How to best serve up Alfred Hitchcock

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Jun 14, 2006.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    I probably mentioned this in a previous thread, but as a kid I
    never appreciated Alfred Hitchcock. I found his films to be too
    talkative for my taste and the mere sight of him on television was
    enough to make me want to change channels.

    The only Hitchcock films I had really seen during my lifetime were
    Psycho and The Birds. It now has been years since I had
    seen either these films but I remember them to be pretty decent.

    A few years ago after its initial DVD release I finally watched
    Rear Window, and thought the film to be quite good. I am
    proud to have a signed copy of the DVD by Robert Harris.

    ...so my appreciation of Hitchcock has grown over the years.

    Just for kicks, I picked up The Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece
    Collection
    . I figured I'd force myself to get educated on
    of the greatest directors of our lifetime.

    A month ago I watched The Man Who Knew Too Much with
    James Stewart. I actually really enjoyed this film.

    Last night came my biggest surprise. I watched The Trouble
    With Harry
    and found myself absolutely LOVING the film. This
    actually took me by surprise as it played out as more of a situation
    comedy rather than being a signature murder story.

    Since The Trouble With Harry is so radically different from
    Hitchcock's normal style, I was wondering how many people actually
    appreciate this film as much as I do?

    So my question for all of you is this.....

    I don't know if I'll ever complete the entire boxed set, so I
    need to know what should I watch next?

    To recap, I have seen Rear Window, The Birds, Psycho, The Man
    Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest
    and The Trouble With Harry.

    And a few words about these DVDs....

    They look fantastic! I am astounded by how well these films look
    on DVD. It's also wonderful to see these films properly lensed for
    widescreen. From what I have seen thus far, Universal did a really
    nice job with these transfers.

    With your help, I look forward to discovering more Hitchcock films.
     
  2. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    I'd say Shadow of a Doubt (1943), it was Hitchcock's first film to really get into small town America. It has great performances by both Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright. The discussions about murder between the two old men would flower in full in The Trouble With Harry. Even Hitchcock felt it was one of his best films, he spends a lot of time in the Truffaut interviews pointing out the flaws in some of his most famous films, but from memory he has nothing but praise for what he accomplished on Shadow of a Doubt.
     
  3. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    With a couple of caveats, I actually don't like Hitchcock all that much. A lot of the material I find way too contrived and that undermines any suspense for me.

    however, there are two films of his that I absolutely love and would never want to be without
    Shadow Of A Doubt and Lifeboat.

    Saboteur is a pretty decent man on the run/fugitive type tale, with good performances from Cummings and Lane- but like a lot of Hitchcock movies, I have a hard time buying certain aspects of it (in this case its the relatively 'toothless' nature of the enemy agents. You would expect these guys to be utterly ruthless and yet they behave like its a Noel Coward play).

    Veritgo is another movie I have a lot of problems with, especially the 'convienent ' ending, although many, many other people seem to regard it highly.

    But I love the 40's middle class residential mileu of SOAD, The giddy misnanthropic /miscogynistic nature of Joseph Cottens Uncle Charlie, and I'll always carry a torch for Theresa Wright.
     
  4. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    VERTIGO is the one to watch. A great film which initially hooks you as a mystery and then switches direction into a fascinating study of obsession. Distinctively directed by Hitchcock, with James Stewart at his best and a sublime Bernard Herrmann score.
     
  5. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    I had to do a speech once where I argued that Shadow of a Doubt was Hitchcock's best film, and my final argument point was "it has Teresa Wright in it". [​IMG]

    I didn't mention Vertigo, only because I thought everyone else would. But it is one of my favourite films of all time. I don't think the ending is contrived, the film is a tragedy, so it needs a tragic ending.
     
  6. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    Well, a lot of highly respected people do hold the film in high regard.
    I was all up for a movie about obsessions, but it didn't really work for me. Maybe a few years from now, I'll give it another shot.

    Between Shadow and Best Years Of Our Lives, Theresa will always be the ideal girl next door to me.
     
  7. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    I'd say watch North by Northwest next.

    Others that I think you'd have the highest chance of enjoying would include:

    Strangers on a Train
    To Catch a Thief
    Vertigo

    I think eventually you may love most of his films, and be ready to delve into other periods of his career. But films like Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry are right out of his golden period, and North by Northwest is probably the one I'd guess will keep your appreciation streak going.
     
  8. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Thanks for the replies thus far. Good read!

    I do own Lifeboat. It was sent to me by Fox last year.

    If you guys feel it is worthy of a watch, I will do so. Please rank
    it as a title I should or should not make a priority.

    Ooh! And I forgot, I have seen North By Northwest (another
    remarkable film). I'll update my original post to reflect that.
     
  9. Sergio A

    Sergio A Stunt Coordinator

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    Hitchcock's 50 plus films can be enjoyed in so many ways - he actually made several humorous films (including TO CATCH A THIEF, MR & MRS SMITH) and several lightweight adventure films (THE LADY VANISHES, THE 39 STEPS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST), as well as much darker films (FRENZY, ROPE). VERTIGO and NOTORIOUS are his most obviously Romantic films, and are to me magnificent works of art, but they are also about looking at the darkest aspects of people's souls and this is not for everyone.

    With the exception of his over-reliance on back projection (aesthetically fascinating, but for many people too artificial an approach) his work is technically impeccable, there is a wicked sense of humour and his brilliantly realised set-pieces which usually emphaise visuals and ignore dialogue are wonderful examples, to me, of the cinematic art.

    On the other hand, I know plenty of people who find the approach too tightly controlled and airless and his misanthropic view of humanity to unsympathic.

    From a personal standpoint, I find his work endlessly repeatable and always a source of good food for thought. Even TOPAZ, one of his least liked spy thrillers, has a number of fine sequences and Leonard Maltin on the DVD provides an able and very well thought-out defence of it. Of the DVDs that are readily available in the US, I would certainly single out SHADOW OF A DOUBT, REBECCA, NOTORIOUS, ROPE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, VERTIGO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PSYCHO and THE BIRDS - MARNIE and FRENZY are personal favourites but tend to split viewers into polar opposites.

    For me they are amongst the most richly rewarding viewing experiences I have ever had at the cinema (and yes - they are even better watched on the big screen with an audience).

    Regards,



    Sergio
     
  10. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    like I said, I really don't like Hitchcock all that much anymore (used to when I was younger though) and haven't for a few years now. However, I hadn't seen Lifeboat in a while when I ordered it in the last DDD sale in Nov. and it had been sitting on my shelf since then, until I pulled it out a few days ago and watched it.
    My intention was to finally watch it so I could move it to the 'to sell' pile, and clear some space. Even though I'd seen it several times before, it had been a while and I was not expecting to enjoy it anywhere near what I did, but I'll tel ya, I had an absolute blast with it.

    It's staying in the permanent collection now, for sure [​IMG]

    for me, it's second only to Shadow as my favorite AH film.
    Props to Fox too, they did a sweet job with it.

    Of the titles in the Masterpiece Collection, I would say the ones you could safely skip would be Family Plot, Topaz, Torn Curtain, & Marnie- probably in that order.
    I tried watching Frenzy not too long ago, but the 'wrong man' protagonist of the film is such a jackass and so unlikable, that I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to stay with it and see him vindicated. It was a rather unpleasant film for me.
    The Birds, was another movie I wanted to like, but having no real story (something weird happens, no explanation, no real resolution, just an opportunity for a few suspenseful set pieces, the end) it ended up being another of his films that left me cold.
    The Tv show Don Adams Screentest forever spoiled the ending of Psycho for me, so I've never seen that (although by osmosis, I seem to know most of the rest of the movie anyway).
     
  11. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    In the way he used actors, he reminds me a lot of George Lucas.
     
  12. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    I just want to point out not to dismiss the later films like Marnie, Frenzy, and Family Plot. The last two are very under rated in my opinion.
    She is just great in everything. Even in her first film which I think was The Little Foxes she is outstanding in that, even though I am pretty sure she is playing someone significantly younger than her age at the time.

    Also she is great in Raoul Walsh's film Pursued. I also like her in The Men, but I think that film is over rated. The interesting thing is her scenes with Brando, because they seem to me to be completely different acting styles.

    Also, I can't wait for my Track of the Cat DVD to arrive so I can watch her in another film. [​IMG]
     
  13. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    My favorite director, more Hitchcock films in my movie collection than any other director. I was surprised to see in a recent poll here in Software how many members had even more films of his than I did, nearly doubling my total in some cases, wow. [​IMG]

    Ron, from the ones you haven't seen I'd recommend Vertigo, Shadow of a Doubt, Saboteur, Foreign Correspondent, Notorious, Strangers on a Train and his only Best Picture winner the superb Rebecca.

    Of his Pre-Hollywood films I've always had a softspot for The Lady Vanishes, which I've watched countless times. The 39 Steps is great too.

    My top 3 favorite Hitchcock films are Rear Window, North by Northwest and Psycho.

    Here's a link to a thread which includes ratings and rankings of Hitch's oeuvre:

    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/...d.php?t=211641
     
  14. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    At the top of the list, I would put:

    Strangers on a Train
    Shadow of a Doubt
    The 39 Steps
    Vertigo
    The Lady Vanishes
    Notorious

    Watch your TCM listings for airings of some of Hitchcock's excellent early British productions such as "Young and Innocent" and the original "The Man Who Knew Too Much". Their broadcast masters are from transfers far superior to anything available on R1 DVD for these titles.

    To be honest, the only films from his Hollywood years that I would avoid until exhausting almost everything else would be "The Paradine Case", "Topaz, and "Under Capricorn".

    Regards,
     
  15. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    I love Under Capricorn, I think it features even more amazing experiments with long takes than Rope (1948). The average shot length is about 30 seconds, which is 3 times longer than most 40s films. Yet Hitchcock adds to it extensive camera movement, like the shot that starts outside the house goes in through the kitchen, past the dining table, into a lounge room, then back to the dining room. I'm just amazed that they were able to move the Technicolor camera that precisely.
     
  16. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    I absolutely love The Trouble With Harry. I think it's Hitchcock's hidden gem. Glad to hear you really enjoyed it, Ron.

    As for what to watch next, Vertigo is the obvious choice. After that, Rebecca and Notorious would be my suggestions, but there are so many great Hitchcock films to choose from.
     
  17. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Ron, to somewhat respond to your question about Trouble With Harry: even though Hitchcock has always been my favorite director, this is one of the few movies by him that I don't like very much. However (and here's the actual response), in my experience of reading tons of stuff about him and watching lots of Hitchcock-related documentaries and DVD extras, this puts me in the minority among Hitchcock fans and critics, most of whom seem to enjoy it just like you did.
     
  18. Dale MA

    Dale MA Screenwriter

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    Hitchcock's final film Family Plot is severely underrated, it is so unlike anything that he had directed before, I have great fun with it every time I watch it Ron.

    However, North by Northwest remains my all time favorite film.
     
  19. seanOhara

    seanOhara Supporting Actor

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    I think it's safe to say you can skip the last five films in the set -- Marnie, Topaz, Torn Curtain, Frenzy, and Family Plot. While they aren't entirely without merit, anyone who's borderline on Hitchcock won't enjoy them. (If you decide to watch one of them, pick Frenzy, which is the sort of movie Hitch would've been making if he'd stayed in England.)

    If you like TTwH, you might enjoy his other foray into comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith although I've always found it a lackluster screwball comedy.
     
  20. Jerry R Colvin

    Jerry R Colvin Stunt Coordinator

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    Yet another vote for Shadow of a Doubt. Also, North by Northwest. You can't go wrong with either of these.
     

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