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The Death of the Author: The Impact of Off-Screen Behaviour on On-Screen Antics…

The rather convolutedly-titled Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho will be arriving soon, the director’s Vertigo was recently named by Sight & Sound as the best film of all time and the British Film Institute is running a season of the director’s films. (There’s even a nice blu ray box set being released in October.) However, this focus on Alfred Hitchcock has, naturally, brought some focus on to the less pleasant aspects of his character. October, for example, will also see HBO airing The Girl, a documentary exploring his relationship with Tippi Hedren. She has some choice words on his character.

“I think he was an extremely sad character,” she said during a panel discussion of HBO’s upcoming The Girl, which recounts her troubled relationship with the director. “We are dealing with a brain here that was an unusual genius, and evil, and deviant, almost to the point of dangerous, because of the effect that he could have on people that were totally unsuspecting.”

Of course, such accusations and allegations are by no means new, but it does raise an interesting question about those masters of cinema. Even for those of us who resist the supermarket tabloid gossip about engagements and break-ups and cute-sounding-couple-nicknames, is it ever possible to divorce filmmaking from the person either in front or behind the camera?

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Non-Review Review: Psycho (1960)

Psycho is a masterpiece from Alfred Hitchcock, a uniquely American horror story that redefined and codified the horror genre. Even after one has already seen the film, and knows the twists and the plotting detours that Hitchcock’s adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel might make, it’s still a powerful and compelling piece of cinema. Hitchcock laid a template here that would inform generations of horror films that followed, with the DNA of Psycho to be found even in the most unlikely of places.

“You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave…”

Note: Hitchcock famously guarded the ending to this project. “Don’t give away the ending — it’s the only one we have!” he pleaded in advertisements. However, it has been fifty-two years, so I fear that the statute of limitations on potential spoilers has expired. After all, Psycho has been so massively influential it’s hard not to know what happens. If, by some fluke, you know nothing about the film… see it! See it now! We’ll still be here when you get back.

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Non-Review Review: To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief is unique among Hitchcock films. It’s the only Hitchcock film produced by Paramount to remain distributed by Paramount. The rest reverted to Hitchcock and are now distributed by Universal. More than that, however, the film feels remarkably “light” as measured against some of his other work. It feels almost like Cary Grant and Grace Kelly are just supporting players, with the French Riviera serving as the headlining star of the film. That not to dismiss To Catch a Thief entirely – it’s still a beautiful and well constructed piece of cinema from a master director, just one that feels a little shallow compared to his better work.

The short kiss goodnight…

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Non-Review Review: Rope

Rope occupies an interesting place in Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography. The director himself was less than fond of it, allegedly quite happy that it remained out of circulation for some time after its initial release. Jimmy Stewart has apparently been critical of his own performance in the film, although I think it’s a wonderful example of a beloved actor playing against type. In the years since, however, it has been somewhat re-evaluated. While most film fans would be hesitant to describe it as an unqualified success, it’s certainly a technically ambitious little film, and the tight script and set-up allow Hitchcock to indulge his knack for creating suspense.

I hope nobody choked with all those ten-minute takes…

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Horse Player (Review)

As part of the “For the Love of Film” blogathon, I’ll be taking a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s contributions to his celebrated anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I’ll be looking at some of the episodes of the classic show that he directed. The “For the Love of Film” blogathon this year is raising money to keep one of Hitchcock’s earlier works, The White Shadow (which he wrote, edited, designed and assistant-directed), available on-line and streaming for free. It’s a very worthwhile cause and you can donate here.

The Horse Player actually makes for a nice conclusion to our run of Alfred Hitchcock Presents reviews. It aired in 1961, towards the end of the sixth season of the anthology show, a year before the show would be rebranded The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. It was the second last half-hour show that Hitchcock personally directed, but is generally agreed to be much stronger than his final effort, a morality play titled Bang! You’re Dead. Instead, The Horse Player is an enjoyable and engaging meditation on those cardinal virtues of faith, hope and charity.

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Dip in the Pool (Review)

As part of the “For the Love of Film” blogathon, I’ll be taking a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s contributions to his celebrated anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I’ll be looking at some of the episodes of the classic show that he directed. The “For the Love of Film” blogathon this year is raising money to keep one of Hitchcock’s earlier works, The White Shadow (which he wrote, edited, designed and assistant-directed), available on-line and streaming for free. It’s a very worthwhile cause and you can donate here.

Hitchcock’s collaborations with Roald Dahl are always worth the time, and I have to admit I have a special fondness for A Dip in the Pool, which is a bitter little comedy about a bet that goes very far wrong. It’s a wonderfully cynical little story about a compulsive gambler who makes an impressive bet on a sure thing. Of course, this being Alfred Hitchcock Presents, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Filled with Dahl and Hitchcock’s trademark bleak humour and a wonderful central performance from Keenan Wynn, A Dip in the Pool makes for an entertaining little drama.

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Mr. Blanchard’s Secret (Review)

As part of the “For the Love of Film” blogathon, I’ll be taking a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s contributions to his celebrated anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I’ll be looking at some of the episodes of the classic show that he directed. The “For the Love of Film” blogathon this year is raising money to keep one of Hitchcock’s earlier works, The White Shadow (which he wrote, edited, designed and assistant-directed), available on-line and streaming for free. It’s a very worthwhile cause and you can donate here.

Mr. Blanchard’s Secret is a fun watch, if only for the joy of watching Hitchcock gleefully spoofing Hitchcock. Pitched by the director as “a tale of mystery and intrigue, played in middle-class suburbia” during his introduction, Mr. Blanchard’s Secret reads an affectionate parody of Rear Window, perhaps the Hitchcock film that lends itself so easily to comedic skewering. Mr. Blanchard’s Secret is hardly a groundbreaking or astonishing piece of television, but it is highly enjoyable and quite clever, proving that Hitchcock has a wonderful sense of humour about himself. (As if we needed proof.)

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Hidden Thing (Review)

As part of the “For the Love of Film” blogathon, I’ll be taking a look at his celebrated anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The “For the Love of Film” blogathon this year is raising money to keep one of Hitchcock’s earlier works, The White Shadow (which he wrote, edited, designed and assistant-directed), available on-line and streaming for free. It’s a very worthwhile cause and you can donate here. I thought it might be worth taking a look at an episode from a director other than Hitchcock.

The Hidden Thing is a bit of a strange little episode. It has a strong central theme, even if it is a little blunt about it. It also has an interesting set-up, playing off a sense of unjust randomness. However, it never really ties all of its ideas together, finishing on a rather bland and – inappropriately enough – forgettable ending. In many ways, it seems like the ending to The Hidden Thing is a twist that just fell apart and, rather than enhancing the surrounding story, ultimately detracted from the episode.

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Wet Saturday (Review)

As part of the “For the Love of Film” blogathon, I’ll be taking a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s contributions to his celebrated anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I’ll be looking at some of the episodes of the classic show that he directed. The “For the Love of Film” blogathon this year is raising money to keep one of Hitchcock’s earlier works, The White Shadow (which he wrote, edited, designed and assistant-directed), available on-line and streaming for free. It’s a very worthwhile cause and you can donate here.

Wet Saturday is what you’d get if you crossed a Hitchcock murder mystery with a very British farce. It’s a bit of a strange cocktail, a comedy of manners about a sordid murder, but Hitchcock makes it work, in no small part to the work of a fantastic ensemble cast. Any excuse to see Hitchcock working with John Williams is worth the price of admission, even if the veteran performer finds himself relegated to a supporting role here. Sir Cedric Hardwicke excels as the patriarch of a proud British family who has to deal with the inconvenience of a murder on the family estate.

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Back For Christmas (Review)

As part of the “For the Love of Film” blogathon, I’ll be taking a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s contributions to his celebrated anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I’ll be looking at some of the episodes of the classic show that he directed. The “For the Love of Film” blogathon this year is raising money to keep one of Hitchcock’s earlier works, The White Shadow (which he wrote, edited, designed and assistant-directed), available on-line and streaming for free. It’s a very worthwhile cause and you can donate here.

Shrunken heads are a hobby of mine. Collecting them, of course, not making them. It takes too long to make one. First, you must wait until the original owner of the head dies. I haven’t the patience for that. As you have no doubt already guessed, tonight’s story has nothing whatsoever to do with shrunken heads. It is called ‘Back for Christmas’.

– Hitchcock’s introduction. No, really.

It’s amazing how much variety Hitchcock managed to bring to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. After all, Revenge was a straight-up noir tale and The Case of Mister Pelham was an existential mystery. Back For Christmas is Hitchcock doing wonderfully dark comedy, to the point where the surrealist introduction above perfectly sets the tone. It’s also an episode that will probably add fuel to the “Alfred Hitchcock was a misogynist” debate.

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