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.