Tag Archive: Alfred Hitchcock

Review by C.J. Bunce

The ideas and situations in Steven Savile’s new novel Glass Town could hardly be more enticing:  In 1922 Alfred Hitchcock began, but did not finish, a film called Number 13. One of the sought-after lost films of Hitchcock, little is known but some film stills and production information, leaving an opening to take the film as a linchpin for a noir mystery.  Savile takes that film and several fascinating ideas and blends them into what becomes a horror story that incorporates compelling visuals from many possible sources: Dead Again, Laura, Vertigo, Portrait of Jennie, Hugo, The Illusionist, The Prestige, and even an element of Tron.  The story doesn’t quite live up to all its antecedents, but it provides some interesting concepts for genre readers willing to dabble in a story full of sex, violence, and grotesque horror along the way.

The grand ideas ultimately are in need of a more refined and pared down plot and possibly a more compelling lead character–Josh is a descendant of a line of men who spent their lives infatuated with a lost actress who appeared in the Number 13.  On Josh’s grandfather’s death he is reeled into a world of his own family connections and a history that he learns about and shares with us along the way as he, too, becomes infatuated with the missing actress and the interworkings of his family, tied into a well-known crime lord.  But we never learn much about Josh and why we should care about him.  Early London cinema and 1990s London don’t quite come through visibly, and the lack of more detailed world building results in a story that could be about a Boston or Chicago or Irish mob family as opposed to the familiar Victorian London of so many classic Gothic novels.  We encounter many bleak and unsavory characters and over-the-top situations–the kind of grotesque fantasy of a Clive Barker movie instead of what could have been a more accessible mainstream mystery interweaving the aura of magicians, the historical authority you might find in a Connie Willis novel, or the command of the details of early film technologies you might find in a Kim Newman story.

The only known image from the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s lost film titled Number 13.

Yet many great ideas come into play.  Josh uncovers and meets a lost and long-dead magician who was able to pull off the ultimate spectacle–hiding an entire town in a glass lens.  An evil ancestor of Josh used the magician to trap the actress he was so fascinated with in this world, a world where a day in this Glass Town can equal a week in the real world.  The story’s bad guy can even manipulate characters within the films of the silent era to do his bad deeds in our world, and we first meet the famed actress as a ghost as she attempts to find a secret talisman of glass in Josh’s home.  Much of the imagery is excellent–a walking and moving actress straight from the beginnings of filmmaking appearing in your living room, incorporating the flickering image of old film as she moves about.

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If you could only study one filmmaker for the rest of your life you could hardly select anyone with a better catalog of films than Sir Alfred Hitchcock.  Known as the master of suspense, his broad range of films encompass much more.  Next month Turner Classic Movies is delving deep into the works of Hitchcock as it presents TCM Spotlight: 50 years of Hitchcock, exploring 44 of the films he directed.

You already know his most popular films: Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, Rope, Dial “M” for Murder, To Catch a Thief, Rebecca, The Birds, The Paradine Case, Lifeboat, The Wrong Man, The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Jamaica Inn, and Shadow of a Doubt.  But have you seen The Ring, Foreign Correspondent, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Blackmail, Murder! (aka Mary), The Skin Game, Saboteur, Suspicion, Stage Fright, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy, and Family Plot?  TCM is airing all of these, and more.


TCM isn’t leaving much out.  But you’ll need to track down eight of the earliest of Hitchcock’s works on your own: His directorial debut The Pleasure Garden (1925), the Jack the Ripper inspired The Lodger from 1927, the 1928 romance Easy Virtue, the Irish civil war story Juno and the Paycock (1930), the 1930 musical Elstree Calling, the musical Waltzes from Vienna (1934), the Peter Lorre/John Gielgud mistaken identity film Secret Agent (1936), and the 1937 crime thriller Young and Innocent.  The line-up also does not include the 1949 Ingrid Bergman/Joseph Cotton historical thriller Under Capricorn and the 1955 Cary Grant/Grace Kelly hit To Catch a Thief.  Hitchcock directed another full-length film, the 1926 film The Mountain Eagle–a lost film considered by many to be the most sought after missing film of all time. 

And TCM isn’t going to stop with only a screening of 44 of Hitchcock’s films.

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North by Northwest–With such incredible suspense thrillers like Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds, Rebecca, Dial M for Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s classic North by Northwest sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.  But what a great action film, and what an iconic role for Cary Grant.  He plays an advertising executive mistaken for a spy, being chased cross country to a brilliant action sequence battle on the face of Mt. Rushmore.

With the suave Cary Grant is the elegant Eva Marie Saint, plus James Mason portrays another of his own trademark villains.  It’s a must see, and even better on the big screen.

Nominated for three Academy Awards, including one for screenwriter Ernest Lehman, North by Northwest is returning to theaters next month as the next retrospective screening from the theater buff’s favorite team-up, Turner Classic Movies and the Fathom Event series.

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The National Film Registry has grown to include 700 films this year with the addition this week of 25 films.  In accordance with the National Film Preservation Act, a film is eligible to be preserved under the registry if it is at least a decade old and recognized in the National Film Preservation Board’s view as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The Librarian of Congress makes the final determination, considering public nominations in the analysis.

The new list includes Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, possibly the most beloved of all live-action fantasy films.  The Howard Hawks/Billy Wilder classic, Snow White-inspired comedy Ball of Fire, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper also made the cut.  Robert Zemeckis’s live action/animated caper Who Framed Roger Rabbit is on this list, along with the John Hughes coming of age film The Breakfast Club. 


Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds increases the famous director’s horror film count on the preservation list along with the likes of Rear Window, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho.  And Elia Kazan’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s coming of age story East of Eden, starring James Dean, joins the list.  Now all three of the films Dean is known for are on the list, adding to prior registry films Rebel Without a Cause and Giant.

Below is the full list of films named to the registry for 2016:

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Psycho 1960 poster

Reservations for the Bates Motel await you at your local theater later this month.

Mother would be pleased.

Turner Classic Movies is teaming up again with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Fathom Events to bring a film classic back to theaters for a limited screening.  This time it’s Alfred Hitchcock’s black and white classic thriller Psycho, which first shocked audiences 55 years ago.  It’s back, but for only two days.

We all go a little mad sometimes.

original Psycho schlock poster

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz will introduce the show with a brief short about the movie, which will air at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time Sunday, September 20, 2015, and Wednesday, September 23, 2015.

Here’s a preview of the event:

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Stewart camera Rear Window

Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the first classic movies restored using a state of the art Technicolor dye-transfer process, the restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s most stylish and suspenseful film, Rear Window, provided 1990s audiences a presentation of the film better than it was originally seen upon its initial release in 1954.  That version was back on the big screen this week, thanks to Turner Classic Movies and the Fathom Events series.  Inspired by a Cornell Woolrich short story about voyeurism and murder, Hitch’s classic piece of cinema still holds up, keeping a 2015 audience completely engaged with his unique use of humor juxtaposed with some pretty grisly circumstances.

Anchored by top performances from Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, and just as superb supporting performances by Thelma Ritter and Wendell Corey, Rear Window is as atmospheric as any film of its decade.  Hitchcock filmed primarily in the muted brown tones of a sweltering urban summer, but he used targeted deep reds to highlight key imagery: the mercury of a wall thermometer, a bright and significant bed of flowers, a perfect lobster dinner, crisp uneaten bacon, and a certain fashionable socialite’s lipstick in her opening scene.  And yet, unlike Hitchcock’s The Birds or Psycho, the red of blood–and any gore at all–is kept off-stage.  He didn’t need it.  The suspense builds for two hours and even after 60 years, the payoff–and especially what we can’t see–is still able to transfix audiences with nail-biting action.

Stewart Kelly Rear Window scene

Highly memorable is the music–a soaring clarinet rises up above Franz Waxman’s jazz score from the film’s first scene, reflecting the liveliness of the block, the active and important parts of all the lives visible from the rear window of Stewart’s L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, a war photographer laid up with a broken leg.  Waxman’s stylish music propels the story forward despite Jeff’s claustrophobic, trapped circumstance.  Love themes, like Bing Crosby’s “To See You is to Love You” and “Many Dreams Ago” reflect the seemingly hopeless plight of Miss Lonelyhearts–a single woman longing to find love who is attacked and then plans to commit suicide.  Waxman’s own song “Lisa” takes on its own life, composed over the course of the film by a piano player across the courtyard, to get noticed by Miss Lonelyhearts, and be picked up as the love theme for Jeff and Grace Kelly’s character, Jeff’s girlfriend Lisa Fremont.  And to relieve the tension at story’s end, a rousing accordion plays “That’s Amore” to the curtain.

Rear Window Stewart Corey

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rear window fathom

It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s most suspenseful film, his most engaging and atmospheric, and it features top lead actors with stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.  It’s his 1954 blockbuster Rear Window, and if you haven’t seen it on the big screen then you haven’t seen it at all.

Tomorrow, March 22, 2015, and Wednesday, March 25, 2015, as part of the Fathom Event series, theaters across the country will screen the restored cut of the film.  Presented by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, the film will be introduced by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

It’s a steamy, sultry summer, and L.B. Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is a war photographer bedridden from an injury to his leg.  He’s being taken care of by nurse Stella, played by Thelma Ritter, and is constantly being prodded for his affections by the beautiful fashion model Lisa Fremont, played by Grace Kelly.  Jeffries’ apartment overlooks a courtyard and the back sides of other apartments, and as Jeffries gets more and more bored he begins following the goings-on out his rear window.  Newlyweds, a musician, an unhappy couple, an older couple, a dancer, a lonely woman.

Grace Kelly Jimmy Stewart

Is the heat getting to Jeffries, or could one of these tenants have committed a murder across the way?

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Jimmy Stewart Lindbergh Spirit of St Louis

It’s the second time TCM and auction house Bonhams have teamed up to offer screen-used and production-made costumes, props, and other relics from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  A November auction, TCM Presents: There’s No Place Like Hollywood, will feature a large private collection of rare items from Casablanca, including the piano featured prominently in the film where Sam plays “As Time Goes By.”  A lesser seen piano from another scene in the film sold in 2012 for more than $600,000.

One lot features a mannequin display with costume components worn by Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, said to have been used in several scenes in the film.  Many of the costumes and props appear to be the same lots that have been featured in other auctions in the last few years, including various dresses from the Debbie Reynolds collection of items offered by auction house Profiles in History.

Casablanca piano

Costumes from several classic films are on the auction block, including a Clark Gable jacket from Gone With the Wind, Marilyn Monroe’s saloon gown from River of No Return, Jimmy Stewart’s Charles Lindbergh flight suit from The Spirit of St. Louis, Faye Dunaway’s dress from The Towering Inferno, a Jane Russell costume from The Outlaw, and a John Wayne Union Army coat from Rio Lobo and The Undefeated.  Sci-fi and fantasy fans aren’t forgotten in the TCM auction, as there will be costumes worn by Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell in Planet of the Apes, a background crewmember astronaut jumpsuit from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a test dress for Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and a Saruman staff and Aragorn sword from The Lord of the Rings films, both from Sir Christopher Lee’s personal collection.

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Bates Motel neon

The new prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, A&E’s new series Bates Motel, is all sorts of unsettling, creepy and jarring.  First of all it has you cheering for Norman.  And you can’t help feel a little wrong about that.  We come to the re-introduction of the Bates Motel and that house–the original old house used to film Psycho–and its odd inhabitants, and recall that this was the first of the film villains that didn’t look like a traditional villain, making Psycho that much scarier.

Bates Motel, the series, is jarring in many ways.  Film actress Vera Farmiga (The Departed, The Manchurian Candidate, Source Code) with a bit of Psycho’s 1960 Vera Miles look, has an incredible role here to make her own as Norman’s mother Norma Bates.  In episode one “Nice Town You Picked, Norma,” Farmiga really dives right in.  One minute she’s a great, doting mom, happy and gleeful.  The next she is very dark and cold, spinning guilt trips onto her son at his every move.  Norma and son Norman–what is in a name?  There’s something at the core of their relationship the writers apparently haven’t scratched the surface with yet–they’re a little too close.  Viewers get some glimpses at a Mommie Dearest character in the making.  A school populated only by pretty girls who keep flocking around the nerdy Norman seems like a set-up for Norman as Stephen King’s Carrie.

Norman and Norma at soon to be Bates Motel Continue reading


No matter who you are buying gifts for this Christmas season, when all else fails you can always please friends and family with their favorite films on Blu-Ray or DVD.  Like every year you can pick up the big releases of the year, like The Avengers, Brave, and Men in Black 3.  This season four very different boxed set releases are available for the first time, and may appeal to your favorite diehard movie fans.

For smaller budgets, fans of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman films will be eager to receive the trilogy of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises all in one place, with The Dark Knight Trilogy Giftset.  Continue reading

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