Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Other than those last fifteen minutes of Vertigo that I seem to catch every time it's on, I have a huge Bildungsluecke when it comes to Hitchcock. In an attempt to remedy this, I borrowed The Lady Vanishes from the library this past week. We finally got around to watching it last night. A perfect blend of comedy, intrigue, mystery, and romance, the plot centers around the disappearance of a sweet, older woman from a train. The hitch? Except for one young woman, who may just be a little nutty from having suffered a blow to the head shortly before making friends with the elderly governess, Miss Froy, everyone on the train denies that she ever existed. Convinced that she is not just losing her mind, the young woman sets about solving the mystery of what happened to her new friend.

The film does not disappoint. Margaret Lockwood's Iris Henderson was lovely, smart and determined and what great clothes she had! Just as an aside (if clothes don't interest you, now would be a good time to go get a drink or something), can I tell you how much I love me some 30's couture? I absolutely covet her peignoir set in the scene where she meets the future object of her affections, Gilbert, played by a delightfully obnoxious Michael Redgrave. The two have such a great chemistry together that it's difficult to believe that this was their first time working together. In fact, it was (as I learned from the DVD insert - which has great commentary by Michael Wilmington) Redgrave's first movie.

But it's not ony Lockwood and Redgrave who are great in the movie. The deftly woven plot features a great cast of characters, all with their own agendas for making sure the train is not stopped due to any shenanigans - real of imagined. Caldicott and Charters (a duo that Wilginton refers to as a "sublime pair of aging British public school boys") are in a hurry to get to a sporting match. Mr. Todhunter (so aptly named, considering that Tod is German for death!) is on a trip with his mistress and does not want the publicity and ensuing scandal that would inevitably arise from a disappearance if the train were stopped. Dr. Hartz has his mysterious patient to transport for surgery and something is not quite right about the high heeled nun who guards her. Signor Doppo the magician (who reminds me so much of John Lovitz that I can barely stand it!) is suspicious and squirrelly from his first moment on camera as is Mary Clare's cold Baroness. All together they make for one engaging movie.

And so my first steps into the non-vertiginous world of Hitchock were good enough that it would just be wrong not to take my foray a little deeper. Any suggestions for what to watch next?


Jen said...

Yay, Lady Vanishes! I liked that movie a lot.

I also have a HUGE Hitchcock deficiency, but of the ones I have seen I can readily recommend North By Northwest (really suspenseful, Cary Grant, and some adventures at Mt. Rushmore), Rear Window (SO GOOD! it creeps me out every time), and on a sillier but fun note, To Catch A Thief.

Martina said...

It really was a good movie! You know, it's funny, because every time I start talking about Hitchcock, I say "Oh, I've not seen much". Then when people start naming things (or I just start THINKING), I realize that I've seen more than I think - part of Vertigo, To Catch a Thief, Rebecca, and now The Lady Vanishes. I swear, it's like I have a Hitchcock curse. I bet even when I've seen them all, if someone asks me, I'll still be saying "I haven't really watched much", cause that's how we nimrods roll!

Jen said...

wasn't that crazy Deborah Kerr movie we watched at your house also Hitchcock? The one with the evil little children?

My recommendations for North by Northwest and Rear Window still stand. I think they're both excellent AND great thrilling/creepy fun.

I saw The Birds once, but it was ages ago, and of course I've seen bits and pieces of Psycho, but not the whole thing -- or if I did it was so long ago it doesn't count.

Martina said...

Nope, it was directed by Jack Clayton, but I still LOVE it. I still covet the governess' frilly nightdress and a candelabra, so I can swoosh around the halls of Chateau Powellhurst on dark and stormy nights.

Oh, and my Hitchock curse still stands. Your comment made me remember that I have also seen Psycho (more than once). Clearly, I'm a completely unreliable witness.

Chris said...

IMDb lists Hitchcock as directing 66 films in six decades. I like The Lady Vanishes too and I'm with Jen on Rear Window.

Chronologically, the one after The Lady Vanishes was Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn. After that came Rebecca (Daphers, of course), which I think I've said previously is an instance of the film being as good as the book; I love them both. The Birds was also du Maurier, as was Marnie. She's an underestimated writer, often seen as early chick lit, but I love her stuff.

I'd watch any film that I knew was Hitchcock. The same is true of Michael Powell, who only managed to make 61 films in six decades. Especially good are the ones he made with his frequent collaborator, Emeric Pressburger. And how about this for a period of creative productivity:

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) - possibly my favourite film ever, though Rebecca would be a contender too
Black Narcissus (1947) - a weird classic, powerful throughout
The Red Shoes (1948) - overall not so strong but which has a twenty minute dance sequence which is truly astonishing

The fact that neither Hitchcock nor Powell won Oscars shows what total bollocks the Oscars are.

Martina said...

I didn't know that "The Birds" was du Maurier! I do like "Rebecca" very much even if du Maurier is seen by some as a writer of early chick lit. I like to think that its arguable that there are significant differences that distance her from that appellation. For one, I am pretty sure that no edition of Rebecca has one of those chick lit cartoon covers involving a skinny girl in modish sunglasses. And, except for that one scene where our heroine and Mrs. Danvers leave Manderley go shoe shopping and speculate on how big a diamond Mr. de Winter would buy her if he really loved her it seems more gothic mystery/predecessor to Barbara Michaels to me than it does chick lit - even if it is totally arguable that it's a genre that somehow appealed more to women...don't ask me why, but a woman wearing only a nightgown running from a castle amuses me, while chick lit mostly just annoys me and makes me want to write critical papers on modern media and constructions of feminity. Bah chick lit! Oh, but I digress in the fervor of my tirade.

Powell and Pressburger are another set of films I need to catch up on, but first I think I'm going to do more Hitcock. I currently have "Rebecca" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" out from the library along with a totally unrelated copy of "Holiday", which was put on hold before my Hitchock mania began. I'm still looking forward to it, though. So far I've found it difficult not to like movies with Cary Grant in them and Katharine Hepburn's presence can only be viewed as a plus!

Anyway, thanks for all the recommendations! I will keep them in mind!

Chris said...

The Birds was one of Dame Daphne's short stories, as was Don't Look Now, which as a movie was directed by Nick Roeg though it's Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland who are the most memorable.

It's Daphne du Maurier's centenary this year so there was a lot of stuff on the BBC a few weeks ago, which is where I got the chick lit bit from. They seemed to think that she had been put into that category, though surely the term "chick lit" wasn't around in her day.

The du Maurier family are interesting. Daddy was Gerald, an actor-manager. If you've seen a stage production of Peter Pan, you will know that Mr. Darling, father of the children, is usually played by the same actor who plays Captain Hook. J.M. Barrie did not write it that way, so there were no deliberate Freudian overtones. It is actually a tradition that came about because Gerald du Maurier greedily insisted on taking both parts himself.

Grandad was George du Maurier who wrote Trilby, which gave us both the hat and the character of Svengali. Not a bad legacy from a single book.

I'll leave for another time the stories about the most famous Bristolian, Cary Grant.