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dwallace

First set of TCM Hitchcock films 7/6

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I enjoyed the six films and what we see of Hitchcock and how the course material ties in, just in the beginning credits J.J. Cox on cinematography, Frank Mills as A. D., Elliot Stannard and of course Alma.  in the "Farmer's Wife" the opening looking at the country side, farm, the regular man in an ordinary place.  The dogs running up the "stairs" laying their chins on the top landing, same look as the farmer out his window, or the handyman.  The reminder from the dying wife to 'air out the master's pants', then the made up bed, showing she had died.  

 

Found it funny how Minta discribed some of the possible wives, "back side less than 30, but you have to live with the front side, and pillowy at 30 becomes a feather bed at 40.  Also the bringing up of Thirza being "sex challenged".  How everyone knew Minta would be the choice and the montages showing each woman in the wife's chair by the fire, and finally the farmer seeing Minta in a montage sitting there compared to the others.

 

Blackmail the clown with his finger pointing at Alice, again after she'd killed the artist, (there were all the things reminding her when she walked all night, the sleeping homeless man, the cocktail shaker lights turning to a knife, and at the end when the case was closed and she didn't have to confess.  The long stairway up to the artists room.   The blackmailer looking so small going up the steps of the National Museum when being chased, then when drinking the cup with chain looking like handcuffs, hands so close, chain over wrist body forward as he drank.  

 

Murder I have always enjoyed. The opening with a scream, then birds flying off,cat running, windows opening, people in windows dressing, commenting and the rapping noise.  The landlady offering to make tea and the manager's wife saying she'll help, but really just follows back and forth, sitting each time, talking away as the landlady does all the work.

 

The play within a play, within a play, within a play process. The jurors in the Jury box moving their heads back and forth like a tennis match whenever the camera was on them.  The psychobabble by the tall female juror (who was the woman at the table in the dance club in Downhill).  Then only electric fireplaces when had Fane in to read for new play.  The gallows growing bigger and bigger as time to stop the execution is running out.  Finally Fane coming out to do his trapeze act, (having written a confession), and looking like a woman because of all the feathers he was wearing.  All because he was a half caste--a Macguffin?

 

Skin Game opens with idyllic country scenes and forest that will be cut down.  It had an interesting reason for blackmail.  Hornblower's daughter-in-law went with men seeking a divorce  This meant, in America at least, until the 1960's in some states to get a divorce was only for cause, even if amicable you would see your lawyer, who'd connect you with a private detective who would have a girl (usually the man did this), and a photographer, and you would arrange a time and place, you would undress to underwear and then detective and photographer would come in and you would have evidence for a divorce.  [Had to be very careful, adultery is still a crime in some states].  

 

Rich and Strange definitely not the usual Hitchcock, but still had touches, especially the opening with the ledger, then office with clock, to lockers crowd leaving for day, umbrella ballet leading to greater and greater crowds.  Definitely ordinary people out of their element for the rest of the movie.

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Rich and Strange certainly was strange.  Aside from the beginning, which was a combination of humor and skewering of middle class life, the rest seemed to have a very different flavor to it, very cynical.  If it was at all autobiographical as the TCM note indicates, then I feel bad for the Hitchcocks.  The casual racism of the move, while reflective of the time it was made, was also offputting.  If saying Chinese breed like rabbits was part of the humor, it escaped me. Hitchcock's humor, while dark, is usually more sophisticated than was evident in this one.  Hard to believe it was seen as a comedy, and perhaps that is why it wasn't that successful commercially.

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A few of the films were not available in Canada on the TCM schedule.  This happens from time to time but fortunately I was able to find some very nicely restored versions on line.  Enjoyed the silent films and such a contrast in mood and story.  I was impressed with the artistry of The Lodger and Downhill and pleasantly entertained by The Farmer's Wife.   It is so interesting to review the career of movie legend from his beginnings right through to his final films it is like seeing some of these movies for the first time (to be honest I am seeing the slient films for the first time).  Having been part of the transition from silent to sound pictures also give it another dimension of interest and historical significance for me.

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Rich and Strange certainly was strange.  Aside from the beginning, which was a combination of humor and skewering of middle class life, the rest seemed to have a very different flavor to it, very cynical.  If it was at all autobiographical as the TCM note indicates, then I feel bad for the Hitchcocks.  The casual racism of the move, while reflective of the time it was made, was also offputting.  If saying Chinese breed like rabbits was part of the humor, it escaped me. Hitchcock's humor, while dark, is usually more sophisticated than was evident in this one.  Hard to believe it was seen as a comedy, and perhaps that is why it wasn't that successful commercially.

It can be difficult looking back at the prejudice of the past, and how open and common it was, that it was considered OK for the movies.

 

Part of the problem was being a BFI film, less financial and talent was available there compared to Gainsborough.  I was thinking in a number of the films, if they are somewhat autobiographical...though from what I have gathered Alma supported Hitch as Emily did Fred.  It must have been a strange marriage.  It does seem Dark and looking into the soul of the maker.

 

Some things do not stand the test of time, and this film is one of those.  Taken from a very popular book of the time, It does not work today.  Still, it is an interesting example of his silent roots, the whole first scene until Fred gets home is virtually devoid of dialog, then there was the use of cue cards throughout the film.  

 

In Murder the whole reason for the murder turned out to be fear of people knowing he was a half caste.

 

Interesting, but when you think about it, we think it is all so old, yet more and more issues of race, religion and sexual orientation keep coming up today, it seems.

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Focusing on our differences seems to be hardwired in humans. One of Hitchcock's strengths was his ability to show us that we don't know as much about others and what they are capable of, for good or evil, as we think we know.

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