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My Year with Hitch
#91
I'll join you for Saboteur, Garp. Its in my unwatched boxset and I'm feeling the Hitch itch again.
"I live in the Tower of Flints. I am the death-owl."

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#92
BONUS: 'Suspicion' [1988]
Source: DVD

This 1988 version is a curiosity. The original Hitchcock screenplay gets an 'adaptation', with Anthony Andrews taking on Cary Grant and, more surprisingly, Jane Curtin replacing Joan Fontaine. I say 'adaptation' as very little is changed - lines are hardly different, if at all, and some scenes are shot-for-shot remakes, a la Gus Van Sant. This possibly could have worked if they had set it in the 1940s, but for some reason (financial?) we're in contemporary 1980s. As such, it's a disaster. The premise doesn't work over 40 years later, and the dialogue is preposterous now. Were there really men in their 30s calling their friends "Old Bean" in 1988? As a plot point, it's necessary, but it does nothing to ground this film to anything like reality. Similarly, I could just about buy Fontaine fainting at the thought of her husband as a murderer in 1941; but Curtin in 1988? Not so much.

Andrews is passable as Johnnie, but Curtin is terrible. She's such a wet blanket throughout that you wonder whatever Andrews sees in her. She shows no spark whatsoever, and there is zero chemistry between them. The only interesting touch was an inanimate object - the book Curtin is reading when Andrews first comes to call is 'Hitchcock' by Francois Truffaut. I was expecting a more modern ending, but no, that would have been too original. What we have instead is one of the most unnecessary remakes I have ever sat through. Even as a curiosity, I'm not sure it's worth checking out.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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#93
Week 27: 'Saboteur' [1942]
Source: Blu-ray

Hitchcock returns - again - to the wrongly-accused-man-on-the-run scenario in what amounts to a fairly formulaic, paint-by-numbers thriller. After a fatal fire at an aircraft factory, Barry Kane is accused of sabotage and must go on the run to clear his... well, you know the drill by now.

There is a lot to like here, but less than dynamic leads and a slow middle drag the film down to the mediocre level, unfortunately. Robert Cummings is too wooden in a role that definitely needed some pep, and has little chemistry with his reluctant companion-cum-love interest Priscilla Lane. Still, there are flashes of excellence, especially in the beginning where the smoke of the fire creeps across the screen, and the climax atop the Statue of Liberty. The use of sets and back projection blends together wonderfully, and the slow ripping of the sleeve adds some brilliant tension. For me, though, the scene in the cinema is a highlight, another favourite Hitchcock touch of mixing the theatrical with his real-life. It's also interesting that the only people who side with the protagonist are those on the outskirts of society - the disabled (a blind man), the grotesque (circus freaks) and the loner (a truck driver). In a scene that flashes back to 'The 39 Steps', and forward to 'North by Northwest', Barry tries to escape capture by addressing the guests directly at a charity ball by inventing an auction. In a sense, it encapsulates the film for me - seen it before, and better.

I watched the blu-ray from the Masterpiece Collection. No major complaints as far as I'm concerned with either picture or sound. Minimal age-related issues in the picture but otherwise very good.
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#94
I always wait to read your reviews after I've written mine, as I find it interesting to compare. Looks like you were able to pick out more positives than me! (I didn't mention it, but I'll admit the tearing sleeve added maybe just a touch of tension Wink )

Saboteur (1942)

A rehashed script reminiscent of 39 Steps and a dash of Foreign Correspondent - only with bad dialogue, mediocre characters and zero suspense. The set up for the plot is weak, as is the set up for having the girl tag along - in which an all "seeing" blind man forces his niece to help a fugitive he's had no real opportunity to suss out. The bad guys motivations are also thin and vague. They themselves being typically posh, tolerant and cheery - all the classic cliché characteristics, but no real air of sinister charm. 

There's a scene towards the end in which gun shots are cleverly masked by the gun firing on screen in a cinema - but other than this and a handful of nice shots, there's nothing to shout about here.  The set piece atop The Statue of Liberty was decent visually, but lacked excitement and felt like it was trying too hard to be iconic. Shortly after this the film ends without any real conclusion or resolution. 

 From what I've seen so far, it felt like the least interesting Hitchcock flick so far directorially, as if Alfy was just going through the motions. 

A watchable flick, but pretty average by Hitchcock standards. 


I watched the same copy as you, Garp. Image was crisp and sharp and audio clear to the ear. Looking forward to the rest of the set!
"I live in the Tower of Flints. I am the death-owl."

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#95
Yeah, I think I was probably a little more forgiving as I'm half-way through this project and I've seen a lot worse from him so far.

I'm off on vacation for a week, but I still intend to keep to my watch schedule, though I might not be able to review them here on time. I'll try, but they might be more rushed.  Big Grin
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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#96
Hope I'm not jumping the gun by posting my review before you, Garp! I'll keep it in spoiler tags for now. 

Shadow of A Doubt (1943)


Flawed in numerous ways, but very enjoyable and possibly my favourite of the ones I've watched so far this year.

A mysterious man, clearly on the run from something, decides to lay low and visit his sister and her family. Known fondly as the fun, rich uncle often too busy visit, the family eagerly welcome him - but all is not what it seems. Young Charlie (niece) is smart and inquisitive, and it's not long before she realises her uncle is hiding something. 

 The tone of the film is somewhat schizophrenic, feeling more like an espionage-type mystery to begin with, before a twist then pivots things into more of a horror/Thriller direction - all the while keeping up the lighthearted comedic elements that go along with the family drama/setting. 
As seems to be the case more often than not, the romance element feels rushed and shoehorned, and the ending is all too convenient and tidy.

Although problematic, I can see why this was Hitchcock's favourite, simply because it's so fun. But at the same time, I wouldn't come close to saying that it's his best work, and I completely understand the viewpoints of those that think it's terrible. However, whether you think the film is good or bad, it is surely hard to deny that strong elements of classic Hitchcock genius are present. Various little visual elements serve to play on the characters/viewers mind, such as the squeezing of the napkin and the slamming of the garage door - provoking paranoia with a harmless occurrence, while preluding to something more sinister.

Perhaps my favourite part of the film were the humorous, yet disturbing little conversations that Charlie's father has with his friend Herb, in which the practicalities of committing murder are casually entertained between them as a morbid hobby. There is a particular scene in which Herb suggests that he has poisoned his drink, only for us to realise it is only with harmless bicarbonate soda - nevertheless, I found myself holding my breath, making it clear that the master is at work even during what is seemingly comic relief.

Perhaps just a personal association, but these scenes also conjured up thoughts of the inciting conversation in Strangers on A Train, and I couldn't help but wonder if this could somehow have been the germ of the idea...

I watched the Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection version. Good picture and audio, though perhaps a touch less crisp in comparison to Sabatuer.
"I live in the Tower of Flints. I am the death-owl."

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#97
Week 28: 'Shadow of a Doubt' [1943]
Source: Blu-ray

A short review, as I watched this over a week ago before my vacation and the details are a little hazy. Joseph Cotton plays Charlie, the uncle with a secret that his namesake niece slowly uncovers. No major set-pieces as you would expect of Hitchcock at this stage of his career, but some good performances. I too enjoyed the back-and-forth between the father (a pre-Clarence Henry Travers) and his best friend over the perfect murder techniques, plus the slow close-up of Cotton during his monologue on America was very effective. However, it didn't grab me overall on first viewing, but I'd be willing to give it another chance down the road sometime. Agreed that picture and sound were less stellar than 'Saboteur', but still very good.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page or on Facebook or Twitter
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#98
i keep coming to this thread with the expectation of reading about your time with christopher hitchens. Big Grin

enjoying the rebues, garp.
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#99
Thanks ssj!

BONUS: 'Step down to Terror' [1958]
Source: DVD

This B-movie remake of 'Shadow of a Doubt' whittles the story down to a slim 76 minutes, hitting most of the major plot points. Uncle Charlie becomes Brother-in-law Johnny (played by Adam West lookalike Charles Drake), returning to his hometown to visit his mother and his widowed sister-in-law, Helen. The initialed ring, the tearing of the news story from the paper, the late night visit to the library, the sabotaged step - all these are present. Charlie/Johnny's rant is thrown away here and is not nearly so effective, and the climax on the train is missing (possibly too expensive to shoot). Rod Taylor, later to be seen in Hitchcock's 'The Birds', is well cast as the detective on Johnny's trail. As B-movies go, it's fine, but not really worth the trouble it took to seek out.

I watched a DVD I bought cheaply off eBay, which had obviously been copied off the TV and burned to disc. Quality is as you would expect.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page or on Facebook or Twitter
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Lifeboat (1944)

A great little gem, and not the usual Hitchcock thriller. I haven't seen Rope, but to my knowledge this is a similar setting - in that the entire film features several characters confined to one location.


During WW2, several people are stuck on a life raft after having thier ship blown up by the Germans, one of which ends up as a prisoner of war aboard thier boat. Contrasting characters and opinions clash when deciding what to do with him and whether or not he can be trusted. Tension ensues. 

It took me a while to settle into this one. It's a slow burn, but when the tension built it remained and kept me hooked. The turning point for me was the amputation scene, in which the crew trust thier German prisoner to cut off the leg of thier sick peer. The shoe from his missing leg then becomes an interesting visual tool throughout the film -  crude juxtaposition, for example, during the feet flirting of two characters. The laces are also used to collect and drink salt water, leading to the amputated man's dehydration, disorientation and - with (literally) a little nudge - subsequent murder. Finally, the man who gives this final "nudge" is beaten to death with the very same shoe. 

Although the film ultimately wraps up in a fairly convenient, "happy" way and includes the usual romantic element, I was quite suprised at how dark/heavy parts of it were and what it managed to get away with. Interestingly, the criticism that bombarded the film when it came out was chiefly aimed at the character of the German and how he was supposedly portrayed in a positive light. The film was made during the war, so naturally the subject was sensitive, but considering that the German is found to be the enemy, is hated by characters throughout, commits lies and murder and in response is violently beaten to death at the end, I find this accusation surprising. Sure, he perhaps comes across as sympathetic at the start, but by the end you feel almost as much hatred for him as the rest of the characters. 

Following this criticism, John Steinbeck also declared that he wished not to be associated with the film, it being based on an unpublished novella of his, which he wrote purely for the sake of adapting to the screen. Unlike Greenes "The Third Man", which was similarly written specifically for screen adaptation, Steinbecks "Lifeboat" remains unpublished, making it hard to determine just how much the film differs from the source material. 

I watched the "Masters of Cinema" blu-ray. Picture was good, but fairly grainy, with occasional dirt - a bit underwhelming compared to the last two I watched, which were from the Masterpiece collection. 

Audio was a little muffled at points, but clear for the most part. I did feel the need to switch on subtitles occasionally.
"I live in the Tower of Flints. I am the death-owl."

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