Saturday, October 31, 2015

Under Capricorn (1949)

Beefing on Hitchcock
Under Capricorn

Alright, I am going to start out by admitting that it's been over five(5) months since I watched this movie. There are reasons it's taken me this long, a promotion at work being one of the biggest, but... the biggest reason is that THIS MOVIE IS HORRIBLE.

Seriously, the copy of the movie I have cut off before the end, and it didn't really bother me. Actually, I was very glad. This. Movie. Is. Horrible.

Alfred Hitchcock considered Under Capricorn to be one of this worst, and I think that's an understatement. It was droll, drab, boring, unexciting, and it absolutely failed to capture even the slightest bit of my attention. I'm not even sure it works for background viewing. I'm not even going to bother getting into the story or anything about the actors (who were very good at what little they had to work with)... because that would require me re-reading the summary on Wikipedia again... which I did ten minutes ago, and have subsequently forgotten.

There's a really good reason most people don't know about this film and it will likely never make its way to blu ray. But if you're that interested in watching this film, and want to torture yourself for an hour or more, go ahead and find a copy. Otherwise, do not watch this movie.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rope (1948)

Beefing on Hitchcock

Two young men strangle to death a friend of theirs as a form of intellectual social experiment. Having placed the body into a chest in their front room, they two entertain a dinner party of family and friends with conversation about murder and its possible benefit to society. As the party guests, including the deceased's parents and fiance, notice the man's absence, the young men's mentor and professor begins to suspect foul play.

One of Alfred Hitchcock's most bold and inventive films, Rope touches on some rather dark and controversial topics with a lot of the humour and wry wit we typically come to expect from the director. Plenty of tongue-in-cheek dialogue and "poor" timing keeps the audience giggling and groaning while the suspense continues to build.

The characters and setting revolves around the wooden chest containing the dead body, and the dinner party itself is even served off the top of it! There are a few moments of classic suspense as the chest is almost opened, or as the murderers nearly let their secret slip.

Although the two leads have just committed an act of murder, they still come off as likable and sympathetic characters, and they are consistently upbeat and charming throughout the entire picture. You know they should get what's coming to them, but at the same time you almost don't actually want them to get caught.

Jimmy Stewart plays an unlikely role as their professor, from whom the two gained their misguided understanding of the propriety of murder. As the dinner party mingles on, he takes a rather silent spot in the background, visibly assessing the actions and reactions of his former pupils. Watching him suss things out as he hopes his suspicions are incorrect is one of the most intriguing parts of this film.

Shot in seven-to-ten minute segments, Rope was edited to come off as one continuous shot, creatively cutting in the shadows of someone's back or on a still and empty frame. This and the nearly single-roomed location help give the movie the feeling of a stage play. Everything about this production shows a director who is finally free of reigns and is more than happy to experiment and explore his creativity.

While it isn't typically popular as one of Hitchcok's "classics," Rope definitely fits the bill. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see the best of Hitchcock. I might even go to call the film nearly perfect... I will enjoy watching this picture over and over again.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Paradine Case (1947)

Beefing on Hitchcock
The Paradine Case

I had never seen The Paradine Case up until recently... In fact, I was honestly unaware of its existence until I set out to watch and review every one of Alfred Hitchcock's films in order. After viewing the picture, the reason is sadly apparent.

While easily not among Hitchcock's worst films, The Paradine Case is a rather droll film that I found highly lacking in story or intrigue. It failed to grab my interest enough to even really care about the characters or what happened to them. Considering the incredible wealth of talent on screen and behind the scenes, this is a tremendous shame.

With big screen stars such as Gregory Peck, Ann Todd, Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn, and Ethel Barrymore powering up the screen, the weakness of the story and premise are all the more obvious. A woman on trial for murdering her blind, elderly husband gains the support of her barrister who begins to devote all of his time and attention to her and to proving her innocence, at the expense of his own marriage and devoted wife. As he becomes more and more obsessed with the case, he becomes more and more infatuated with the woman on trial. This obsession affects his judgement to the extent that he destroys an apparently innocent man on the stand.

While over-all the story in itself isn't all that bad, I feel it would have translated better to an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents than a long-form motion picture. The film, the story, and especiall the acting are not without their merits. Everything in the production is done with the greatest of professionalism, however it just doesn't stand out as anything all that great. Essentially, I feel one of the biggest problems with the movie is that Hitchcock's desire to end his contract with David O. Selznick sparkles across the screen even bolder and louder than anything else in the picture.

While Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville wrote the initial drafts of the script, Selznick consistently forced in his infamous rewrites. This was incredibly typical, but while in the past, Hitchcock would either ignore or change back any rewrites, it seems he just threw up his hands and said "To hell with it. I'm done." with The Paradine Case, and the result is just mediocre.

Perhaps that's why this one has been overlooked so much by even the most devoted Hitchcock fans.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Notorious (1946)

Beefing on Hitchcock

A story of love, duty and betrayed trust, Notorious showed the world a genuine work of art. Alfred Hitchcock was beginning to make a name for himself not just as a director but as a film maker.

The film having been in and out of progress under David O. Selznick, it was finally sold off to RKO Pictures, where Hitchcock was given pretty much full reign to make the film he wanted to make. Selznick still tried several attempts to have his say in the final product, forcing various re-writes throughout the production... but in the end, it was Hitchcock and only Hitchcock who decided to ignore each and every one of those changes and put onto the screen his motion picture.

Stars Cary Grant, as T.R. Devlin, and Ingrid Bergman, as Alicia Huberman, carry the story along into a tale of espionage and romance, culminating in a love triangle with a well-off Nazi leader, portrayed wonderfully by Claude Rains. Berrgman's Alicia was to do her duty for her country by seducing and marrying Rains' Alex Sebastian, for the sole purpose of uncovering a cache of Uranium. Of course, the real focal point of the story was in the romance and misplaced trust between the characters, which took a few bold turns.

With 1944's Lifeboat, the director manipulated the audience to view a Nazi as a human being and not merely a monster; not a very popular thought at the time... and in Notorious, he pushed the story into an even more risque direction, causing us to even sympathize with the Nazi villain, something we still shy from even to this day. While Sebastian may have been a Nazi and very clearly involved in some nefarious dealings, a definite "bad guy," he wasn't really all that bad of a guy in the long run. He loved Alicia with all his heart, and you can't help but feel sad for the guy at the knowledge that he's being played the entire way through.

In all, this is one of Hitchcock's most classic classics. Shot, written and acted beautifully, the entire film is pretty close to perfect and is a prime example of what catapulted the director into complete (dare I say) notoriety.