Saturday, April 20, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

2013 seems to be the Year of Hitchcock.  I don't know why as this year does not seem to be an anniversary of anything of significance in his life.  Hitchcock seems popular again since Hitchcock was released and The Girl aired on HBO in 2012.  Anthony Hopkins & Toby Jones portrayed The Master in those productions, respectively.  His Vertigo was named the Greatest Film of All Time in the 2012 critics' poll conducted by Sight and Sound.

The PFA is at the tail end of an ambitious program titled Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense.  If my counting is correct, there are 28 film screenings in the program (January 11 through April 24).  The program still has two films left (Psycho and Frenzy) but I will not be able to attend either.

In addition, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will be screening nine of his silent films from June 14 to 16 at the Castro. I will be attending that program.  I haven't decided how many of the screenings I will attend.  The films being screened (with accompaniment) will be:

Blackmail  (Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra)
Champagne  (Stephen Horne)
Downhill  (Stephen Horne)
The Ring  (Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra)
The Manxman  (Stephen Horne)
The Farmer's Wife  (Stephen Horne)
Easy Virtue  (accompaniment to be announced)
The Pleasure Garden  (Stephen Horne)
The Lodger  (Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra)

These films are collectively known as the "Hitchcock 9" and will play at the PFA from August 16 to 31.


Way back in January, I saw my one and only film in the PFA's The Shape of Suspense program.

The Man Who Knew Too Much starring Leslie Banks, Edna Best & Peter Lorre; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; (1934)

Hitchcock remade this film under the same title with James Stewart & Doris Day in 1956.  The film is famous because Day sang Que Sera, Sera (one of her biggest hits).

The 1934 version starts off in St. Moritz during winter, not Morocco during summer.  Leslie Banks and Edna Best play the Stewart & Day roles, respectively.  The 1934 film hits all the plot points as the 1956 version which I am familiar with but doesn't quite feel right.  I should be honest and say at the time I saw the film, I was unimpressed so my notes are sketchy at best.  As this paragraph alludes to, I spent a lot of mental energy synchronizing the two versions of the film.  The assassination at the Royal Albert Hall?  Check.  The scene at the church?  Check.  In the 1934 version, the boy is held in a working class/ghetto area near the London docks.  In the 1956 version, the boy is held at a posh embassy residence where Day gets to sing her song.

The scene that sticks in my mind the most after three months is the climax which involves an extended gun battle between an army of cops & the kidnappers.  I am likely conditioned by modern films with loud gun battles but I thought the final showdown had a tinny sound which reminded me of a gallery shooting arcade.

Peter Lorre was memorable in an early role (just a few years removed from Fritz Lang's M).  All things considered, I prefer the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much.

1 comment:

Brian said...

It's the 50th anniversary of the 1st-ever Hitchcock retrospective in the United States.