A Few Tweets from Today’s #TCMParty for “Dial M for Murder”

In reference to Kelly’s Margot turning the tables on her assailant:

The key is the key …


Be sure to check out the TCM Party schedule and to follow them on Twitter @TCM_Party and Tumblr. Like them on Facebook as well.

A “Cinematic” Journey through London

On my latest trip to London, I had the great pleasure to partake of some of the cinematic delights the British capital had to offer.

On Friday night (October 26th), I had the pleasure of catching Skyfall at the BFI IMAX, Britain’s largest IMAX screen, pictured below:

(I will publish my review later this week, ahead of its US release ).

 

The following day I headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum to check out the Hollywood Costumes exhibition. It was much, much more than I expected and reached a wonderful climax that included Marilyn Monroe’s dress from The Seven Year Itch and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. Unfortunately we were unable to photograph the actual exhibit itself (I did end up with a book!), but rest assured, it was well worth the trip to see so many iconic outfits worn by Hollywood’s finest, past and present.

Image Courtesy of the V&A Museum

Due to the tragic weather-related events that were happening Stateside (Superstorm Sandy), I found myself with some extra time in London, during which I ventured over to the Southbank and visited the BFI (British Film Institute) Southbank. Most of the facility was closed but we were able to walk about the Institute and visit the museum shop. This gave me the opportunity to pick up a copy of 39 Steps to the Genius of Hitchcock: A BFI Compendium. I cannot wait until I settle in with this one!

If you ever find yourself in London (stranded or otherwise) I highly recommend checking out the awesomely accessible facility.

Of course I did other amazing stuff while I was over there, but these aforementioned events definitely left an impression.

Yesterday it Was the Photos…

Today it is the official trailer dropping.

Enjoy!

 

ILC’s Take:

This looks absolutely beautiful. In watching this trailer, I am very happy about  the prominence of Alma Reville (his wife) has in the story.

For many who are not heavily into the Hitchcock biography, this film looks like it will shine a well overdue light on the woman, a supportive and heavily influential creative force in her own right, behind the man.

Of course that is not to say that we may also be peeling away few layers from “The Master of Suspense” himself.

I will definitely be seeing this one!

New “Hitchcock” Stills

Check out these photos for the upcoming film, Hitchcock.
Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh

 

James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins

 

Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock

 

Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins as Alma and Alfred Hitchcock

 

HITCHCOCK is a love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock and his wife and partner Alma Reville. The film takes place during the making of Hitchcock’s seminal movie Psycho.

Directed by: Sacha Gervasi
Screenplay by: John J. McLaughlin
Based on the book: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello
Produced by: Ivan Reitman, Tom Pollock, Joe Medjuck, Tom Thayer, Alan Barnette
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Michael Stuhlbarg, James D’Arcy, Michael Wincott, Richard Portnow, Kurtwood Smith

 

 

Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco

Several years back, I reflected on a trip to San Francisco with an On Location feature. In this piece, I briefly mentioned the subject of this post, the book Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco written by Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal (published in 2002). Now, after having just returned from the Bay Area, I decided to revisit this book in greater detail.

Fort Point, Golden Gate Bridge (Location from Vertigo [1958]) – San Francisco, CA

It is apparent from the very beginning that this is not just some book without any ties to its principal subject. With a foreword written Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell. Now I am not one who usually combs over the foreword of a book, but this one is well worth the extra few minutes to whet your appetite for what awaits in the subsequent pages.

This personal touch assures the reader that the family has given authors their blessings with the project. To enhance this personal quality, Ms. Hitchcock O’Connell has shared some of her personal collection of family photos. It provides a truly unique insight.

On the set of “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) – Santa Rosa, CA

Part tour guide book, part on-location set map and part movie outline and summary, this book closely examines the three Hitchcock features closest associated with The Master of Suspense: Shadow of a DoubtVertigo, and The Birds. As a bonus, there is also a section in the book that looks at the role the Bay Area has (even if on its periphery) in some of Hitch’s other works, such as Psycho, Suspicion and Rebecca (see below).

 

What I Learned

While I kind of knew about the Shadow of a Doubt-Hitchcock connection with the San Fran area, what I did not know is that this appreciation for the region predates this film and went back a couple of years to his first film shot in the United States, Rebecca. According to the book, he formed a close friendship with star Joan Fontaine’s parents (who lived in Saratoga, California). In fact, some of the exterior shots used in Rebecca doubled for Monte Carlo and the Cornwall in England, respectively.

Bodega Bay Church, as seen in “The Birds” (1963)

On the Down Side …

If there is one complaint I would lodge against this book is that none of the fantastic photos are in color! Black and white is fine for films shot as such, for the films such as The Birds and Vertigo I would have liked to see the bold, rich colors in photographic form.

My last gripe has nothing to do with the book at all but rather with my sadness that many of the locations that featured in the book no longer exist (like the famous Ernie’s restaurant).

 

Overall this is a fun interesting book that I gladly recommend for people who to visit real movie locations. It is fascinating.

Peck and Hitchcock: A Retrospective

I have been graciously invited by Ruth at Flixchatter to participate in her celebration of what would have been Gregory Peck’s 96th birthday. Be sure to check out her piece Beauty is Forever: Happy Birthday, Mr. Gregory Peck!

Also make sure to visit her site to read the posts from the others who have contributed to this celebration!

Here, below, is my celebratory entry:


As many fans of Alfred Hitchcock know, whether in front of or behind the camera, once Hitch found someone he liked, they usually became a constant collaborator.

When it came to music, there was Bernard Herrmann.

When it came to continuity and editing, his wife, Alma Reville.

In the area of writing, there was John Michael Hayes.

And then there were the ‘icy blondes’ of course – Ingrid Bergman, Tippi Hedren and Grace Kelly, to name a few.

As far as leading men are concerned, there was James Stewart, Cary Grant, and our birthday boy, Mr. Gregory Peck, who starred in two of Hitchcock’s films: the 1945 classic Spellbound and 1947’s The Paradine Case.

For my money, Spellbound is the far superior film; in this film, Hitchcock utilizes Peck’s dignified everyman status to great effect. He plays Dr. Edwardes, a young doctor on assignment to a mental institution. But soon we discover that all is not what it appears. Hitchcock uses this as an opportunity to delve into the complexities of the human mind (the subject of psychoanalysis being of great interest to Hitchcock). His co-star in the film is Ingrid Bergman playing Dr. Petersen, who helps Dr. Edwardes (and the audience) unravel the mystery at the center of the story.

A highlight of the film is the infamous dream sequence, with elements conceived and designed by the famous surrealist Salavdor Dalí.

At the time of its release, Spellbound was a runaway critical and commercial hit.

 

Unfortunately, Peck and Hitchcock’s second collaboration received mixed reviews and was not generally as well received. The Paradine Case is the seventh and final film that Hitchcock directed for producer David O. Selznick.

It is a courtroom drama in which we see Peck’s character, barrister Anthony Keene fall in love with his client, the beautiful and mysterious Madame Paradine (played by actress Alida Valli). She is on trial for the murder of her husband.

Often seen as one of the “Hitchcock films one ought to not bother watching” it is an effectively made film that shows what lengths the protagonist will go to let this woman he is so drawn to escape a murder charge – Keene puts his reputation, career and marriage at stake.

One reason I feel many dismiss The Paradine Case is that it does not have the characteristic ‘Hitchcockian’ levels of intrigue and suspense that audiences were getting used to from the director by now. I suspect that if any other director’s name appeared at the opening credits, the reception would have been a bit more forgiving. That said, if you are looking for a film in the vein of Spellbound or Notorious (1946), this is not the film.

 

Fast-forward 16 years after The Paradine Case wrapped and take a look at the photo below; Peck and Hitchcock are posed together on the set of Hitch’s latest production, The Birds (1963). While I did not find much in my research that indicated a particularly strong life-long friendship between the two, this photograph is a testament (in my eyes at least) of a partnership that produced a mutual respect between the men.

 

Revisiting ‘The Birds’

This week I continue to revisit films from the Universal library scheduled to receive the full restoration and Blu-Ray treatment in celebration of the studio’s centenary. Today, I will take a closer look at Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film, The Birds.
In his follow to the granddaddy of the modern slasher film, Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock brings terror to the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Here’s the setup (synopsis courtesy of MUBI.com):

[Hitchcock] couples a tone of rigorous morality with dark humor to create a thriller that begins as a light comedy and ends as an apocalyptic allegory.

Loosely based on a Daphne du Maurier story and a (recent) Santa Monica newspaper account, “Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes,” The Birds [tells the story of] wealthy reformed party girl Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), who enjoys a brief flirtation with lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a San Francisco pet shop and decides to follow him to his Bodega Bay home.

Bearing a gift of two lovebirds, Melanie quickly strikes up a romance with Mitch while contending with his possessive mother and boarding at his ex-girlfriend’s house.

And with that, (literally) all hell breaks loose. First, the birds attack a children’s party; while it startled the crowd, they quickly dismiss it as a terrifying, but fluke occurrence. Gradually, the attacks increase in frequency and ferocity.

As mentioned above, for the time, the special effects were groundbreaking. Of course by today’s CGI standards, they look a little dated; but for me this is irrelevant. The terror behind the film is not in the realism or detail of what you are seeing but rather the terror lies in the mere fact that the birds have decided to turn on civilization apparently without any provocation. In a moment of levity, right in the midst of the birds’ reign of terror, patrons of a diner have a debate about the terror WE have unleashed and the possibility that this is nature’s retaliation. And with a sense of wicked irony, we see a patron ordering and eating some chicken.

In her first starring role, Tippi Hedren is the epitome of Hitchcock’s “Icy Blonde”. There is a lot more that can be discussed about the psycho-sexuality of her and the other characters in the story, but I will leave that to more qualified folks who have spoken and written about this subject extensively.

At its best, The Birds is signature Hitchcock with its high level of craft and execution. It is a thrilling and fun piece of film that is bound to entertain you.

A Few Bits of Trivia (Source: IMDb.com)

  • Tippi Hedren was actually cut in the face by a bird in one of the shots.
  • As previously stated, there is no musical score for the film except for the sounds created on the mixtrautonium (photo at right), by Oskar Sala, and the children singing in the school. In spite of this, Hitchcock’s frequent musical collaborator, Bernard Herrmann is credited as a sound consultant.
  • The scene where Tippi Hedren is ravaged by birds near the end of the movie took a week to shoot. The birds were attached to her clothes by long nylon threads so they could not get away.
  • The film does not finish with the usual “THE END” title because Alfred Hitchcock wanted to give the impression of unending terror.
  • A number of endings were being considered for this film. One that was considered would have showed the Golden Gate Bridge completely covered by birds.

Hitchcock’s Cameo

Hitchcock can be seen at the start of the film walking two dogs out of the pet shop Melanie Daniels is entering.

Hitchcock and His Music

Even if you have not seen Psycho, this music must ring vaguely familiar. For me, this is the ultimate example of the importance of musical scoring in the motion pictures. And no more do I feel the impact of the score then when I watch the films of one of my favorite directors, Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

13 years ago (goodness, me!) I had the pleasure of visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City and going to the Alfred Hitchcock exhibition, its arrival coinciding with the auteur’s centenary.

Among my mementos of the trip were a museum print and a compact disk, Alfred Hitchcock: Music from his Films. All these years later, the music from this CD still gets constant rotation on my iPod.

While the composer most closely aligned with Hitchcock is Bernard Herrmann, over his career he also collaborated with the likes of Miklós Rózsa, Franz Waxman and John Williams. Here is a really cool interview in which Williams talks about his collaboration with Hitchcock:

Although this music is not on the disk, I thought it was just lovely; it is a score by Neil Brand, which he composed to accompany the British Film Institute’s restoration of Hitchcock’s 1929 film Blackmail.

I close with the words of Bernard Herrmann himself, talking about music and its importance in cinema.

[haiku url=”http://iluvcinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/23-Bernard-Herrmann-speaks-on-film-music.m4a” defaultpath=disabled]

Share your thoughts below.

Rebecca 2.0

EGADS Looks like I will be dreaming of Manderley again!

Joan Fontaine as 'The New Mrs. de Winter" and Dame Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca" (1940)

Imagine my surprise when I found out that one of my favorite books of all time, Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, which in turn became a 1940 film directed by one of my favorite directors, Alfred Hitchcock, was getting a cinematic remake/reboot.

According to Variety Magazine’s Showblitz blog, DreamWorks and Working Title Films are joining forces to bring a fresh vision of this classic tale to the silver screen. The good news: Steven Knight, whose previous work includes Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises and Steven Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things.

In case you have not read the book or seen the 1940 Hitchcock film, here is a very brief synopsis:

A young bride is terrorized by the memories of her husband’s glamorous first wife.

And here is the trailer for that film:

While not considered a quintessential ‘Hitchockian’ thriller, this film marked Mr. Hitchcock’s first Hollywood studio production and went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture of 1940.

Now that you have a little background information, tell me:

Who would you like to see cast in the title roles of the unnamed author, her new husband, Maxim de Winter, and most importantly, the maid Mrs. Danvers?

 

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Rope (1948)

This week I have chosen to talk about Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope from 1948.

At the film’s start, we see a murder taking place in an apartment. After ‘disposing’ of the body in a less-than-discreet place, our antagonists, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) are in throws of preparing for a dinner party. Among the guests to this party are the victim’s fiance, father and former romantic rival. Rounding out the guest list is the pair’s former teacher and mentor, Rupert Cadell, portrayed by James Stewart.

As the evening transpires, the conversation becomes increasingly morose; and James Stewart’s Rupert begins to piece together that something is just not right. As the party dies down, Rupert makes the shocking and unimaginable discovery.

Rope has many layers to it. For one, the story is based on a play, which in turn was ‘inspired’ by the real life case of Leopold and Loeb, who were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a 14 year old boy. It also deals with the intellectual exercise of executing the ‘perfect murder’ (presumably one where the perpetrators do not get caught). Another debate the characters have in the film is about the philosophical concept of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche‘s Übermensch (Superman) and the notion of one man’s superiority to another.

Rope is well regarded in film circles and among Hitchcock fans, but is not as well known to the general public. Among the film’s various accomplishments are:

  • it is the first of Hitchcock’s Technicolor films
  • it takes place in real time
  • it was edited so as to appear as a single continuous shot through the use of long takes. This was achieved by panning, closeups and dissolves, among other techniques. (Source: Wikipedia)

This piece of cinema represents Hitchcock at his most experimental and daring. The idea of Hitchcock being an experimental filmmaker seems antithetical to the impression often associated with him – that is he is often characterized as a controlling taskmaster who methodically laid out all the scenes from his films shot-by-shot. It is worth seeing for this alone.


* For another Hitchcock recommendation this week, go to Flixchatter and read  Ruth’s take on 1945’s Spellbound

* Also be sure to go to Todd Mason’s blog for more Overlooked Films