SHADOW OF A DOUBT/FAMILY PLOT: A DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

shadow-of-a-doubt-6SHADOW OF A DOUBT/FAMILY PLOT: A DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SHADOW OF A DOUBT. (1943) DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. STARRING JOSEPH COTTEN, TERESA WRIGHT, HENRY TRAVERS, PATRICIA COLLINGE, MACDONALD CAREY, WALLACE FORD, HUME CRONYN AND EDNA MAY WONACOTT.

FAMILY PLOT. (1976) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE RAINBIRD PATTERN’ BY VICTOR CANNING. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. MUSIC BY JOHN WILLIAMS.

STARRING KAREN BLACK, WILLIAM DEVANE, BARBARA HARRIS, BRUCE DERN, CATHLEEN NESBITT AND ED LAUTER.

I had a grand time re-watching both of these Alfred Hitchcock thrillers back-to-back over Christmas this year. SHADOW OF A DOUBT is widely-regarded as a stone-cold classic, not only one of the master director’s best films but also the one he’s supposed to have considered to be his own personal favourite of all his movies.

FAMILY PLOT is Hitchcock’s final film, a thriller also with twists and turns to beat the band but with a distinct comedy element to it. Both films concern family ties and the exhaustive complications that can arise therein, which I’m guessing we all know from experience to be the case…!

I like SHADOW OF A DOUBT best, without- ahem- a shadow of a… Well, you know how that ends, haha. Teresa Wright plays a small-town girl, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Newton, who lives in Santa Rosa, California. She’s named for the man she idolises, her Uncle Charlie who’s her mother’s adored younger brother.

Uncle Charlie is back in town after a long time away, and Young Charlie is so thrilled to have him back that she doesn’t give much thought to what he’s been up to during his lengthy absence. The whole family is delighted to have the prodigal uncle back under their roof, especially Charlie’s kindly older sister Emma, who wants to mother him and never let him out of her sight again.

There’s something a little different about having the handsome and charming Uncle Charlie around the place this time around. For one thing, he seems to be being shadowed by two guys, men whose claims to be conducting a national survey on families for the ‘government’ are so lame that it’s surprising anyone at all believes ’em.

(Mind you, housewives from the ‘Forties were probably so used to swallowing their husband’s lies and edicts that every word out of men’s mouths was gospel to them, haha, and it didn’t occur to them to question what they heard.)

Also, Uncle Charlie seems more secretive and edgy than Charlie remembers, and he doesn’t seem too comfortable in his own skin. Perhaps most disturbingly of all, he seems to have picked up some extremely warped world views in general and views on a certain type of woman in particular.

Young Charlie gradually comes to the realisation that maybe Uncle Charlie’s time away from the family was spent engaging in pursuits that weren’t quite, shall we say, lawful. Maybe they were even murderous…

Joseph Cotten does a wonderful job of playing the charming uncle with the shadowy past. I adore the love story between Young Charlie and the cute-as-a-button detective.

I also love Henry Travers, also known as ‘Attaboy, Clarence!’ or Clarence Odbody the Angel in Frank Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, who’s playing Young Charlie’s father here. His deliciously but unconsciously fiendish conversations about crime and murder with his best friend Hume Cronyn (husband to Jessica Tandy from DRIVING MISS DAISY) act as a delightful backdrop to the build-up of suspense, tension and high drama going on elsewhere in the film.

Even though it’s the master director’s last film, I must confess to not liking FAMILY PLOT as much as I do SHADOW OF A DOUBT, which to me feels like a far superior film. FAMILY PLOT is a comedy-thriller and, as I’ve always been much more open to being frightened half to death by the films I watch than being made to laugh by them, maybe that’s why I’m not crazy about this movie. It’s still a good film though, and well worth a watch if you’re a Hitchcock fan.

Barbara Harris, apparently a lady whom Hitchcock had been wanting to work with for a while, plays a phoney psychic who’s been commissioned by a rich elderly client to find her nephew who’d been given away for adoption at birth.

The rich old lady is feeling guilty for having forced her sister, who’s now deceased, to give away her baby boy and so she wants her nephew back so that she can die with her guilty conscience assuaged. The nephew, incidentally, will inherit the old dear’s entire fortune if he can be found…

The phoney psychic Blanche will pick up a handy little commission of ten grand as well, a sum that neither she nor her boyfriend George, a humble chauffeur hilariously played by Bruce Dern who’d previously been in Hitchcock’s MARNIE, are going to sneeze at. All they have to do now is to find this nephew who’s heir to a massive fortune, the elusive Edward Shoebridge…

On the other side of the story, we’ve got smarmy ‘jeweller’ Arthur Adamson (William Devane) who, along with his stunning girlfriend Fran, played by horror queen Karen Black, makes his real living out of kidnapping rich folks and demanding a ransom in gemstones.

Karen Black, who was utterly superb in horror movies like BURNT OFFERINGS and TRILOGY OF TERROR before moving on to star in modern horror flicks like Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES, would add a touch of solid-gold class to any proceedings, and she plays a blinder here. William Devane, who starred alongside Roy JAWS Scheider and Dustin Hoffman in MARATHON MAN, is also perfectly cast as the duplicitious businessman.

You’re probably wondering where the whole ‘family’ element comes into the picture. Let’s just say that when the paths of the two sets of couples collide, and collide they most certainly will for reasons which I’m not at liberty to divulge, it’ll give a whole new meaning to the words ‘family plot…’

You can’t go wrong with a Hitchcock, any Hitchcock. Even if I’m personally not nuts about FAMILY PLOT, it’s still the last film the master director ever made and as such is worthy of respect. As for SHADOW OF A DOUBT, it’s an absolute cracker of a thriller. So go on, film fans, pull that cracker! After all, Christmas is only over when you decide it is…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN/THE WRONG MAN: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

strangers-on-a-train-2THE WRONG MAN/STRANGERS ON A TRAIN: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK THRILLERS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WRONG MAN. (1956) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE TRUE STORY OF CHRISTOPHER EMMANUEL BALESTRERO’ BY MAXWELL ANDERSON. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.

STARRING HENRY FONDA, VERA MILES AND ANTHONY QUAYLE.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. (1951) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. BASED ON THE 1950 NOVEL BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH. SCREENPLAY BY RAYMOND CHANDLER. MUSIC BY DIMITRI TIOMKIN.

STARRING FARLEY GRANGER, ROBERT WALKER, RUTH ROMAN, PAT HITCHCOCK, LEO G. CARROLL, MARIAN LORNE, JONATHAN HALE AND LAURA ELLIOTT.

I love these two Alfred Hitchcock movies. One of them is about a man wrongly accused of a crime, robbery to be exact. The other is about a man who is being blackmailed into committing a much worse crime, the crime of murder, by a psychopath with whom there is simply no reasoning. Because he’s a psychopath, haha. They’re both cracking little films which would each make for terrific festive viewing right about now.

Henry Fonda turns in an understated powerhouse of a performance in THE WRONG MAN as Manny Balestrero. The film is based on a true story, by the way, a fact of which Mr. Hitchcock makes us cognisant at the beginning of the film.

Manny is a nightclub musician whose salary barely keeps a roof over his little family’s heads and food in their mouths. He seems like a decent quiet man and a good caring husband to his missus Rose, played by Hitchcock actress Vera Miles, and their two little boys.

When Manny, in a terrible case of mistaken identity, is accused of holding up an insurance office, his life takes a distinct turn for the nightmarish. Henry Fonda does a brilliant job of showing us Manny’s quiet desperation. It looks to us like Manny is in shock as the police take him in for questioning, charge him and put him in a holding cell until he can be arraigned.

The police station and courtroom stuff is exceedingly well done. As this is based on a true story, there’s no wickedly Hitchcockian twist at the end but THE WRONG MAN remains one of the best films ever made about a man wrongly accused of a crime he not only didn’t commit, but wouldn’t even have ever dreamed of committing because it was just so out of character for him. The cops really did finger ‘the wrong man’ for this particular crime.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN is a case of ‘You do my murder and I’ll do yours.’ Farley Granger and Robert Walker are utterly superb as the two titular strangers who meet on a train journey.

Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a well-known tennis player whose bitchy wife Miriam won’t give him a divorce to marry the love of his life Anne Morton, a Senator’s daughter.

Well, in all honesty, why should she if she doesn’t feel like it, especially now that Guy’s making a few quid on the tennis circuit? I’d hang in there for dear life if I were her. I actually think that Miriam’s a much maligned character in this film. As Guy’s wife, she’s got rights, hasn’t she? Not that anyone ever acknowledges them…

Bruno Anthony, the aforementioned psychopath, is a mentally unstable idle layabout who thinks that the death of his rich but overbearing father would be the answer to all his prayers.

By the end of the train journey, Bruno, unaware and uncaring of how sick his mind actually is, thinks that he’s persuaded Guy to do a ‘criss-cross,’ beautifully-parodied in one of THE SIMPSONS’ Treehouse Of Horror Halloween episodes. It means ‘You do my murder and I’ll do yours.’

Bruno fondly imagines that he has arranged for Guy to bump off his, Bruno’s, old man while Bruno himself will murder Guy’s unfaithful wife Miriam. Guy dismisses Bruno’s nonsense as the ramblings of a lunatic, but when the bespectacled Miriam turns up dead, he suddenly finds himself having to sit up and take notice of Bruno’s wild ravings…

Farley Granger, you might remember, played Philip, the weaker of the two college-boy murderers in Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE (1948), in my opinion one of the best films he ever made.

As Philip was a nervous wreck throughout the whole of ROPE, we never really got to see him smile. In STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, we get to see how handsome Farley Granger really is and what a gorgeous lopsided grin he’s got. ‘Twould melt the knickers off a nun, that would.

He does a great job of portraying Guy’s desperation as he unwillingly gets more and more entangled in Bruno’s mad plan. Robert Walker turns in no less of a masterful tour-de-force as the madman to whom other people’s lives don’t matter a jot. They are merely inconveniences to be swept out of one’s way when necessary.

I love the scene when Guy’s girlfriend Anne goes to see Bruno’s mum in an attempt to straighten things out. Mrs. Anthony, having presumably been caught between her domineering husband and insane son for years, is so steeped in denial that it would take more than the slightly vapid Anne Morton to reach her. The Anthony house is magnificently-furnished and old, by the way.

I adore Leo G. Carroll’s presence here as the stuffy Senator, but it’s always genuinely surprised me how he was okay with his beloved eldest daughter taking up with a married man who was then suspected of his wife’s murder. And him being such a stickler for the proprieties!

And he should certainly have spanked his younger daughter Barbara for her constant cheeky interruptions, so unbecoming in a female of the time but, then again, maybe Barbara’s real-life father Alfred Hitchcock might not have liked that idea so much…!

Hitchcock’s cameo in this film is rather delightful, by the way, and the scene where Bruno attempts to retrieve Guy’s lighter from a storm drain is deliciously suspenseful.

There you go, anyway, dear movie buffs. Two great old Hitchcock films for you to enjoy over Christmas and New Year along with the remains of the eggnog and the selection boxes. Happy New Year and may all our 2017s be filled with brilliant films, new and old.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S ‘MARNIE.’ (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

marnie

MARNIE. (1964) BASED ON THE BOOK BY WINSTON GRAHAM. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY ROBERT BURKS.

STARRING TIPPI HEDREN, SEAN CONNERY, LOUISE LATHAM, DIANE BAKER, BRUCE DERN, MARTIN GABEL AND MARIETTE HARTLEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Ah, now this is the stuff. This has long been one of my favourite Hitchcock movies, although it never seems to receive as much attention as, say, PSYCHO or THE BIRDS. It’s every bit as good, though.

It’s a sort of psycho-sexual thriller rather than an outright horror, and I have great memories of watching it in the middle of the night during Christmases past, the usual time for the screening of old Hitchcock movies…!

I love the story of how Hitchcock’s first choice for the plum role of Marnie, Princess Grace of Monaco, was discouraged from taking the role by her new subjects in the principality of Monaco. Apparently, they didn’t want their new Princess playing ‘a sexually disturbed thief’ who gets raped into the bargain. Well, I suppose that that wouldn’t have been too good for the old image, haha.

Marnie Edgar is a fascinating character, probably one of Hitchcock’s most complex. Norman Bates in PSYCHO is another prime example of how the great director had a profound understanding of how a person’s childhood can basically f**k them up twelve ways till Sunday, as it were.

Norman, of course, had perfectly acceptable reasons, deeply rooted in his upbringing, for why he grew up into a mother-fixated, sexually deviant transvestite killer. In MARNIE, Hitchcock is delving once more into the end products of a messed-up childhood.

Marnie is probably a slightly more sympathetic character than Norman, though, because she’s stunningly beautiful and doesn’t actually kill anyone…! Let’s go ahead anyway and have a look at the plot of this excellent film.

Marnie is a thief and a compulsive liar and a woman who’s so afraid of men that it’s made her sexually frigid. Long story short, she ends up unwillingly married to rich, handsome and highly eligible widower Mark Rutland, played by Sean 007 Connery.

Mark is wise to Marnie’s tricks as a kleptomaniacal con-woman with more aliases than Homer Simpson’s fugitive mother Mona in hit animated comedy THE SIMPSONS. Remember Muddy Mae Suggins? Anyway, Mark is deeply infatuated with the gorgeously blonde Marnie and is endlessly fascinated by her seemingly screwed-up mental condition.

Fancying himself as something of an armchair psychologist, he’s determined to get to the bottom of Marnie’s terrible fear of men and, incidentally, the colour red. Some of his methods are highly suspect, to say the least.

Forcing a woman who’s afraid of men to submit to his sexual attentions would probably have disastrous consequences in real life, but this is a film. Maybe he thought a good ride was all she needed to loosen her up a bit. Highly suspect, as I said.

I’ll never forget the time I saw Sean Connery doing a television interview in which he was asked if he ‘minded’ his character in MARNIE having to ‘rape’ Tippi Hedren. Cue a giant cheesy grin and a slow but emphatic shake of his handsome head…! The saucy little devil.

The scenes with Marnie’s mother in Marnie’s childhood home would all make you sympathise solely with poor Marnie. Louise Latham does an excellent job of portraying the messed-up woman whose overwhelming fear of her daughter growing up slutty actually turns said daughter into a psychological ticking time-bomb who can’t bear to be touched by anyone, ever. Nice work there, Momma…!

Diane Baker plays the minxy sister-in-law Lil Mainwaring to perfection. What a nosey, spiteful little bitch! She’s just dying of jealousy because Mark loves Marnie and not her. Clearly she was hoping she’d take her dead sister’s place in Mark’s bed and Mark’s life but it ain’t gonna happen. That being the case, she’s going to stir up as much trouble for Marnie as she can, just as if poor Marnie didn’t already have enough problems to be going on with.

If you’re a horsey person, there’s a lot of equine action in the film for you to oooh-and-aaaah over, plus a very sad animal scene that will probably leave you traumatised for life, haha. Remember Marge and Lisa Simpson in THE SIMPSONS settling down for a girlie afternoon of doing each others’ nails and watching the saddest pony movies Marge could find in their local video store? Great fun altogether…!

I love all the views of the terraced street on the docks where Marnie’s childhood home is situated. The giant ship looks like a beautiful old painting. I love Hitchcock’s cameo, without which his films wouldn’t be the same, in a deserted hotel corridor.  I love all the marvellous early ‘Sixties glamour and Tippi Hedren’s shiny blonde hair and I love also the similarities to PSYCHO.

Both heroines are on the run from their old bosses, after all, with a goodly amount of said boss’s dosh secreted away in a suitcase. Those poor girls. One of them comes to a bad end. The other might just have a shot at a half-decent life. We’ll have to wait and see if it all pans out, won’t we, dear readers? We’ll just have to wait and see…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor