Tuesday, September 15, 2009

There's Just One Hitch...

Had I been born in 1980, when Alfred Hitchcock passed away, instead of 1967, I’d swear I was a reincarnation of the man. (Not looks-wise, mind you!) As it stands, perhaps he did in some way enter my body shortly after his death because it was in 1983 that I discovered his movies for the first time and I immediately felt the need to see all of them that I could.

In 1983, a few of his films (including Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Rear Window) were re-released following a long period in which they had been tied up in legalities. A pay cable channel was advertising this fact and some of the imagery caught my eye, so I tuned in and was hooked from then on.

What got my attention in this batch of movies – the clean colors, the wondrous music, the suspenseful stories, the cool blonde leading ladies – led me to seek out his earlier work. Each time I saw another one, I enjoyed it (with a couple of exceptions along the way.)


As I began to investigate the man’s work and the man himself, I soon discovered that we had many similar fetishes, phobias and fascinations. For example, he had a fear of authority figures stemming from a childhood incident in which his father had him placed in a jail cell briefly to prove a point. I am also wary of the police and other uniformed officials. He also loved women who present an icy, secure, confident front, but who may have simmering passions under that surface. Likewise, he seemed to enjoy gussying his leading ladies up only to systematically tear them down. (This ties into my disaster movie fixation, which often features glamorous people and settings being put through a battery of elements. In fact, Hitch occasionally included disaster-style sequences such as in Foreign Correspondent, in which a planeload of people crashes into the water.)

My favorite Hitchcock movie is Vertigo, which was also his most personal film. Everything about it from the obsessive nature of James Stewart to the gauzy beauty of Kim Novak to the swirling music to the unforgettable Edith Head clothing captivates me thoroughly. It’s definitely a film that provokes either praise or derision depending on one’s outlook. However, there are so many other gems including Psycho, The Birds, Notorious, The Man Who Knew Too Much (I’m one of those who prefers his remake), Strangers on a Train and, of course, his Oscar-winning Best Picture Rebecca.





Even in those of his films that aren’t complete successes, I usually find something I love – a set piece, a performer, a stylistic choice, the music. Torn Curtain may not be a terrific movie, but it has hunky Paul Newman in his prime and in gorgeous color. Likewise, Marnie features a young Sean Connery and the elegant Tippi Hedren along with the wondrously cranky work of Louise Latham. I Confess features stunning black and white photography. To Catch a Thief features one of my all time favorite dresses, a blue chiffon Grecian number that stands out vividly against Grace Kelly’s tan. There is only one Alfred Hitchcock sound film that I have not seen. I just cannot seem to get through it or to even make myself do so and that is Jamaica Inn. I adore Maureen O’Hara and have enjoyed Charles Laughton in things, but this one eludes me. Maybe someday…

5 comments:

Kari said...

Hi! Loving this, having just discovered your site this evening. Just wanted to note that at the bottom of this article, the Grace Kelly / Cary Grant film title is "To Catch A Thief" rather than "It Takes..." I made a similar discovery of Hitchcock films when I was about 12 or so--I completely relate!

Poseidon3 said...

Oh Lord...... how embarrasing! It's fixed now. Thanks for catching and welcome to The Underworld!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Poseidon, I am currently reading The Making of Vertigo. It's fairly in-depth but as these things go, it's not particularly exciting. I'd stick with the film for sure.

I think Vertigo is in the top group but I usually think that Rebecca is my favorite of his early movies even though it's currently out of favor. I also particularly like Rear Window (so much with so little!), and North By Northwest (the designs are amazing).

As for Jamaica Inn, I think it is generally considered his worst film, so don't fret about not having seen it (or maybe you have by now?). I confess that I never made it through I Confess despite having the dreamy Montgomery Clift in it. And I'm not really sure I've successfully made it through The Wrong Man or Topaz.

Poseidon3 said...

Dave, I see you've been wading through some of the old posts! Thank you!! I have "Rebecca" on DVD and plan to watch it again soon. It's been a long while. There's a pretty lengthy tribute here to the great (Dame) Judith Anderson if you're a fan of hers. I wound up liking "I Confess" on DVD more than I expected to, though I agree that "The Wrong Man" and "Topaz" are not really my thing. Once or twice was plenty!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Yes, I enjoy going back to the old posts, but I am not sure if I'm supposed to comment. Sounds like it's okay.

Okay, I'll give I Confess another try. Monty makes it easier. :-)

Big Momma and Mrs. Danvers? Judith Anderson was amazing.