Category Archives: Suspense

One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske & Wolfgang Reitherman
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Bill Peet
& Dodie Smith (novel)
Starring Rod Taylor
Cate Bauer
Betty Lou Gerson
Ben Wright
Lisa Davis
Martha Wentworth
Music by George Bruns & Mel Leven
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date January 25, 1961
Running time 79 minutes
Language English

One Hundred and One Dalmatians is a good way to spend an hour and a bit. It is typical Disney fare from the 50s/60s period. It is not a masterpiece but just an enjoyable film. Cruella De Ville is an enjoyable villain but I feel that she could have been given a bit more screen-time, while her theme song is great. (Especially the Dr. John version that is not featured in the film but the 1996 live-action version of 101 Dalmatians!)

One thing that I was not too happy about was the amount of rotoscoping in this picture. For those who aren’t up to date on rotoscoping, it is basically when animators trace over live action film, frame by frame. Usually they do this to make a characters movement look more believable, although it does take away a lot of the cartoony-ness from animated films and to my eyes looks a bit out-of-place. This is just my opinion, but I feel that the rotoscope was used a little too much on One Hundred and One Dalmatians.


High Anxiety

Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Mel Brooks
Written by Mel Brooks
Ron Clark
Rudy De Luca
Barry Levinson
Starring Mel Brooks
Madeline Kahn
Cloris Leachman
Harvey Korman
Ron Carey
Howard Morris
Dick Van Patten
Music by John Morris
Cinematography Paul Lohmann
Editing by John C. Howard
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date December 25, 1977
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
High Anxiety isn’t one of Mel Brooks’ funniest films but it is watchable and in quite amusing at times. The film is a spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers and is meant to be a tribute to Hitch, but it is one that I feel is not really necessary. For one thing Hitchcock’s movies are filled with enough humour themselves, as they never take anything too seriously. They have an underlying dark humour unlike Mel’s obvious pie in the face style.

High Anxiety isn’t as good as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein or The Producers and is probably the point at which Mel Brooks’ films started to become less and less funny. I think that after the monumental success of Blazing Saddles Mel started to half-ass things as his movies after 1974 are merely amusing and not laugh out loud funny.


North By Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)
Written by Ernest Lehman
Starring Cary Grant
Eva Marie Saint
James Mason
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks, ASC
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) July 28, 1959 (US)
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Along with Psycho and The Birds, North By Northwest is perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s best known work. Of all of Hitchcock’s films North By Northwest is probably the one that is the most critically acclaimed. It is also the film that contains a couple of the most well-known scenes in all of Hitch’s movies and indeed of all of cinema. While the shower scene from Psycho may be the most famous of Hitchcock’s signature scenes, Cary Grant being chased by the crop duster through the corn field in North By Northwest as well as the backdrop of Mount Rushmore while Grant and Eve Marie Saint battle their would be assassins have both become just as iconic in their own right.

In this exciting movie Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a nobody advertising executive who is mistaken for fictious spy George Kaplan. He is initially kidnapped by a couple of thugs who believe he is the spy Kaplan and who try to murder him. Once he escapes a cat and mouse adventure begins, with Thornhill being chased across the United States as he searches in vain for Kaplan. The film is just thrilling in every sense, with this being one of Grant’s best films. Bernard Herrmann’s score is once again brilliant and matches the excitement of each scene.  In my opinion this is simply a great film that everyone should see once in their lifetime.

* Early in the film watch for a cameo by Ed Platt as Thornhill’s lawyer. A few years later Platt went on to play the Chief in Get Smart, my favourite TV show of all time!!!


Rear Window

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Cornell Woolrich (story) & John Michael Hayes
Starring James Stewart
Grace Kelly
Thelma Ritter
Wendell Corey
Raymond Burr
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Robert Burks
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Paramount Pictures/Universal Studios
Release date(s) August 1, 1954
Running time 112 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s most acclaimed films which came from his most prolific period of the mid-1950s. It features two of Hitch’s favourite stars in Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Stewart is L. B. ‘Jeff’ Jeffries who has a broken leg and spends his time viewing the world from his apartment window.

I think that everyone knows the plot of this film. Jeff sees what he thinks is a man murder his wife. Grace Kelly’s character Lisa investigates but then the suspected murderer returns home. It is a great film that goes from Jimmy trying to work out whether a crime has occurred or not, to the suspense when Grace Kelly is in the murderer’s apartment, to when the murderer realizes that Jimmy has discovered his secret at the climax of the film. My words don’t really do the film justice, all I can say is that if you haven’t seen Rear Window you really need to watch it. If you have seen it you need to watch it again!


Spellbound

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by David O. Selznick
Written by Story: Hilary Saint, George Saunders & John Palmer
Screenplay: Angus MacPhail & Ben Hecht
Starring: Ingrid Bergman
Gregory Peck
Michael Chekhov
Leo G. Carroll
Rhonda Fleming
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography George Barnes
Editing by Hal C. Kern
Studio Selznick International Pictures
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) October 31, 1945
Running time 111 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Spellbound is a 1945 psychological mystery thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture, and won Oscars for best music, thanks to the score by Miklós Rózsa. Its most famous scene was a dream sequence designed by surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

The film is quite interesting but not what I would consider one of Hitchcock’s best, mainly due to how annoying the beautiful Ingrid Bergman is at the times when she is spouting off psychoanalytical mumbo-jumbo. Sure this is a film about psychiatrists but sometimes it just is a little too much.

If you forget about the psychoanalysis stuff this then becomes a whodunit, with Ingrid Bergman out to prove the innocence of amnesiac Gregory Peck, who it is believed murdered a prominent psychiatrist before taking his place. The way the mystery is solved is quite clever in the way in which it ties into the dream sequence that Peck experienced. Overall I did enjoy the film and the mystery elements to it. I also must make a comment about the brief display of Technicolor that appears in this black & white film at the climax.


The 39 Steps

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Michael Balcon & Ivor Montagu (both uncredited)
Written by John Buchan (novel) & Charles Bennett (adaptation) & Ian Hay (dialogue)
Starring Robert Donat
Madeleine Carroll
Lucie Mannheim
Godfrey Tearle
Music by Charles Williams
Cinematography Bernard Knowles
Editing by Derek N. Twist
Distributed by Gaumont British
Release date June 1935 (UK)
August 1 (US)
Running time 86 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The 39 Steps was perhaps the first film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in which he gained American attention. It is a fast paced spy suspense story which features one of Hitchcock’s favourite themes, that of a man who has been wrongly accused of committing a crime, in this case murder. There is another element used here that Hitchcock would use to greater effect later by using of a famous landmark, here it is Scotland’s Forth Bridge, as the background for the action. Hitchcock had done this type of thing in 1929 with the climax on the dome of the British Museum in Blackmail, and he would do it again in North By Northwest by using Mount Rushmore. It must be said that here the Forth Bridge doesn’t play such a large part in the 39 Steps as the monuments in the other two films I mentioned, but it is still here.

The film is very exciting and quite enjoyable.


The 3rd Man

Directed by Carol Reed
Produced by Carol Reed
Uncredited: Alexander Korda & David O. Selznick
Written by Graham Greene
Starring: Joseph Cotten
Alida Valli
Orson Welles
Trevor Howard
Music by Anton Karas
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Editing by Oswald Hafenrichter
Distributed by British Lion Films (UK),
Selznick International Pictures (US)
Release date(s) 2 September 1949 (UK)
2 January 1950 (US)
Running time: 104 minutes
Country: United Kingdom

Holly, I’d like to cut you in, old man. There’s nobody left in Vienna I can really trust, and we’ve always done everything together. When you make up your mind, send me a message – I’ll meet you any place, any time, and when we do meet old man, it’s you I want to see, not the police. Remember that, won’t ya? Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Remember what the fella said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.

Just who is Harry Lime? Is he the man who was your best friend for twenty years and who you think you know so well, or is he a racketeer and murderer? Orson Welles’ Harry Lime is central to The Third Man even though he doesn’t appear until after the sixty minute mark of the film. This is a truly great film of mystery and intrigue set in post WWII Vienna.

Harry Lime is dead but no one is sure of the exact circumstances of his death. It is said he was hit by a truck and was carried away by two men, but then his friend Holly Martins hear tales about at third man at the scene, and comes to think that foul play is afoot. Things only become more confusing for Martins after he sets out to solve the mystery and discovers Harry Lime himself, lurking in the shadows. (This is the worst trailer ever made!)

This is really a very enjoyable film that won an Oscar in 1949 for best black & white cinematography, and a BAFTA for best British film.  Carol Reed was nominated for an Academy Award as best director, and was named the 57th greatest film of all time by the American Film institute in 1996, and the #1 British film of all time by the British Film Institute.


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.


Duel

Approx. run time 74 min. TV Version
89 min. Theatrical Version
Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by George Eckstein
Starring Dennis Weaver
Carey Loftin
Music by Billy Goldenberg
Country United States
Language English
Original channel ABC
Release date November 13, 1971

Duel was a 1971 television movie that provided Steven Spielberg with his big break in the movie business. It was released theatrically outside of the US in 1972. Until this time Spielberg was an unknown TV director whose most important work up until that time was the as yet unscreened debut of Colombo.

Duel was perhaps a sign of what was to come with Spielberg’s body of work, as its influence can be seen in other film such as Jaws and Jurassic Park. The film feels very much like a Hitchcock style thriller, with the film’s hero, David Mann being pursued by a huge 1855 Peterbilt tanker. The unseen driver plays a cat and mouse game with Mann, trying to push the car off the road with the massive truck.

It is very difficult to believe that this is a made for TV movie and was not planned to have a theatrical release. It is even more astonishing to think that a film of this quality was shot in just 13 days with only a further 10 days needed to edit it, so that it could make it’s November 13 air date. It feels like a big screen movie and you can see that Spielberg has put a lot of thought and effort into the film. Weaver is great as the nervous David Mann, and we can clearly see his anxiety and paranoia as the giant truck bears down on him. However it is that 1955 Peterbilt that is the film’s star. The ugly old truck is menacing every time that it is on screen, while the fact that we never get to see its driver just adds to the fear factor.

This is a wonderful film by Spielberg that I really recommend.