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Tag: Hitchcock

The Birds

by on Sep.21, 2010, under Daily Review

This one was a difficult inclusion into the project. I wasn’t really planning on three Hitchcock, in fact, I wasn’t even gonna include Psycho, but here we are and seen as we’ve had other animal’s gone crazy, why not include this one? I’m glad I did though as I probably haven’t seen this one since I was a very young lad.

The story follows a pair of love birds… well.. we start off with a bit of flirting in a pet shop, Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) are strangers but hit it off whilst checking out the birds. When Mitch leaves, Melanie follows him up the coast to the idyllic Bodega Bay with a pair of caged Love Bids which she offers as a gift. But her romantic weekend in the country turns bad when she’s attacked by a gull. Soon, the whole community are watching the skies for feathery fiends as they make their attack.

The film is vicious and claustrophobic. I was shocked how threatening the birds actually are. One scene has a whole swam enter the house through the chimney which is a relentless scene. Later, the family cower in their home, awaiting the next attack. Windows boarded up with no way of escape. This is the original zombie film, right here in Hitchcock’s Birds. This is Romero’s influence. The tension is thick and difficult, which is made worse through the fantastic characters which, as a viewer you become very close with. All characters get good screen time with plenty of depth and realism. Between the attacks, we have a real level of calm, but super tension as we await the next swoop which we know is just around the corner.

Tippi Hedren is the real star here. She is mesmerizing and charismatic and very watchable. A great accent too. Hitchcock took Tippi and made her a star, being a former model. His skill is outrageously good, an eye for talent and a knowledge of how to get the most from his cast. Here, his direction is so minimal with slow easy shots, of the countryside, snappy edits of the attacks, just like, Psycho, just like Frenzy. His edits snap in when the action is upped, but unlike psycho, there is little in the way of a score, just flappy wing noises and squawks.

This is a real classic film, solid from beginning to end, flawless, perfect. A final word, the scrip is outstandingly good. Amazing interrupted dialogue. One scene has an ornithologists talking about birds being good, never attacking unprovoked and humans being the bad guys, meanwhile a waitress calls out ‘who ordered the fried chicken?’ I’m looking forward to watching this one again.

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Psycho

by on Sep.20, 2010, under Daily Review

Where do I begin with a film like Psycho? Everything has been said and can a film like this really truly be critiqued? Hitchcock’s masterpiece, and one of the greatest films, horror or otherwise but is it really perfect?

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) has an opportunity, a chance to get away from the small town and escape to live with her secret lover, Sam (John Gavin), when her employer lets her walk right out of the office with $40,000. She takes a chance and makes a run for it, leaving her old life behind and dreaming of a new beginning, but her conscience begins to question her actions. She stops off to spend the night at a quiet motel, just off the freeway, while she can work things out in her mind. The motel owner is a nice young guy, Norman Bates(Anthony Perkins), who makes a late night snack and they chat over their thoughts of living in a small town and being a slave to your situation, but sometimes, this can be a good thing, it’s kinda the hand you are dealt. She decides she’s gonna head back home the next day, and try to get herself out of this situation, but Norman’s mother has other plans.

It’s shot perfectly with every scene a perfect photograph. It actually shocked me how amazing good it looks, far superior than I remember and so much better than everything else I usually watch. One frame especially blew me away, as Leigh lays face down, half out of the shower, we get an extreme close up of her eye and the camera spirals slowly out to expose the brutal aftermath. The characters are solid and real. Hitchcock is brilliant. Perkins is totally excellent here, with a huge role to play, he takes the character and owns it fully. Leigh is perfect and for Hitchcock to build up such a believable and accessible character and then chop her up in a shower, is a stunning achievement. Was this one of the first films to perform such a plot structure?

Now, a few bad points. Leigh is dead, but the film continues and works brilliantly, although Marion’s sister Lila, (Vera Miles) comes looking for her. There is nothing here to write home about. Lila as a character is flat, although she has a mighty scream when she meets Norman’s Mother. Craven used a similar structure in Scream, taking  Drew Barrymore’s character out of the picture after that amazing build up, but replacing the lead character with the stunning Sidney. Hitchcock missed his chance here I think.

My second problem here is the final ten minutes or so. We really don’t need a breakdown of what the viewers have witnessed for the past 90 mins, but Hitchcock is used to a character explaining the plot towards the end of his films as for the most part, we get a Scooby Doo moment with reasons and motives for the crime. With Psycho, we know everything that’s happened and what we don’t know, Norman’s demented past only makes the viewers mind ache even more. Don’t tell us his secrets.

The final scene should have come a bit sooner as it is a brilliant scene and fine way to wrap the movie, as Norman sits with a blanket, with his thoughts open for the audience to hear. His expression builds and says it all. This is the highlight of the film for me, this is the magic which has been lightly exposing itself and here in the closing moments we see the real danger inside the innocent exterior.

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Frenzy

by on Sep.19, 2010, under Daily Review

I’ve questioned my reasoning behind adding a few Hitchcock films into this project for some time now. Originally, Frenzy was the only one to be included, but why not add a few more? Can Hitchcock be classed as horror? Can we really question what horror is as it’s relevant per individual. Regardless, here we are with one of his last films and arguably his most vicious of films.

Frenzy is a tale of a London serial killer, the necktie murderer who rapes and strangles women with his tie, around the Covent Garden area. Richard (Jon Finch) is a down on his look chancer who, after losing his job, heads over to visit his ex-wife. Things go wrong when his wife is found murdered, strangled to death and Richard is on the run. Of cause, this is Hitchcock and by this point in the film, we are already aware who the real killer is. Rusk (Barry Foster), a fruit merchant, lives with his mother and loves to hate women. One the first look, he’s a bit of a charmer, a chirpy cockney even, but brutal and full and anger. The ordeal between Rusk and Brenda (Richards exwife) is a shocking scene. A vile rape scene, Rust repeatedly saying ‘Lovely’ in a variety of voices and tones as the attack takes place. The necktie is soon around her neck, Rusk evaluates the situation, after showing a selection of emotions, true to any serial killer.

The film is quality through and through. Hitchcock is a master of cinema and knows exactly how to set up a scene showing what is needed and when. There is only one brutal murder for the viewer to witness. Later, a barmaid is murdered after entering Rusk’s pad, whist the viewer lingers in the corridor witnessing her fate through silence. Another vicious scene has Rusk attempting to remove his necktie pin which is tight in the fist of the dead barmaid. Forcing and breaking the fingers of the dead girl.

So this is all bleak, but with a script so sharp, care of Anthony Shaffer (Wickerman) we see a working side of London from a time long gone. It’s full of quick witted characters, keen to add a few words here and there with much local phrases which lift the film into a near ‘carry on’. One line from a hotel owner, after realizing that Richard is wanted for murder, who has just booked a honeymoon suite with Babs, the barmaid, says ‘Oh no! Not in the cupid room!’

Hitchcock is always remembered more for his Crime Thrillers, but his most notable work was Psycho, yet with Frenzy, shot some 12 years later, it’s a very different type of film. Hichcock’s homeland, a swinging London backdrop, some stiff upper lip and a bit of likely lads captured by a talented eye, a master of the lense, but this has to be his most under-recognised of his films, even though it’s his most violent.

Vicious, charming, elegant and disturbing, Frenzy is a must for any fan of horror.

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