By Peter Bogdanovich | Peter Bogdanovich January 2, 2013 at 9:44PM
We continue our look at the Hitchcock pictures I saw between 1952 and 1970 (in cards for my movie file), including the television films that Hitch himself directed for his long running half-hour weekly series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, as well as for the short-lived one hour version, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Listed also are some of the silent pictures the Master directed.
THE WRONG MAN (1957; d: Alfred Hitchcock).
1961: Exceptional- (Hitchcock’s serious, realistic, almost documentary approach to a real crime --- an innocent man is accused of robbery --- has resulted in this tragic, moving masterpiece: a chilling, uncompromising picture of modern society, reduced to red-tape, mechanical, over-civilized. Under this surface theme is a deeper investigation of guilt, a recurring Hitchcock motif: Fonda --- superb as the wrong man --- is innocent, but his wife --- eloquently done by Vera Miles --- goes insane from a feeling of almost unconscious guilt. A fascinating and poignant and unrelentingly disturbing movie by a master.)
Added 1967: (Really a magnificently, artlessly directed picture, without a wrong note; Hitchcock has said that his movies are not slices of life but “slices of cake.” Here he shows up the fallacy of the remark by making a devastating Kafkaesque nightmare out of routine and normal society, and the brutality of civilization and complacency.)
1961: Exceptional (Among Hitchcock’s most brilliant, perfect achievements: a masterpiece of mood, character, atmosphere and suspense, about a small town California family, the uncle who comes to visit, the niece who adores and identifies with him until she begins to suspect he is the notorious “Merry Widow” murderer of rich old women. Filled with interior meanings, subtle details, superbly constructed and developed, often wickedly witty, strikingly well acted, especially by Joseph Cotten, Patricia Collinge.)
Added 1963: (Masterfully plotted and completely personal, this film certainly ranks high among Hitchcock works.)
Added 1965: (Perhaps more interesting than anything are the many levels on which this picture operates, and the strikingly simple touches that are all but unnoticed: her wearing black to the train and white to the funeral is just one of hundreds. An especially fine movie, magnificently directed.)
LIFEBOAT (1944; d: Alfred Hitchcock).
1961: Excellent- (Fascinating, throughly effective Hitchcock exercise: about a group of survivors from a torpedoed ship in World War II, entirely shot within one small lifeboat in the midst of the ocean; brilliantly directed and very well acted and written.)
Added 1963: (A pretty gloomy and bitter picture of the war, and a very honest one --- in which there are no heroes and no one is without taint.)
Added 1966: (Beautifully achieved, and continually absorbing: ambiguous and subtle, and relentlessly inventive.)
MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941; d: Alfred Hitchcock).
1962: Good- (Unorthodox Hitchcock film --- a marital comedy --- brilliantly acted by Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, expert direction, but minor script. Delightful on the whole, and certainly surprising for Hitch.)
2013: Famously, Hitch directed this because Carole Lombard requested him, and he admired her so much that he left his usual genre preference and did a romantic comedy. Picking up on Hitchcock’s much-quoted remark that “actors are cattle,” Carole welcomed the director on the set by having a small corral there with three cows in it. Many years later, I asked Hitchcock if his remark was accurately quoted. “No,” he told me, “I said they should be treated as cattle.” Of course, he didn’t really mean that, and corrected himself by explaining that “Actors are like children. They must be coddled and, sometimes, spanked.”
SABOTEUR (1942; d: Alfred Hitchcock).
1962: Excellent* (A fascinating, exciting, entertaining Hitchcock cross-country chase: an innocent man is accused of being a saboteur, and, while escaping from the police, continues on the trail of the real criminal. Expertly conceived and executed, personal, well written and acted: interesting development of Hitchcock’s guilt-theme. The innocent tries to expiate his sense of guilt over his best friend’s death, but in the end he is at fault for the death of another: the only one who could have cleared him. An intriguing moral problem, done in high style: witty, civilized, often macabre, always absolutely compelling.)
THE LODGER (1926; d: Alfred Hitchcock).
1963: Excellent (Hitchcock’s third film --- a brilliant silent work about a young man (Ivor Novello) mistaken for a psychopathic woman-killer; rather bitter, cynical, superbly photographed, edited, masterfully directed --- influenced clearly by the German cinema, but strongly, vividly personal and typically Hitchcockian: on the whole, a striking achievement.)
STAGE FRIGHT (1950; d: Alfred Hitchcock).
1963: Excellent- (Striking and, as usual, fascinating Hitchcock melodrama --- with a great performance by Marlene Dietrich in a secondary role --- perverse, dazzlingly directed, nicely acted and written: about an actress whose husband is murdered and the quest for the killer and, then, the switches, all of which are surprising and devastating; not one of Hitchcock’s best or really most personal works, but thoroughly brilliant nonetheless, and, of course, completely engrossing.)
I SAW THE WHOLE THING (1962; d: Alfred Hitchcock).
1963: Good* (John Forsythe in a 52-minute TV film done for Hitchcock’s hour series: fascinating, effective courtroom drama centering on the varying views of an auto-motorcycle accident, and what really happened. Expertly directed, well played, with a striking use of stop motion.)
Added 1965: (Better this time: the technique is subtle but probing, and the piece has a compelling quality that transcends the material.)
1963: Good* (Vera Miles and Ralph Meeker in a fascinating 25 minute film done for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series: grim, terse and terrifying story of a wife who is raped in her trailer --- “he killed me” --- her resultant insanity, and her husband’s murderous revenge on the man his wife points out on the street as the rapist; after he has killed him, she points out another... A superbly done little piece of macabre story-telling, beautifully played by Miss Miles in a role that anticipates her work in “The Wrong Man”.)
Added 1966: (Done with great economy and a wonderfully exacting and evocative sense of atmosphere and mood --- frighteningly realistic; one of the best things ever done for television.)
BREAKDOWN (1955; d: Alfred Hitchcock).
1963: (Joseph Cotten in a 25-minute TV film done for the Hitchcock Presents series: terrifying, suspenseful, frightening story about a millionaire who has an auto accident and appears to be dead because he can not move any part of his body; told subjectively, it is a tour-de-force of interior monologue and direction; a brilliant piece of work.)