Archive for August, 2012


Firstly I should apologise for posting this a day early, however I go on holiday tomorrow so thought it’s better to be early than a week late. Week 14 of the challenge brings me to Number Seventeen a thrilling murder mystery (kind of).

WHAT HAPPENED?

The narrative in essence is simple enough. A man discovers a house (number seventeen) and upon finding the door open begins to explore. Upstairs he finds a dead body on the landing; then things kick off as a series of people turn up (including gangsters, tramps and pretty girls) leading to plot full of twists and turns that run into a climatic sequence on a train.

 

The tension in the film is generally quite good without being particularly special. Some bits are very good for instance at the start when the body is discovered and the train sequence at the end is truly thrilling. Shadows and candlelight play big roles in this tension as the audience cannot really see fully what is going on with the darkneImagess and are drawn into the scenes.

 

The twists and turns in the plot are generally interesting as the audience doesn’t know who any of the characters are and thus cannot tell who is the hero and who is the villain. This works well at points however also hinders the film as there is no one to root for. The final twist however is simply wonderful and makes the entire film worth watching.

The film has a few Hitchcockian features but the most prominent is the use of a spiral staircase. Spiral staircases are obviously a common feature of Hitchcock films later on such as Vertigo however this is the first real use of one as part of the narrative and a cool feature to be introduced.

 

THE BAD

The main problem with this film is the lack of a real protagonist, with a running time of just other an hour and seven characters to be introduced there is little time for characterisation meaning there is no-one within the film with whom the audience relates meaning at times interest is lost and the tension does suffer slightly.

Once scene in the film is quite frankly terrible. That scene is a fight between three of the characters. The fight is ridisculously choreographed with basically just grappling and then someone getting hit by a spoon (yes a spoon). It is simply awful.

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CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock does not make a cameo in this film L

FINAL THOUGHTS

Number Seventeen is a film that is fairly interesting at points but suffers from a lack of characters. It generally feels like a bad version of Hitch’s later film The Trouble With Harry which is a shame.

3 Hitchs.

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The number 13 may be unlucky to some but it definitely isn’t to Hitchcock. His thirteenth film Rich and Strange is a film that is summed up by its title, rich in character and style; strange in sense of story.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The film begins with Fred (Henry Kendall) and Emily (Joan Barry) are a married couple who although in love have ambitions to travel which cannot be afforded as their dead end jobs barely give them enough to survive. However when Fred is given some money by his uncle (very similar to the way the lead gets money in Downhill i.e overly convenient) they set out to travel the world; namely towards the Far East.

So they travel, however upon a cruise ship in the Far East they each find that they have fallen in love with someone else, Fred with a beautiful Princess and Emily with the suave Commander Gordon. This leads to obvious tension as they both have affairs as well as lots of twists and turns, ending with a last 15 minutes that are impossible to describe with any other word than ridiculous.

THE GOOD

The film is very well put together with moments of great physical comedy splattered throughout making the film a true joy to watch. There are moments where Hitchcock shows how ahead of the time he was such as jump cuts of the couple happy faces as they explore Paris; this was obviously done for budgetary reasons as to shoot in Paris was probably too expensive but it works brilliantly and is a technique many directors use in modern film.

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The best moments are the pure Hitchcockian moments in the film. The voyeurism on show when Fred and the Princess begin their affair is astounding in terms of how uncomfortable the viewer gets (yet still doesn’t want to look away). The scene is really done well with the shots of the Princess’s feet being the key.

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One shot in the film is truly wonderful it is a shot of a mirror as the Princess does her make-up. Emily enters behind and we see each of their reactions perfectly; making some great tension because we also know that Fred is in the room out of Emily’s sight.

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THE BAD

The film is generally quite good. There are a few flaws namely the character of the old maid a gossipy woman who interacts with the characters on several occasions but has no real point other than to create comedy – which she doesn’t because she’s not funny.

 

Also the last 15 minutes of the film literally come from nowhere and are so unexpected that I cannot decide whether that is a good or bad thing. They are completely in contrast to the rest of the film and it was just so odd that I struggle to describe without giving spoilers; I will say this though – pirates are involved?

Crazy right?

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock does not make a cameo in the film.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I thought this film was one of the best I have seen yet; although it does not get the critical acclaim as some of the films before it (probably because its not the out and out thriller people expect from Hitchcock) I believe it to be one of the best so far; there is lots of tension built up between the characters and the pacing is near perfect.

4 Hitchs.

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The Skin Game marks Hitchcock’s 12th film meaning I have now been doing this challenge for 3 months. Which seems kind of weird at the moment because the time has passed really quickly.  But anyway on with the review…. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

The story of The Skin Game is really quite simple it is a story of upper class warfare between two gentleman both from opposite backgrounds fighting for their own beliefs. The first of the gentleman is Mr. Hornblower (Edmund Gwenn) he is a man who has earned his riches in the factory business and intends of turning the nice country village in which the film is set into a modern factory town. This is something which Mr Hillcrest (C.V France) greatly protests against as his family have lived in the town for generations and he is perfectly happy with the way things are. Thus ‘the Skin Game’ begins as they both vie to buy the local land and halt the others wishes. The tactics of the game steadily lose their decency and when Mr. Hillcrest uncovers some slanderous facts about Hornblower’s daughter-in-law a shocking ending is once in store. 

THE GOOD

The tension built up throughout the film is good with all the performances pretty much spot on. It is far from special but shows Hitchcock has come a long way and can do a competent job of making what could be an uninteresting story into a thrilling tale.

There is a Hitchcockian moment right near the start when Mr. Hillcrest looks out the window. Through his minds eye we see the pretty country lane outside his house transform into a mess of ugly factories. This is pure Hitchcock voyeurism and shows how he has learnt when to use such techniques (in earlier films the voyeuristic moments are often random see The Pleasure Garden).

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One scene that really stood out for me was an auction scene where both men bid for a plot of land. The way in which this scene was shot truly astounded me as it seemed way ahead of the time. As the auctioneer looks around the crowd searching for bidders the camera follows moving quickly over everyone before sudden whip-pans across to whomever bids. I’m not sure if this is the earliest example of such whip-pans but I’m certain it must be one of the first uses of a shot that would not gain true popularity until at least the 70’s. The entire sequence is just incredibly well put together.

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THE BAD

The bad sides of this film are that I had trouble deciphering between Hillcrest’s daughter and Hornblower daughter-in-law as they are both similarly aged brunettes; this made parts of the film very confusing over what was happening particularly at the start of new scenes.

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I also noted that the framing on nearly every shot was cut-off at the top. Meaning actors only had half a head at some points, although I know this must down to the digital conversion and age of the film (not Hitchcock’s filmmaking) it was just rather distracting and ruined my enjoyment.

The pacing of this film although much better than say Juno & The Paycock was still slightly off with a lot of talking and very little action. However scenes like the aforementioned auction scene where told using a brilliant combination of visual storytelling and sound.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Once more Hitchcock does not make a cameo in the film – If I had realised that he didn’t start making cameos properly until his Hollywood films I wouldn’t have put this section in. But oh well.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Skin Game is a very interesting and well put together film, far from a masterpiece it is a film that is thoroughly enjoyable. 3 Hitchs. 

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Murder! is the 11th film Hitchcock directed and as with pretty much every film so far in this challenge it is one I knew next to nothing about.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The film begins very Hitchcockianly with a murder. A woman (Norah Baring) is arrested for the murder and subsequently sent to trial. After being pressured by fellow jury members into finding her guilty one of the jurors on the case Sir John Menier (Herbert Marshall) find he is suffering ‘reasonably doubt’ over whether she actually commited the murder and thus sets out to investigate what really happened himself. 

THE GOOD

The opening of the film is fantastic and very Hitchcockian. A woman is murdered and whilst she screams we see shots of people leaning out of their windows in the nightclothes wandering what’s going on. There is then a fantastic shot which slowly reveals a woman sitting in shock before panning to a bloody poker and ultimately a dead body. The entire sequence is beautifully crafted and is definitely Hitchcock at his best.

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The narrative of the film allows some good tension to be created throughout particularly in the jury room and towards the end of the movie. Particularly as Sir John confronts someone in an angry manner.

The ending of the film is truly shocking and totally unexpected especially from a film made in 1930, however I will not give any spoilers here as you should enjoy it for yourself.

THE BAD

The dialogue in this film is poorly written throughout. The Jury room scene was very much like the class 12 Angry Men at points which each Juror discussing why the thought she was/wasn’t guilty and examining all the pieces of evidence; however the dialogue was not as snappy as that of Sidney Lumet’s classic film and seemed to lack purpose and was actually rather disappointing.

There was also the same issue that appeared in last weeks film Juno & the Paycock and that is that it was far too Talkie, there was not enough visual storytelling involved meaning it involved a lot of concentration to listen and understand exactly what was happening; this also through the pacing off making the middle part of the film tedious and slow.

Another issue was the sound-mixing in the film, which is some of the worst I have heard. There where times when diegetic sounds i.e a record playing, where far too loud making it hard to hear whatever the characters where discussing on top, this was thoroughly annoying and involved me rewinding a few scenes to re-listen. I understand that these issues where probably fairly common at the time and it was nice to see it trialled however the technology was not quite prepared.

A final fault comes in the narrative where there a few plot loopholes that where far too convenient; for example a woman’s excuse over why she didn’t hear something (don’t want to give spoilers) is ‘I had my fingers in my ears’, which to be frank is a ridiculous excuse.

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YES! Hitchcock makes a cameo in this film as some guy walking past the characters. Awesome!

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Murder! is very good film at points particularly the start and the end however a lack of visual storytelling throws the pacing off completely over the middle passage and the film is therefore given three Hitch’s.

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Juno & The Paycock is Hitchcock’s second talkie. It is adapted from a famous Irish play and from the outset it is obvious that very little has been changed.

 

WHAT HAPPENED?
The film is set in Ireland during the revolution and explores the hardship of a woman, Juno, who must look after her two adult children and her lazy husband who refuses to work. By good fortune the family come into some money after a rich relative dies and with these new riches forget their values and friends.

 

THE GOOD

To be perfectly honest there is very little good about this film. It being by far the worst films I have had to watch so far in this challenge (a real shame since the film two weeks ago Blackmail was astoundingly good). 

There is a touching moment as the family sings and a few of the jokes near the start of the film work for example the guy hiding on the balcony and getting wet. But it never goes close to hilarious and is generally just tiresome.

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THE BAD

Much of the film is bad, both in content and style.

 

Firstly the performances are way too over-the-top; however this could be down to the fact that they are performing with sound for the first time and are silent film actors whose style hasn’t yet adapted for the new format.

 

The film is supposed to be funny… I think, however most of the ‘jokes’ fall flat as the characters are uninteresting and there is way too much dialogue to follow. The film has very little of Hitchcock’s famous ‘Visual storytelling’ and really suffers as such in keeping an audience intrigued all the way through. When the money is inherited I almost cheered as something has actually happened, I was then interested to see the story pick up, some tension to be created and enjoyment made. However it was not to be the film continued in the same pattern, a few songs where sung; and the son was killed.

 

In terms of the contextual content of the film I do not think I can commen as I know next to nothing about the Irish Revolution and it would be innapporpiate and rude for me to say anything without knowing my facts. What I can say however is technically Hitchcock does not to a good job to build any sort of tension; I would even go so far as to say the film just felt lazy.

 

CAMEO O’CLOCK
Hithcock does not make a cameo in this film.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The film is dire and boring. I therefore award it 1 Hitch.

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