Tuesday, September 15, 2009

There's Just One Hitch...

Had I been born in 1980, when Alfred Hitchcock passed away, instead of 1967, I’d swear I was a reincarnation of the man. (Not looks-wise, mind you!) As it stands, perhaps he did in some way enter my body shortly after his death because it was in 1983 that I discovered his movies for the first time and I immediately felt the need to see all of them that I could.

In 1983, a few of his films (including Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Rear Window) were re-released following a long period in which they had been tied up in legalities. A pay cable channel was advertising this fact and some of the imagery caught my eye, so I tuned in and was hooked from then on.

What got my attention in this batch of movies – the clean colors, the wondrous music, the suspenseful stories, the cool blonde leading ladies – led me to seek out his earlier work. Each time I saw another one, I enjoyed it (with a couple of exceptions along the way.)

As I began to investigate the man’s work and the man himself, I soon discovered that we had many similar fetishes, phobias and fascinations. For example, he had a fear of authority figures stemming from a childhood incident in which his father had him placed in a jail cell briefly to prove a point. I am also wary of the police and other uniformed officials. He also loved women who present an icy, secure, confident front, but who may have simmering passions under that surface. Likewise, he seemed to enjoy gussying his leading ladies up only to systematically tear them down. (This ties into my disaster movie fixation, which often features glamorous people and settings being put through a battery of elements. In fact, Hitch occasionally included disaster-style sequences such as in Foreign Correspondent, in which a planeload of people crashes into the water.)

My favorite Hitchcock movie is Vertigo, which was also his most personal film. Everything about it from the obsessive nature of James Stewart to the gauzy beauty of Kim Novak to the swirling music to the unforgettable Edith Head clothing captivates me thoroughly. It’s definitely a film that provokes either praise or derision depending on one’s outlook. However, there are so many other gems including Psycho, The Birds, Notorious, The Man Who Knew Too Much (I’m one of those who prefers his remake), Strangers on a Train and, of course, his Oscar-winning Best Picture Rebecca.

Even in those of his films that aren’t complete successes, I usually find something I love – a set piece, a performer, a stylistic choice, the music. Torn Curtain may not be a terrific movie, but it has hunky Paul Newman in his prime and in gorgeous color. Likewise, Marnie features a young Sean Connery and the elegant Tippi Hedren along with the wondrously cranky work of Louise Latham. I Confess features stunning black and white photography. To Takes a Thief features one of my all time favorite dresses, a blue chiffon Grecian number that stands out vividly against Grace Kelly’s tan. There is only one Alfred Hitchcock sound film that I have not seen. I just cannot seem to get through it or to even make myself do so and that is Jamaica Inn. I adore Maureen O’Hara and have enjoyed Charles Laughton in things, but this one eludes me. Maybe someday…


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