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

by Anne Thompson
November 2, 2012 2:23 PM
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Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins in "Hitchcock."
Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins in "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.


  • James | November 15, 2012 5:49 AMReply

  • Anne Thompson | November 6, 2012 2:51 PMReply

    Thanks. Changed it.

  • Tom Cassidy | November 6, 2012 1:59 PMReply

    I think the actual quote from the gory photo scene is "But they can't stop looking can they?"

  • Bill Krohn | November 2, 2012 7:08 PMReply

    Correction: Hitchcock made THE WRONG MAN for Warner Bros. because he still owed them a picture on his contract after jumping to Paramount, and Warners turned a tidy profit on it.

  • Anne Thompson | November 2, 2012 6:24 PMReply

    Well, it's been a while since I've seen some of these. I studied Hitchcock in Film School. My faves I've seen repeatedly; the others are fading from memory a bit. I saw 'Family Plot' and 'Frenzy' when they came out! I'll have to look at 'Topaz' again. Agree on the original 'The Man Who Knew Too Much.'

  • sergio | November 2, 2012 5:50 PMReply

    DAMN! You got the Hitchcock set. A lot people were hoping to get review copies but had no luck. You're one of the very fortunate few. At least I did get those new Warner blu-rays of Dail M for Murder on Strangers on a Train. I liked the film Hitchcok but definitely the whole "Hitch thinks Alma is having an affair" stuff in the middle seriously drags the film. And just for argument's sake I like Topaz. I don't know why. It isn't that good but yet I always find it very watchable. And Hitch's original The Man Who knew Too Much is FAR superior to his flaccid remake. Thankfully Criterion is coming out with a restored blu-ray edition of it in January

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