Weekly Film Recap (Alfred Hitchcock)

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Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of suspense, is one of the most revered and widely respected filmmakers of all time. Master of the thriller genre, Hitchcock was able to generate goosebumps on any viewer unlike any other filmmaker before (or after) him.

Starting his career in the silent era, Hitchcock found his first little bit of success with the British silent film The Lodger (1927) and continued making films, both silent and sound, in the UK for the next 13 years.

In 1940, Hitchcock began making films in the United States and it was in the 40s where we see some of his best work come to the forefront. We’ll talk about both Shadow of a Doubt and Rope today, but it was in the 1950s where Hitchcock really found his place at the throne of filmmaking greats.

The 50s served as Hitchcock’s peak and it’s where he produced practically all of his most iconic and timeless films. We talk about three of them today, but some of the other major 50s films of Hitchcock’s that we’ve either discussed before or will discuss in the future are Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder, The Wrong Man, and The Man Who Knew Too Much to name only a few.

The early 60s saw Hitchcock on the downswing of his peak, but the two films he put out at the beginning of the decade, Psycho and The Birds, both revolutionized cinema forever.

Per usual, we only went through 7 films this week. But, they are a great collection of films to start with if interested in diving into the epic filmography of the legendary Alfred Hitchcock!

SHADOW OF A DOUBT     (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)   We start our Hitchcock retrospective with what Hitch himself has hailed as his favorite film of his: Shadow of a Doubt!  Starring Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie, a mysterious man who telegram’s his sister to let her know that he will be making an impromptu visit to Santa Rosa, CA and wishes to stay with them. Most excited of the family is the eldest daughter, also named Charlie after her favorite uncle. Everyone’s in high spirits when Uncle Charlie arrives, however Young Charlie starts to suspect that her loving uncle might be hiding something. Her suspicions are confirmed when a couple of G Men arrive at the house and seem oddly interested in Uncle Charlie.  Shadow of a Doubt isn’t as much of a pure shock piece like many of Hitchcock’s other films and it’s thrills come from its slow burn. Shadow of a Doubt slowly itches toward a powerful climax, but leaves you guessing until the third act. Joseph Cotten gives an incredible performance as the villain, a role he rarely ever played, and allows us to be drawn in with his charisma only to be utterly surprised by the secrets he has revealed. Shadow of a Doubt is one of the first true masterpieces of Hitchcock!    5/5     WATCH: YouTube

SHADOW OF A DOUBT

(dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

We start our Hitchcock retrospective with what Hitch himself has hailed as his favorite film of his: Shadow of a Doubt!

Starring Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie, a mysterious man who telegram’s his sister to let her know that he will be making an impromptu visit to Santa Rosa, CA and wishes to stay with them. Most excited of the family is the eldest daughter, also named Charlie after her favorite uncle. Everyone’s in high spirits when Uncle Charlie arrives, however Young Charlie starts to suspect that her loving uncle might be hiding something. Her suspicions are confirmed when a couple of G Men arrive at the house and seem oddly interested in Uncle Charlie.

Shadow of a Doubt isn’t as much of a pure shock piece like many of Hitchcock’s other films and it’s thrills come from its slow burn. Shadow of a Doubt slowly itches toward a powerful climax, but leaves you guessing until the third act. Joseph Cotten gives an incredible performance as the villain, a role he rarely ever played, and allows us to be drawn in with his charisma only to be utterly surprised by the secrets he has revealed. Shadow of a Doubt is one of the first true masterpieces of Hitchcock!

5/5

WATCH: YouTube

ROPE     (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)   Perhaps one of the most eclectic and experimental films in Hitchcock’s arsenal, Rope recently celebrated it’s 70th anniversary and it’s still just as riveting.   Rope  is interesting for a few reasons. For one, it is the first Hitchcock film to be shot in color and two, the film not only takes place in a single location, but was shot as if filmed in only one single take.  John Dall and Farley Granger star as a couple of arrogant students who attempt to display their superiority over the inferior by pulling off a murder in their apartment and hiding the body almost in plain sight as a group of friends and family come for a party. Of the invitees are the parents and girlfriend of the deceased student as well as their respected professor played by James Stewart, who first introduced the duo to Nietzsche’s philosophy of displaying superiority over others through murder.  While Hitchcock’s film might have worked better if shot traditionally, there is a great deal of talent and determination that comes with pulling off long takes. Even though the film is split up with cuts and is only made to seem like it was filmed in one-shot, the segments that Hitchcock does film before cutting are still quite abnormally long with the shortest single shot scene of the film being 4 and a half minutes!  Hitchcock himself said that Rope was nothing more than an experiment of sorts, but it’s the experimental result of a true genius auteur.    4.5/5     WATCH: YouTube

ROPE

(dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Perhaps one of the most eclectic and experimental films in Hitchcock’s arsenal, Rope recently celebrated it’s 70th anniversary and it’s still just as riveting.

Rope is interesting for a few reasons. For one, it is the first Hitchcock film to be shot in color and two, the film not only takes place in a single location, but was shot as if filmed in only one single take.

John Dall and Farley Granger star as a couple of arrogant students who attempt to display their superiority over the inferior by pulling off a murder in their apartment and hiding the body almost in plain sight as a group of friends and family come for a party. Of the invitees are the parents and girlfriend of the deceased student as well as their respected professor played by James Stewart, who first introduced the duo to Nietzsche’s philosophy of displaying superiority over others through murder.

While Hitchcock’s film might have worked better if shot traditionally, there is a great deal of talent and determination that comes with pulling off long takes. Even though the film is split up with cuts and is only made to seem like it was filmed in one-shot, the segments that Hitchcock does film before cutting are still quite abnormally long with the shortest single shot scene of the film being 4 and a half minutes!

Hitchcock himself said that Rope was nothing more than an experiment of sorts, but it’s the experimental result of a true genius auteur.

4.5/5

WATCH: YouTube

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN     (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)    Strangers on a Train  kickstarted the peak decade of Hitchcock's career and helped garner a newfound respect and interest in Hitchcock’s work.  Farley Granger stars as tennis star Guy, who meets Bruno, a wealthy young man that happens to cross paths with Guy one day on the train. Their conversation reveals that each of them want one person out of their life. For Guy, it’s his uncooperative wife who refuses to sign for divorce, and for Bruno it’s his demanding father. Bruno, a true psychopath, suggests to Guy that they should swap each other’s murders: Guy should kill Bruno’s father and Bruno should kill Guy’s wife. Bruno, obviously finding the idea ridiculous, humors the dangerously insane Bruno as he leaves the train. However, Bruno takes this humoring completely serious and kills Guy’s wife. Now, he forces the respectable Guy to perform the same heinous crime of murder.   Strangers on a Train  is one of Hitchcock’s most memorable films and as I stated earlier, it opened up the doors to the most profound decade of the filmmaker’s career.    4/5     WATCH: Netflix (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

(dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Strangers on a Train kickstarted the peak decade of Hitchcock's career and helped garner a newfound respect and interest in Hitchcock’s work.

Farley Granger stars as tennis star Guy, who meets Bruno, a wealthy young man that happens to cross paths with Guy one day on the train. Their conversation reveals that each of them want one person out of their life. For Guy, it’s his uncooperative wife who refuses to sign for divorce, and for Bruno it’s his demanding father. Bruno, a true psychopath, suggests to Guy that they should swap each other’s murders: Guy should kill Bruno’s father and Bruno should kill Guy’s wife. Bruno, obviously finding the idea ridiculous, humors the dangerously insane Bruno as he leaves the train. However, Bruno takes this humoring completely serious and kills Guy’s wife. Now, he forces the respectable Guy to perform the same heinous crime of murder.

Strangers on a Train is one of Hitchcock’s most memorable films and as I stated earlier, it opened up the doors to the most profound decade of the filmmaker’s career.

4/5

WATCH: Netflix (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

VERTIGO     (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)   The first film out of an impressive 3-peat by the Master of Suspense,  Vertigo  is widely considered not only to be the greatest of all of Hitchcock’s films, but the greatest film of all time!   Vertigo  stars Jimmy Stewart, a frequent Hitchcock collaborator, as Scottie Ferguson, a retired detective who’s forced to quit after developing acrophobia after chasing a criminal on a rooftop and nearly falling to his death. His fear of heights is supplemented by a gnarly sense of vertigo that presents itself anytime Scottie is a little too high off the ground. Although retired, Scottie is hired by an old friend to follow around his wife, who he claims has been acting very strange. After following her and developing an intimate relationship with her, she kills herself at the top of a building that Scottie was too afraid to climb up. However, the whole investigation might have been nothing more than a wild goose chase…   Vertigo  is a fairly convoluted story with so much going on, but that’s only because it contains so many of Hitchcock’s tropes. It’s the pure excitement that stems from this classic Hitchcockian movie that drives the film that regardless of how well you understand the plot lines, you can’t help but keep your eyes glued on the screen in front.    4.5/5     WATCH: Ok.ru (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

VERTIGO

(dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

The first film out of an impressive 3-peat by the Master of Suspense, Vertigo is widely considered not only to be the greatest of all of Hitchcock’s films, but the greatest film of all time!

Vertigo stars Jimmy Stewart, a frequent Hitchcock collaborator, as Scottie Ferguson, a retired detective who’s forced to quit after developing acrophobia after chasing a criminal on a rooftop and nearly falling to his death. His fear of heights is supplemented by a gnarly sense of vertigo that presents itself anytime Scottie is a little too high off the ground. Although retired, Scottie is hired by an old friend to follow around his wife, who he claims has been acting very strange. After following her and developing an intimate relationship with her, she kills herself at the top of a building that Scottie was too afraid to climb up. However, the whole investigation might have been nothing more than a wild goose chase…

Vertigo is a fairly convoluted story with so much going on, but that’s only because it contains so many of Hitchcock’s tropes. It’s the pure excitement that stems from this classic Hitchcockian movie that drives the film that regardless of how well you understand the plot lines, you can’t help but keep your eyes glued on the screen in front.

4.5/5

WATCH: Ok.ru (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

NORTH BY NORTHWEST     (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)    North by Northwest  is sandwiched in between two of Hitchcock’s most memorable films and these three films in particular helped define the peak of Hitchcock’s career.   North by Northwest  stars Hitchcock favorite Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill, an ad executive who gets mistaken for a man named George Kaplan and consequently kidnapped by mysterious agents attempting postal government secrets. While mistaken as the mysterious ‘Kaplan’ Thornhill finds himself wrongfully framed for the murder of a UN diplomat. So, not only is Thornhill now on the run from the agents who kidnapped him, but he’s also on the run from police all across the country.   North by Northwest  contains some of the most iconic Hitchcock moments from the crop dusting plane that flies after Thornhill to his great escape down the side of Mount Rushmore. This film is a perfect representation of what a “Hitchcock” film is. Films of pure thrill that are made up and driven by its unrelenting suspense. This film stands os one of the best for all the people involved in it.    4.5/5     WATCH: Ok.Ru (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

NORTH BY NORTHWEST

(dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

North by Northwest is sandwiched in between two of Hitchcock’s most memorable films and these three films in particular helped define the peak of Hitchcock’s career.

North by Northwest stars Hitchcock favorite Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill, an ad executive who gets mistaken for a man named George Kaplan and consequently kidnapped by mysterious agents attempting postal government secrets. While mistaken as the mysterious ‘Kaplan’ Thornhill finds himself wrongfully framed for the murder of a UN diplomat. So, not only is Thornhill now on the run from the agents who kidnapped him, but he’s also on the run from police all across the country.

North by Northwest contains some of the most iconic Hitchcock moments from the crop dusting plane that flies after Thornhill to his great escape down the side of Mount Rushmore. This film is a perfect representation of what a “Hitchcock” film is. Films of pure thrill that are made up and driven by its unrelenting suspense. This film stands os one of the best for all the people involved in it.

4.5/5

WATCH: Ok.Ru (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

PSYCHO     (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)   The definitive masterpiece of Hitchcock’s career came in 1960 with his most financially successful film: Psycho!  Janet Leigh stars as Marion Crane, a secretary from Phoenix who runs off with $40,000 so her and her boyfriend can live with financial independence in California. While on her way to meet her boyfriend in California, she pulls over and stops at the secluded Bates Motel. It’s there where she falls victim to a gruesome murder in the shower that sets off an investigation on the whereabouts of both Marion and the $40,000 she took!  The reason this film was Hitchcock’s most successful was that he decided to make this film on an incredibly low budget. He shot it for only $800,000 whereas his previous film North by Northwest was made for $4.3 million. This low budget not only allowed him to make the film exactly how he wanted, but it also forced him to push the envelope in terms of what was possible in filmmaking. The result is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time that re-shaped the way the genre was approached forever. We could go on about this film forever, but we’ll save that for another time!    5/5     WATCH: Ok.ru (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

PSYCHO

(dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

The definitive masterpiece of Hitchcock’s career came in 1960 with his most financially successful film: Psycho!

Janet Leigh stars as Marion Crane, a secretary from Phoenix who runs off with $40,000 so her and her boyfriend can live with financial independence in California. While on her way to meet her boyfriend in California, she pulls over and stops at the secluded Bates Motel. It’s there where she falls victim to a gruesome murder in the shower that sets off an investigation on the whereabouts of both Marion and the $40,000 she took!

The reason this film was Hitchcock’s most successful was that he decided to make this film on an incredibly low budget. He shot it for only $800,000 whereas his previous film North by Northwest was made for $4.3 million. This low budget not only allowed him to make the film exactly how he wanted, but it also forced him to push the envelope in terms of what was possible in filmmaking. The result is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time that re-shaped the way the genre was approached forever. We could go on about this film forever, but we’ll save that for another time!

5/5

WATCH: Ok.ru (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

THE BIRDS     (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)    The Birds  was Hitchcock’s follow up to  Psycho , and coincidentally is also one of the last great films of his career.  Tippi Hedren stars as Madeline Daniels, a young socialite from San Francisco who becomes interested in criminal defense attorney Mitch Brenner, played by Rod Taylor. When she attempts to further her connection with Mitch by bringing him a couple of lovebirds he was looking to buy, she’s led to Bodega Bay; the costal town where Mitch stays with his sister and mother on the weekends. It’s there in Bodega Bay that swarms of seagulls, crows, and sparrows begin attacking the unsuspecting citizens with no apparent motive.  Hitchcock loved the theme of ‘birds’ and it was actual an incredibly present motif in his previous film  Psycho . It’s no wonder he wanted to dive into this theme fully with  The Birds . While the resulting film isn’t quite as frightening or exciting as the previous, it does still offer up countless lessons in building suspense. In particular, the scene where the unsuspecting Madeline sits in front of a gaggle of birds perched on a jungle gym is one of the finest examples on how to build suspense using the cinematic form.    3.5/5     WATCH: Ok.ru (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

THE BIRDS

(dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

The Birds was Hitchcock’s follow up to Psycho, and coincidentally is also one of the last great films of his career.

Tippi Hedren stars as Madeline Daniels, a young socialite from San Francisco who becomes interested in criminal defense attorney Mitch Brenner, played by Rod Taylor. When she attempts to further her connection with Mitch by bringing him a couple of lovebirds he was looking to buy, she’s led to Bodega Bay; the costal town where Mitch stays with his sister and mother on the weekends. It’s there in Bodega Bay that swarms of seagulls, crows, and sparrows begin attacking the unsuspecting citizens with no apparent motive.

Hitchcock loved the theme of ‘birds’ and it was actual an incredibly present motif in his previous film Psycho. It’s no wonder he wanted to dive into this theme fully with The Birds. While the resulting film isn’t quite as frightening or exciting as the previous, it does still offer up countless lessons in building suspense. In particular, the scene where the unsuspecting Madeline sits in front of a gaggle of birds perched on a jungle gym is one of the finest examples on how to build suspense using the cinematic form.

3.5/5

WATCH: Ok.ru (FREE), iTunes (RENT)