Archive for November, 2012


Week 27 brings me to Saboteur, this was interestingly the first Hitchcock film I saw, several years ago when it was shown on TV. At the time I had little knowledge of film but obviously knew the name Hitchcock. The film I remembered as being rather good, tense with a cool ending and this is generally how the film came across on my second viewing. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is a worker at a Aircraft factory which is sabotaged, killing his best friend. Barry finds himself framed for the murder and sets on a cross-country journey – with the help of a pretty lady (Priscilla Lane) – in order to clear his name and find the real saboteur.

THE GOOD
The film follows a typical Hitchcock storyline of a man on the run attempting to prove his innocence, however this is the first time in which Hitchcock was given a large budget to do this narrative meaning certain aspects could be made fantastically.

Firstly all of the explosions and fire look incredibly realistic which is brilliant and there is a sequence near the start where smoke moves across the screen which looks simply fantastic.

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The film is full of tension throughout as the plot twists and turns and we wander who the saboteur is and if Barry will find him. There are several scenes extremely similar to ones in The 39 Steps, however considering the narrative is in essence the same this is no real surprise.

In terms of true Hitchcockian moments it will be hard to find a film in this challenge that shows his style more so than this one. Every feature which people think of or look for in a Hitchcock film appears. As discussed the plot-line is the one for which he is most famous. There are lots of POV shots (Barry looking through a telescope), murders, tension and the climax takes place on top of the Statue of Liberty, a famous landmark and high place, and that’s without mentioning the spiral staircase characters use to climb the statue.

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THE BAD
There is very little wrong with this film in terms of a Hitchcock film, however in terms of actual filmmaking the plot seems a little weak. The idea that the entire plot is kickstarted because a guy drops some letters seems a little far-fetched and set-up to a modern film watcher like me, however the justification works.

There are also a few scenes in which nothing really happens and characters we don’t know or care for talk for a while. These scenes took some real concentration to get through, however they were generally followed by a great action sequence of tense moments making it no long before they where forgotten

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a cameo standing in front a Drugs Store about an hour into the film.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Sabotage, as discussed is a interesting Hitchcock film and a true example of his genius at work. It is therefore difficult not to award the film 5 Hitch’s.  

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When I watched Suspicion this week I did not feel overly impressed however the film has stayed in my mind for some time which makes me think their may have been more that I enjoyed than I first thought.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Mr. Asgarth (Cary Grant) meets a young lady Lina (Joan Fontaine) by chance on a train. They fall in love and marry, however when Lina discovers that her new husband is a gambling addict in serious debt she becomes suspicious as to the things he will do in order to pay back the money he owes.

THE GOOD

As I said earlier when I watched the film I was not overly impressed but as it has played on my mind I have started to think of some small things that make this feel really quite good. The film is incredibly slow building with nothing vaguely ‘Suspicion’ appearing until at least half-way through, however once Lina’s suspicion is aroused the film appears relentless dropping the audience with clue after clue as we Lina doubts herself and fears for her life. The tension towards the climax of the film is insane with Cary Grant performing the role of ‘nice but threatening’ guy perfectly.

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In terms of Hitchcockian features there are a few that are worth mentioning namely the use of close ups of notes and newspapers. This film has several which help tell the story from a visual point-of-view rather than a vocal one which is quite nice to watch. There is also a few scenes set high up on cliffs with the height of the cliff being used to build up tension.

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THE BAD

The main reasons why I didn’t like the film are ones which still stand, they are as follows. The entire courtship between the two leads is incredibly cheesy and dated, they literally meet, dance, go for a drive and then confess their love for one another. This came across as hilarious (and not in a good way) and really took me out of the film. This sort of cheesy thing appeared throughout the film however when the tension began to build was easily forgotten.

Another reason I dislike the film is because of the ending, which is frankly a massive disappointment. The film builds incredibly well then all of sudden it ends with a few lines of dialogue tying the entire plot together. After some research it was easy to discover this is not the ending, which Hitchcock wanted, but due to difficulties with audience feedback it had to be changed.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a cameo posting a letter about halfway into the film.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Suspicion is an interesting film and I’m still unsure as to how to mark it. Upon watching I was really not overly impressed however the slow-building of the tension really got my mind involved and put me inside Lina’s head which I guess means that the film achieved its aim. I therefore give the film 4 Hitchs.

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Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a film which is very untypical of Hitchcock in that it is an out and out comedy. This however does not stop Hitchcock from proving his competence as a director. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Robert Montgomery & Carol Lombard) are a married couple who seem fairly content with each other. However after discovering their marriage is not legally valid they decide to not re-marry and explore the single life; with hilarious consequences as Mr. Smith attempts to prove his love for his now ex-wife.Image

 

THE GOOD

The film is very fun to watch with several scenes being thoroughly entertaining as Hithcock explores how love between a couple can change over time. 

The narrative is original, witty and well-paced and when there’s possibility for tension i.e Mr. Smith spying on Mrs. Smith when she’s on date it is generally good whilst still remaining light-hearted.

THE BAD

There are no real problems with this film other than it is not what you could call a proper ‘Hitchcock’ film. There is very little space for him to build real tension due to the comic nature of what he is directing and from that perspective it is a bit of a disappointment.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock does make a cameo walking past Mr. Smith’s house about half-way through the film.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a very enjoyable film and a nice change from the thrillers which have been appearing on the challenge. However due to its comic style and lack of Hitchcockian themes I can only award it three Hitchs.

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Foreign Correspondent is essentially a propaganda made for WWII and that comes across from the outset, however this does not particularly distract from the quality of the film.

 

WHAT HAPPENED?

In a typical Hitchcock plot the story follows a reporter Huntley Haverstock (Joel McCrea) who is sent to Europe as a Foreign Correspondent to investigate World War II by interviewing several people. Once in Europe one of the people he is investigating gets murdered and Haverstock sets out to uncover corruption and break the biggest news story of the century. 

THE GOOD

The film has many good moments that stand out as Hitchcock creates brilliant tension in near every scene. The dialogue is generally well written and the performances and perfect. It is difficult however to talk much about the best scenes without giving away spoilers as the plot twists and turns so much.

A chase scene near the start of the film is fantastically shot and well ahead of its time in terms of creating an illusion of speed from the vehicles with the use of point-of-view shots particularly important to its effect.

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There are also several scenes set in high places (a Hitchcockian trademark) with one set on a rooftop particularly gripping.

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Another feature I liked in the film is the lack of subtitles when characters where speaking foreign languages. As Haverstock could not speak the language this allowed us to connect more with him and see the film from his eyes and is something that rarely exists in modern cinema when directors insist of forcing audiences to understand exactly what’s going on.

With the film being set and made with the world on the brink of war; Hitchcock does a great job of building tension and the threat of the oncoming war has a huge presence throughout the film without being overbearing.  

 

THE BAD

The only main flaw with the film is the narrative seems to be all over the place; this is due to it being re-written as it was filmed to keep in touch with events happening at the time. This re-writes mean that often the film twists on his head and makes next to no sense. This is particularly true for the final scene which although enjoyable comes from nowhere.

 

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a cameo at the start reading a newspaper.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

The film is very good both as a film and propaganda piece. It is obvious now that Hitchcock has vastly improved as a Director and is fast approaching his best work! 4 Hitchs.

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