Just a small piece today, Hitchcock fans… discuss!
Strangers on a Train (1951)
I don’t remember what initially drew me to this movie. Perhaps it was film school? Strangers on a Train was definitely a later addition to my Hitchcock viewing, admittedly growing up on a steady diet of The Birds, North by Northwest and Vertigo. However, it only took one viewing for me to absolutely fall in love with Strangers on a Train.
The little movie follows tennis player Guy Haines (Farley Granger) as he accidently meets Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) when the two men sit together on a train. Suddenly, there’s talk of murder and Guy finds himself with far more than he bargained for with the pleasantly unhinged Bruno.
Robert Walker is a tremendous (though tragic) talent from this era in Hollywood history. The actor’s filmography is a short one, encompassing only 23 roles over 13 years; however, his versatile and nuanced work as well as his sensitive star persona has allowed him to stand-out even in the years following his premature death at age 32. If you’re unfamiliar with Walker’s filmography, check it out. He (and Strangers on a Train) are far less remembered than they should be.
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Shadow of a Doubt sees Hitchcock leaving his usual territory and entering the not usually mysterious location of Main Street USA.
The movie follows Charlie (Theresa Wright), a young girl growing up in the middle of a small town. Her life is flipped upside down by the arrival of her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten). While her family is absolutely in love with her mother’s (Patricia Collinge) baby brother, Charlie can’t help but feel something is wrong with the seemingly good-natured man. Is there something more to her Uncle Charlie than anyone realises?
The film is a tight, well-crafted examination of murder in a small town. Hitchcock does some of his best early work, and the cast (yes, even the adorably bland MacDonald Carey) shine in their roles). If you’re in any way a fan of Hitchcock’s work, check out this movie.
Talk of Rope still exists in popular culture as the film emerged from a crazy cinematic experiment by the legendary director. Just how few cuts are needed to make a movie? Hitchcock examined that question with his filmmaking in Rope.
The film follows two young men (John Dahl and Farley Granger) who host a dinner party in celebration of (as well as to hide) a murder they committed. Jimmy Stewart also stars as the boys former professor.
The film isn’t necessarily for the casual Hitchcock viewer. Hitchcock’s shot length are only limited by the length of the film reels. The shots are long and the director shows a fascinating knowledge of his craft in how he disguises the film cuts. This movie is a masterclass in story-telling and mise-en-scene, and if you are in any way a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, this needs to be on your list at some point.
I’ve written about this movie extensively for other outlets, and I’m not shy to say I absolutely love it.
The movie follows a young woman (Joan Fontaine) as she meets and falls head-over-heels in love with widower Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier). Almost immediately, she is swept up in his chaotic personal life, as well as a boatload of drama surrounding his recently deceased first wife, Rebecca.
Rebecca is packed to the rafters with absolutely amazing performances. The combination of Laurence Olivier, George Sanders and Reginald Denny make for a trio of amazingness. Dame Judith Anderson is in a class all by herself as Miss. Danvers, the DeWinters housekeeper. The amazing performer steals every scene she is in. Finally, Joan Fontaine gives a meek, but relatable performance, showing just why the young actress had the long-running career she did.
North by Northwest (1959)
I had to throw in one of the popular choices. North by Northwest was released during Hitchcock’s late 1950s hot streak, showing the experienced director at full mastery of his craft. The movie features Cary Grant in a class all by himself as Roger O. Thornhill, a man who gets unwillingly pulled into an espionage story of mystery and intrigue.
This movie is an all-around gem featuring amazing performances by Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau. It maintains a very fun tone, while still playing with the narrative drama.
These are just a few of the legendary director’s films, and there are plenty more good ones which aren’t listed. What are some of your favourites?