Tag Archives: Alfred Hitchcock


Mitchell Leisens’ 1955 effort BEDEVILLED is not without it’s problems but, being his penultimate film before going into television, presents an accommodating audience with enough to at least make it interesting.

There’s little written about this film, IMDb have only a dusting of reviews, all bad, and the normally thorough database people have even neglected to mention the involvement of Art Director Alfred Junge who dealt with the art department on Hitchcock’s original version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and on King Vidor’s THE CITADEL.

Steve Forrest stars as Gregory Fitzgerald, a highly unlikely looking priest to be. One can only assume that this casting choice was deliberate as the conflict between religious destiny and temptation is the central theme of the film. Accompanied by a fellow apprentice, he flies to France for a 3 day stopover before heading to the seminary which will see him robed. The plane journey provides Fitzgerald with his first test. Leaving his friend to deal with air sickness, the chiseled padre heads into the planes’ bowels for a bite to eat. Within seconds he’s met a beautiful French fashion type named Francesca (played hilariously by Simone Renant) who only seems to be in the story to occasionally progress the plot. The woman immediately feels drawn to Fitzgerald, he does, after all, have “a face like a man”. And so, after a short discussion, she slips a card into his hand which is both an invite to her fashion show, and the phone number to her Paris apartment. This man, who is on the final journey to becoming a fully fledged man of the cloth, chooses not to reveal his profession, even when pressed. Is he ashamed? Does he doubt his path? This, of course is what we’re supposed to think.

A feast of priests

Once in Paris and dropped of by the delectable Francesca (she won’t be seen again until we need her) the guys meet their host for the short stay and a dinner meeting is arranged for that evening.

Enter the siren.

Jumping into a taxi to meet his host, his ride is hijacked by Monica Johnson, played by Anne Baxter of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and I CONFESS fame. This devil in a red dress will seriously put a spanner in the works of what was supposed to be a relaxing few days in gay Paris before Fitzgerald fully gets in league with the boss upstairs.

And this is where the film really starts to unravel….

It transpires that the girl is on the run, fingered for a murder she supposedly didn’t commit but villains like the villain chasing her aren’t the kind of villains who will take a girl at her word. That much we get, that much is ok.

In helping this dame out and going beyond the call of duty to keep her safe, the film tells us they come together. The problem is we don’t SEE it. There is a lot of running about. a lot of serious looks, a car chase, a lot of dramatic arm grabs and a serious expository scene at Napolean’s tomb……

……. There’s not an ounce of chemistry, however, not anything that would lead us to believe that this guy is doing anything other than helping her out. Fitzgerald repeatedly keeps his impending priest-dom under wraps but this does nothing to prepare us for the scene later in the flick when she goes in for a kiss ….. And yet we know it’s coming because we’ve seen it so many times before. Now I’m all for the subtlety in the delivery of that information. Leisen should be commended, it’s a neat idea and says so much without words. It can only really work when there is chemistry between to the two leads and we don’t have that here. The acting actually makes William Alwyns’ score seem heavy handed as we come to rely on it for emotional injection.

After lots more running about…. Across some nice roofs, good job Alfred, in fact let’s have a look:

…. And

After lots more running about we inevitably end up in a church where truths are told, secrets revealed and decisions made.

This flick doesn’t have the bite of NO MAN OF HER OWN, made only 5 years earlier, but is essential viewing for those of us who love Leisen’s work.

Here’s something else I love about it:

The film features the most blatant “waking up in bed with flawless make up and perfect hair” scene in cinema.

And possibly the most sexist line:

Francesca: “I made a fantastic mistake!”

Trevelle: “Well of course, you’re a woman”

Desert Island Discs

Picture the scene….. The FED EX plane you’re travelling in has been struck by lightning, causing it to plunge into the ocean. You get washed up on the beach of a nearby island which is apparently without habitants. Instead of a football for company you find a 50 inch plasma TV with attached DVD player which was miraculously wrapped in waterproof packaging. Somehow you discover a power supply and are delighted that 10 movies have escaped unscathed in the over the shoulder folder holder you had on your person at the time of the tragedy.

These are the 10 films that will prevent you going insane whilst you wait for McDonalds to discover this is the one place they don’t have a restaurant….

My picks are:

REAR WINDOW, Alfred Hitchcock (1954)

THE BIG LEBOWSKI, Joel & Ethan Coen (1998)

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Stanley Kubrick (1968)

HEAVEN CAN WAIT, Ernst Lubitsch (1943)

MEAN STREETS, Martin Scorsese (1973)

MANHATTAN, Woody Allen (1979)

RASHOMON, Akira Kurosawa (1950)

RIFIFI, Jules Dassin (1955)

IF…., Lindsay Anderson (1968)

PAN’S LABYRINTH, Guillermo Del Toro (2006)

This was a really hard thing to do, and the selections could well change as I think about it more. There’s no Welles, Antonioni, Bergman, Ozu, Lynch, Powell & Pressburger…. God, the list is huge. These are the 10 films that tick as many boxes as possible whilst being infinitely watchable. I also think that each of these 10 films gives you something very different, from the half an hour of silence during the robery scene in Rififi to the technicolor joy of HEAVEN CAN WAIT. Although there are many other top ten lists that could be made, these movies would keep me going for a LONG time.

Although this post could be considered cliche, arbitrary or even downright lazy, there are rules…..

Trilogies are allowed, maximum of 4 (no more than a trilogy though, so you can’t select the POLICE ACADEMY series, not that you would…. I hope)
TV shows aren’t.
Box sets aren’t (unless it’s specifically a trilogy)
I say DVD, this of course includes blu ray. (That’s for Matt, the high def philistine )

So over to you good people. The ten movies that would keep you happy in times of hardship, let’s have it.

Last night’s viewing

A common phrase on the school report cards I gingerly handed to my parents some years back was “easily distracted”. Some teachers elaborated on that by saying “has potential but is easily distracted”. The latter phrase really wound up my guardians as it suggested I could do well, but didn’t want to. The heated discussions following such occasions are not remembered with a huge amount of fondness.

Why am I sharing this with you?

Following a successful screening of my recent documentary THE LAST DROP (which is currently going through a re-cut) and a busy stint at the Edinburgh Film Festival and Fringe, I’m left without a project in recognisable pre production, therefore I have to WRITE.

The Last Drop

Now I’m not without ideas, far from it. There’s 3 shorts, an idea for a feature, a documentary and an experimental piece bouncing about in my brain just now, all fighting to get out. Trouble is, I’m easily distracted. I’ve made 3 attempts this weekend alone to sit and get it flowing, but have always been lured onto the rocks by the sirens of attention deficiency.

I should maybe just take a pair of wire clippers to my internet cable and donate my DVD collection to charity.

…….. Anyway.

Yesterday’s attempt at productivity was hampered by a few things, all of them films. My good friend and fellow director, Zach Rosenau sent me a script which he’s hoping to get made at the end of the year. He’s asked me to assistant direct so, having wanted to work with Zach since I met him and because I love the script, the decision to commit to his project wasn’t a hard one. A point of reference for the film is Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT, having not seen it for a while I thought it only right that I revisit it immediately.

On raking the interweb for a movie poster (I love to get the poster in the post, you may have noticed) I came across a blog that described the picture as a “minor Hitchcock classic”. How does one go about making a “minor classic”? Answers on a postcard.

SOAD is actually Hitchcock’s personal favourite and it’s easily in my top 5 Hitch pictures. Joseph Cotten plays a deliciously villainous role as Charlie Oackley, a misogynistic killer of rich widows, who in an attempt to flee the rap for his series of murders, returns to his family home in the hope that small town America will provide refuge from the threat of the chair. The family initially hold him in complete reverence, in particular his niece and namesake young Charlie Newton, played by Teresa Wright. The girl has her uncle on the highest pedestal but it is this bond that proves to be his undoing. A few strange actions by Oackley seem inconsequential until detective and admirer Jack Graham, lets her know just what her perfect uncle is accused of. This leads to a piecing together of previous clues and a rapid deterioration of their relationship which eventually put her life in danger.

Joseph Cotten: Bad Egg

Teresa Wright: She’s got him sussed

In addition to this being a tremendous picture in terms of dramatic progression over 3 acts, it also has all the supplementary characters that add humour to this most terrible of situations. There’s Joe Newton (Charlie’s Papa) and Herbie Hawkins (featuring Hume Cronyn of BREWSTERS MILLIONS and the COCOON films fame in his first role). Both are crime novel enthusiasts who, throughout the film, hold hilarious conversations about how they’d kill each other and get away with it. There’s Ann Newton, the incredibly smart and sarcastic kid who spawned a thousand cinema imitations and Patricia Collinge as Emma Newton, the perfect portrayal of a Middle American matriarch.

I’ve found the first ten minutes of the film on youtube, you can actually watch the whole thing there if you simply can’t wait to get hold of a DVD…….

Second up was a film I remember for its notoriety in my teens. I never saw it on its release….. I have now.

This film has a lot of sex in it, that much is well known. I remember it being labelled pornography back in 1992 but I have to disagree with that. It falls into the category Michael Winterbottom‘s horrifically boring 9 SONGS does in that it shows a relationship and all its elements. For those of us in relationships that still have a hint of passion in them, that includes sex. Where director Jean-Jacques Annaud succeeds and Winterbottom fails is that we actually care about the characters in THE LOVER.

The striking Jane Marsh

The film follows the sexual awakening of a girl in Indochina, 1929. Travelling on a ferry one day she meets The Chinaman, played by Tony Leung Ka Fai. The two immediately fall for each other but cannot realise this coming together in any other way than the physical. He is destined to end up in an arranged marriage, she throws a barrier between them fuelled by social prejudice her family upbringing. It’s an incredibly tense and beautiful film. Other than the moral questions thrown up by the age difference (she’s 15, he’s 32) the question of love itself is investigated.

Tony Leung Ka Fai

This was Jane Marsh’s first film with her career being restricted to only 9 further roles since 1992. Although nowhere near an award winning performance, I think she handles the subject matter well. Seek it out.

Right, back to this script…….

Dialogue Gluttony

Half way through Richard Linklater’s first proper feature, SLACKER, I had the notion to dismiss it as a self indulgent collection of vignettes designed to make the writer / director look clever without delivering anything in the way of cinematic pleasure.

An hour after watching the film, I realise I’m wrong.

Despite the picture succeeding in drawing attention to itself, by that I mean everything about its construction, it does carry the audience on a journey, but one in which there is no protagonist, no villain and no (as Alfred Hitchcock perfectly describes) MacGuffin.

It would appear that life, fate and the beauty of humanity’s choreography are the main considerations of this intelligent look at diversity on a deeply philosophical level. The camera is the eye of an unseen, unspoken observer. Walking through town, sitting in a cafe, in a bar, attending an all but empty local rock concert…… amongst many other scenarios. We see a multitude of people, some for a few seconds, some for whole scenes. They go about their day, jog, discuss, it’s all extremely natural.

Linklater himself in the opening “I should’ve stayed at the station” scene.

Lee Daniel‘s cinematography is unremarkable but paradoxically, impresses most as it fits the style of the picture perfectly. We move from scene to scene with transitions coming whenever the frame is infiltrated by another person. We may be focussing on 2 people talking on the street, they comment on a passer by, the camera then follows the passer by to spend a few minutes in their life. We never find out names, never really find out where they’ve been, where they’re going or why. Just like reality however, we form an opinion on what makes that character tick within the first few seconds.

It’s best explained by having a look at a clip. I’ve uploaded one of my favourite scenes. A typical chance meeting leads to a bizarre story of gun totin’ freeway drivers and Madonna’s pubic hair….. Yes, I mean it.

Watching this section pretty much sums up the film. The one obviously unreal element to the picture is that everyone covered has something interesting about them, there doesn’t seem to be any boring sad sacks in this town. The quota of colourful characters is maybe on par with Greenwich Village, New York in the 60’s or Washington Square at the height of the Beat Generation….. Not a bad thing.

Well Said

“To reproach Hitchcock for specialising in suspense is to accuse him of being the least boring of filmmakers; it is also tantamount to blaming a lover who instead of concentrating on his own pleasure, insists on sharing it with his partner. The nature of Hitchcock’s cinema is to absorb the audience so completely that the Arab viewer will forget to shell his peanuts, the Frenchman will ignore the girl in the next seat, the Italian will suspend his chain smoking, and the Swedes will interupt their love-making in the aisles”

HITCHCOCK by Francois Truffaut
Excerpt taken from the introduction