Scottie changes Judy into Madeleine, and thus he permanently erases Judy from his life so that he can be with Madeleine again.

This final half also plays out to me like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. There is no happiness to be found in this film from this point on.

We see Scottie learn that his breakdown, guilt and grief were all for nothing because the woman he loved wasn’t even the woman who died. We also see him destroy Judy (the real woman he loved, he just didn’t realise that at the time)and recreate her in the image of the dead fantasy he so desired. We also see Scottie inadvertently cause the death (once and for all, no bringing her back from the dead now)of Judy/Madeleine by taking her back to the scene of the crime at the end of the film.  It’s dark, disturbing and bleak stuff for sure, but also incredibly sad too. 

I also like how the film gets us to change who we sympathise with and also why we sympathise with them as the film goes along. At first we sympathise with Scottie and Madeleine for being troubled and lonely souls who want to be together. We then sympathise with Scottie when he loses the woman he loves and blames himself for it. We then sympathise with him when we learn he was used, manipulated and lied to. We then sympathise with Judy when we see how Scottie treats her and uses her. We then hate Judy when we learn what she did and what she agreed to be a part of. We still feel sorry for though because she was used by Elster and is being used by Scottie to get what he wants. We then sympathise with Scottie again during that tragic ending.

There are no black and white characters in this (apart from Elster who is a clear cut villain, and Midge who is the good girl left on the sidelines by the man she loves)only grey characters. Personalities change through out the film, and we like and loathe certain characters at certain times during the film. Nothing about this film is simple and uncomplicated. This is precisely why I love this film so much.

I have to praise the photography by Robert Burks. His work makes the film look so vibrant and beautiful. I think that he deserves high praise indeed for what he managed to achieve here. I love the lighting in the film and I’ve also noted the recurring use of green clothes and green lighting when Madeleine/Judy are around.

We have Madeleine wearing the green and black evening dress, driving a green car, being surrounded often by green trees, lawns and plants. We have Judy wearing a green dress, green skirts and green jackets. We also see her being bathed in an eerie green light (shining through her window from the neon light outside). Green symbolises jealously and life. So perhaps this colour was used to show that Scottie is jealous that Madeleine is Elster’s and she isn’t free to be his?

                           A few shots featuring the key colour of green. Screenshot by me.

Perhaps green was also used to show Madeleine and Judy as offering Scottie life and freshness, and an escape from his troubled life? Perhaps it represents Madeleine/Judy as being the object most desired by Scottie, yet also ending up being the one thing that he can never end up having? What do you think about the use of green in the film? 

The music is very important in the film. Bernard Herrmann’s score for this could well be his best work. It is beautiful, romantic, sweeping, spooky, sinister and thrilling. At times the music also sounds like it is swirling; I really like that because it represents Scottie’s feeling of vertigo. The music adds so much atmosphere to the film. 

This is a film where Scottie and Judy deserved a happy ending. Of course if they had got a happy ending I highly doubt we would be talking about this one so much sixty years on. Plus a happy ending isn’t what Noir and tragedy are all about. There was an alternative  happy ending that Hitchcock was made to film to keep the production code people happy.

This alternative ending is included as an extra on many DVD and Blu-ray releases, it shows Scottie and Midge back together again and a radio report indicating that Elster has been brought to justice for his crimes.  The trouble is that this ending just lacks the shock and emotional impact of the bell tower finale.

The bleak ending also implies that Elster has completely got away with his crimes, and this to me makes that ending all the more dark and disturbing than it already is thanks to that final shot.This is a film that offers plenty for audiences to discuss and ponder over once the film has finished. I think that is why I love this one so much. This film makes you think and feel and draws us in, just like Madeleine and her problems draw Scottie in. 

The only issues I have with the film are the following points. I don’t find it plausible that Elster would have left Judy alive, she knew what they had done and she could have gone to the Police or blackmailed him. If Elster wanted no trace left back to him of the crime,  why leave Judy alive afterwards?

I also don’t get why Judy didn’t just run away once Scottie found her and invited her out for dinner. I also don’t get why the reveal to what had happened in the bell tower was shown so early in the film. I think it would have been more impactful if the truth had been learnt by us and Scottie jointly during the scene where Judy puts on the necklace. 

I’d like to say happy 60th birthday to one of Hitchcock’s greatest achievements. Well done to James Stewart and Kim Novak for so perfectly conveying tragedy, love, desire, pain, fear and obsession to us. Thanks to all the cast and crew for their hard work to help make this film. 

What do you think of this film? Please share your thoughts and views below. 

 

Thriller, Tributes To Classic Stars

The Third Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon: To Catch A Thief (1955)

Grace Kelly blogathon

Virginie over at The Wonderful World of Cinema is hosting this blogathon about Grace Kelly. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

Grace Kelly was many things in her life, and she has come to mean different things to different people. She has become a fashion and beauty icon over the years. She also famously went from being a fairly ordinary American woman to becoming a real life Princess in 1956, when she got married to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Many people have since come to know Grace through her work and life as a Princess.

Most of us have come to know Grace and are fans of her through her work as a film actress. Grace was a very good actress, and while I personally think that she perhaps wasn’t the best actress of her generation, she was without a doubt certainly a very good one. 

Besides being talented, Grace also had that magical star quality so necessary for a successful screen career. Grace shone when she was on screen, she has that effect which means you can’t take your eyes off her when she is on the screen.

I like how Grace often portrayed a vulnerability in many of her characters. Her characters would often put up a tough façade, but in reality they were women who could be easily hurt, or were women who felt things deeply. Grace portrayed all this so well through her eyes and expressions.

Alfred Hitchcock was the director who gave Grace the film roles which brought her great fame, and forever cemented her screen image in the minds of audiences. Hitchcock knew how to use Grace to best effect on screen. Through her collaboration with Hitch, Grace’s screen image changed from cool, demure, vulnerable and gentle love interest, to strong, sexy, elegant and confident leading lady.

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Grace looking beautiful and elegant as Francie. Screenshot by me.

Hitch also played around with Grace’s aloof and cool persona. He gave her roles that played up that image, but then showed us that underneath that perceived image she was very different, and she could be warm, feisty, sensual, sexy and very human too.I’m writing about the third and final film that Grace made with Hitchcock.

That film is To Catch A Thief. The film was made in 1955, and it was shot out on location in the South of France and in Monaco (soon to be Grace’s future home).

This film may lack the suspense of the majority of other Hitchcock films, but it certainly features some interesting characters, lots of innuendo (just how did some of this make it past the censors!)beautiful costumes (especially those worn by Grace)and the photography of the stunning locations is truly a pleasure to look at. 

This is a film that I love quite a bit. It isn’t a traditional Hitchcock film in terms of its content and visual style, but the sexual innuendo and the developing relationship between Grace and Cary Grant’s characters is classic Hitch for sure.

Grace looks truly stunning in this film. She is at the height of her beauty here, and she gets to wear some of the most beautiful and elegant gowns I’ve ever seen. I especially love the pale blue evening gown she wears in the hotel restaurant. Edith Head truly outdid herself with her costume designs for this film.

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Francie takes John out for a drive he won’t forget. Screenshot by me.

I love how Grace plays her character Francie. This woman is in control of everything she does and she very well knows it. She is strong, sexy and really oozes confidence and determination. She can also be wild and uncontrollable which really gives her an air of danger at times.

I love the car chase sequence, where Francie’s fast driving really scares John as he ends up becoming a helpless passenger. Francie also plays with John(like a cat would with a mouse)but he gets wise to her games and he plays with her right back (cue some classic banter between the two).

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John Robie hides up on the roof. Screenshot by me.

A series of jewel robberies are taking place across the French Riviera. The robberies bear a strong resemblance to the work of the notorious jewel thief known as The Cat.

The real name of The Cat is John Robie (Cary Grant)and he knows very well that he is not the current thief. Once he is alerted that someone else is thieving using his signature style, he sets out to catch the culprit himself and to clear his own name.

John soon begins to receive threats on his life. John also has to deal with the beautiful American heiress, Francie (Grace Kelly)and her mother Jessie (Jessie Royce Landis)who are on holiday in Cannes and befriend him. John and Francie have an instant attraction, but John grows suspicious of her when she asks too many questions about thieving, and especially when she claims to know he is the famous cat burglar.

John also has issues with some former friends/colleagues from the French Resistance. He also has to deal with Danielle (Brigitte Auber)who is a local girl he has known for years, who has a huge crush on him.

John enlists the help of an insurance man (John Williams)to set a trap for the thief. Together they create a list of the most wealthy jewel owners in the Riviera. Who can John trust? Just who is The Cat?

This film is less about its plot, and instead is more about the beautiful locations, and also the sexual tension and desire between Francie and John. Cary and Grace have incredible chemistry with one another, their innuendo laced dialogue is truly shocking in places, just how did some of those lines( especially the one about a week at Niagara Falls) even get past the censor?

I didn’t see the identity of the copycat thief coming until it was revealed. Having said that though this revelation just lacked a big shock for me. I think the film would have been more exciting if Francie had been revealed to be the burglar. It would have placed John in a predicament as to whether he should hand her in, or if he could attack her back if she attacked him.

When I first saw this film I was convinced that it would be Francie who would be revealed as the copycat thief.  Having said all that I think that reveal would have been too obvious given how Francie acts earlier in the film.

An enjoyable film that is beautiful to look at. In this film we get to see the wealthy and the beautiful having fun in a beautiful place. It makes us dream that we could have such a life too. Be sure to see this film on Blu-ray to see it looking clear and to see the colour photography at its most stunning.

Grace and Cary are both superb here and the rest of the cast all deliver solid performances too. Jessie Royce Landis is hysterical as Francie’s mother who develops a crush on John herself.

The beach sequences always make me want to visit the beach, and I envy Grace every single time I watch this because of the gorgeous outfits she gets to wear throughout the film.

This one is certainly worth a look for fans of Grace, Hitchcock and Cary. It’s not the best Hitchcock film, but it’s certainly not the worst either.

My favourite scenes are the following. John and Francie sharing a kiss at her hotel room door. The fireworks and jewels scene between John and Francie. Francie and Danielle’s rather catty conversation out on the sea float (I love Cary’s facial expressions during this scene, it is so funny).

Any other fans of this film? What are your thoughts on Grace’s performance here?

    Here are my five favourite Grace Kelly films.

1- High Society

2- To Catch A Thief

3- Rear Window

                                                                   4-The Country Girl

                                                                  5-The Swan

 

 

Blogathons

Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2017: The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Hitchcock blogathon EvaEva over at Classicsandcraziness is hosting this blogathon all about Alfred Hitchcock. Be sure to visit her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’ve recently just finished hosting my own Hitchcock blogathon, and when I saw that Eva was also hosting one, well I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to carry on writing about Hitch’s films.

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A few of the main characters. Screenshot by me.

I’m writing this time about The Lady Vanishes, which is one of Hitch’s British films, and was actually the last film that he made here in the UK until he returned here in the 1970’s to make Frenzy.  

The Lady Vanishes is a Hitch film that I love a great deal. It is an excellent mystery thriller, has a nice blend of genres within it, and has lots of humour thrown into the mix as well.

There’s also lots of fun to be had in watching a romantic relationship slowly develop between a couple who at first can’t stand each other one bit. This is also a film in which you should never take the characters at face value, more than a few of them will surprise you as the film goes on.I also really like how this film doesn’t waste a single moment, and it really manages to pack quite a bit into an hour and a half of running time.

Fans of the comic, cricket obsessed characters Charters and Caldicott are also in for a treat. The duo feature here in fairly major roles ,in what was to be the first screen outing for them. These characters popped up in many British films throughout the 1940’s. 

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Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood. Screenshot by me.

The lead actors of the film are Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave, they would both soon go on to become very popular stars in British cinema. Here though they are both in the very early stages of their respective careers, you’d never guess that this was only Michael’s first screen appearance, or that Margaret had only been acting on screen herself for only around five years. They are both excellent and come across very natural in their performances.

Iris (Margaret Lockwood)is on a walking holiday in Europe with two of her friends. Iris is returning home to the UK before her friends do. When she gets home she will soon be getting married. About to board her homebound train, Iris is hit on the head by a heavy plant pot that falls from a window above her. Iris has a very sore head but seems to be fine otherwise.

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Miss Froy. Screenshot by me.

Iris is befriended by Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), an elderly governess who is also returning home to the UK. During the journey Miss Froy looks after the injured Iris, who falls asleep and when she wakes up Miss Froy is missing. Fellow passengers and train staff claim she was never on the train!

 

Fellow passenger, Dr. Hartz (Paul Lukas)is concerned that Iris’s head injury could be causing her to hallucinate, but Iris is adamant that she is telling the truth and that Miss Froy was no hallucination.

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Gilbert and Iris go searching on the train. Screenshot by me.

The only one who believes her is the witty musician, Gilbert (Michael Redgrave)who had met and annoyed Iris the night before at her hotel (he was playing music loudly and this disturbed her sleep.)

Can Gilbert and Iris stop bickering long enough to get to the bottom of what is going on? Just what has happened to the little old lady dressed all in tweed?

Margaret is excellent as the woman who is thrown into danger and adventure, but who won’t back down in her search for her friend. She makes you really feel her mounting confusion and desperation, particularly as it seems more and more likely that she imagined the missing old lady.

Michael steals every scene he is in as the dashing, heroic and witty Gilbert. I love how he conveys to us by the way he looks at Iris that he is falling hard for her. Michael looks at Margaret with such tenderness (I’m swooning just writing this 🙂 ) and you just know these two should get together. I’m really impressed by how good Michael is here considering this is his film debut. He acts like he has been in front of a camera for years before this.

Paul Lukas is excellent as the respectable surgeon who may or may not be hiding a secret. Paul has your attention in every scene he is in. Is his character one to be trusted?

Dame May Whitty is perfect casting as the little old lady, who as it later turns out has quite a few surprises up her sleeve.

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Charters and Caldicott. Screenshot by me.

Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford are hysterical as the friends to whom nothing else matters apart from getting home to watch a cricket match. They are a riot, and it’s not difficult to see why they went on to appear in many films over the next few years.

Cecil Parker and Linden Travers are also both excellent as a couple who are having an affair. They may have seen Miss Froy, but refuse to get involved as they don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Googie Withers who(like Margaret Lockwood)would soon go on to become a popular leading lady of British cinema, has a small role as one of Iris’s friends.

My favourite scenes are the following. Gilbert and Iris’s first meeting at the hotel. Gilbert climbing out of the train window as another train comes by on the opposite track. Gilbert and Iris meeting again on the train. All the scenes featuring Charters and Caldicott. The shootout finale. Gilbert and Iris finding the magicians box in the luggage compartment. Gilbert getting all worried about Iris after she faints.

In this film, a whistled tune turns out to be of vital international importance, major head trauma is somehow avoided when a heavy plant pot falls on a human head, and a packet of tea proves to be a vital clue to the whereabouts of a missing woman. There’s romance, arguments, secrets and dangers galore. You really don’t want to avoid boarding this train!

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 3

Hitchcock blogathon 2

For the final day of our get together, we are in a posh hotel in New York. Our guest speaker is one Mr. Roger Thornhill. Unfortunately he is running late, this is due to a serious case of mistaken identity. 

We better make a start without him. Let our third and final day of Hitchcock discussion commence.

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 3 Entries

Lifesdailylessonsblog takes a look at Hitchcock’s Suspicion.

dbmoviesblog writes about Rope.

The Humpo Show boards a train to write about Strangers on a Train.

Taking Up Room peeks through the curtains to take a look at Rear Window.

One Mann’s Movies Special takes a look through the binoculars at Rear Window.

Anybody Got A Match? Takes a look at   To Catch A Thief .

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 2

The Hitchcock Blogathon 4

We are now meeting in the conference room of the Bodega Bay hotel. This is a lovely little town, unfortunately it appears that they are having some trouble with birds. Best stay inside when taking a break!

Let our second day of Hitchcock discussion commence.

Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 2 Entries

Bonnywood Manor takes to the high seas to discuss Lifeboat.

Sparksfromacombustablemind braves the scariest bathroom in film history to discuss Psycho.

Cracked Rear Viewer climbs up a windmill to take a look at Foreign Correspondent.    

Realweegiemidget takes a look at the man himself in Hitchcock.

Review Donkey   boards the train to discuss The Lady Vanishes.

Check back tomorrow for day 3!

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 1

Hitchcock blogathon 3

The time has come for us to discuss the work of the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. (1899-1980)

The Bates Motel conference room is now open for all the participants to gather together to discuss the work of Mr. Hitchcock. Whatever you do though, do not ask Mr. Bates about his mother!

I will put up a new post on the 5th and 6th of August. If you are taking part on those days, just leave me your links when the blogathon post for each of those days goes live.

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Entries: Day 1

I Found it at the Movies takes a look at the macabre Rope.

Silver Screenings discusses the silent classic The Lodger .

Cinema Essentials looks at one of the greatest of Hitch’s films The 39 Steps.

Critica Retro looks at the Masters of Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock book.

I take a look at  Sabotage. Marnie. Shadow of a Doubt.

 

 

 

 

See you tomorrow for Day 2!

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

Hitchcock blogathon 3

This is my third and final entry for my Hitchcock Blogathon. This time I’m writing about the film that Hitch called his personal favourite from amongst his own films.  It’s really not hard to see why he loved this one so much.

Long before David Lynch showed us that small towns hid secrets, and that all was not well behind closed doors; Hitch gave us all of that in just one film. That film is Shadow Of A Doubt, and it is a nightmare depiction of discovering someone you love is not who you thought them to be. This film also shows innocence being lost, and horror and disruption landing in a small American town.

There is also some terrific Hitchcock black humour to be found in this film. Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn play two best friends who meet regularly to discuss (in minute detail) ways in which they could kill one another and not get detected. These bizarre conversations appear throughout the film, at one point even carrying on at the dinner table!

The film is set (and filmed out on location)in Santa Rosa, California. We are shown the positive sides of small town life in this film. You (usually)get good and supportive neighbours, have a strong sense of community, and you feel that your town is the safest place you could be.

Hitch also shows us that living in a place like this shelters the inhabitants from the violence etc that you will be (unfortunately)almost certain to encounter in the big city. The trouble with being sheltered from it is that you never believe anything bad will ever happen to you, or to those living in your community.

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Charlie arrives in town. Screenshot by me.

This film sees the eyes of the small town community being opened to evil. This evil comes in the form of Charles Oakley (Joseph Cotten).  Known to all as Charlie, he is a smooth talking, charming and elegant man.

He is also a serial killer, who targets wealthy widows and is dubbed by the Police and media as ‘The Merry Widow Killer’.

Charlie’s identity is as yet unknown, but the Police have gathered many leads and are beginning to suspect him.

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Charlie and young Charlie reunite. Screenshot by me.

Charlie gets on a train and travels to Santa Rosa. He goes to stay with his beloved elder sister, Emma (Patricia Collinge), and her husband Joseph ( Henry Travers).

Charlie is happy to see them, and they are happy to see him. Charlie is overjoyed to be reunited with his teenage nice and namesake, young Charlie (Teresa Wright).

These two have a fascinating relationship. They have an almost telepathic bond with each other and can read each other like a book. Young Charlie looks up to her uncle and sees him as a breath of fresh air in her life.

When Detective Jack Graham (MacDonald Carey) speaks to young Charlie about her uncle, she soon begins to suspect that her Uncle may well be hiding a dark secret. As she begins to investigate him he become suspicious and soon their relationship becomes one of cat and mouse.

When I first saw this film I was in my mid teens, and I picked up then a strong hint of something that almost seems like sexual tension to me between the two Charlie’s. The more I’ve watched this as I’ve grown older, I can still detect this weird tension between them. The way young Charlie behaves around Uncle Charlie, it is almost like she has a strong crush on him. 

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Charlie and young Charlie. More like twins or a couple than simply uncle and niece. Notice the same pose they are both in during this scene. Screenshot by me.

There are also several scenes where they seem to act out things like a couple who’ve had a spat would (such as her acting weird around him, or running off and him chasing her and taking her to the bar.) Am I alone in noticing this tension? I find it hard to believe that something like this would be in this by accident. Everything Hitch included (even the smallest things)were included intentionally.

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Uncle Charlie attacks his niece. Screenshot by me.

Joseph Cotten is excellent here as a man with a very dark secret indeed, who presents a likeable front to the world.  This role showed what a good dramatic actor Cotten could be, it’s a shame he never again got a role quite like this.

His famous speech about pulling back the fronts of houses to find swine is unforgettable. That speech (although chilling)is correct because behind closed doors many unpleasant things go on all the time that we are never privy too. 

In most cases neighbours, friends, family etc wouldn’t believe or accept those things as true if they were told, as the people involved come across as nice when they are out and about in public.

The film also focuses on the dual nature of Charlie and on why he is the way he is. It is revealed later that after a childhood head injury his personality changed. That to me suggests that his actions as an adult are down to his personality change caused by this injury. In regards to this, I think that Hitch was quite ahead of his time looking at psychology and other issues causing someone to do something unpleasant. Charlie goes through life with two faces and personalities and switches between them as when it becomes necessary.

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Charlie has her innocence shattered. Screenshot by me.

Duality as a theme continues in the film with the nature of Charlie and young Charlie. She represents the innocence and joy he had as a child.

He represents the reality of adulthood, innocence dies, and with pressures and responsibilities there is less joy to be had when you are grown, than when you are younger.

Their characters are also almost like twins, and although they are separate they have this connection and outlook that makes them almost like one person.

Teresa Wright is excellent as the young woman who loses her innocence and sheltered nature quicker than she should have done. She captures the horror and disbelief of discovering an unpleasant truth about someone you love. Teresa is a very expressive actress, and in many scenes in this she doesn’t need dialogue as everything we need to know can be seen in her face.

Patricia Collinge is very moving as the devoted elder sister to Uncle Charlie. Emma clearly adores him and worships the ground he walks on, almost to the point of self delusion. You almost don’t want him to get caught for her sake. You know she would break when told the horrific truth.

An excellent film that is one of Hitch’s best in my opinion. It is also a good one to watch if you are after strong performances.

My favourite scenes are the following. The finale on the train. Uncle Charlie chasing Charlie into town and taking her to the bar. Young Charlie trying to get in the Library at closing time.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please share your comments below.

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Marnie (1964)

The Hitchcock Blogathon 4

This is my second entry for my Hitchcock blogathon. This time I’m writing about Marnie. This is one of Hitch’s later films, and it is one which I think really deserves to be better known and appreciated by audiences today.

This one hasn’t been as well received by audiences as the vast majority of Hitch’s other films were. I think that was because this isn’t really your typical Hitchcock film. Marnie explores problems of the mind, and it’s far from the usual suspense/thriller films audiences had come to expect. 

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Tippi Hedren delivers a powerful performance in the film. Screenshot by me.

This is the second and final Hitchcock film to star Tippi Hedren. She was excellent in The Birds, but I really think she outdoes herself in Marnie.

Tippi lets us see that this woman is truly messed up (both emotionally and psychologically)she really makes you feel and believe that Marnie has some major issues in her life that have left her emotionally scarred. In the scenes where Marnie is scared of something, Tippi looks truly petrified and traumatised.

This is an interesting film as most of the suspense lies in unlocking the secrets hidden within Marnie herself. There are some other suspenseful moments (such as the shoe dropping on the floor etc)but it is mainly Marnie’s psychological issues which keep us on the edge of our seats throughout.

This film has become famous for the scene where it is strongly implied that Mark rapes Marnie on their wedding night onboard the passenger ship. This sequence caused friction between Hitch and the original scriptwriter Evan Hunter . When Hunter left the project, the script was written again, and this time around by a woman! Jay Presson Allen, who had no trouble in writing that scene, or in writing it the way Hitch wanted it to be.

The sequence as it stands is shocking, but we don’t actually see the act of rape take place, so to be fair we don’t actually know for sure if that is what happens to her as we don’t see anything. The way it’s cut together though does strongly suggest that was what took place. I’ll come back to this sequence later.

Margaret “Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren)is a compulsive thief who is on the run after robbing her employer of $10,000. Getting another job as a secretary at Rutland’s Publishing Company, Marnie attracts the attention of its widower owner Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). Unbeknown to Marnie, Mark saw her at the previous company she just robbed and keeps a close eye on her.

Marnie robs Mark’s firm. This time though she is caught by him. Mark blackmails her into marrying him in return for his silence. Marnie agrees and Mark tries to unlock the many mysteries that surround this woman.

Marnie hates being touched, is repulsed by the idea of sex, has panic attacks when she sees the colour red, and freaks out during thunderstorms. Mark slowly begins to uncover the horrific events in Marnie’s past that have caused her to become the woman she is now.

Sean plays a pretty unique character for a Hitchcock film, in that he appears to be pretty much unlikable. At first glance there is an air about him that makes it appear that he is studying Marnie, and at times it looks like he gets a kick out of forcing her to work on her issues. Marnie herself says to him “I’m just something you’ve caught!”

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Sean Connery as Mark. Screenshot by me.

Having said that though, I’ve often wondered if he appears like that to us because we see him from Marnie’s point of view?

Her perception of him may well be warped by her issues and how she is so wary of men and sees them all as things to be avoided and not trusted. Going back and viewing the film with that possibility in mind makes it more interesting I think.

It even makes you go back and think again about that suggested rape sequence, should that sequence actually be taken at face value? Was Mark actually doing nothing more than being a husband making love to his new wife, but due to how damaged she is, to her the act of making love seemed like rape to her? It also makes you think if he was a genuinely horrible person, why is he even trying to help Marnie at all with her issues? If he was so bad why would he care about her at all? Towards the end we see that he does care about her and she comes to trust him and values his help.

Mark also seems to care more for animals than he does people, and he talks about slowly gaining an animals trust. Throughout the film he uses the same techniques with Marnie, he is patient with her and allows her to come to him over time.

Tippi and Sean are both excellent.  There’s strong support from Diane Baker as Mark’s trouble making sister in law, Lil. She openly flirts with Mark, and it’s obvious she is jealous of Marnie when Mark brings her home.

Louise Latham plays Marnie’s mother. At first she is a typical Hitch mother, cold, distant, seemingly responsible for messing up her child etc. As the film goes on though we see her in a very different light. Louise is excellent particularly in the scenes when the truth about what happened to Marnie is revealed.  

Mariette Hartley plays Susan, a fellow secretary at Rutland’s who befriends Marnie. She is only in a few scenes but steals each one she is in. I love her amusement over her boss constantly forgetting the safe combination.

There’s also a small appearance by Bruce Dern, as a violent sailor who causes problems for Marnie and her mother.

Those watching this and expecting a typical Hitch film will be surprised. This film is quite unlike his others. I think the negative response to this one is a real shame, as the film is very good and has many memorable moments. The performances from the entire cast are also solid throughout.

My favourite scenes are the following. Marnie and Mark playing the word association game. Marnie dropping the shoe. Marnie freaking out over the red ink. Marnie and Lil meeting for the first time over tea. Mark telling Marnie he trained Sophie (a wild animal)to trust him. Marnie trying to get the gun off Mark. The final sequence when we learn all about what happened to Marnie.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Sabotage (1936)

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This is my first entry for my Hitchcock blogathon which begins this Friday.

In this first post I’m writing about one of Hitchcock’s early British films. That film is his 1936 espionage thriller Sabotage.The film is based on the novel The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad.

Hitch always liked to ensure he kept his audiences squirming in their seats in suspense and fear. This film features a sequence aboard a bus that has us doing both of those things, and it also has us getting very angry at Hitch.

The infamous bus sequence of which I speak is rivalled only (for me) by the Statue of Liberty sequence in Saboteur, and by the shocking shower murder in Psycho. The Sabotage bus sequence is also note worthy for being very realistic, it is utterly shocking, horrific and brutal when viewed today; so I can only imagine how audiences in the thirties must have responded to witnessing this sequence upon the films original release.

The sequence of which I speak sees a boy board a bus in London. He is unknowingly carrying a bomb, which is hidden inside a package he has been asked to deliver. We know the time it will detonate. As the boy carries it around town, the clock is counting down to the time of detonation. It makes us feel angry at Hitch because there’s no happy end to that bus sequence and also because a child is killed and was powerless to escape their horrific end.

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Sylvia Sydney as Mrs. Verloc. Screenshot by me.

The film is set in London in the 1930’s. Many scenes take place in a family flat above a cinema. The family who live there are the Verloc’s, and they both own and run this popular cinema. The Verloc family consists of Karl Verloc(Oscar Homolka), his much younger wife (Sylvia Sidney)and her younger brother, Stevie (Desmond Tester).

Unbeknown to his wife, Karl is a member of a group of saboteurs. The group have already done several things to cause problems (such as shutting down the electricity to the city.) They now want to go a step further and create sheer terror, they want to set off a bomb in central London.

Scotland Yard’s investigations have led them to the Verloc’s cinema and they put an undercover officer to work in the shop next door to keep an eye on what’s going on. That officer is Ted Spencer (John Loder) and he befriends Mrs. Verloc and her brother. His feelings for them are genuine, but he tries to keep in mind that Mrs. Verloc could also be a part of the group too. Karl has to collect a bomb and he is tasked with setting it off. The race is on to try and gather proof against him and to stop him before he does fatal damage.

 

This is a very bleak and serious film and there is precious little Hitchcock humour to be found here. The subject matter of this film is even more relevant today, given the world we are currently living in. I think that our own experiences with these horrors make us realise that this film is sadly far from being just a frightening fiction. There are plenty of Verloc’s roaming around our communities today, and that is truly a chilling thought indeed.

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Oscar Homolka as Mr. Verloc. Screenshot by me.

Mr. Karl Verloc is one of Hitch’s coldest and nastiest villains. Homolka does a very good job in portraying this horrible man. Right from the start it’s pretty clear to us that he is a chap to steer clear of, there is no soul to be found within him. His personality did make me wonder why his wife stayed with for so long?

There must have been something about him that made her want to be with him, or maybe she just couldn’t accept the unpleasant truth staring her in the face and denied his true nature to herself? As the film goes on, Verloc becomes more and more loathsome and his attitudes towards his actions more shocking. What happens to him in the end is more than justified I’d say. If ever anyone had that end coming to them it was certainly him.

This film also does a good job of capturing a loved ones inability to accept that a family member could be capable of murder or of a serious criminal act. Mrs. Verloc (who as it turns out is not involved with the saboteurs in any way) won’t accept the truth about her husband until his actions cause her to lose someone very dear to her.

Sidney is excellent as the woman who has her whole life destroyed. Her perceived image of her husband is shattered and her innocence comes to an end too. Your heart goes out to this woman and you pity her for the terrible situation she finds herself in.

My favourite scenes are the following. Mrs. Verloc struggling against her desire to pick up the knife and use it to hurt her husband. Mr. Verloc meeting a fellow saboteur at the London zoo aquarium. Stevie showing Ted behind the back of the cinema screen and the window into the flat where Ted can spy on the saboteurs meeting there. The bus explosion. Mrs. Verloc watching an animated film and laughing, her uncontrollable laughter soon turns to tears.

Good performances all round, a tense and shocking story and many memorable sequences help to make this one of Hitch’s best films. I like how many scenes in this could almost be from a Silent film; the famous sequence with the knife for example plays out with no dialogue, the power of it comes from Homolka and Sidney’s expressions in that moment. Hitch knew full well the power of actors faces in key moments, this film is very much an actors film and he uses them to full effect.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

Blogathons

Announcing The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon

 

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Well, it would seem that I’ve been bitten by the blogathon bug.  🙂  I’m now announcing my second blogathon as host. I love them and think they are such a great way of getting peoples different opinions on the same subject.

 Are you a fan of the master of suspense? Well here is your chance to write something about him and his films.

You can write about anything as long as it is Hitch related. For example you could write about your favourite Hitchcock films. About Hitch himself. About the Hitchcock TV series he hosted. The different eras of Hitch’s career (the early British years and his move to Hollywood.) You can even write more than one post if you wish.

The blogathon will run on the 4th, 5th and 6th of August, 2017.

I will be accepting 2 duplicate posts only about the same film. I will accept more duplicate posts about Hitch himself, or about the TV series.

How do I take part?
Very easily. Simply leave me a comment below telling me what you want to write about.  Leave me your name and the name of your blog too. Then grab one of the banners below, and put it up somewhere on your site to help spread the word.


What will happen on the Blogathon days?
I will put up a new post on the 4th saying the blogathon is going live. Leave me your name and the link to your completed entry in the comments. I will then create the link to your entry on my post.


I’ve never participated in a Blogathon before. What’s it all about?
You’re in for lots of fun then. 🙂 Blogathons are a great way of connecting with other bloggers. It’s a good way of getting more visitors to your site who may not otherwise have ever known your blog existed. I love blogathons for the varied opinions and comments different bloggers can bring to the same subject.

I do hope you can all join me in discussing and celebrating the great Alfred Hitchcock. Grab a banner from below, and check the participation list to see who is writing about what.

 

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Hitchcock blogathon 3

The Hitchcock Blogathon 4

Hitchcock blogathon 2

 

Participation List

           maddylovesherclassicfilms – Sabotage. Marnie. Shadow of a Doubt.

dbmoviesblogRope

TakinguproomRear Window

Bonnywood ManorLifeboat

Anybody Got A Match?To Catch A Thief

CrackedrearviewerForeign Correspondent

RealweegiemidgetreviewsHitchcock (2012)

Critica RetroMasters of Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock (book)

The Humpo ShowStrangers On A Train

ReviewDonkeyThe Lady Vanishes

The Wonderful World Of Cinema – Humour in Hitchcock’s Films

Sparksfromacombustiblemind Psycho

In The Good Old Days Of Classic HollywoodThe Birds

I Found It At The MoviesRope

LifesdailylessonsblogSuspicion

CinemaessentialsThe 39 Steps

Silver ScreeningsThe Lodger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 5: Family Plot (1976)

What’s that? A Hitchcock film considered an unsung classic? Believe it or not the answer is yes.On this day back in 1980, we lost one of the best film directors there has ever been in the world. Alfred Hitchcock died aged 80.

For decades Hitch had scared audiences silly and shown us how a suspense film should be made. Hitchcock’s films allowed actors to play roles quite different to what they usually accepted, and that is interesting for me to watch this change as a viewer. His films explored themes like obsession, the innocent wrongly accused, jealousy and mother issues. The majority of his work is highly praised and much discussed.

After reaching a career highpoint with Psycho and The Birds; Hitchcock’s last few films sadly declined in popularity and they are rarely praised the same way his earlier ones are. I agree wholeheartedly that Torn Curtain is pretty bad (apart from that excellent farm sequence) but I don’t agree with all the criticism of the others. I’m not saying all of them are perfect, but I firmly believe they are far from the weak films many consider them to be.

Marnie, Frenzy, Topaz and Family Plot are all films that I feel are worthy of more attention and reassessment.

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George and Blanche endure a scary car ride. Screenshot by me.

I want to talk today about one of my favourite Hitchcock films. That film is Family Plot. It ended up becoming Hitch’s final film and I consider it to be a really grand finale. The film features many of his key components; such as the beautiful blonde woman, thrills, suspense, humour, and a slight supernatural element too. In a way it is a tribute to all that came before. I love it because it is just so much fun.

Blanche Tyler(Barbara Harris)is a con artist posing as a medium. Blanche is hired by the wealthy Julia Rainbird(Cathleen Nesbitt)to help find the son of her dead sister. Julia will give Blanche $10,000 in reward. Blanche and her taxi driver boyfriend, George Lumley(Bruce Dern)jump at the chance to get some cash, so they start investigating and soon uncover something they will wish they hadn’t.

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Karen Black as the mysterious woman in black. Screenshot by me.

Meanwhile, across town, suave jeweller Arthur Adamson(William Devane) and his girlfriend Fran (Karen Black)are kidnapping wealthy people and asking for valuable diamonds as ransom. These two will soon cross paths with Blanche and George.

Harris is perfect as the kooky Blanche, she is a fake, but she acts like her abilities are real much to the amusement of George. Blanche is so loveable so we don’t hate despite the fact that she is conning people in her role as medium. Blanche comes across as someone it would be fun to know, she’s sweet, funny and life with her around wouldn’t be dull.

Bruce Dern is excellent as the cranky taxi driver who is happiest at home with Blanche, enjoying a bottle of beer in front of the TV. He is the Hitch everyman for the 1970’s, stressed from working hard and looking forward to his time off. As their investigation progresses, George pretends to be a Private Detective and he seems to have fun in this role/job change.  This is one of my favourite performances from Dern, and it’s a rare time where he gets to play a character who isn’t a villain or crazy.

William Devane is oily and overly charming. He makes Arthur a very two faced character and a real nasty piece of work. You know this is a guy who only cares about himself.

Karen Black has fun playing two roles. As Adamson’s girlfriend, she is bubbly and is only going along with his schemes to please him, she isn’t doing it because she is a bad person. As the black clad, blonde mystery woman who collects the ransom she is cool and determined.  In a way Fran reminds me of Madeleine/Judy in Vertigo; she is  a woman desperate to be loved, and who makes herself up to look like someone else because her man forces her to. Both Scottie and Arthur seem to have a thing about mystery blondes and ignore the real girl they are forcing to dress up.

Ed Lauter delivers strong support as garage owner Joseph Maloney. He may hold the key to the missing Rainbird heir.

Cathleen Nesbitt is moving as the elderly woman consumed with regret and remorse for her actions all those years ago.

The film also features a sadly much overlooked score by John Williams. The music works so well in the film, and for me is one of the most memorable scores for a Hitchcock film.

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Blanche. Fake medium or the real deal? Screenshot by me.

My favourite scenes are the following. George and Blanche bickering in the taxi on the way back from Julia Rainbird’s house. The entire sequence in the cemetery where George is looking at headstones. The first shot of Fran as she walks into the Police station dressed in black and wearing sunglasses. The brakes failing on George and Blanche’s car, leading to terrifying car journey. That wink at the end.

A playful and thrilling film. I consider this one a fitting tribute to all that came before in Hitch’s career.

I also always get a real craving for a burger after watching this. Why? Due to the scene where George and Blanche eat homemade burgers. 

I wish with all my heart that more people would show some love to this film. Any other fans here?

 

Horror

The Birds (1963)

I’d like to talk today about a Hitchcock film that I consider to be his scariest work. The film is the nature horror The Birds. The film is based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier (whose work had been adapted for the screen by Hitch before)with the story setting changed from Cornwall to a coastal American town.

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The birds gather. Screenshot by me.

When this film was released in 1963, Alfred Hitchcock had been the master of suspense for decades, but he had never before made a film that could really be classed as a horror film. Psycho released in 1960, certainly has some horror elements, but it is still essentially a suspense thriller.

The Birds however is certainly an all out horror film.From its opening titles which feature no music, only the squawking of birds, we know that we are in for a very different experience than we are usually used to getting from this director.

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Melanie, Cathy and Mitch are trapped during a bird attack. Screenshot by me.

 The film makes us afraid of something we share our lives with everyday, the birds we see eating off the floor, flying through the air, and sitting on trees, buildings etc. The film  makes us think what would we do if they ever decided to attack us all the time. When I first saw this, I have to confess to having been left a bit wary of birds for a while after viewing.

I like how the ordered lives of the characters are completely destroyed, they find themselves out of control and pursued by something they would never have thought could hurt them.

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Mitch and Melanie share a drink and get to know one another. Screenshot by me.

Wealthy Melanie Daniels(Tippi Hedren)meets lawyer Mitch Brenner(Rod Taylor)in a bird shop. He is trying to find some love birds to give to his younger sister Cathy(Veronica Cartwright), when he recognises Melanie as the woman who is always in the news for practical jokes and scandals.

Mitch decides to have a bit of fun at her expense, and he decides to give her a large dose of her own medicine.

Mitch pretends that he thinks Melanie works in the shop and asks her to show him some birds, this leads to some very amusing scenes until he tells the truth(much to her annoyance).

There is an instant attraction between the two, and Melanie buys a pair of lovebirds, and finds Mitch’s weekend address(family home)out in Bodega Bay. Melanie drives up to leave them for Cathy, she takes a boat over to the house(to arrive unnoticed) as she is trying to leave without being noticed Mitch catches sight of her and drives over to the dock to await her return, as she comes closer to the dock she is attacked by a seagull.

From this moment on there are more bird attacks in the town, and large groups of birds congregate in public places. Mitch, Cathy, their mother Lydia(Jessica Tandy), Melanie and schoolteacher(and former girlfriend of Mitch)Annie(Suzanne Pleshette)try and figure out what is causing these attacks, and find a way to survive.

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Melanie trapped in a phonebox being attacked by birds. Screenshot by me.

The more I’ve watched this, I’ve picked up on something that I haven’t seen anyone else mention when discussing this film.

The majority of the bird attacks happen at moments of increasing intimacy between Mitch and Melanie. They also increase as Mitch and Melanie’s feelings for one another grow. Hitchcock was a perfectionist and everything in his films was there for a reason.

I would find it very difficult to believe that the bird attacks coinciding with emotional moments, or during moments of sexual tension were not intentionally included. If you pick up on this possibility, then I think it adds another layer to the film. I also love the way Rod and Tippi play their shared scenes. I really love the sexual tension and flirtatious banter between their characters.

Rod Taylor is superb as the strong, playful Mitch devoted to his family and trying to protect those he loves from these attacks; his performance in this is what made me a fan, I love him in this.

Tippi Hedren makes a strong debut as Melanie, and does a good job of portraying a strong woman becoming vulnerable and falling in love. It is a real shame she didn’t go on to become a bigger star, her performance here and in Hitchcock’s  Marnie are very good indeed.

Suzanne Pleshette steals every scene she is in as the knowing Annie. She can see Mitch and Melanie are falling in love, even if they themselves might not be aware of it. Annie is very heroic and I feel sorry for her character for two reasons. Firstly she still has feelings for Mitch. Secondly for what happens to her later on in the film. 

Jessica Tandy is moving as the widowed mother of Mitch, desperate not to lose her son and being cold towards any woman he loves.

A very young Veronica Cartwright is good as Cathy Brenner, terrified by what she is seeing but still loving towards her lovebirds.

The ending is bleak and we are left hoping the best for these characters, but it doesn’t look likely that there will be a happy ending. The original scripted ending was even bleaker, and I do wish it had been filmed as it shows how far the attacks had spread; they drive through the town to find utter devastation, dead bodies and thousands of birds as far as the eye can see.

My favourite scenes are the following. Mitch and Melanie talking about her mother up on the hill. The banter between Mitch and Melanie when he is treating Melanie’s cut. The attack where Melanie is trapped in the phonebox. Melanie and Annie discussing Mitch and Lydia before the bid hits their door. Lydia finding the dead farmer. The birds gathering behind Melanie at the school, and the scene with the bird expert lady talking about the attacks.

I also love the scene where Melanie is driving, her body leans left and right when she turns corners, on the seat next to her, the lovebirds are leaning left and right too. That scene always makes me laugh whenever I watch this. A very brief moment of humour in a very chilling film.

One of Hitchcock’s best films, and a very good horror film in it’s own right. If you’re a fan please leave your thoughts. If you’ve never seen it, I hope you’ll check it out.