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Is anyone else as in love with the villains in Hitchcock films as I am?

Was it Hitch who once said that evil is at its most effective when it comes in an attractive package? Possibly it wasn't Hitch. It might have been Charles Laughton in reference to Night of the Hunter.

Nevertheless, even if Sir Alfred didn't actually say it many of his films reflect it.

There was chatty little Cockney assassin Edmund Gwenn in Foreign Correspondent, suave, sophisticated Herbert Marshall in the same film, as well as Otto Kruger in Saboteur. James Mason was admirably performing the same cultured enemy agent role in North By Northwest. There was also cultured, mother dominated Claude Rains, actually quite sympathetic, in Notorious (you really do feel sorry for him at the end, don't you?).

Back in Hitch's British filmmaking days he did much the same thing with some of his cultured villains, too, such as missing the tip of his baby finger Godfrey Tearle in The 39 Steps and Paul Lukas in The Lady Vanishes. I always like that final scene that Lukas has in that film. As he watches the hero and heroine on board the train escape his deadly grasp he turns to an associate and, with a smile, wishes them "Jolly good luck." Now how can you really hate a villain like that?

And, when it comes to Hitchcock's British period, who can forget Peter Lorre in The Man Who Knew Too Much, not to mention (SPOILER ALERT AS IT'S A SURPRISE) Robert Young in Secret Agent. Young shows considerably more charm in that film than does sexless stiff leading man John Gielgud.

Then, of course, there were the Hitchcock psychopaths to consider. Momma's boy Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train and, another momma's boy, but of a decidedly more twitchy, neurotic nature, Anthony Perkins in Psycho.

But I save, for me, the best for last: Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt. We know from his first scene in the film, with his monotone voice and deadpan expression, that something is deeply disturbed with this character, as he is also on the run from police. But then, when he arrives in that small Americana sunshine town where his sister's family resides, as his niece, who adores him, approaches him, after he departs from the train, we see that deadpan expression suddenly replaced, almost as if someone had flipped a switch, with a warm smile and the gracious manner of a gentleman. Here he is, on the run from police, dubbed by the papers the Merry Widow Murderer, now showing a charm and sophistication that will win over members of his family from which he now seeks a much needed refuge from a nation-wide police hunt.

Later, of course, in that memorable dinner table scene, Cotten once again resorts to that monotone voice as he disparages the "silliness" and "uselessness" of wealthy widows he has seen.

Hitchcock's camera slowly moves in on Cotten's head in profile as he speaks, telling us, in essence, forget the charm, THIS (!!!) IS THE REAL UNCLE CHARLIE, as Cotten speaks about "faded, fat, greedy women."

"They're alive," his niece suddenly speaks up, "They're human beings!"

Cotten then turns his head towards the camera and, in one of the most chilling closeup moments you will find in any Hitchcock film, simply says, "Are they?"

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Joseph Cotten has always been a favourite of mine but his portrayal of Charlie Oakley is one of the defining moments of his career, as well as Hitchcock villainy. And, just to point out the obvious, the skill and versatility of this actor, contrast Cotten's charming psycho in Shadow of a Doubt with his wonderful bumbling everyman Holly Martins in The Third Man. What a wonderful actor.

 

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Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers as even the never-seen Rebecca.  Also, Norman Lloyd going off the Statue of Liberty?   A lot of Hitch was the ordinary man in the wrong place at the wrong time (Cary in North by Northwest) or Robert Donat in The 39 Steps.  I see you mentioned some of those.  Martin Landau was also memorable (much more, in my opinion, than as Bela L. in Ed Wood).

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8 hours ago, TomJH said:

Yeh but the audience doesn't even really care about what happens to Elster. Scotty and Madeleine/Judy are the primary concerns of the film. Elster is just an after thought.

Granted, in the movie Elster doesn't have the starring role that Scotty and M/J do, even though he sets the

whole whirligig in motion.  Elster has a similar haughtiness to that of James Mason in NBNW, but he is

also rather on the bland side, which in my estimation makes him a successful villain. I knew there was

something very wrong with Uncle Charlie when he just left wads of cash lying on the floor of his room

at the start of the movie. Total indifference to money. Put this guy in the nuthouse. When he shows the same

indifference about money to the local bank president I thought the banker was going to faint or at least

exhale deeply.

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2 hours ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers as even the never-seen Rebecca.  Also, Norman Lloyd going off the Statue of Liberty?   A lot of Hitch was the ordinary man in the wrong place at the wrong time (Cary in North by Northwest) or Robert Donat in The 39 Steps.  I see you mentioned some of those.  Martin Landau was also memorable (much more, in my opinion, than as Bela L. in Ed Wood).

I don't think any other director could have filmed 2 such memorable fight scenes - at the Statue of Liberty in "Saboteur" and the carousel in "Strangers on a Train".

Lori

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11 hours ago, slaytonf said:

Well, Lori Ann, were you able to watch the movie again?  Do you still have questions?

I did watch it on TCM the other day.  I understood it much better this time!  I had to ask a few questions in the "I just watched" area, but I enjoyed it.  With the Thanksgiving Hitchcock marathon, I'm looking forward to seeing "Rear Window" a second time.  I'll also (finally) get to see "The Man Who Knew Too Much".  "The Lady Vanishes" is on the list also.  I never saw that one.  Might give it a try.

Lori

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The Lady Vanishes (1938), with a super cast--Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Dame May Witty, Paul Lukas--is one of Hitchcock's most entertaining movies.  I highly recommend it.  It starts out clunkily with an opening sequence that has attempts at humor that cross into the annoying, but once on the train, well, it moves forward at a fast clip.

Vertigo (1958) is not at all a typical Hitchcock movie.  In fact, it is an exact mirror of one.  There is no McGuffin, no falsely accused protagonist.  The movie is character driven, not plot driven.  While character study plays a role in other of his movies, it is there to serve the plot.  Here it is the plot.  The contrived and frankly implausible murder scheme serves as a pretext for examining Scotty and Madeleine/Judy's sick obsessions and how they interplay.

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On 10/27/2020 at 3:30 PM, TomJH said:

I save, for me, the best for last: Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt.

My mother's favorite actor was JOSEPH COTTEN.  His performance is perfect.  That film made me a TERESA WRIGHT fan.  That ranks at the top of my favorite HITCHCOCK films and near the top of my top 10 all time.  

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On 10/27/2020 at 3:30 PM, TomJH said:

But then, when he arrives in that small Americana sunshine town where his sister's family resides, as his niece, who adores him, approaches him, after he departs from the train, we see that deadpan expression suddenly replaced, almost as if someone had flipped a switch, with a warm smile and the gracious manner of a gentleman.

Don't forget the limp that disappears...

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