Monday, April 20, 2009

Hitchcock Films I've Seen: Day 5

NOTORIOUS (1946) - John Nolte, the editor at Big Hollywood, rates this as the best Hitchcock film. I wouldn't say that, but it probably edges into my top five. It would be hard to find a more charming screen couple than Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman (Grant and Grace Kelly in TO CATCH A THEIF would be competitors in the most beautiful screen couple) and this is the film where they have one of the longest kisses ever filmed.
But the person who makes the film for me is Claude Rains as the momma's boy in love with Bergman. Most lovable Nazi in screen history.
There is a very funny legion that the McGuffin (plot devise that motivates the players) being uranium caught the interest of the US government in the film as the Manhattan project was well under way.

THE PARADINE CASE (1947) - From one of the best of Hitchcock to one of his worst (at least in the 'modern' Hitch era.) Even Charles Laughton cannot overcome the drab performance by Gregory Peck and a dull murder trail plot.

ROPE (1948) - Hitchcock often like to experiment with different film technique and this was one of his experiments. A master of editing and quick cuts decided to make a film using only long, ten minute takes. (Ten minutes does not sound long, but watch an average tv show or movie and count the seconds between cuts and you will see that ten minutes is an eternity in film terms.) For this film (a retelling of the Leopold-Loeb murder) Hitchcock had a special set designed so that the camera could move freely without stopping to keep the viewer interested.
Jimmy Stewart makes his first of four Hitchcock appearances as a philosopher who plays with the ideas of Nietzsche, but doesn't want to consider the consequences of a world without God. Rumor has it Hitch wanted Grant for the role, instead he cast the man I consider Hitch's best leading man. Stewart gave simply maginficant performances for three directors (Hitchcock, Capra and Mann.)
This was also Hitchcock's first color film.

STAGE FRIGHT (1950) - An interesting performance by Marlene Deitrich does not save this muddled film. The film does feature the debut of Hitch's daughter Patricia (who turned in reliably good perfomances in her father's films). It also caused a bit of a stink with some viewers by breaking an assumed law of movies by lying in a flashback.

STANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) - This may well be my favorite Hitchcock film. Even with the dated minature work with the carasaul at the end of the film, it's just excellent. One of my favorite writers, Ramond Chandler of the Phillip Marlow mysteries, adapted a novel by the ever perverse Patricia Highsmith (of the Ripley novels) about stangers on a train (ah, the title) who meet and one suggusts exchanging murders.
Farley Granger gives a good performance (as he did in ROPE, but little else) and Pat Hitchcock is quite funny. But Robert Walker owns the film as the effeminate, vain, funny pyschopath, Anthony Bruno. There are many marvelous sequences in this film, but my favorite is a scene at a tennis match. The camera focuses on the crowd watching the match, all the heads bopping back and forth following he ball, but one face does not move as Walker glares at Granger.

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