Alfred Hitchcock – The Pleasure Garden (1925)

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From IMDb:
The Pleasure Garden is the first film that Alfred Hitchcock directed to completion. It’s a nice look into the earliest directorial thoughts and techniques of the master. Even in this earliest film, we can see signs of what would become some of his signature trademarks. I enjoyed some of the point of view shots early in the film with the blurred view of the man looking through his monocle as well as the gentleman looking through the binoculars at the show girls legs. There is also a spiral staircase in the opening of this movie. Not that it was used like the staircase in Vertigo, but it made me smile thinking of how important that would be in his later film. The story deals with the idea of infidelity. Jill (Carmelita Geraghty) is an aspiring dancer who gets engaged to Hugh (John Stuart) who has to leave for work overseas. Patsy (Virginia Valli), who has helped Jill get her start, starts to worry about Jill keeping her promise to wait for Hugh. Jill’s career is taking off and she begins to fool around with other guys. Patsy marries Levett (Miles Mander), Hugh’s friend who also goes overseas to work with Hugh. Unlike Jill, Patsy remains true to her husband, thinking only of being with him. She receives a letter that her husband has taken ill and scrapes up the money to go be with her husband in his time of need. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – The Lady Vanishes (1938)

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In Alfred Hitchcock’s most quick-witted and devilish comic thriller, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood, traveling across Europe by train, meets Dame May Whitty’s charming old spinster, who seemingly disappears into thin air. The young woman then turns investigator and finds herself drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure. The Lady Vanishes, now in an all-new digital transfer, remains one of the master filmmaker’s purest delights. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – The Birds [+Extras] (1963)

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The story begins as an innocuous romantic triangle involving wealthy, spoiled Tippi Hedren, handsome Rod Taylor, and schoolteacher Suzanne Pleshette. The human story begins in a San Francisco pet shop and culminates at the home of Taylor’s mother (Jessica Tandy) at Bodega Bay, where the characters’ sense of security is slowly eroded by the curious behavior of the birds in the area. At first, it’s no more than a sea gull swooping down and pecking at Tippi’s head. Things take a truly ugly turn when hundreds of birds converge on a children’s party. There is never an explanation as to why the birds have run amok, but once the onslaught begins, there’s virtually no letup. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

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“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is a rarity in that it was directed by that master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. The film pays in ways that only a crafty Hitchcock would know how. The director takes Norman Krasna’s screen play and gives it an elegant treatment.

The idea of a technicality annulling a marriage is at the center of the story. When David Smith is told about it, he sees the possibility of not telling his wife. Ann and David have a strange marriage life. They love each other dearly and they seem to work at maintaining their union as a fun enterprise where they are playful and do unexpected things to please one another. David miscalculates Ann’s reaction to his playing a joke and not telling her about their new status.

The revelation at the beginning of the film is made known to Ann, who goes along with the joke expecting to be asked that same day to run to a justice of the peace to get married again. When David doesn’t act on what for Ann seems to be essential, she flies into a rage and vows to get even with David. This is the basic premise of the comedy. Things get complicated, but we know all will be right at the end as Ann will come to her senses. David also is expected to legalize their status. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – Notorious [+Extras] (1946)

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One of Hitchcock’s finest films of the ’40s, using its espionage plot about Nazis hiding out in South America as a mere MacGuffin, in order to focus on a perverse, cruel love affair between US agent Grant and alcoholic Bergman, whom he blackmails into providing sexual favours for the German Rains as a means of getting information. Suspense there is, but what really distinguishes the film is the way its smooth, polished surface illuminates a sickening tangle of self-sacrifice, exploitation, suspicion, and emotional dependence. Grant, in fact, is the least sympathetic character in the dark, ever-shifting relationships on view, while Rains, oppressed by a cigar-chewing, possessive mother and deceived by all around him, is treated with great generosity. Less war thriller than black romance, it in fact looks forward to the misanthropic portrait of manipulation in Vertigo. — GA, Time Out Film Guide 13 Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – Number Seventeen (1932)

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This early Alfred Hitchcock thriller is certainly not among the master’s best — and the poor quality of most surviving prints does not help matters — but Number 17 is an entertaining little journey into mystery. Students of the director and his style will be the most appreciative of the effort, more willing to overlook the awkwardness of much of the film in order to ascertain glimpses of things to come in later films. And there’s a lot that’s awkward, from the not-really-surprising ending to several confusingly shot sequences (and some excessively choppy editing throughout). The climactic train sequence is emblematic of the film as a whole; portions of it are exciting and effective, but much of it is undercut by poor pacing and timing that just doesn’t quite work. Ultimately, it does build up to a good head of steam, but it has to strain mightily to get there. The cast is good, overcoming the underdeveloped nature of many of their roles; Leon M. Lion does especially well in the comic relief lead and Anne Grey is quite effective as the mysterious “mute” member of the gang. John Stuart projects that time-honored British mixture of manliness and restraint, and Donald Calthrop is nice and oily as one of the thieves. 17 is rough going at times, but it’s worth sticking out its short running time. — Craig Butler Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – Rear Window [+Extras] (1954)

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Professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbours. He begins to suspect that the man opposite may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his society model girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his nurse Stella to investigate. Continue reading