Week 23 brings me to Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film and what a film Rebecca is, I would also like to apologise for the poor screen shots the week. I did not have a copy of the film on my computer to screenshot from as I watched the film with a friend. Google alas did not have images to portray what I wrote about but hey-ho thats how the world is.
The story follows a naïve young girl (Joan Fontaine) who becomes embroiled in a romance with a rich and mysterious Max De Winter, a widower (Laurence Olivier). They soon become married and move to his vast and haunting mansion, once here the girl finds life hard as she attempts to escape from the shadows of her new husbands deceased wife Rebecca. This leads to several twists and turns and some very creepy scenes.
From the outset you can see how the effects of Hollywood and having a larger budget have improved the quality of this film. The music, the sets and of-course the fact that a star such as Laurence Olivier is acting are all signs that from the outset got me excited to watch this film and they help create a film which is incredibly creepy.
The opening sequence, a creepy dream sequence in which the camera floats towards the mansion sets the tone for the entire film and a haunting story full of fantastic twist and turns such as a scene half-way through in which it is discovered that everything is not what it seemed leading for the narrative to completely shift in a different direction.
The character of the head maid Mrs Dancers (played by the incredible Judith Anderson) goes down as one of the creepiest characters in film history. She was shot to appear this way using camera tricks to make her glide almost ghost-like. Every time she spoke I had shivers in my spine and her tales of Rebecca are haunting.
The tension created in the film is also incredible particularly the sense that Rebecca is still there as a ghostly form. This is done I several ways firstly the heavy bombardment of the letter R within the set design. Everywhere around the mansion are little insignia’s which do not allow us as an audience of the characters to forget about Rebecca. There is also an incredible sequence in which Max tells a story about Rebecca whilst standing in the room where it happened. As he speaks the audience sees shots of what he is set up as if Rebecca where there, however we actually just see an empty space; this effect is very creepy and adds a real ghost-like tension to the movie.
The main fault with this film is that the ending comes out of nowhere and is a completely unexpected twist and not the good sort. It just felt a bit like a rip-off compared the brilliance of the rest of the film.
Hitchcock now makes a cameo in every film for the rest of the challenge! Which is cool. In Rebecca the cameo is very brief as his intended cameo could not be done without ruining the integrity of the scene. His cameo comes in the form of quick walk past in the background whilst a character makes a phone call.
This film is incredible and easy to see why it is considered amongst his best work. Amazing. 5 Hitch’s.
Jamaica Inn brings me Hitchcock’s last British film, which is a real shame as many of them have been thoroughly enjoyable, however what it does mean is that in the coming weeks I am able to watch some of his more famous features including next weeks Rebecca.
A young girl (Maureen O’Hara) whose parents have recently died travels to Cornwall to stay with her aunt who lives at the haunting place that is ‘Jamaica Inn’. Soon after arriving she discovers that her uncle Joss is the head of a gang of ‘wreckers’ who trick ships into crashing on the dangerous rocks and then steal the cargo. As things really start to get dark the character of Sir Humphrey (the delightful Charles Laughton) enters and the plot twists and turns in several directions before reaching a rather dramatic climax.
The film is ok, however compared to some of the other films seen in this challenge not spectacular. Throughout the film good tension is creating through all the characters particularly towards the end as the audience knows every characters agenda but the characters have not yet discovered who is lying and who isn’t.
There is only one moment in the film that stands out as typical Hitchcock (this is perhaps because of the infamous disagreements he had with Charles Laughton during production) and that is a moment of voyeurism as the girl hides in the roof and looks down on the gang of wreckers through a hole in the floor.
The cast is also wonderful with Charles Laughton being the stand out performer. For all the issues that occurred during production between him and Hitchcock the quality of his performance is something that makes it obvious why this actor had a future of Hollywood stardom ahead of him.
The film although not great is not terrible. There is a lot of talking and the ending seems to come from nowhere with no real build up, but otherwise the film is just average.
Probably due to the problems he had with production of this film, Hitchcock did not make a cameo.
Jamaica Inn is not Hitchcock’s best work but it is far from his worst also. I am truly looking forward to seeing his Hollywood films in the coming weeks. 3 Hitch’s.
The Lady Vanishes is a very interesting Hitchcock film, it is essentially the same storyline as the 2005 Jodie Foster vehicle Flightplan with the only change being that it is not a young girl but an old lady who vanishes and Hitchcock’s original is set on a train.
Trapped at a hotel overnight in Europe after an avalanche, the next train to leave is packed full of all kinds of characters. Young Iris (Magaret Lockwood) is one of these people who is on her way to get married. Aboard the train she befriends a kindly old lady, Mrs Froy (Dame May Whitty), however after a brief nap Iris can no longer find her friend and no-one believes that the lady even existed. Iris hence sets out to prove her sanity and find Mrs Froy who is surely in mortal danger.
As soon as the train journey begins the film is incredible. The claustrophobic atmosphere Hitchcock creates with the camera alongside all the variety of characters aboard the train create a truly thrilling experience with twists and turns galore as the audience is forced to wander why so many people are denying the existence of Mrs Froy.
A stand out Hitchcockian moment comes when Iris is almost convinced she is wrong and that she did in fact imagine Mrs Froy. She looks around her carriage and sees Mrs Froy’s face captured on other passengers in what is a very cool effect.
There are moments of comedy as well that are neat genius for example two gentleman who are rushing back to England for the cricket attempting to find out the score, or the over-worked hotel manager who is very Basil Fawlty-esque.
The films story is also highly original with very few films following this sort of tense line other thanthe aforementioned Flightplan.
The first half-hour of the film in which all the characters stay overnight at a hotel all felt a bit pointless and as if it was only there to fill out the time. I see that it was there to give time to establish each character however the fact that the scenes go nowhere other than to the train journey left me feeling disappointed; although once the journey began I was so enthralled it was simple to forget this happened.
Hitchcock makes a cameo right at the end of the film where he walks past the camera smoking a very big cigar.
The Lady Vanishes is a brilliant film which I think may stand out at the end of this challenge as being one of the best films Hitchcock made so therefore I must hand it 5 Hitch’s.
Young & Innocent is a Hitchcock film which I found very similar to Secret Agent the film he made two weeks earlier. The film is very typical of Hitchcock in style and narrative but is ultimately forgetabble due to lack of real charm and stand out moments.
The story is perhaps the most typical of any Hitchcock film. A woman is found murdered on a beach and our protagonist (Derrik De Marney) finds himself framed for the murder and thus is forced to go on the run in an attempt to clear his name. Upon the way he receives help from the chief superintendents daughter (Nova Pilbeam) and as you would expect romance blossoms.
This film is one I would definitely not describe as bad however when it comes to finding stand out Good moments they are hard to think of. The film has good tension carried throughout however a lack of depth in the characters made them unrelatable and annoying. There is a scene at a party where the protagonist is almost caught that is probably the best example of tension.
At the climax of the film there is a scene is that is spectaculalrly well filmed with an astounding tracking shot that shows us a party before revealing who the murderer really is however the effect of such a shot is lost simply because the reveal is not a shock.
The film has several very Hitchcockian moments the first obviously being the story as aforementioned; the story of the accused man setting out to clear his name is one which has already appeared several times in this challenge (most onviously in The 39 Steps) and I know already it is to appear several more times in his career (North by Northwest). Also the way in which the film starts with a murder is something which Hitchcock did often from as early on as The Lodger it is a way of building tension that was fundamental to Hitch’s career.
As discussed the film is not bad just forgettable, nothing of note happens for long periods and when it does I know longer cared. The ending of the film was highly disappointing from a story point of view, I was expecting a great twist to reveal who the murderer was however there was no such change; it all just felt very standard.
Hitchcock makes a cameo in this film as a man who stands outside the courthouse. In the cameo he is pushed around by several people and reacts in a rather amusing manner.
Young & Innocent is an ok film as discussed however as it contains nothing of real note I am forced to give it 3 Hitch’s.
Sabotage is a film whose title is obviously intriguing and gives a good hint at what the film is about.
The film starts with the dictionary definition of ‘Sabotage’, hinting clearly at what the film is about. It then cuts to shots of London and the lights turning off due to a powercut. We soon find out that the powercut was caused by sabotage and that Mr. Verloc (Oskar Homolka) was the saboteur. He thus returns to this cinema which he owns with his wife (Sylvia Sydney) and feigns ignorance claiming to have been napping. We then discover that the friendly grocer next door Ted (John Loder) is in fact not a grocer but an undercover policeman investigating the Verlocs. Ted soon falls for Mrs. Verloc – who is unsuspicious of either mans lies. The narrative takes off as Mr. Verloc is given a bomb but knowing Ted is watching him cannot leave the house to plant it, leading to one of the most shocking scenes and endings of any film I have scene and a scene which will be hard to beat in terms of visual storytelling or shock factor.
The start of the film with the powercut was extremely interesting and instantly got me asking questions and intrigued by the story, done primarily with the use of sound (angry groans, yelling, car horns) the opening sequence is a nicely crafted piece of cinema.
The last half hour of the film is fantastic cinema near perfect in several ways. The scene on the bus is a perfect example of Hitchcock’s visual storytelling at its best with cross-fades between the time and the bus and the little boy really building tension and is a must see for any true Hitchcock fan.
Most of the Hitchcockian moments in the film come in terms of narrative and themes rather than visual style. There is the obvious themes of death and the audience knowing things before the characters which are as usual exploited to build tension and create a real sense of danger throughout the film.
The pacing of the film is off; the middle of the film is essentially filler with nothing of note really happening, just seemingly pointless dialogue.
There is also no real protagonist for the audience to back in this film as both the male characters do nothing worthy of likeness and Mrs Verloc just comes across as bland.
Hitchcock does not make a cameo in this film!
Sabotage is a film that is very good at the start, incredible at the end but very dire in the midst (which considering its length is only 75 mins is a real shame). However I found the ending so astounding and memorable that I this film must have 4 Hitchs.