Jerry Stinson

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  1. I don't agree that the Hedren character, Melanie Daniels, is a woman in control of the situation during the opening scene. It's Mitch Daniels who is in control: He knows within seconds that she doesn't know the first thing about birds, because her answers are consistently wrong, even absurdly wrong. We can tell by his smirks that he isn't fooled by her pretending to be an employee of the store. (Actually, we learn later that he knows who she actually is, but even in today's clip it's clear that he is onto her game.) Melanie thinks she is in control, that she's fooling him, but since it's the other way around, she seems all the more foolish.
  2. My local library will be showing Hitchcock films on three consecutive Thursdays at the end of this month (August). I chose the three titles: The Birds, Rear Window, and Psycho. These three seem like obvious (and safe) choices. If we draw a solid audience, I'd like to show others in the coming months. With a general audience in mind, would you recommend a couple of Hitchcock's less well-known films?
  3. I watched The Trouble with Harry recently, on TCM, for sort of the first time. (I had seen it many years ago but hadn't paid that much attention to it.) It's not among his best, but if you can sit back and accept it for what it is, there are plenty of passages that elicit a smile. And there's the basic premise, of course, that almost no one in town seems the least bit "troubled" by Harry's death, other than by the inconvenience or embarrassment it might entail. It's as if Hitchcock was given a challenge: Make a murder mystery that hasn't even a hint of suspense! He succeeded.
  4. I just watched the buckboard piece yet again. It's very brief, and I'm sure Hitchcock was telling us, "Yes, I know, you're watching a lot of people being terrorized by birds and panicked by a gas station fire--but, come on, this is just a movie, so I thought I'd throw in a bit of absurdity by including a runaway buckboard. A production assistant suggested letting a shark swim down Main Street, but I opted for the buckboard."
  5. 1. Stare at the stairs in this scene from The Man Who Knew Too Much . . . And there's this, at the film's climax . . . 2. Do you remember where the key was hidden in Dial M for Murder? Take a guess. 3. Lots and lots of stairs in Psycho. For starters, imagine the view of the "haunted house" from the parking lot of the Bates Motel.
  6. Identify a scene in a Hitchcock film that made you smile, giggle, or laugh! My nominee is a couple of seconds in the "fire outside the restaurant" scene in The Birds. In the midst of the chaos caused by the attacking birds and the gasoline-fueled fire, a buckboard comes flying around the corner, with no one at the reins! It's straight out of a TV Western. I think Hitchcock was doing what he always did in a film: amusing himself, and welcoming anyone in the audience who noticed the joke to laugh along with him. It's at 2:53 in this clip:
  7. Jerry Stinson

    The Rest of Hitchcock

    It seems to me that a slight delay between the material we're studying and discussing this week, and the airing of the films on TCM next week, works quite well. We have time to process the information and opinions, and then we can choose for ourselves which films we want to see. When we actually watch this or that particular film, the experience is like a midterm or final exam--"Oh, NOW I see what people were saying earlier about montage [or expressionism, or pace, or camera angle, or the Russian influence, . . .]" For me, at least, this delayed "review" in the form of an entire movie is more likely to stick than a more immediate viewing would. Ideally, I'd watch it BOTH early and late, but there are so many fascinating films to watch, and there's never enough time. I'm certainly not trying to discourage the professor from giving us some "higher priority" titles each week, of course.
  8. Jerry Stinson

    Hitchcock top 5

    You and I agree on four of the five. But your top pick, Vertigo, I don't get. Sooooo far-fetched. (I'm wondering if this is indeed Hitchcock having Jimmy Stewart act out what Hitch himself actually wanted to do--to create the perfect woman to suit his own tastes.) Anyway, I'll have to give Vertigo another look. You're in good company with that choice.
  9. Jerry Stinson

    Hitchcock top 5

    1. Psycho 2. Rear Window 3. North by Northwest 4. The Birds 5. Marnie Notes: a. Psycho and Rear Window are both marvels from start to finish. There's no such thing as "watching them too many times." b. Choices 3, 4, and 5 all have remarkable scenes: c. North by Northwest has the drunk Cary Grant somehow not driving off a cliff and then slurring his speech in the police station; the cropduster scene, including Cary's conversation with the local guy who's waiting for a bus; the crazy auction bidding; the matchbook with a must-read note on it. d. The Birds has the leaning love birds during the car ride; the crows gathering in the school yard; the entire restaurant scene, including the fire and the bird's-eye view; Tippi trapped in the bedroom. e. Marnie has the title character stealing company money and tiptoeing past the washerwoman; Bruce Dern as an indiscriminately affectionate sailor.
  10. I don't know if anyone else has seen fit to criticize this film, but if not, let me be the first, even at the risk of stating the obvious. The Pleasure Garden has this much in common with many of Hitch's later (and greater) works: The plot is ridiculous. Things that happen, especially in the second half, are either random or extremely unlikely, or both. A glaring example is the magical pairing of Patsy and Hugh, as soon as they and we are clear that their former partners are despicable. Does this ever happen in real life, that abandoned or betrayed men and women find love with one another, on the rebound? Of course. But, apparently to serve the needs of dramatic concision, Patsy and Hugh discover their love for each other in a matter of seconds. With two minutes remaining in the film, Hugh declares, "You're the only woman for me now, Patsy--I was blind not to see it before!" We're left with a cartoonish "happily ever after" resolution that suggests the director was overly eager to keep the running time under an hour. He almost made it. Some of my very favorite Hitchcock films also feature unlikely plot developments. Think of the intelligence agency chief (Leo G. Carroll) in North by Northwest, asking untrained "civilian" Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) to risk his life on behalf of agent Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). It would never happen. Earlier in the same film, the crop duster pilot is so determined to kill Thornhill that he flies his plane into a fuel truck, though there is plenty of time to veer off. Again, it would never happen. But Sir Alfred is not concerned with likelihoods, nor does he pretend to be. His interest is in entertainment, not credibiity. And we as audience are glad to suspend disbelief for the sake of a thrill.
  11. As an addendum to my previous post about The Pleasure Garden and Hitchcock's sometimes paltry concern for credibility: Almost everything in Vertigo is far-fetched. I'll probably mention this opinion again when we get to that film. It's only after I heard someone suggest that it works better as a dream than as reality that I could manage to watch it a seond time, many decades after I first saw it. Then there's Strangers on a Train. It's hard to watch Bruno (Robert Walker) blackmailing Guy (Farley Granger) without shouting at Guy, "Turn him in, you fool!" But we manage to keep watching, because the premise IS entertaining. And the ending, on and under the merry-go-round, is a brilliant piece of absurdity, unlikely to the point of hilarity. Hitchcock, the consummate entertainer, virtually taunts us: "Feel free to knit your eyebrows and shake your head. But you won't be able to stop watching."
  12. What strikes me about the opening sequence in The Lodger is the great tension from the very first frame. In quick succession, a woman screams; a dead body is discovered (apparently the body of the woman who screamed); a female witness is questioned; reporters, photographers, police, and onlookers gather and "need to know"; a man in the crowd jokingly mimics the look of the murderer and briefly becomes an early version of "the wrong man"; the newspaper account is rushed out to a rabidly fascinated public--and all this is represented in a clip slightly over four minutes in length, to the accompaniment of impatient, frantic drums, horns, and violins. (I can't help thinking of those relentless violins accompanying the opening credits of Psycho.) One clear message that emerges from the clip is, "Don't look away! You'll miss something shocking!" And as viewers of the film we join the onscreen public in its morbid, impatient fascination with violence. WE become looky-loos, too--Hitchcock-incited voyeurs who MUST know Who Dunnit, and Why. (Today and often, I'll be counting on the more diligent students in the course to address the specific questions that Professor Edwards has set out for us. I believe he'll accept responses from undutiful as well as dutiful scholars!)
  13. Some other voyeuristic stuff: Watch the opening of Shadow of a Doubt, which allows us to peek in at Uncle Charlie in his hotel room (the camera sneaks in under the shade, as I recall); the opening of Psycho, which zooms in from a wide shot of Phoenix in mid-afternoon to a hotel window, then--again, under the shade--to a shot of Janet Leigh and John Gavin in a stunningly intimate scene. And of course Rear Window is just one extended voyeuristic spree!
  14. One quick piece of the film clip that caught my attention: As the camera pans along the row of men who are in various ways transfixed by the dancers, we get about one second's worth of "a woman's viewpoint"--the last person in the shot is a conked-out woman, who apparently finds the flashing legs boring, even soporific! It's such a sudden contrast to the men's absurd over-interest, and it lasts such a short time, that I find myself chuckling, and just slightly out of sync with what's on the screen. It looks as though HItchcock often uses female characters as laugh-getters. Thelma Ritter's character in Rear Window comes to mind, as does Barbara Bel Geddes' in Vertigo (she of the not-so-funny portrait), and Barbara Harris' in Family Plot (think of the out-of-control car ride down the mountain road). Let's not forget Jessie Royce Landis in two Hitchcock gems, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest, first as the Cary Grant character's eventual mother-in-law, then as his mother. For that matter, how about Patricia Hitchcock ("He must have noticed my wedding ring") in Psycho!

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