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Rating 'Psycho,' Behind-the-Scenes 'Hitchcock' and the Universal Hitchcock Fifteen

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 2, 2012 at 2:23PM

I got over the awful HBO "The Girl," starring Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren, by watching the entire Dick Cavett Hitchcock interview. I had more fun with Thursday night's AFI FEST world premiere of Sacha Gervasi's light-hearted "Hitchcock," starring a superb ensemble led by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as the master auteur and his collaborator and wife Alma Reville, who the director thanked when he won his AFI Achievement Award, but I confess that I'd rather stick with the real thing.
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Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins in "Hitchcock."
Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins in "Hitchcock."
Hitchcock

It's Hitchcock season. I got over the awful HBO "The Girl," starring Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren, by watching the entire Dick Cavett Hitchcock interview. I had more fun with Thursday night's AFI FEST world premiere of Sacha Gervasi's light-hearted "Hitchcock," starring a superb ensemble led by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as the master auteur and his collaborator and wife Alma Reville, who the director thanked when he won his AFI Achievement Award, but I confess that I'd rather stick with the real thing. (TOH's set visit is here.)

In my possession, happily, is Universal's Limited Edition "Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection." It's an embarrassment of digitally restored high-def riches, fifteen Hitchcock movies, 13 never before seen on Blu-ray, with a 50-page collectible book and "over 15 hours of bonus features!" including the new documentary "The Birds, Hitchcock's Monster Movie."

Grant and Bergman in "Notorious"
Grant and Bergman in "Notorious"

Ah, if only I had time to work my way through revisiting all these late-era Universal library classics. (Much of the prolific auteur's best work is not included, such as "Spellbound," "Strangers on a Train," "Suspicion," "The Lady Vanishes" and my personal fave, must-see spy drama "Notorious," starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.)

I rank these 15 HItchcocks in order of preference, top to bottom, below. Feel free to demur. Truth is, as the "Hitchcock" end credits point out, Hitchcock never topped his 1960 career peak "Psycho," made while he was age 60 in crisis mode. No one wanted him to make this low-brow pulpy thriller, which he discerned was "a nice clean nasty piece of work." And agent Lew Wasserman (well-played by always-solid Michael Stulhbarg) had to raise the financing independently, which meant mortgaging Hitchcock and Reville's home.

The main thing that these biopics keep suggesting is that Hitchcock wasn't just pouring his obsessions onto the screen. While voyeurism is a mainstay of his work, this film makes him into a literal Peeping Tom. They have Hitchcock hiring twitchy screenwriter Joe Stefano (Ralph Macchio) and closeted homosexual Anthony Perkins (James D'Arcy) because they each had mother issues.

This article is related to: Hitchcock, Hitchcock, AFI, DVDs, DVD and VOD, Blu-ray, Universal, Fox Searchlight, Fox Searchlight


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.