Marnie (1964)

SPOILER ALERT: As these reviews are of an academic nature, they may contain spoilers. Those that do feature this warning. Future reviews will try to limit spoilers for a public audience, but until then, read at your own risk.

Marnie

Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1964

Tippi Hedren is a woman with many names. She doesn’t believe in men, only money, but for all her strengths she is helpless when presented by a thunderstorm or the colour red– reminders of a childhood trauma that she herself has forgotten. When she is caught, she is blackmailed into a loveless marriage to a man with more up his sleeve than just sex.

These past several weeks in TVF 462, we’ve been watching a lot of Hitchcock. That might colour my opinion of this film, but I’m not the only one who found it problematic. Even without the infamous rape scene, co-star Sean Connery substitutes menace for intrigue, which is all the more upsetting because the viewer doesn’t understand what he’s after. Connery seems adrift without an action setpiece, and I can’t remember a time when he was less charismatic. Meanwhile, Hitchcock dangles the film’s central mystery far too long. Without any hints along the way, the grand finale is underwhelming.

This isn’t a coincidence: critically acclaimed but a commercial flop, Marnie showcased some of Hitchcock’s worst personal qualities. When Tippi Hedren refused to work with him again in Torn Curtain, Hitchcock attempted to ruin her career. The film itself precipitated the end of Hitchcock’s cultural caché until his retirement and death. Paired with a perpetually gloomy motif, it’s a film I’d not likely revisit in the future. C-

Stage Fright (1950)

SPOILER ALERT: As these reviews are of an academic nature, they may contain spoilers. Future reviews will try to limit that, but until then, read at your own risk.

Stage Fright

Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1950

Yet another film Hitchcock was dissatisfied with. After the war, he decided to film this piece in London, and I believe it was the last time he did so. In the film, the husband of a famed actress (Marlene Dietrich) is murdered, and the prime suspect is her lover. The lover ropes his friend, another young actress, into proving his innocence. Way in over her head, she involves her family and uses her acting skills to pose as Dietrich’s new maid.

Whatever Sir Alfred may have thought, Stage Fright has some refreshingly unexpected elements. The film is an early example of English neo-realism; it notably uses real locations instead of sets, is full of slice-of-life moments that lead nowhere, visual gags, large open spaces, and a downer ending wrapped up in one of Hitchcock’s best twists– the main suspect is not only mad, but was guilty all along! Most jarring of all is that the suspect, who appears in the first couple of scenes, isn’t the protagonist.

I didn’t think much of the film when I first saw it, but the more I think about it, the more I like it, and that’s a good sign. B

Saboteur (1942)

Courtesy the Hitchcock Wiki

This past summer, I took a number of film classes that compelled me to watch more films than I usually watch in a whole year. Whatever reviews I wrote would count toward extra credit, and in the interest of better keeping up with the culture, I’ll be presenting reviews of some classic and not-so-classic films.

SPOILER ALERT: As these reviews are of an academic nature, they may contain spoilers. Future reviews will try to limit that, but until then, read at your own risk.

Saboteur

Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1942

This is a film that Hitchcock was dissatisfied with. Essentially a propaganda film, it follows an aerospace worker who is mistaken for a German spy who sabotaged his plant. Now on the lam, he must go to great lengths to find the people who actually did it. In the process, he picks up a token blonde who isn’t convinced of his innocence. Upon finding the head of the spy ring, he tricks them by claiming to be the real spy as he attempts to uncover their new plan.

The film features many of Hitchcock’s trademarks: charming villains, claustrophobic settings, a climactic setpiece involving an iconic landmark. Unfortunately, it contains so many of them that it feels more like practice for his later, better films The Wrong Man and North by Northwest, which have similar plots.

Despite a cracking final act, the first two thirds of the film are draggy and episodic. The film appears to have been drawn out in order to provide scenes where a multitude of characters espouse the glories of American democracy (a patriotic precursor to the punch-ups of modern comedy films), but instead they only serve to confuse the viewer. I spent much of the film wondering when events will come to a head. However, all parties gave the film their all in a time when everything from props to actors were in short supply. B-