Where the Remake Went Wrong: Out of the Past

Where the Remake Went Wrong: Out of the Past.

Alfred Hitchcock Goes Suburban with “Shadow of a Doubt”

The Hitchcock Report

“What it boils down to is that villains are not all black and heroes are not all white; there are grays everywhere.” — Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock often called his 1943 picture, “Shadow of a Doubt,” his favorite film, and it’s not hard to see why. It allowed him to work with a spectacular cast, to tell a quintessential Hitchcock story, and to collaborate with top-notch writers as well as a cast member who would become a close associate.

Critics have called “Shadow of a Doubt” Hitchcock’s first truly American film, and while “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Saboteur” are both set in the U.S., those both feel like a British director’s observation of the country; with “Shadow of a Doubt,” Hitchcock no longer holds the country at arm’s length. From the opening scenes filmed on the grimy docks of Newark, NJ, looking out at the Pulaski Skyway, we move…

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The Intelligence in Shadow of a Doubt

First Run Criticism

We have a rather definitive view of what an Alfred Hitchcock film should be:  tense, filled with intrigue, murder, and suspense, probably involving a train, possibly involving a case of mistaken identity, and the very rare battle over a national monument.  Enter Shadow of a Doubt, the 1943 film set in the Californian suburban sprawl.  It’s Hitchcock’s favorite film, which is funny since it contains few of the trappings of a typical “Hitchockian” movie.  Sure, there’s suspense and murder and great camera work and editing.  But he also mines sociology, striking on something that would not be explored in pop culture until Rebel Without A Cause.  Hitchcock gives America a peek into the most covert, intelligent, and dangerous creature roaming the country:  the common teenager.

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Bad Movies To Love I: The Oscar (1966)

Professor Wagstaff

Doing that write-up on Harlan Ellison earlier reminded me of how I needed to go back and re-watch The Oscar again, a wonderfully over-the-top piece of SEE HOLLYWOOD’S SEAMY UNDERSIDE!!!! from the mid ’60s.

The story falls into the sub-genre of “ambitious Machiavellian backstabber does ANYTHING for stardom” that you can find elements of in everything from All About Eve to Valley Of The Dolls, and Stephen Boyd’s portrayal of Frankie Fane leaves no room for subtlety or sympathy on our part – he’s a total bastard from the get-go, and unlike the main characters in most Hollywood movies, he undergoes no change by the end of the film.

Lest you think The Oscar is an Antonioni-styled endless exploration into character study, the movie seems to be more an exercise in giving Frankie numerous opportunities to realize what a cad he’s been and redeem himself, only to see him…

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The Prowler (Joseph Losey,1951)

Fantastic film noir!

noirandthecity

prowlerJames Ellroy, author of L.A. Confidential and noir connoisseur, describes this film as “a masterpiece of sexual creepiness, institutional corruption and suffocating, ugly passion“.

The film produced by Sam Spiegel and John Huston and written by black-listed Dalton Trumbo, adds something new to the game: the homme fatale. Or how else would you call a nefarious cop (played by Van Heflin)  who stalks a lonely, repressed Los Angeles housewife (played by Evelyn Keyes, the then wife of John Huston) and decides to win her in the traditional noir trademark, by murdering her husband?

For years a film which was almost impossible to watch, due to the fact that it was not produced by a major studio, it has been since its restoration the receiver of much deserved praise from critics and fans alike.

Not to be missed

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John Payne

John Payne.

Raymond Durgnat – “Paint it Black – The Family Tree of Film Noir’ (Laurie Dix)

Johnny Noir Film

In this short essay, Durgnat identifies the top eleven themes or plot synopses that noir stories tend to follow. A brief summary follows:

 

1. Crime as Social Criticism

This heading is the most self-explanatory, but also the most complicated. Although the main plot may revolve around a crime which is a reflection of the authors views of Society or the Economy or the Government, etc. at the time, it splits into several categories, each of which represent their own theme or criticism. They break down thus:

1a. Prohibition type Gangsterism: A typical criticism of corruption and exploitation.

1b. A Corrupt Penology: Which represents miscarriages of justice, etc.

1c. The Fight Game: Often representing Presidential candidacy, etc. A power play.

1d. Juvenile Delinquency: A comment on society, with the ‘Juveniles’ representing new society. Often representing morality versus sociology.

 

2. Gangsters

Gangsters and organised crime were a not uncommon theme…

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