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My Year with Hitch
BONUS: 'Rear Window' [1998]
Source: DVD

This TV-movie remake could be dismissed as merely a vanity project for Christopher Reeve, the star and the executive producer. Certainly, the story revolves as much around Reeve's accident (car in the film, not horse-riding as in real life) and his rehabilitation as it does the actual familiar plot - that of a murder seemingly witnessed by an invalid. But considering Reeve's circumstances, "vanity project" seems harsh. Undoubtedly, he felt compelled to document his recovery and perseverance, and shine a light on disability at the same time, and I felt it worked better than other reviewers I've since read. For a film that focuses on voyeurism, watching the paralyzed Reeve struggle for breath when an oxygen tube come loose, seeing a montage of his physical therapy, his steely-eyed monologues predicting his ability to walk again in the future - these were truly voyeuristic. (My wife, feeling so uncomfortable, baled out after about 10 minutes.) The film lingers over photos of the earlier, able-bodied Reeve; he sarcastically remarks about how people still offer him handshakes; he casually belittles his sex life - windows into his own life, no doubt. Yes, it overshadows the rest of the film, and it is impossible to separate Reeve the actor from Reeve the character here, but that was probably always going to be the case.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film is mediocre. Reeve's Jason Kemp is much creepier in his voyeurism, watching the undressing and sexual foreplay of attractive women from his window, even eliciting shared waves via proxy (his male nurse). His techno-gadgets - remote-controlled video cameras with zoom lenses - are installed without regard to the legality of his new hobby. But still, his neighbors, on the whole, are less interesting than James Stewart's Jeff and offer nothing to the film.

The film suffers from too many endings, none of them particularly satisfying. The only obvious nod to the original film I noticed was the lighting of a cigarette in a darkened room viewed from the opposite apartment. Otherwise, apart from the large shadow Reeve's real life traumas casts over it, this was an average TV movie.
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(09-26-2018, 02:53 PM)TM2YC Wrote:

BONUS: 'Rear Window' by Mr. Dibley [1954, released 1970]
Source: YouTube [streaming]

An faithful take on Hitch's original, especially in the use of the single POV. However, I felt it dragged a little in the middle.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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BONUS: 'Disturbia' [2007]
Source: Amazon Video [streaming]

Not a rip-off of Hitchcock's film, nor the short story it was based on (a successful lawsuit proved it), so let's just say that 'Disturbia' shares some DNA with 'Rear Window'. (An aside: I'm reminded of a quote from 'City Slickers II' - "I can't believe you two are from the same gene pool" / "He's from the shallow end")

Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is under house arrest for punching his teacher - not for pointing out that he shares his name with a leaf cabbage, but for snidely referencing his recently deceased father. As three months of forced isolation begins to weigh heavily upon him, he takes to spying on his neighbors - the obligatory cute-girl-next-door (and new-to-the-neighborhood, no less) Ashley (Sarah Roemer) and the shy yet suspicious Robert Turner (David Morse). One of these he lusts over and the other he suspects to be a serial killer. What a twist it would have been if the film-makers had switched these characters around! But, no, it is as you would expect, and the ending is as neat and tidy as Kale's bedroom isn't.

Sarcasm aside, I quite enjoyed this film. I was about half-way through when I thought 'I've seen this film before'. Not in the 'It's Rear Window again' way, but that I actually did see this when it first came out, I think. LaBeouf is convincing in this role, which admittedly was like every other role he was taking at the time, but it was before he started to take himself too seriously/have mental health problems. David Morse was the most effective of the villains in all three of the 'Rear Window'-esque films, portraying a creepiness more in line with this teen-horror-thriller. The ending is stretched too long, ramping up the horror element to unbelievable proportions, but again befits this genre. There is nothing greatly original nor special about 'Disturbia' but it entertained me enough at the time. As it was definitely not a 'Rear Window' remake, I didn't notice any Hitchcock references (nor would I expect there to be. Please don't sue me.)
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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Week 40: 'To catch a thief' [1954]
Source: Blu-ray

This is arguably Hitch's most sumptuous-looking film to date, but in terms of plot and suspense 'To catch a thief' is Hitchcock-lite.

A string of jewel robberies plagues the beautifully-shot French Riviera. All eyes turn towards ex-cat burglar John Robie (Cary Grant), who decides to apprehend the real thief and clear his name. Caught up in his plan is Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly), daughter of a rich, jewel-bedecked widow. Shenanigans ensue.

Pair Grant with Kelly in the lush beauty of the 1950's French Riviera and you are bound to get something special. Certainly the film looks wonderful, a postcard brought to life, and a great advertisement for French tourism at the time, no doubt. But coming so quickly after 'Dial M for Murder' and especially 'Rear Window', I was expecting something more when Hitchcock is thrown into the mix. As it is, the story is secondary to the glamour of its stars and locale. Yes, there is a man wrongly accused, reluctantly coupled with a beautiful woman - a scenario close to Hitch's heart - but it plays as a whodunnit minus any real stakes or suspense. Grant seems to be enjoying himself, and it's contagious, while Edith Head provides Kelly with some of her most striking get-ups. John Williams returns (formerly of 'Dial M for Murder') as the nervous and fussy insurance man, and Jessie Royce Landis is splendid comic relief as Kelly's mother.

There are some nice touches to go along with the gorgeous landscape. After the titles (artfully superimposed onto a travel agent's window in subtle perspective) we see the close-up of a woman screaming - a great Hitchcock motif. However, the scream is for her stolen jewels rather than a murder as you might expect from this director. Shots eluding to the cat burglar by showing an actual cat padding over roof tiles could be seen as heavy-handed, but I liked it. (Night shots had a definite green tint on my screen - unusual but effective.) I think I'm right in stating that this was the first Hitchcock film (that I've noticed, anyway - correct me if I'm wrong) that employed aerial photography. Again, it showed off the South of France to great advantage and added something to an early car chase. At one point, Kelly slips into shadow, her face obscured but her diamond necklace in full, gleaming focus.

Ultimately, despite the beauty on display, this film failed to win me over. I actually nodded off around the funeral scene and had to rewind about 5 minutes to catch up.  It reminded of a later, and better, film starring Grant - 'Charade' - which I will return to more frequently than this one if I need a mix of Grant, charm and Sunday afternoon whimsy.

If I cannot truly recommend the film, at least I can recommend the blu-ray, which looks gorgeous. Colours are bright in that 1950s slightly artificial way, but it works here. The stereo sound mix also impresses (as a non audiophile purist, I opted for faux surround sound through my receiver and enjoyed the hell out of it).
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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Week 41: 'The Trouble with Harry' [1955]
Source: Blu-ray

I hit the pause button for the fourth time and inwardly groaned; there was still another 15 minutes to go.

I did not like this film. I did not find it funny. I thought it was dull and self-indulgent. It was, however, beautifully shot.

The 'trouble' with Harry is what to do with him now that he is dead. Several characters believe they had a hand in his demise, but as no one truly cares about the recently deceased, it is better to just bury him and have done with it. Then dig him up again. Then bury him again. Rinse and repeat until you hit the pause button again to see how much longer this farce will continue.

And it is a farce, in that it takes a simple premise and stretches it to ridiculous lengths. It's just that it Isn't Very Funny. The humour, such as it is, is wrought from the casual manner in which a dead body is perceived and handled. But that joke can't be sustained over 99 minutes, no matter who's directing. Hitch no doubt loved the dark humour he could bring to the material, but it appears he was pleasing himself rather than an audience, who largely stayed away in the US.

The acting is fine (Shirley MacLaine's first film role, and Edmund Gwenn's fourth appearance in a Hitchcock film) except for Dwight Marfield as the doctor, who is terrible. There is one notable shot, that of the little boy standing over the corpse, filmed from below with the dead man's feet in close-up. And New England looks absolutely stunning here, with autumn colors in vivid VistaVision.

It is perhaps no coincidence that this film premiered only a few days before 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' on TV, as it seems like an extended episode, only with better production values and in colour. I feel sorry that I treated 'To catch a Thief' so harshly last week, as I would much rather re-watch that than sit through 'The Trouble with Harry' ever again.

This film is part of the 'Masterpiece Collection' on blu-ray, and so if you have that boxset (and you should) then you may as well view it and get it out the way. The picture is stunning, even better than 'To catch a Thief', but truly it's the only recommendation I have for the film.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Revenge' [1955]
Source: Hulu [streaming]

This was the first episode of Hitch's TV career, and one which he directed himself. It's a strange one to kick off with, as the story isn't very interesting although the twist (albeit a tad obvious) must have been thrilling at the time. It also pairs Hitchcock with Vera Miles for the first time, who is lovely throughout, even during her zombie-like performance in the latter half of the episode. A murder is filmed off-screen, as must have been dictated by TV censors, but still has the Hitchcock touch; it is shot through an open door, reflected in a mirror. Hitchcock provides an introduction and prologue to the camera, as would become famous, and it is interesting to see how comfortable he already was in front of as well as behind the camera.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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[font=Raleway, sans-serif]BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Breakdown' [1955][/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Source: Hulu [streaming][/font]

[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Hitchcock directs his 2nd TV episode, starring Joseph Cotten. Hitchcock quickly establishes that our leading man is not a nice guy, casually firing a long-standing employee via telephone and mocking him for crying about it. Comeuppance is not long in coming as Cotten is immediately paralyzed in a car accident. This leads to some interesting scenes, as Cotten is completely immobile for the rest of the episode - so much so that everyone assumes him to be dead. We hear Cotten's thoughts, becoming more desperate as he realises that no one is attempting to rescue him. Hitchcock shoots the pseudo-corpse from various angles - below, through smashed glass, a close-up of the lower half of his face, etc - as well as some shots from Cotten's POV. It's effective, mostly, and adds to the claustrophobic feeling. The ending ties into his earlier callousness - neatly, if not realistically - but the whole episode is an exercise in suspension of disbelief (no one checks if he's actually dead..?).[/font]
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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[font=Raleway, sans-serif]BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Case of Mr. Pelham' [1955][/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Source: Hulu [streaming][/font]

[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Tom Ewell (best known for 'The Seven Year Itch') is directed by Hitchcock here about a man who believes someone is impersonating him. The story is engaging enough, and Hitchcock keeps the direction simple, only adding some trick photography at the end. It feels the most dated - 30-something Ewell has a 'servant', which is necessary for the plot. Hitch probably liked the man-wrongly-accused type angle, but this was probably something he tossed off after a long lunch one afternoon.[/font]
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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Week 42: 'The Man who knew too much' [1956]
Source: Blu-ray

I went back to re-read my review of the original version of this film, and it seems I wasn't that impressed. Unfortunately, my opinion is about the same for the remake.

The set-up is the same - here we have James Stewart, Doris Day and their son on holiday in Morocco, witnessing the death of a virtual stranger who imparts mysterious last words to a bemused Stewart regarding an impending assassination. Complications ensue when their son is kidnapped, compelling them to fly to London to save him and the intended victim.

There is certainly stuff here to like. Stewart is amiable as the doctor caught up in international espionage, and the early scenes in Morocco are beautiful to look at. (The film takes on almost a travelogue sense for a while, especially during the restaurant scene which looks improvised in places.) Oddly for me, I noticed more sound tricks than visual flourishes. Hitchcock builds the suspense in the airport interrogation with noises from planes taking off/landing, and the later concert scene is dialogue-free for long stretches. Stewart flicking the edges of a phone book nervously remains with me vividly, though unfortunately not much else about this film does. Doris Day seemed miscast - fine for the singing parts (which I personally could have done without, though it did provide a plot point, I suppose) but dramatically I found her weak.

The scene at the taxidermist's office was supposed to provide comic relief in an otherwise sombre film, I assume, but it left me cold. Blame a slight sickness, tiredness and/or the film itself, but I nodded off twice towards the end and admit that I didn't bother rewinding the bits I missed the second time.

I saw the blu-ray from the 'Masterpiece Collection' and it looked good, overall - too good in places, as the back projection stood out too noticeably in early scenes. I noticed more specks and signs of age as the film progressed, but nothing too distracting.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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[font=Raleway, sans-serif]BONUS: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Back for Christmas' [1956][/font]
[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Source: Hulu [streaming][/font]

[font=Raleway, sans-serif]Hitchcock directs John Williams again in a neat little episode about murder. Williams is planning to kill his wife and bury her in the basement prior to a pre-Christmas holiday in the States. With his usual brevity, Hitchcock shows us the hole being buried, the murder weapon and Williams visually sizing up his wife in comparison with her would-be grave within the first few minutes. He then lets us wallow in suspense for the act to occur, whilst his wife busies herself with final preparations and friends are gathered for the bon voyage. Hitchcock uses the cross-talk chatter of the friends to heighten Williams malaise with his life, in one of a series of nice touches. The twist is fairly easy to deduce but still fun nonetheless. One of the best of his directed episodes so far.[/font]
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