To modern cinemagoers, when they think of Alfred Hitchcock, assuredly titles such as Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho or The Birds come to mind.
Still for many Hitchcock devotees, the cut goes a little deeper and when back-cataloging his work, many are surprised to find that the majority of his films made when he first came to Hollywood were more derivative character-based dramas which may or may not contain elements of thrill and suspense. Also let us not forget the interspersed moments of light comedic relief often found in many of his productions.
This week’s installment of my overlooked films features a double-bill from this era (the 1940’s) in Mr. Hitchcock’s career, focusing on titles you may not have heard oft: Foreign Corresponent and Lifeboat. I chose to list these films jointly because they were produced around the same time and dealt with similar theme – World War II. World War II (and the subsequent Cold War) seemed to provide Hitchcock with ample material to drive his plots along now and in years to come.
It should be noted that this film was made prior to America’s entry into The War. The plot centers around a foreign correspondent working in Europe and being propelled into a global conspiracy. It is a taut, action-packed film that keeps you engaged until the very end. My favorite scenes: one involving Edmund Gwenn (I will say no more except to say, ‘NOT Saint Nick!’) and an amazing airplane crash sequence that was undoubtedly revolutionary for its time and still resonates with me.
Four years later, Hitchcock made Lifeboat. This film strikes an even-keeled balance between ensemble piece, character drama and tense, nail-biting suspense. What is even more fascinating about this movie is it setting – it all takes place in and around a lifeboat floating in the Atlantic Ocean, in the aftermath of a German U-Boat attack. Standout performances include William Bendix, Walter Slezak and the one and only Tallulah Bankhead.