This time of year, there’s a lot of really good stuff out there (or on its way). So while Hitchcock is a perfectly okay film, it’s not good enough to cut through the clutter… even if it does showcase the making of one of the most iconic knife-wielding scenes in cinematic history. Shower, anyone? That said, if you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock in general and/or Psycho in particular, then you’ll probably get a kick out of Hitchcock. It stars a heavily-padded and prosthetic-ized Anthony Hopkins as the acclaimed director and Helen Mirren as Hitch’s wife and collaborator during the making of the 1960 horror movie Psycho. It’s part ‘inside Hollywood’, part love story, part biography, and (probably large) part dramatic license.

Mirren delivers the film’s most complex and compelling performance as Alma, the woman behind the very large and rather creepy “master of suspense”. The versatile Toni Collette makes the most of her small role as Hitch’s assistant Peggy. And Scarlett Johannsen does a fine job as Vivien Leigh, the golden age of Hollywood starlet who got a best supporting actress nomination for her portrayal of Norman Bates’ shower victim, Marion. Hitchcock, coincidentally, never won an Oscar for directing anything. Maybe it’s because, if we’re to believe the picture painted in Hitchcock, the guy was more than a little odd.

Now I’m no Horror Chick – far from it. I’m not a big fan of the genre and I’ve never actually seen Psycho all the way through. But I am at least vaguely familiar with the Psycho shower scene (I mean, really, who isn’t?) and other Hitchcock films including Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds, etc. If these titles – or the old TV series Alfred Hitchock Presents – ring a bell of familiarity, then you’ll have a firm foundation for watching – and enjoying – Hitchcock. If you’re drawing a complete blank, you can skip this one for sure.

One thought on “Hitchcock”
  1. Being that these are Alfred Hitchcock’s last two films, FRENZY and FAMILY PLOT certainly seem like a diumhtooocs pair. The very British, very dark and yet wry FRENZY followed by the very American and very light FAMILY PLOT seem like a curious pair of films to end this director’s brilliant career. I think perhaps they represent in an allegorical sense the full circle of Alfred Hitchcock’s compendium of work from his native Britain to his adopted United States. 1972 s FRENZY is a thriller that harkens back to the type of films he was directing in the 40 s that combine his unique morbidity with incongruous humor and the element of the wrong man being accused of something he did not commit. However, the viewer (at least from my point of view) has no strong central character to identify with. Our protagonist Richard Blaney, played by Jon Finch, is a bit of an indifferent and somewhat grating sort of fellow who lacks both wit and charm gaining little sympathy from just about anyone. The true antagonist, the real Necktie Murderer and sociopath Robert Rusk, played with great charm and menace by Barry Foster, is very charismatic and demonstrates cunning intellect and perseverance throughout the film. At one pivotal and suspenseful macabre scene in the film Hitchcock actually has the audience identifying with the killer. The films macabre elements are counterbalanced by Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen) who must undergo pseudo gourmet meals, which are gastronomically hideous contrivances, served by his wife (Vivien Merchant). FRENZY is a very British treat from Alfred Hitchcock returning to his roots one last time. 1976 s FAMILY PLOT was Hitchcock’s final film. In an interview with Frane7ois Truffaut, Hitchcock stated that in today’s films you no longer had to close the picture with a kiss. The audience no longer needed it or expected it. The romanticism of the motion picture was dead. If not for the performances of Barbara Harris as a phony psychic and Bruce Dern as her taxi driving-detective-boyfriend this film would have indeed lacked any hint of romanticism. In a complex plot that involves the location of a missing heir, the lives of Harris and Dern become intertwined with the villainous pair of this piece (William Devane and Karen Black). Ultimately the film seems more akin to ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS than to Hitchcock’s previous films. Yet it seems our beloved Alfred Hitchcock left us with just a hint of romanticism via the wacky on-again-off-again relationship of Harris and Dern throughout this film. The last frame of the film, and Alfred Hitchcock’s final cinematic shot of his long career, has Barbara Harris winking out at the audience. Many critics at the time were dismayed by that wink as being hackneyed and cliche9d but in retrospect I think Hitchcock was just saying that he had a good run and it had all been fun. Godspeed Alfred.

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