Category Archives: Alfred Hitchcock

The Wrong Man

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Uncredited: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Story: Maxwell Anderson
The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero
Screenplay: Maxwell Anderson & Angus MacPhail
Starring
Henry Fonda
Vera Miles
Anthony Quayle
Harold Stone
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) December 22, 1957 (U.S.)
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English

This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking. In the past, I have given you many kinds of suspense pictures. But this time, I would like you to see a different one. The difference lies in the fact that this is a true story, every word of it. And yet it contains elements that are stranger than all the fiction that has gone into many of the thrillers that I’ve made before.

Hitchcock’s cameo in The Wrong Man is the easiest one of all to stop as here he appears in silhouette and addresses the audience directly, to let the audience know that they are about to see a story based on the real experience of one man, Manny Balestrero, who was wrongly accused of committing a number of robberies.

This film is probably one of the least known of Hitch’s movies, especially when compared to his other 50s films such as Vertigo, North By Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window and Dial M For Murder, which were all made in the five-year from 1954-1959. However this is a very good film due mainly to the performance of Henry Fonda, as the man arrested and put on trial for crimes committed by a lookalike, and Vera Miles as his wife who is driven mad because of the incident. I really enjoyed their performances greatly.


The Trouble With Harry

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Uncredited: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Novel: Jack Trevor Story
Screenplay: John Michael Hayes
Starring: Edmund Gwenn
John Forsythe
Shirley MacLaine
Mildred Natwick
Mildred Dunnock
Jerry Mathers
Royal Dano
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Editing by Alma Macrorie
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date October 3, 1955
Running time 99 min
Country United States
Language English

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry is a departure from Hitch’s usual suspense genre. Instead it is a very funny black comedy involving a dead body that just can’t stay buried. I know that this makes it sound a little bit like Weekend At Bernie’s but trust me, The Trouble With Harry is a much more clever film.

There are lots of clever and funny dialogue spread throughout the film, much of it very risqué for 1955 when the film was released. The cast is very likeable, especially like Edmund Gwenn’s as Captain Wiles and Shirley MacLaine (in her movie debut) as Jennifer.

The plot revolves around Harry, whose dead body is found by Captain Wiles who assumes that he had accidentally shot the poor unfortunate fellow. In fact three of the main characters in the films also believe that they are responsible for Harry’s untimely demise until… well if I told you about how Harry really died it would wreck the film for you!

The musical score by Bernard Herrmann is also very good and John Forsythe sings a song written by Raymond Scott, who was best known for composing Powerhouse, which was featured in many Warner Bros. cartoons.

The film was not a big financial success for Hitchcock when released in America but was extremely popular in Britain, Italy and France. After its initial release it remained locked away for thirty years, until it was released onto video in the 1980s. It is perhaps for this reason it is not as widely known as Hitch’s other films of this period such as Vertigo, Rear Window and North By Northwest.


Sabotage

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Michael Balcon
Written by Joseph Conrad (novel The Secret Agent)
Charles Bennett (screenplay)
Starring Sylvia Sidney
Oskar Homolka
John Loder
Cinematography Bernard Knowles
Distributed by General Film Distributors (GFD) Ltd.
Release date December, 1936
Running time 76 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Sabotage is a 1936 film by master director Alfred Hitchcock. This movie, made in Britain four years before Hitch went to Hollywood, is quite eerie when watched from a modern perspective, thanks to its ending which sort of prophesied real life events some seventy years later. This film is a part of Force Entertainment’s Hitchcock Collection Volume 2, which can be picked up for around $20 from JB Hifi and KMart, although occasionally they have it discounted to just $10 in some stores.

The films starts quite slowly and mysteriously, as Hitchcock lets us in on the suspicious activities of cinema owner Mr Verloc, his wife and her brother. It seems that Mr Verloc may be a saboteur who was somehow involved in London’s recent blackout, but nobody knows for sure. Mrs Verloc is not wise to her husbands’ activities, although Scotland Yard detective Ted Spencer has the Verlocs and their cinema under observation and suspects that the Verloc’s could be terrorists working for a foreign power (the Nazis).
About half way through the film takes a twist, when Verloc’s co-conspirator tells him that he is unhappy with the only act of sabotage being the blackout and wants things to be more destructive. He instructs Verloc to go to collect a bomb to plant into the busy Piccadilly Circus tube station. Verloc protests that he doesn’t want to endanger any human lives, although it seems that he really doesn’t have a choice in the matter. He either does it or he will be killed. His hope to not hurt human lives seems almost noble here, even though Hitchcock does continue to portray him as the evil foreigner who cannot be trusted throughout the film, however it later seems that this humanity that Verloc has is simply a façade as he commits one very evil act that many will judge the entire film by.

The final part of the film is the most disconcerting and is what caused Leonard Maltin to dub this as the film in which Hitchcock took things much too far. Years later even Hitchcock said he was disappointed with the way things ended, as he realised that he built up the suspense for the viewer but did not give them time to catch their breath. Verloc instruct his wife’s teenage brother Stevie to deliver the bomb to its final destination, due to his discovery that Spencer has him under observation. Verloc does not tell Stevie what he is delivering, and Stevie just assumes that it is a film, which back in the 30s was very unstable anyway. All Stevie knows is that the package must be left in the cloak room at Piccadilly by 1.30pm. Unfortunately for Stevie he is delayed along the way and the bomb explodes while he is on a bus on route to the destination. What happens seems eerily similar to what occurred in London in 2005. Mrs Verloc finds out and ends up killing her husband whilst Disney’s Who Killed Cock Robin is playing in the cinema. Spencer discovers this but declares his love for Mrs Spencer and determines that they should run away, although Mrs Verloc wants to confess.

The bomb maker’s wife finds out that her husband’s bomb blew up the bus and that it may be traced back to him. He is instructed to go to Verloc’s to retrieve the evidence. When he gets there he finds that the police want to arrest him. He also discovers Verloc’s dead body and decides to blow himself up, making it impossible to know that Verloc was dead before the bomb went off. Hopefully Mrs Verloc and Ted lived together happily ever after.

The film is quite slow in parts and the ending is a little off putting, but I do think that this film is quite enjoyable.


Lifeboat

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Kenneth Macgowan
Written by Novella:John Steinbeck
Screenplay: Jo Swerling
Uncredited: Ben Hecht
Starring: Tallulah Bankhead
William Bendix
Walter Slezak
Mary Anderson
John Hodiak
Henry Hull
Heather Angel
Hume Cronyn
Canada Lee
Music by Hugo W. Friedhofer
Cinematography Glen MacWilliams
Editing by Dorothy Spencer
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date January 11, 1944
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Lifeboat is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most interesting works. It could easily be dismissed as being anti-Nazi propaganda, but in my mind this is more than just an anti-German film. It was released during World War II and there are some scenes where Walter Slezak’s German U-Boat captain Willi comes across sympathetically, but by the film’s conclusion we are in no doubt that he is nothing but a heartless barbaric monster. Apparently Hitchcock had conflicting views on Germans during the war, as he loved German expressionist cinema, which is where he learnt his trade, but he hated the Nazis and their atrocities. Also Hitch’s Britain was at war with the Nazis, struggling to survive the German onslaught.

The film really has nothing to do with the war, except on the surface, and is best viewed as a character study of what lengths people will go to when put into a life or death situation. That Willi is such a villain is not really the point of the film, as we see that when the tables are turned, that good people who are not indoctrinated in Nazi fanaticism have the potential to become monsters too, if that is the only way for them to survive. When faced with death, or at the very best internment in a Nazi concentration camp until the end of the war, we see the characters emotions’ laid bare and how their actions change, depending on the hopelessness or otherwise of the situation until in the end, they commit an act of murder just the same as the ‘evil’ Nazi.

The film at times feels very claustrophobic, being as it is set for its entirety on a lifeboat. There are a few good performances from Tallulah Bankhead and especially Canada Lee as the only real voice of reason. Hitchcock also has a very memorable cameo, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for best director for this film.

* Purchase the Region 1 (North American) version of Lifeboat from Amazon *