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The Alfred Hitchcock Filmography - A Chronological viewing

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Nelson Au, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Waltzes from vienna.

    Waltzes From Vienna
    1934
    80 minutes B&W
    Cast:
    Esmond Knight: Johann Strauss, The Younger
    Jesse Matthews: Rasi
    Edmund Gwenn: Johann Strauss, The Elder
    Fay Compton: Countess Helga von Stahl
    Frank Vosper: Prince Gustav
    Robert Hale: Ebezeder
    Marcus Barron: Drexter
    Charles Heslop: Valet
    Betty Huntley Wright: Lady’s Maid
    Sybil Grove: Madame Fouchett
    Adapted from the play by: Guy Bolton
    Written by: Alma Reville, A. M. Willner
    Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
    Production Studio: Gaumont British and Tom Arnold Films
    Viewing date: 3/16/19

    Waltzes From Vienna is a costume drama of the era when Johann Strauss Jr is starting out as a composer of waltzes. This I understand is the only musical that Hitchcock did and he did it between projects to remain busy. The film focuses on Johann Strauss Jr and the film starts off with a horse drawn wagon of firemen racing to a café run by Ebezeder that is on fire. In the room above the café we see Johann, called Schani by his friends apparently, playing one of his compositions on the piano with his girlfriend Resi. She is the daughter of Ebezeder. The music catches the attention of a Countess Helga von Stahl across the street at a dress shop. There are several ladies in the dress shop who model the dresses and they are also drawn to Johann and his music, they swoon over him as they peer out the windows.

    Also in the café is Leopold, the baker of the café who is also in love with Resi and climbs up the fireman’s ladder to rescue Resi who is oblivious to the fire below and he and Johann fight over who will save Resi. Leopold wins out. As he lowers her down the ladder, Resi’s long skirt is caught in the ladder and torn off. Embarrassed, Resi runs in the dress shop across the street. Johann follows her with the skirt. Upon entering, Johann stumbles amongst the models and manages to hand the skirt out and it gets to Resi. When he stumbles out of the ladies dressing room, he meets the Countess who is smitten by Schani and wants to commission him to compose a waltz for her. Resi moments later finds Schani with the Countess and is immediately jealous.

    Later we see Johann Strauss senior at a rehearsal with his orchestra, where Schani is one of the violin players. They have a fight as Junior criticizes Johann Senior’s music. Upon which Senior suggests Schani play one of his compositions. Senior criticizes it as rubbish. Schani then decides to quit and go ahead with the composition for the Countess. The Countess has even provided lyrics to go with the waltz.

    Schani’s excitement about this new freedom and commission is dampened by Resi who says if he wants to marry her, he has to give up his music and become a baker at the café. However, upon seeing the lyrics, Resi changes her mind and let’s Schani go ahead with the composition. Later, Ebezeder, who believes Schani wants to be a baker takes him downstairs in the café to see the bakery and kitchen, while there, the sounds and sights of the bakers tossing bread and the sounds of the machinery inspire the timing and notes of his composition. He runs out to finish the composition. The piece is The Blue Danube.

    Schani presents the music to the countess who is thrilled with the finished waltz and wants to have it published by her publisher friend, and premiere it. Resi unbeknownst to Schani takes a copy of the music and wants to show it to Johann Senior to convince him to read it and play it. He dismisses it as rubbish and Resi runs out of the rehearsal chamber. There she can hear the waltz being played in another chamber, and entering it she finds Schani and the countess. Resi is jealous that Schani had taken the composition, which she thought was written and dedicated to her, and played it for the Countess. This destroyed Schani’s enthusiasm for the piece and runs out the chamber to chase Resi.

    The rest of the film deals with the romantic triangle and how they work out the relationships and the release of the music in a climatic concert where the music is debuted with great fanfare.

    This movie surprised me on a couple of levels. It has the look of a lavish production. It’s a musical of sorts, or really a film about the music of Johann Strauss Junior. So it’s not the kind of material one associates with Hitchcock. It’s not a thriller and more like the material of his early silent films of complicated romantic relationships. It has several bits of humor and visual gags that help tell the story. It looks like it could have been made in the 1940’s as the style of make-up is not to locked into the 1930’s silent films era. The source material for this DVD was in much better shape then Number Seventeen, it surprised me how good it looked. It’s wasn’t perfect, but it was another reason why I thought it could have been made in the 1940’s.

    It was well acted and produced. I doubt it’s another title I’ll revisit unless a better version comes out. It’s an interesting film and I’m glad I had a chance to see it and to see another side of Hitchcock. From what I read, it wasn’t a film he felt was his better ones.

    Next up is the The Man Who Knew Too Much. It’s a title I’ve not seen before, only seeing the later James Stewart, Doris Day version, so I’m looking forward to it.
     
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  2. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    The Man Who Knew Too Much 1934.

    The Man Who Knew Too Much
    1934
    75 minutes B&W
    Cast:
    Leslie Banks: Bob Lawrence
    Edna Best: Jill Lawrence
    Peter Lorre: Abbott
    Frank Vosper: Ramon
    Hugh Wakefield: Clive
    Nova Pibeam: Betty Lawrence
    Pierre Fresnay: Louis Bernard
    Cicely Oates: Nurse Agnes
    D. A. Clarke-Smith: Inspector Binstead
    George Curzon: Gibson
    Henry Oscar: Barbor, the Dentist
    Based on a story from a Bulldog Drummond book by: H.C. McNeile
    Written by: Charles Bennett and D. B. Wyndham-Lewis
    Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
    Production Studio: Gaumont-British Picture Corporation
    Viewing date: 3/23/19

    The Criterion Collection 643 blu ray. 2013

    I feel this is quite a milestone now to have completed viewing the Hitchcock films up to this point. Now moving past the early works and onto early Hitchcock that is developed more into what we know from later films. It is also a delight to move past the dodgy DVD releases of the silent films and early sound films back to a Criterion disc. This disc, like the Criterion discs for The Lodger and Downhill, is a very nice presentation and restoration.

    This is the first time I’ve seen the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, so I was looking forward to seeing it verses the Hitchcock remake with James Stewart and Doris Day. I’d only seen that once some years ago. The film starts at St. Moritz where a winter sports competition is occurring. We meet the Lawrence family on vacation from Britain. The scene opens as a Frenchman is doing his ski jump competition. Betty Lawrence, Bob and Jill Lawrence’s daughter, is watching the ski jump too with her father and the dog she is carrying breaks loose and runs out into the ski field and Betty runs out to get the dog. This causes Louis Bernard, the ski jumper, to have to avoid hitting her on his run and falls near the by-standers including Bob Lawrence and a man we later learn is Abbott. As Louis gets up to brush off the snow, he gives Abbott a look. The fall has disqualified Louis and was his last jump for the day. Turns out that Bob and Betty have befriended Louis. They agree to get together for dinner and head over to meet Jill who is competing at a clay pigeon shooting competition. Jill has reached the finals and is shooting against Ramon. As Jill is about to shoot, the sound of a watch chime distracts her and she misses the clay pigeon. Ramon shoots next and hits the pigeon and wins. The chiming watch belongs to Abbott who is also there watching the competition besides Bob and Betty. Ramon meets Jill who congratulates his winning. This entire scene ends with good fun as Jill pretends to flirt and go off with Louis and Bob jokes with Ramon that his win has caused his wife to leave with another man.

    Later that night at the restuarant ballroom, Louis is dancing with Jill as they continue to flirt. Bob has a little fun and asks Betty for a partially knitted item on another table and ties the yarn to the back of Louis coat. The scene turns comedic as other dancers are tangled by the yarn as Louis and Jill are dancing. This distracts Louis and a bullet is shot through a large window and hits Louis in the chest. As he dies, he gives Jill a key and tells Jill to find a brush in his room and tells her not to tell anyone about it except the British Conciliate. She tells Bob and he goes to Louis room to find the brush with a hidden note in it. During the course of both Jill and Bob being interviewed with the police, Bob and Jill receive a note that their daughter has been abducted and that they are not to say a word of what they know or they will kill their daughter. Bob and Jill return to England and as they cannot involve the Police, Bob sets off to discover the truth of this all and find Betty.

    At their home, Bob and Jill learn from Louis’s boss, Gibson, that Louis was a spy and learned of an assassination that will occur to a foreign statesman and that if the Lawrence’s know about any information in the brush, they should turn it over. But Bob and Jill refuse as the criminals call them and reiterate that they are not to say what they know to the authorities and that Betty is safe for the moment. With the plainclothes police watching, Bob and Clive, the family friend, set out to find the criminals and Betty.

    As I really didn’t know what to expect with The Man Who Knew Too Much, this was a very entertaining film. There is action and humor and suspense of course. There is a major set piece at the Royal Albert Hall and the remake also has the same set-piece. However the main set-piece at the end was not in the remake. I was surprised how the set-piece starts and it ends with a very satisfying and logical end.

    The film is well cast with great performances from everyone. This is Peter Lorre’s first British film and he makes a strong iconic performance as Abbott, the head of the criminal organization who kidnapped Betty. He’s menacing as well as charming. I read his English wasn’t very good since he’s Hungarian. He’d been working in Germany and recently escaped from there when it was under Hitler rule. So he learned his lines phonetically.

    As I have learned over the past and learn more about the kinds of elements that became staples of Hitchcock films, I can see this film is a start of some of those elements. There is the mysterious crime or spy organization of a foreign power trying to cause a problem. There is the innocent man on the run. And the innocent Everyman involved in a much larger international intrigue. Though some of the earlier films such as Blackmail and Murder! does deal with the wrong man accused theme.

    I have not seen the remake in a couple of years. And I’d only seen it once. My initial reaction is the original is the better of the two. But I plan to rewatch the remake with this viewing still fresh in my mind. Though I think I’ll re-watch the original as it’s worth another view. I want to review some scenes and catch any dialogue I might have missed.

    I plan to view the films Lorre made with Bogart as well as I have the iconic Bogart films in the queue.
     
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  3. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    The 39 Steps.

    The 39 Steps
    1935
    86 minutes B&W
    Cast:
    Robert Donat: Richard Hannay
    Madeleine Carroll: Pamela
    Lucie Mannheim: Annabella Smith
    Godfrey Tearle: Professor Jordan
    Peggy Ashcroft: Margaret, the crofter’s wife
    John Laurie: John, the crofter
    Helen Haye: Mrs. Louisa Jordan, the professor’s wife
    Frank Cellier Sheriff Watson
    Wylie Watson: Mr. Memory
    Gus McNaughton: Commercial Traveller
    Peggy Simpson: Maid
    Mathew Boulton: Fake Policeman
    Frederick Piper: Milkman
    Ivor Barnard: Political meeting Chairman
    Very loosely based on a novel called The Thirty-Nine Steps by: John Buchman
    Written by: Charles Bennett and Ian Hay
    Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
    Production Studio: Gaumont-British Picture Corporation
    Viewing date: 3/30/19

    The Criterion Collection 56 blu ray. 2012

    I’d seen The 39 Steps on VHS tape once at a party at someone else’s house so I didn’t really see it. There was one shot I remembered and that was it. This is the first true time I’ve seen it and like The Man Who Knew Too Much, it was another engrossing adventure. The films starts in England at a London Music Hall Theater where a memory expert called Mr. Memory is brought on to the stage. He asks the audience to ask for any facts to test his knowledge. This is met with cat calls and some serious questions which Mr. Memory correctly answers. Richard Hannay is in the audience and asks what is the distance between Winnipeg to Montreal. Mr. Memory tells the audience that the man must be from Canada. This establishes that Hannay is from Canada and we later learn he is in England for business. Mr. Memory correctly answers. Shortly there after, gunshots are heard in the audience and we see a pistol in the hands of someone, but we only see the gun. The audience is panicking and quickly running out of the theater. Amongst them is Hannay and a mysterious woman is clinging to him and asks to go to his home. Her name is Annabella Smith.

    Once at Hannay’s home, Annabella is acting suspicious and checks the front room before allowing Hannay to turn the lights on. After a drink, she reveals that she was the one who shot the gun in the theater as a ruse to escape the theater and needed Hannay’s help to find a place to hide. As Hannay prepares something for her to eat, she reveals she is a spy on the run from two assassins. She asks him if he knows what the 39 Steps is. She goes on to say that she's discovered a plot to steal vital British military secrets. The mastermind for this plot is a man who is missing the tip of his little finger. Hannay considers the tale, but goes to bed for the night. Later that night, Annabella comes into Hannay’s bedroom awakens him to warn him that he has to flee and gives him a map. She then collapses to reveal a knife in her back. The maps reveals the Scottish Highlands. There is an area circled on the map called Alt-na-Shellach and is near Killin.

    In the morning, Hannay looks out his window apartment down at the street and sees the same two men he saw the night before waiting for him to come out. In a humorous, but also tense, scene, Hannay escapes with the help of a milkman and heads for a train to Scotland. As he is escaping on the train, news of Annabella’s murder is headline news and Hannay is the main suspect. Hannay is now on the run not only from the assassins but the police as well. When the train stops in one town, the Police board the train and finds Hanney in the cabin and escapes out the outside door and climbs into the next cabin of a woman traveling alone. To avoid notice from the police outside the compartment window, he kisses the woman to fool the police. But the plan doesn’t work as she betrays the man as someone she doesn’t know to the police. Hannay has no choice and makes a run for it out the back of the train. Next follows Hannay’s attempts at get to Scotland. Later on Hannay runs into the same woman he kissed on the train in Scotland who is named Pamela. Through circumstances while on the run. They end up together and have to both be on the run.

    After thinking about the film overnight, I realized that North By Northwest has many similar elements and could be almost a remake. The 39 Steps was a really fun thriller. It was tight and got to the plot points without wasting a lot of time with unnecessary plots and situations. It has a lot of the great elements, innocent man on the run from the police for a murder he didn’t commit. A Maguffin called the 39 Steps. There is International intrigue and spy’s who are out to kill the innocent man. And he meets a blonde along the path towards to the Maguffin. I kept avoiding watching this in the past for some reason. Maybe that party had something to do with it.

    The Blu Ray from Criterion is another fine presentation of the film with a great looking image. And this film has a Hitchcock cameo I found rather easily very early on in the film.
     
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  4. benbess

    benbess Producer

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    I agree!++

    I assume you have the Spoto book The Art of Alfred Hitchcock. If by any chance you don't, I recommend this classic and lavishly illustrated book. It's "formalist" and old fashioned, but otherwise very solid imho. I also recommend the more recent book Hitchcock and Philosophy: Dial M for Metaphysics, which is available as a kindle book (and since it doesn't have pix anyway, you don't lose anything).
     
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  5. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Thanks Ben, I’m not aware of that book. It’s in my Amazon cart now. I also came across a title called: The Alfred Hitchcock Encyclopedia while looking for the Art Of Alfred Hitchcock. That one is much pricier! I’ll look for the Hitchcock and Philosophy book too.
     
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  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I was very privileged to get to review Criterion's Blu-ray release of The 39 Steps. Very pleased to have it in my collection in such a fine package. That review is here.
     
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  7. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Thanks Matt. I just read your review, I skipped reading it probably so I’d see the movie blind. I appreciate how you and others are able to concisely cover the plot in a paragraph!

    Up until the 39 Steps, I had not realized that this is the first film with a cool a blond. I guess because the earlier films did have blonds too. But they were not quite the same as Pamela.
     
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  8. Message #68 of 70 Apr 15, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019
    benbess

    benbess Producer

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    If I had to pick just five movies from Hitchcock's British films, I think I'd go with The Lodger, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Sabotage, and The Lady Vanishes. But actually I think that as good as those movies are that Hitchcock's best Hollywood films are better.
     
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  9. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I have a real soft spot for Lady Vanishes - there are better Hitchcock films but few that I enjoy as much.
     
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  10. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Secret Agent.

    Secret Agent
    1936
    86 minutes B&W
    Cast:
    John Gielgud: Edgar Brodie/Richard Ashenden
    Peter Lorrie: The General
    Madeleine Carroll: Elsa Carrington
    Robert Young: Robert Marvin
    Percy Marmont: Caypor
    Florence Kahn: Mrs. Caypor
    Charles Carson: “R”
    Lili Palmer: Lili
    Tom Helmore: Colonel Anderson
    Michael Redgrave: Army Captain
    Michael Rennie: Army Captain (uncredited)
    Loosely based on a novel called Ashenden by: W Somerset Maugham
    Written by: Charles Bennett and Alma Reville
    Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
    Production Studio: Gaumon- British International Picture Corporation

    Viewing date: 4/7/19

    Secret Agent starts off with a wake for a deceased British Officer, Captain Edgar Brodie. It is 1916 during World War 1. The truth is Brodie returns home on leave and sees his obituary and is taken to see someone named “R”. He asks Brodie if he would take on a secret mission to identify and eliminate an enemy German agent who is on his way to Arabia to cause trouble in the Middle East. Once he agrees to take on the mission, he is given a new identity, Richard Ashenden now that his true identity’s death is faked. He’s also told that he will have an assistant who is a killer named The General. He is played by Peter Lorrie in another scene stealing performance.

    Ashenden‘s late predecessor reported back that he thought the enemy agent was staying at the Excelsior hotel in Switzerland. So that is his first place he travels to investigate. There he signs into his hotel and finds that his “wife” has already signed in to their suite. It turns out “R” had sent Elsa along to pose as his wife. Ashenden finds that his wife, Elsa, is in the room and an admirer is there too, a fellow guest named Robert Marvin. As Ashenden enters and greets his wife, Marvin is only slightly put off. He continues to flirt with Elsa.

    The next day Ashwnden and the General go to meet a contact about who the enemy agent is in a church. They find him at the organ slumped over, murdered. In his hand, The General finds a coat button that they assume belonged to the killer. That evening Ashenden and The General goes to meet Elsa at the casino. Elsa is there with Marvin who continues to woo her. There at one of the games tables, Ashenden accidentally is bumped and drops the button on number 7. The croupier picks up the button and asked who it belongs to. A man looks at his jacket with the same kinds of buttons and says it must be his. Ashenden and the General look at each other and assume he’s who they are after.

    To say more I’d would think would give away too much of the fun. Watching this film, it struck me as one possible template for the James Bond film series. Many elements of this film appear in From Russia With Love and You Only Love Twice I thought. And of course just the basics of a character who is the agent’s boss who assigns the cases and other agents Ashenden meets along the way who are his associates. And Elsa would make a good Bond girl. John Gielgud who plays Ashenden even bears a resemblance to Hoagy Carmichael who is described as what James Bond looks like. Gielgud plays the character as a proper English gentleman. One more thing about the casting, it was a surprise to see a young Robert Young in this film! Well before Marcus Welby.

    This is a Hitchcock film, so there is the wrong man element, spies and intrigue and suspense.

    The source material of this film’s DVD was poor, the image was dark and audio while listenable, was still hard to understand at times. The dialogue is somewhat hard to follow, which dampened my enjoyment. This film is good, but I thought The 39 Steps and The Man Who Knew Too Much was better. I still thought about the film afterwards enough that if a better version comes along, I liked this film enough to double dip.

    I noticed comments on another thread that felt that Gielgud was miscast in this film. I don’t agree. I thought he was good. And I thought he had chemistry with Madeleine Carroll. This is an enjoyable film and I hope a better transfer for an HD version comes along soon.
     
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