Archive | a year of hitchcock RSS feed for this section

A Year with Hitchcock: The Skin Game, by Reed Lackey

27 Feb

For a director known for thrillers and suspense, I had no idea how many straight-forward domestic dramas were among his early films. Not to mention plays.

The Skin Game is yet another stage adaptation to screen, and it still mostly feels that way. However, this one benefits from impressive performances (particularly from Edmund Gwenn of Miracle on 34th Street fame) and from a tighter, more compelling script. Hitchcock also takes steps to make the film seem more cinematic than his previous outings (particularly Juno and the Paycock), utilizing the camera as more than a theatrical audience viewpoint and playing with alternate points of view (take note of the pivotal auction scene and how Hitchcock toys with expectation and information for a fun example of how the master tries to develop audience engagement).

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: Murder!, by Reed Lackey

24 Feb

In many ways, Murder! is Hitchcock’s first example of falling just shy of expectations and potential. That’s not to say that this is a bad film. In fact, it’s often quite good. But given the potential in the premise, and the promise of Hitchcock tackling a classic whodunit formula, this could have been much more thrilling, suspenseful, and intriguing.

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: Juno and the Paycock, by Reed Lackey

21 Feb

Whew. After two very strong entries (Hitchcock’s final silent film and his first talkie), this return to domestic drama is a sharp left turn off a steep cliff. It received overwhelmingly positive reviews in its initial run, but even Hitchcock himself regards it as something of a let-down.

Based on the play by Sean O’Casey (and also sometimes known as “The Shame of Mary Boyle”), this understated drama focuses on the fortunes and misfortunes of an Irish family amidst the turmoil of the Irish Civil War. Unfortunately that sentence I wrote is about as interesting as anything in the film.

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: Blackmail, by Reed Lackey

18 Feb

Hitchcock’s first “talkie” (and largely regarded as the first British “talkie” at all) is also his first straight-forward suspense film since The Lodger seven films earlier. It required a bit of intuitive insight on Hitchcock’s part into the contemporary cinematic trends to fully create it and it remains one of the strongest entries in Hitchcock’s first decade of films.

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: The Manxman, by Reed Lackey

7 Feb

The last of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent films is also arguably the best (although The Lodger remains the most significant). With strong, well-defined characters, a poignant and emotional narrative, and sturdy, focused direction, The Manxman is a solid entry in the filmmaker’s early catalogue.

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: Champagne, by Reed Lackey

4 Feb

Sometimes films aren’t trying to be anything complex or deep or rich or thought-provoking. But they at least need to not be boring. Champagne isn’t trying to be anything but a silly farce. But when the director of said farce is Alfred Hitchcock (albeit while his legacy was still in its infancy) it’s nearly impossible to divorce the expectations from the end result.

Ultimately, Champagne doesn’t amount to much of anything. It’s silly. At times, it’s even chuckle-worthy. But mostly, from both a narrative and thematic standpoint, it’s little more than a hollow waste of time.

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: Easy Virtue, by Reed Lackey

1 Feb

There is a discrepancy with when Easy Virtue was made in Hitchcock’s filmography. Truffaut’s definitive study of Alfred Hitchcock places this film as directly preceding The Ring, while most other records has it two films later. Regardless of when it was made, this one is quite fascinating, even if it isn’t very good. It contains very few of Hitchcock’s reputational trademarks, and yet somehow still makes sense when considered among his other early films.

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: The Farmer’s Wife, by Reed Lackey

28 Jan

Of all the things you’d expect from an Alfred Hitchcock film, straight-forward comedy would probably be last on the list.

Enter this early little gem — which would never rank among the comedic greatness of Keaton, Chaplin, or Lloyd (or even the funniest of Hitch’s work) — but is disarmingly funny nonetheless. The premise is very simple: a widower farmer decides to seek a wife. He seeks out a new bride in an almost mathematical fashion, frequently with highly comedic rejections. I chuckled several times during this film as each new rejection increased in absurd over-dramatics. It doesn’t ever quite rise to the status of screwball gold, but there are genuinely humorous moments.

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: Downhill, by Reed Lackey

26 Jan

Downhill is another early Hitchcock film – released in the US as When Boys Leave Home, under which it is most easily located – that wouldn’t classify at all as suspense (although it does maintain a certain ominous tone).

It’s a small character piece about a man who takes the blame for his brother’s wrongdoing (and suffers a variety of societal troubles as a result). It stars Ivor Novello (who played the lead role in The Lodger and actually wrote the play upon which this film is based). The story takes his character through a variety of jobs, a few relationships, and even a stint as a homeless vagrant. However, for all of the travels the story takes our hero through, he frustratingly ends up very much where he began, with no characters including himself having learned terribly much about the experiences. As a narrative it’s pretty innocuous and as a technical achievement it’s rather pedestrian. There are a small handful of notable shots and, as previously mentioned, the tone is effectively ominous throughout the film. But ultimately, this film does not hold up well.

[…]

A Year with Hitchcock: The Ring, by Reed Lackey

23 Jan

An outlier in the filmography of a man mostly dedicated to suspense stories, The Ring is a sports-centric, love-triangle drama, and one that is surprisingly effective, despite some obvious flaws.

There is some conflicting information surrounding the chronology of The Ring in Hitchcock’s filmography. Most sources place it as immediately following The Lodger (which is where I’ve chosen to include it). However, according to “Hitchcock Truffaut” by Francois Truffaut, this was actually Hitch’s sixth picture. I mention this trivial contradiction because regardless of whether it was his fourth or sixth film, Hitchcock himself regarded it as his second “true Hitchcock film.”

[…]