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[font=Raleway, sans-serif]BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Wet Saturday' [1956][/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Source: Hulu [streaming][/font]

[font=Raleway, sans-serif]John Williams was obviously a go-to guy for Hitchcock, as he pops up again here. This episode is decidedly odd, with some over-the-top acting and not much in the way of a twist. However, neither probably matter as the point, I expect, was to prick the bubble of Upper Class British pomposity. Sir Cedric Hardwicke, another Hitchcock alum, plays the father trying to extricate his severely immature (we might say autistic) daughter from the murder she has just committed. He is aided by his equally dim-witted son, in a type of farce pre-dating Month Python's Upper Class Twit of the Year by over a decade. The humour is very dark, and probably appealed to the ex-pat son of a grocer. The fact that he could film the entire episode in stereotypical English weather from balmy California was just the icing on his cake, no doubt. [/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Mr. Blanchard's Secret' [1956][/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Source: Hulu [streaming][/font]

[font=Raleway, sans-serif]A writer believes that her neighbor, Mr. Blanchard, has bumped off his wife. She begins to spy and snoop around, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of the elusive Mrs. Blanchard... until Mrs. Blanchard turns up on her doorstep. Yes, it's a quirky take on 'Rear Window', but not a very good one. Hitch's direction is bland and the 'twist' unsatisfying though the acting is good. Maybe Hitchcock was drawn to the 'Rear Window' similarity, but it doesn't appear he put much effort into it beyond that.[/font]
Week 43: 'The Wrong Man' [1957]
Source: Blu-ray

It was not unusual for Hitchcock to be intrigued by a man wrongly accused of a crime - his work is full of such scenarios - but never in the way he dealt with it in 'The Wrong Man'. Here we have, as Hitchcock tells us in a silhouetted prologue, not unlike his TV appearances at that time, a true story. Or. at least, true to a point - the real life ending wasn't quite as rosy as the epilogue suggests.

Henry Fonda plays 'Manny', a bass player at a jazz club who is mistaken for a criminal holding up local stores. What follows is a docu-drama style film showing his interrogation, arrest and court case and the impact this has on his family, notably his wife (Vera Miles, in her first Hitchcock film, but not her first dalliance with Hitch).

This is not a happy film. No moments of whimsy or winking at the camera here. Filmed in black and white, it has noirish edge to it. Fonda is superb, annoyingly so. Mild-mannered, polite and willing to help the police clear up the mess he's in, he is so passive and subservient that you almost lose sympathy for him. Miles is excellent in the first half of the film then descends into recreating her role from the earlier 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' episode 'Breakdown'.

Hitchcock, famously wary of the police to the point of phobia, delights in showing the minutia of police procedures, highlighting the dehumanizing of Manny and the encroaching claustrophobia. As circumstantial evidence begins to pile up and alibis start to crumble, there's a Kafkaesque quality that creeps in. Is Manny actually guilty? The state seems to think so, shown brutally during the courtroom scene where only Manny appears to be taking his situation seriously.

Apparently influenced by European cinema at this point, Hitchcock forgoes his usual flourishes and the story is filmed matter-of-factly. Still, there are some nice touches, notably a scene where two superimposed faces merge. I wasn't expecting to like this film, but it surprised me. It seems out of place in his filmography, so unlike the colourful, frothier films that precede it, but it works.

I watched the blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection. It looked clean and free of the usual specks and tears albeit noticeably grainy.
BONUS: 'Suspicion: Four O'Clock' [1957]
Source: YouTube [streaming]

This was the only episode Hitchcock directed for the TV show 'Suspicion'. It was written by Cornell Woolrich, who also wrote the story upon which 'Rear Window' was based, and features Harry Dean Stanton (Dean Stanton only in the credits) in a minor role. (He also appears in the earlier film 'The Wrong Man', apparently, but I failed to spot him.)

A watchmaker (a brooding E.G.Marshall) suspects his wife of infidelity. Convinced that her trysts occur daily at 4 o'clock at their home, he wires a crude bomb to an alarm clock to explode at that hour. Alas, things don't quite turn out as planned and the majority of the episode is a masterful filming of suspense.

Hitch packs a lot into these 50 minute or so. We see the meticulous preparations of the homemade bomb, a trial run, and the stilted conversation of a wife trying to hide something from her husband. Hitchcock ratchets up the suspense as the show progresses in ways that I would prefer not to spoil. The ticking clock is omnipresent, of course, and close-ups of one of the characters towards the end is edited perfectly. There are a couple of clever twists along the way, although the ending adds a little more melodrama than is necessary, I thought.

This story was also produced as an episode of the 'Suspense' radio show (titled 'Three o'clock' for some reason) with a slightly different, and less effective, ending, if you wish to compare the two.
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: One more mile to go' [1957][/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Source: Hulu [streaming][/font]

[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Another excellent Hitchcock-directed episode, in which a man murders his wife and tries in vain to dispose of her body. There are elements of 'Rear Window' and the yet-to-be-conceived 'Psycho' here. We witness the argument and murder through a window; whatever the argument is about, we hear only muffled sounds from our vantage point. We are then brought into the house and watch as the husband begins his preparations for disposal of her body. Hitchcock's experience in silent cinema pays off here handsomely; would a younger TV director have dared to film an episode where there was no discernible speech for the first 10 minutes, I wonder? Like a later Norman Bates and a half-submerged car, we begin to sympathize with the murderer as he is thwarted in his plans to drop her body in a lake. The episode feels like it is abandoned rather than ended, but as shades of things to come, it's worth checking out.[/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Perfect Crime' [1957][/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Source: Hulu [streaming][/font]

[font=Raleway, sans-serif]This episode is interesting mostly due to the perfectly macabre pairing of Vincent Price and Alfred Hitchcock. Price plays a cocky Sherlock Holmes-type detective, musing over his brilliant cases with a defense lawyer. The lawyer bursts Price's bubble by explaining that his deductions were in error regarding his most recent case, sending an innocent man to the chair. Flashbacks show what actually occurred, and how Price was misled. The ending is silly, but that and Vincent Price were maybe the main attractions for Hitchcock, as everything else is mediocre.[/font]
Week 44: 'Vertigo' [1958]
Source: Blu-ray

'Vertigo' is often cited as one of the best, if not the best, Hitchcock film. Starring James Stewart in his 4th and last Hitchcock picture, the film deals with a subject matter dear to Hitch's heart - the obsession over a beautiful blonde.

Stewart plays Scotty, a police detective forced to retire owing to a sudden bout of vertigo. He is hired by an old friend to follow his wife, whom he suspects of being haunted. What follows is a larger mystery, where no one is quite whom they appear.

This was another of those famous Hitchcock films that I had never seen before. Even knowing most of the plot from reading several books on Hitchcock this year, it still took me by surprise. This is not a fun experience a la 'North by Northwest', but more an uncomfortable one a la 'Rebecca'. Stewart is excellent in a role that is far from his usual sympathetic character. His obsession with Kim Novak is suffocating, manipulative and difficult to watch. Novak is equally excellent, once the second half of the film starts and she becomes more expressive.

There are so many great touches - the innovative 'dolly zoom' to show the effects of Stewart's vertigo, the trippy dream sequence, even the futuristic titles - but none more so than the use of color. No doubt long articles have been written about the symbolism of the red and green, and much better than I could write here. 

The revealing of the twist towards the middle of the film is an interesting choice. It certainly makes it a much different film, changing it from a mystery and instead focusing on the obsession. We know more than Stewart, or at least are supposed to believe we do. Apparently Hitchcock went back and forth on that decision - taking it out and then putting it back in. I'm not about to second guess him, but I wonder if he was altogether right to include it.

It's a difficult film to review for me. I can't say I liked it, as I found it uncomfortable to watch in places. But it's undoubtedly an excellent film and worthy of its praises.

I saw the blu-ray from the 'Masterpiece Collection' and was so caught up in the story that I can't say I noticed anything wrong in either vision or sound.
Vertigo was released in 1958, not 1957.
BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Lamb to the Slaughter' [1958]
Source: DVD

Barbara Bel Geddes, late of 'Vertigo', plays a Doris Day-type perfect housewife with a twist - she kills her husband when he threatens to leave her and their unborn child. The story is simple: will the police figure out the murder weapon, thus implicating Geddes as the murderer? The final shot is reminiscent of the ending of 'Psycho', but otherwise it's a fun but unextraordinary episode.
BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Dip in the Pool' [1958]
Source: DVD

Another average episode, this time about a man betting more than he can afford on a cruise ship lottery. There isn't anything macabre here, and it's not obvious what would have attracted Hitchcock to direct this one. The 'twist' is the sort of dark humour he probably enjoyed, and the acting is good, but it's ultimately forgettable.
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