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Are we focused too narrowly in early Hitchcock films


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I'm just finished watching The Manxman, and I'm wondering is maybe we are being too narrow in looking at Hitchcock's early films. I do understand that this is a finite course and as such needs to be tightly focused. But I think maybe we're getting a little bogged down in certain themes, locales or technical tricks he uses in the early films and how they relate to his later works. We look at several tiny aspects of a film but ignore the film itself. Let me explain.

 

Hitchcock movies are interesting for a lot of reasons, the way he puts his films together, tells a story visually, manipulates the audience by giving them information that he withholds from the characters, and uses innovative sometimes experimental shots you rarely see in mainstream films. But often Hitchcock movies are combination of different story elements:

  • Notorious is not just a spy movie. It's also a romance. In some respects, it's a film noir, because Claude Rains is put into a bad situation where he as to do something horrible to the woman he loves.
  • Rear Window is a murder story, but it's also a romantic comedy, bordering on farce at times.
  • Strangers on a Train is another murder story, but there are also elements of romance and a sports movie. 
 

We look these early films and cherry pick bits and pieces that we think bear on his later work and style of film he adopted with The Man Who Knew Too Much and stuck with the rest of his career. Take The Manxman, it's a romantic melodrama, but don't all of his later films involve a romance of some sort. In The Manxman, the woman marries a man she doesn't love out of a sense of duty. Isn't that exactly what Ingrid Bergman does in Notorious? Both The Manxman and The Ring involve a love triangle. Isn't that the story of Dial M for Murder? Isn't The Ring a movie about boxing in the same sense that Strangers on a Train is a movie about tennis? Downhill is a story of a man who covers for a friend and is betrayed by the woman he loves until he lose everything including his sanity. Isn't that pretty close to what happens to James Stewart in VertigoThe Farmer's Wife and Rich and Strange are sex comedies. Aren't both Rear Window and The Trouble with Harry sex comedies, umm, with dead bodies? Any thoughts on this?

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We are looking at Hitchcock's full body of work and tying it in with what TCM is offering.  I don't feel that it is too bogged down and that next week we will be looking at Hollywood and that will start us moving fast.  I think the course very much is going as a Hitchcock movie would, and the pace will move faster as we move through his career.  The class is already beginning to do that, and we have only had five suggested films on TCM to this point, there are 45 more to go.

 

I definitely do not feel bogged down at all.

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Thanks for your response. I don't think bogged down is the right term. Perhaps, I expressed myself poorly. I was just thinking that, from a story standpoint, we seem to be dismiss the story-lines of early films because they don't seem to fit the mold of the type of film he would later come to embrace. He seems to be playing with different genres in these early films, so we dismiss them from a story point of view and instead focus on themes, technical tricks, etc. The types of stories do resurface as well in his later work. Two examples I mentioned earlier:

 

The Manxman - A woman marries a man she doesn't love out of a sense of obligation when she loves another vs. Notorious - A woman marries a man she doesn't love not so much out of obligation but because she was spurned by the man she loves. The two stories are similar, the chief difference being that The Manxman is a straight drama whereas Notorious is wrapped up in a spy thriller.

Downhill - A man protects a friend and loses almost everything, then is betrayed by the woman he loves until it drives him mad and he must struggle to regain is his sanity/normal life vs Vertigo - A traumatized man is betrayed/exploited by a friend and the woman he loves, so that it drives him mad and he must struggle to regain his sanity. Again the story-lines are similar but Downhill is a straight drama, and Vertigo is a drama wrapped up in a murder story. Admittedly, Vertigo is more focused and tightly constructed, as it deals with a single act of betrayal by two people, while Downhill is separate acts by different people at different times, but the result is largely the same.

Maybe when Hitchcock seemed to be experimenting with genres that he appears to abandon in his later work, he really sticks with them and incorporates aspects of them into his suspense thrillers.

 

We are looking at Hitchcock's full body of work and tying it in with what TCM is offering.  I don't feel that it is too bogged down and that next week we will be looking at Hollywood and that will start us moving fast.  I think the course very much is going as a Hitchcock movie would, and the pace will move faster as we move through his career.  The class is already beginning to do that, and we have only had five suggested films on TCM to this point, there are 45 more to go.

 

I definitely do not feel bogged down at all.

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i actually like that we are doing early Hitchcock.  Its been years since I've seen his early stuff. For me my favorite hitchcock films come from 1935 to 1959.  So his early stuff I have only seen once or twice and honestly didn't like it.  Exploring early hitch is a treat for me. I've gained a new favorite in Blackmail.   I'm enjoying this and look foward to how the course progresses!

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