Sunday, January 1, 2012

Movie Update 34: Alfred Hitchcock

A bit of the master's earlier British work, a movie from his golden age, and the last one he ever did.

The 39 Steps

I think this is considered one of Hitchcock's better early films, but I thought it was merely pretty good. A man gets involved in a spy conspiracy after a woman asks him for help, and he has to uncover the secret of what the 39 steps are before he gets captured or worse by the people behind it. The main character runs around a lot but the way the mystery gets solved is kind of silly and there really isn't much to the movie besides him running away. North by Northwest is pretty similar, but I think it was done much better.

Dial M for Murder

I think Hitchock was definitely at his best in the 50s, and Dial M is another feather in his cap. It actually came out the same year as Rear Window, but while it's not as good as that movie, it's still a solid thriller, and one that similarly takes place almost entirely in a single location. A man tries to put the finishing touches on a very elaborate scheme to murder his cheating wife, but of course the plan goes wrong and he desperately tries to cover his tracks while the police sniff around his apartment. It's a very cerebral film, and it's very easy at a number of points to go "wait, what?" as the little tricks and traps the characters place for each other start going off constantly. It comes together very well by the end, though.

Family Plot

Sort of an odd note for Hitchcock to go out on, Family Plot is half mystery and half sort of weird comedic thing. Certain bits that you wouldn't expect to be played for laughs are, but other moments are pretty dark. It stars a psychic and a cab driver/investigator who get a lucrative job to find an old woman's long lost relative, who turns out to be a murderous jewel thief. Espionage and hijinks ensue. Family Plot is not a bad movie at all, but it's definitely an unusual way for one of the best filmmakers ever to end his career.


A woman begins to suspect that her husband is a terrorist, but not before a lot of bad stuff happens to her. There are a couple nicely tense moments, but ultimately the only thing I'll probably remember about it is that it's the origin of the old clip from Inglourious Basterds in the scene where the narrator explains the combustible properties of nitrate film. It's quite short, and simply put, not much at all happens.

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