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Hitch_nnw

Worst Hitchcock films

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Every director, no matter how great, produces a dud once in awhile.

 

i won't comment on the silent movies--I've seen only two.  I have seen every sound movies except Waltzes from Vienna and Juno and the Payback.

 

These are the ones that seem like outright bad movies.

  • The Skin Game
  • Under Capricorn 
  • Marnie
  • Topaz

 

I know that Marnie has some fans, and it is argued that is an interesting or revealing movie.  I've seen it just once and did not like it at all.

 

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I am with you on Topaz!  I enjoy Marnie, so I don't feel like it's a dud.  Under Capricorn I've watched a few times, I don't hate it.  But it's not as high quality as his other pictures.  Every director is going to have some flops, it's just the way it is.  But it's amazing to see how many of his pictures are still 50 years later being academically discussed and watched for the entertainment value that they still possess.  He's such a legend and it's so fun to watch his films over again.

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I still have to fill some gaps, but two of his early silents come to mind. Champagne was a bit of a chore to get through, and The Farmer's Wife was a bit dull.

 

Out of the ones I've seen, I don't think there's a downright bad Hitchcock films among his later works (for what it's worth, I haven't seen Topaz, Family Plot, Waltzes from Vienna, etc.) but Suspicion comes to mind as one I'm not a huge fan of.

 

 

I'll be curious to know what Dr. Edwards or Wes Gehring would answer here :-D

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I think every Hitchcock film should be viewed at least twice, even the ones that appear to be duds.  But maybe not the silents.  Other than the works of Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd, I tend to have a hard time with silent movies.  But I am glad he came up in the silent era, as there is no doubt that had an influence throughout his entire career.  

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I personally find some of the later movies slow moving and they did not hold my interest:  Family Plot, Topaz specifically. 

 

I'm also not a fan of Mr. and Mrs. Smith  (I'm not into screwball comedies)

 

Some of the early Brit movies are slow for me too but others are masterfully done. 

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I know that Marnie has some fans, and it is argued that is an interesting or revealing movie.  I've seen it just once and did not like it at all.

 

Agree completely. I think Tippi Hedren is just an awful actress. It's her performance that makes me dislike The Birds, too.

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I recently made an estimate of Hitchcock's batting average--basing my judgments on having seen nearly all of his films.  (The only ones I haven't seen are a couple of the silents and among the sound films Juno And The Paycock, Mary, Strauss's Great Waltz, Young And Innocent, and Under Capricorn.)  I rated it at 60% very good to great; over 80% for the films after and including the first versionof The Man Who Knew Too Much.

 

Most of the silents I've seen except The Lodger are just about unwatchable--the flashes of the Hitchcock touch are buried in typically bad silent film acting and impossibly bad scripts.  The Lodger and Blackmail are each half good and half bad.  Number 17 is worthless except for the final sequence; The Skin Game has its moments, but is remarkably static.  I don't think that Rich And Strange is all that good, but, along with Murder, it's the best of the pre-Man Who Knew Too Much films.

 

Among the mature work, there are a few that I have some considerable problems with:

 

Mr. And Mrs. Smith is shockingly unfunny.  I'd put it near the bottom.

Rebecca--yes, Rebecca!--is a beautifully made film dragged down by the source material, which doesn't make a lick of sense psychologically.  I'd rank it good, but pretty much at the bottom of his good work.

Jamaica Inn is just plain dreadful, in spite of a nice final sequence which has the fall-from-a-great-height trope we see so often in Hitchcock.

Lifeboat--kind of a one-trick pony.  Doesn't really work for me.

The Wrong Man--another one that just doesn't work.  Glum and uninvolving.

 

Among the films after that, the only one that I have a real problem with is Torn Curtain, another one that doesn't quite work.  Contrary to some others, I think Topaz is close to being a masterpiece.  It's one of my favorites.

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I agree with a lot of this, but I would rate Blackmail as his first film bordering on a masterpiece and Number 17 as a minor classic. 

 

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1.     Torn Curtain

2.     Marnie

3.     The Lodger

4.     Rich and Strange

5.     The Manxman

6.     Downhill

7.     Blackmail (Sound)

8.     Easy Virtue

9.     The Pleasure Garden

10.   Frenzy

 

Having watched now every Hitchcock film, these are my bottom ten (Frenzy being the worst). I'd like to acknowledge that I actually think every film but Frenzy is at the very least decent, and the rest of the films in this bottom ten are what I would call "decent but dull," besides Marnie which I think suffers from a less rampant problem than Frenzy.

For what it's worth, before I explain my reasons against Frenzy, I'd like to acknowledge that I think Frenzy is formally Hitchcock's best film posted The Birds, which might make you ask, why is it the bottom then? (For comparison, The Birds is #20 on my list.)

 

Frenzy, I think, is Hitchcock's most complete and unashamed descent into depravity. Marnie anticipates it with its "ambiguous" rape scene (i.e. not ambiguous at all), and even The Birds foreshadows what's to come. But, compare the killing sequences here against that of Marion Crane in Psycho, and you will see the sick appropriation (or natural instinct) of its Rusk's psychosexual frenzy in the filmmaking. However, that's not all. Of course I can recognize that, but Hitchcock decided to use his newfound abilities to depict nudity and show it all, baring one woman's breasts after another in the most inappropriately lascivious manner as possible, humiliating the dead corpses of women with distorted, grotesque face gawking out at you bugeyed and tongue a-lolling, with their breasts hanging out. Nothing is too low for these women, whether it's depicting their violent death in grossly fetishistic detail (Brenda), tossing them aside carelessly (Barbara) and then humiliating their corpses with that ghastly scene in the potato truck (also Barbara), or having the main character bash their ends in post-death (the last woman, who I don't think was even named).

 

I'm not a prude, nor am I predisposed to hate violence necessarily, especially when it's well done. However, unluckily for Hitchcock, my powers of articulation were recently bolstered by Anjelica Jade's essay on Detroit, where she lambasts Bigelow & co. for not being aware of the power of their images of black suffering, and I feel the same way with Hitchcock, who not so much isn't aware of the power of these debased, filthy, obscene images of raped and murdered women, as unconsiderate, which is much worse. I refuse to let his artistry raise this film above the same sort of thing that would become commonplace in slasher films a decade later. I'm sure many people can defend this film and even make counterarguments and subversive arguments, but at a certain point, after a career of films that point towards this ultimate destruction of women (the only female character who doesn't die is the inspector's wife, who is repeatedly the butt of jokes even as she displays her intuition, and Brenda's secretary, who also holds the unlikeable position as the person who accuses the hero), the buck stops here, and I refuse to humor such a jolly and unabashed carnival of rape and misogyny.

 

I'll be writing a more complete evaluation of the film on my blog, hopefully soon.

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For me,the least-watchable is Family Plot. I've only seen it twice and I really wanted to like it, but I couldn't. That said, a least-watchable Hitchcock film is still better than a lot of other films out there.

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I sometimes wonder about Frenzy if such a scene was kind of forced on Hitchcock by Universal, wanted the film to be shocking in an era that thrived on shock. (Outside of the scene, the film does feel rather creaky at times, with a lower energy level than any other Hitchcock film I have seen) Of course though, I was born in the 1990s, long after Hitch passed so none of us can ask or anything. It was 1972, and everything had changed in the film world very quickly. Things once taboo were splattered across the screen in vivid color. Now, people balked about appearing in the film. One reason why the cast is so relatively little-known is because Michael Caine refused to play the killer, and Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, and Helen Mirren all said no to playing victims. I have read that to up the shock level, Universal kept saying in the press that it was going to be a return to Hitch's British films and was going to be rather old-fashioned in spite of the sex murderer plot. If course it was anything but. Frenzy, I imagine, was probably going to be controversial even then, but then Deliverance, with its own notorious rape scene, opened a few weeks later, was a bigger hit and deflected all the controversy onto itself.

 

And so, because of Deliverance and rave reviews for Frenzy, the film got away with that scene. I had heard about the scene for a long time before I watched Frenzy, and despite being a Hitchcock fan, I kept putting the film off because of it. I took the plunge last year, around May. It was even worse than what I had expected, what with the unbearably heightened tension before the act even happens with Barry Foster acting more and more sadistic, while the terror on Barbara Leigh-Hunt's face gets more and more pronounced . I couldn't keep my eyes on the screen throughout the entire scene as it sickened me. I felt as though my eyes and ears had been violated. I finished the rest of the film though. The potato truck scene and the body at the end (particularly this since Jon Finch's character thinks he is whacking Foster's character) were minor by comparison. I appreciate that Babs' death was only shown in snippets rather than being all drawn out (plus you did get that great backward shot of the camera going down the stairs and outside). But the rape and murder of Barbara Blaney casts a long shadow over all events in the film. It is the sequence I most associate with the film (along with the McCowan/Merchant scenes which I loved). And it is by far one of the most tasteless, agonizing, and macabre scenes I have ever had the misfortune to see. Its almost amazing how attached I got to Brenda in three short scenes and to have her meet such a horrid fate chilled me to the core. I have no desire at this point to see the film again. I can't subject myself to it again.

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That's a really great reading of the film's context, CinemaInternational. I think, however, that the film was being anticipated all throughout Hitchcock, and that scene was just the culmination of years of wanting to push the boundaries on sex and violence.

 

Another thing I find is, is that the film manages to make both the on-screen and off-screen killings of the women disgusting. I too was smitten with that shot tracking out until halfway through when I realized what it meant, rather than what it was. It meant that a character we can come to care about so much was being callously killed off. And yet, as you suggest, it's better than subjecting us to Hitchcock's perverse sadism. I recognized this contradiction as I was watching it. There is no right way to do the scene, ultimately, because Hitchcock has already demonstrated with that first killing the inhumanity that his camera has in this film, and the vileness of his directorial vision.

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I don't remember ever seeing Frenzy ( but have it waiting on my DVR). Your description of it just sounds like more Hitchcockian droll black humor. At that point in his career he didn't need to conform to someone else's standards such as Selznick's quirks, the Hayes office or the need to make money. Perhaps he was just yanking people's chains with grotesque humor. It could be a kind of "in your face" to film critics who had dumped on him earlier in his career for far more tame material that they found objectionable. And anyone who panned a film for being boring, would have to eat those words for Frenzy.

 

My personal vote for worst (among major Hollywood films)  goes to "The Paradine Case". I almost deleted it about 6 times before the long-overdue, "not with a bang, but with a whimper" ending. I can understand why he named the victim in Rope as "David".

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I thought The Paradine Case was perfectly fine. I find it to be another Hitchcock film that is panned by people because it's not Hitchcockian.

 

Although, you seem to misinterpret me. If what I described actually is Hitchcock black humor (which it doesn't seem like, but let's assume it is), then it's even worse. There definitely is black humor in it (the potato bag scene), and it was obvious, but I found it disgusting, and a further humiliation of an already dead woman. There is zero respect for women in Frenzy, and it shows. I just recalled another female character, who is presented as a bitchy antagonist to the main character, never relenting. It's a profound summation of Hitchcock's misogyny. 

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I personally didn't enjoy any of his films from Marnie on. I'm not much of a Hollywood fan for most of the 60s and 70s. I feel that in the attempt to compete with television, Hollywood lost sight of who their target audience was and what pleased them. Thank God for George Lucas.

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This is an interesting topic. Now that I've seen about 30 of Hitch's films (including several of the silents) in a relatively short period of time, I can more easily reflect on the whole body of his work. At times throughout my life I've loved his movies and sometimes been bored with them. And I'm referring to the same films. I've alternately hated and loved Tippi Hedren's (as well as Kim Novak's) acting. Hitch's films have resonated with me differently at different points in my life. But the most interesting thing to me is that I keep coming back to them. I can't say the same about lots of other director's movies. He tapped into our darker side even though we may be in denial of what he finds. Perhaps this is the allure. I think it's the same thing that attracts many women to "bad boys." Yes there are nice guys/girls in his movies but it's mostly the bad ones that intrigue us. Maybe Hitch is revealing his own dark side in his films but we should all look in the mirror from time to time and reflect (pun intended).

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I personally didn't enjoy any of his films from Marnie on. I'm not much of a Hollywood fan for most of the 60s and 70s. I feel that in the attempt to compete with television, Hollywood lost sight of who their target audience was and what pleased them. 

 

I rather enjoyed Frenzy, it was a bit of a throwback to his British work, and I think Hitchcock did also, being away from the studio.  Both Torn Curtain and Topaz suffered from Studio interference.  In the first, Paul Newman was thrust upon Hitchcock, and Newman and Hitchcock did not get along, plus Newman having almost zero chemistry with Julie Andrews  (but what did you expect, he was playing a physicist, he's not supposed to have chemistry!).  Topaz was a film the studio insisted Hitchcock do.  So while he tried to experiment with sound and color, even Hitchcock admitted defeat on that one.  

 

-Walt3rd

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I think we need to really think about why we call some of the films the "Worst" films and we some others we disagree with.

 

Bad films to me are all around bad: the script, the direction and/or other production values, and bad acting.

 

There are some films I've seen on peoples' worst list because they don't like the genre, or the actor actress.

 

With that in mind, Here are my "worst Hitchcock films"

 

1.  Topaz.  Thrust upon Hitchcock, and Hitch could not save it.

 

2. Torn Curtain.  When the best line in the film is "My Sponsors.", you know there is a problem.  Zero chemistry from your leads.

 

3 & 4 Spellbound and The Paradine Case.  Gregory Peck admits he couldn't give Hitch what he wanted performance-wise in the first, and the story and Peck I find is very weak in the second.

 

Films that I found a bit annoying - 

The Lodger - because of Ivor Novello's first scene.  I thought he was really heavy handed and was playing Dracula instead of the innocent.  Liked him much better in Downhill

Rebecca - I'm apparently not a Lawrence Olivier fan.

Family Plot - I saw this first run.  Watched it again.  Yeah, too bad Hitchcock didn't stop at Frenzy.

Rope - sorry, the camera trickery was interesting once.  Felt the ending went on a bit long, and quite frankly, I didn't need to see it again.

 

 

Hitchcock film I feel is overrated - Vertigo.  I expected something "more", but I can also understand why everyone else loves the film.  It is actually Scotty's spiraling down that the movie is about.  The fear of falling humanized and portrayed.

 

Hitchcock film I feel is underrated - Marnie.  I watched this after seeing Vertigo.  Marnie, to me, better showed the obsession theme.  Everyone was obsessed in Marnie.

 

A film I wish we had a chance to discuss in the course of the course - To Catch a Thief.

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I agree with the people who suggested that you should probably see a movie twice and, if possible, at different points in your life, before you write it off as bad.  That makes sense to me.  I have seen movies that I thought were terrible and then, saw them again at a later date and saw or understood things I hadn't before.  Having said that, I'm not going to follow that advice completely.  First, I really don't like silent films.  I could see from the Daily Doses and the one silent film that I did watch for this course, that Hitchcock probably handled the silent films very well given the restrictions of the times.  But, I just don't want to watch any more.  Second, I had trouble understanding the very early British sound films (from BIP) due to the accents, slang, and film quality.  Again, I've given it a shot, but I just don't want to see any more.  I haven't seen Waltzs from Vienna​ and it wasn't available on TCM.  So, that gets us up to The Man Who Knew Too Much ​(1934).  Starting there, I've seen every Hitchcock film (most of them multiple times), except for Frenzy. ​ I didn't like the sound of it when it was first released, especially after reading some of the reviews.  One of the advantages of starting this course late is that I could read what people wrote about it now and I still hated everything I heard about it, so I just didn't put myself through that!  I don't mind some sexual and/or violent material in a movie, but this movie sounded far too extreme in both of those areas for me.  There is too much sexual violence, obscene nudity, and disrespect against women in the world today without watching it for entertainment.

 

So, taking those films out, what do I consider the worst Hitchcock films?  I didn't care for ​Young and Innocent, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Lifeboat, The Paradine Case, Under Capricorn, I Confess, The Wrong Man, Psycho, or Family Plot ​the first time I saw them.  I didn't get a chance to watch all of the films this month, so I've still only seen a few them one time and I'm willing to give them another try before I write them off as "bad."  Therefore, I won't comment on ​Young and Innocent, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, or I Confess.  I was surprised that I actually enjoyed Lifeboat​ with a second viewing.  Also, though I'm still not really a fan of Psycho, ​I could appreciate the quality of the film, particularly Hitchcock's directing, the acting, and the musical score.  However, the other four I still don't care for and just couldn't get "involved" in them.

 

I do like Marnie, Torn Curtain, and Topaz.  They wouldn't be on my list of the best of Hitchcock and I certainly understand the criticisms other people have mentioned, but I still enjoy watching them.  I agree with the people who thought Vertigo and Rebecca ​were overrated.  I would add Psycho​, also.  I see what people like about them and I can appreciate their qualities, but I really don't enjoy watching them as much as the other Hitchcock movies.  So, my list of worse Hitchcock films would be:

 

(1) Frenzy (May be unfair since I haven't seen it, but just from the clips and others' comments, I know this would be my least favorite.)

(2) Family Plot (Didn't like anything about it.)

(3) The Wrong Man (Story was emotionally compelling, but the movie was just too dreary, draggy, and depressing.)

(4) The Paradine Case (Couldn't get interested or emotionally involved with the story or the characters.)

(5) Under Capricorn (Basic story was interesting, but not emotionally involved with any of the characters.  They all seemed so very flawed and unsympathetic.  It was also dreary, draggy, and depressing.)

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For me,the least-watchable is Family Plot. I've only seen it twice and I really wanted to like it, but I couldn't. That said, a least-watchable Hitchcock film is still better than a lot of other films out there.

 

I haven't seen all of Hitchcock's films, and I haven't even seen (yet) all the films shown on TCM for this course, but Family Plot was one film that just didn't pull me in. I must confess,however, that I didn't even see it from beginning to end: The DVD cut out on me before the end of the film, and I can't decide if it's worth it to get a copy somewhere else.

 

I guess that pretty much sums up my feelings about 25 minutes worth of the story!

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The TCM airing last week was the second time I'd seen Frenzy, and I think I liked it more, especially with some added appreciation from this course.  (I've since seen it again!)  To me, it's Hitchcock entering into the modern era, playing by the new rules of 1970s cinema (i.e., no rules).  No more censorship, etc.  Movies were shocking and graphic, and Hitchcock joined the party.

 

That said, I agree that the rape/murder scene is disturbing, and intentionally so.  But I don't know if that's a reason to criticize the film or filmmaker.  (It's an R-rated movie, after all.)  The scene is very effective in what it sets out to do.  It is disturbing.  It is shocking.  It provides a vivid picture of who this murderer is and what his crimes are like.  It's serious stuff.  Shocking stuff.  We feel for the victim, but cannot aid her as we watch her horrible fate unfold.  It's a heart-breaking scene, but I think that's the whole point.  We're dealing with a psychopathic sex murderer, and it's terrifying.  (In an earlier era, Hitchcock would've needed to be more artful or subtle in bringing such crimes to the screen, and the effect would not be the same, for better or worse.)

The movie is actually pretty good, in a "modern cinema" vein (with occasional nudity and curse words and violence).  Most of the film is easier to watch than the rape/murder scene, and I think the scene's impact stays with viewers whenever they see the murderer character out and about as his affable public self.  You never know about people.

It is a brutal scene, but there are some brutal scenes in plenty of other movies.  I can't speak to Hitchcock's misogyny, but I don't think he delighted in the woman's rape or murder.  I think it's just a brutal scene.

 

*   *   *   *   *

As to my own least-favorite Hitchcock films (excluding those I haven't seen, like Juno and the Paycock and Waltzes from Vienna), my picks would probably be:

  • Under Capricorn
  • The Paradine Case
  • Marnie
  • The Pleasure Garden
  • Downhill
  • Easy Virtue
  • The Wrong Man
  • Jamaica Inn
  • Stage Fright
  • I Confess

Or something like that.  There are a handful of movies I've seen once, but don't remember much about, and there are some others that I should maybe give another try.  I'd need to rewatch Murder!, Number Seventeen, Torn Curtain, and Family Plot before deciding how I felt about them.  Also, while I might find Stage Fright disappointing (for example), it scratches that Hitchcockian itch better than Hitch's earlier silent-era films (like The Farmer's Wife, which I enjoyed).  So in some ways it's hard to compare all his films.

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I love most of Hitchcock's sound films.  (The silents are interesting novelties that I appreciate seeing once, at least.)  For most, I like to wait approximately 6 months between viewing each title to avoid burn-out and to give a fresh look at details I might have missed before.

 

I have always had trouble with THE BIRDS.  Don't get me wrong.... Hitchcock was at the top of his technical form there.  My problem is with the subject matter.  It's about...  birds??  No villains.  No heroes.  Just a few survivors who limp away at the end, broken, with their tails between their legs.  Nothing is resolved.  Not that I think all movies should end with a kiss, but the tension should be released.  It's not in THE BIRDS.

 

I'm not a fan of Bergman, so I tend to write those two off.   Also UNDER CAPRICORN and JAMAICA INN. 

 

I do like (more with each viewing) MARNIE, FAMILY PLOT and TOPAZ even tho' the latter is not very "Hitchockian" but a solid cold-war drama.  And I liked FRENZY!.  I wish the course had shown the humorous trailer that started with Hitchcock's "Good Evening!" while floating on his back in the Thames.  :-)

 

I have enjoyed this course!  It affirmed many insights that I already had about Hitchcock as well as giving me some new ones!

 

But.....  I'd still like to know how Jimmy Stewart got down from hanging on that gutter at the opening of VERTIGO.  :-(

 

 

 

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