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Old 10-09-2008, 16:12   #61
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Originally Posted by Todd Tomorrow View Post
Any director who has made as many films as Hitchcock has made a few flops. If they didn't experiment a bit and fell on their face a few times then that would mean that a director had always played it safe.
It seems to me that when Hitch fell below his own high standards, he did so fairly significantly. I take your point about Marnie, though its GCSE Psychology remains frankly trite and embarrassingly simplistic, and the visual design (like that of The Birds) falls well short of the heights of Vertigo, in my view.
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Old 10-09-2008, 16:18   #62
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And of all directors I can think of, Hitch made some masterworks, but was also capable of some clunkers. For Rear Window and Psycho, there was Jamaica Inn, Under Capricorn, Stage Fright, Marnie, Topaz and Family Plot -- films that I'm sure have their fans, but I've never been able to get into them.
I confess I quite like Jamaica Inn. And the brooding menace in Under Capricorn has its moments eg that shrunken head scene. The others you mentioned, if not exactly 'clunkers', are below par.


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Hitchcock kept calling those who didn't understand that his films didn't mean to operate on a naturalistic level "the plausibles". A dreamlike film like Vertigo requires the audience to suspend its disbelief and those who approach it on a strictly literal level are looking in the wrong direction and are asking the wrong questions.
Agreed. That was what I was trying to say - that type of surreal approach might not appeal to all tastes all the time. For me for example, Rear Window, Rope and The Birds worked very well; Psycho, Dial M for Murder and North By Northwest were 'neutrally good' while Vertigo and Strangers on a Train didn't appeal at all. I concede that other Hitchcock fans feel differently about his various films. It is question of getting into the wavelength that Hitchcock was trying to achieve and I don't think it works for everyone.
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Old 10-09-2008, 16:40   #63
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It seems to me that when Hitch fell below his own high standards, he did so fairly significantly. I take your point about Marnie, though its GCSE Psychology remains frankly trite and embarrassingly simplistic, and the visual design (like that of The Birds) falls well short of the heights of Vertigo, in my view.
The pop-Freudian psychology of Marnie is very tongue in cheek. At one point Connery reads a book called "Aberrant Sexuality of the Criminal Female".
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Old 10-09-2008, 18:27   #64
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The pop-Freudian psychology of Marnie is very tongue in cheek. At one point Connery reads a book called "Aberrant Sexuality of the Criminal Female".
If tongue in cheek, Hitch's work is nevertheless stuffed with it - Spellbound and the whole backstory (and insulting concluding police explanation) of Psycho being key examples.

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Old 11-09-2008, 09:16   #65
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If tongue in cheek, Hitch's work is nevertheless stuffed with it - Spellbound and the whole backstory (and insulting concluding police explanation) of Psycho being key examples.
Sure, it's there in many films, but I don't have a problem with it. Like so much with Hitchcock it's narrative short hand and the pop psychology was only ever used as a MacGuffin, so it's not what the films are really about. I also don't understand why you find the explanation at the end of Psycho "insulting". It may seem a bit clunky now but it was there to give the audience a breather so they could compose themselves before leaving the cinema (Psycho was a film that really traumatised a generation) and the reasons for Norman Bates' cross dressing would not have been easily understood by most people then.

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Old 11-09-2008, 11:48   #66
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I also don't understand why you find the explanation at the end of Psycho "insulting". It may seem a bit clunky now but it was there to give the audience a breather so they could compose themselves before leaving the cinema (Psycho was a film that really traumatised a generation) and the reasons for Norman Bates' cross dressing would not have been easily understood by most people then.
I think it's an expositionary scene too far (and I seem to recall it was a late-addition to the film - almost an after-thought - a bit like the grainy scene in Vertigo in which Judy thinks to herself about Scotty's reappearance). It's as if Hitch was nervous that the audience wouldn't get the point, when the point had already been made blatantly obvious. I'm reminded of Stephen King's point in Danse Macabre - that Psycho is a TV movie which doesn't have tame American tv horror restrictions. (Not a TV movie in terms of craft, let me stress.) There's the shower sequence,
, and the staggering, terrifying climax - all dripping chunks of Texas Chainsaw-like red meat -- but then there's Doctor Richmond's explanation of Norman's syndrome, which is straight out of an episode of Columbo. It's a simplistic TV scene!

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Old 11-09-2008, 12:08   #67
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It's the same in the novel, iirc.

Apparently Hitch loved all all the Freudian stuff (according to several screenwriters) so I don't necessarily agree it's all just there as window dressing.
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Old 11-09-2008, 12:12   #68
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- a bit like the grainy scene in Vertigo in which Judy thinks to herself about Scotty's reappearance). !
That's the scene which reveals the plot twist around which Vertigo revolves, so I'm not sure how that could be an expositionary scene too far. The scene isn't grainy by design btw, Katz and Harris didn't restore that one scene in the 1996 make over of the film.

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It's as if Hitch was nervous that the audience wouldn't get the point, when the point had already been made blatantly obvious. I'm reminded of Stephen King's point in Danse Macabre - that Psycho is a TV movie which doesn't have tame American tv horror restrictions. (Not a TV movie in terms of craft, let me stress.) There's the shower sequence,
, and the staggering, terrifying climax - all dripping chunks of Texas Chainsaw-like red meat -- but then there's Doctor Richmond's explanation of Norman's syndrome, which is straight out of an episode of Columbo. It's a simplistic TV scene!
That probably comes from the fact that Hitchcock used much of the crew from his TV show to shoot Psycho. I'm not going to fight too much for that last scene as it isn't great, I just don't find it insulting and it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of Psycho.
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Old 11-09-2008, 12:52   #69
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How about "The Birds" 1:85 in America, but still only 4x3 full screen in England.
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Old 11-09-2008, 13:08   #70
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That's the scene which reveals the plot twist around which Vertigo revolves, so I'm not sure how that could be an expositionary scene too far. The scene isn't grainy by design btw, Katz and Harris didn't restore that one scene in the 1996 make over of the film.
Noted. But I think the debate about this "letter-writing" scene has always been about suspense v. shock. Should Hitch have alerted the audience to the identity of Judy Barton so early (and let the audience stew with suspense about what Scotty was going to do when he found out), or should he have exposed it at the end, as a shocking denouement? I think this scene was put in, then taken out; put back in, then taken out again; I think it was pretty much cellotaped into the original release prints, hence its graininess.

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That probably comes from the fact that Hitchcock used much of the crew from his TV show to shoot Psycho. I'm not going to fight too much for that last scene as it isn't great, I just don't find it insulting and it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of Psycho.
"Insulting" was too strong a word, and I personally do not feel "insulted". And it certainly doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the movie!
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Old 11-09-2008, 13:17   #71
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Hitchcock felt that the audience would need to "calm down" after Vera Miles discovers "mother" in the fruit cellar, hence the explanation ending. I don't think it was a late addition as the scene was in the script prior to the start of principal photography (early December 1959).

Sadly I no longer have copies, but I used to have some great photographs of a 1960s audience reacting to "Psycho" and it certainly wasn't just the women in the audience who were screaming in horror and shock

At several points during filming "Pyscho", Hitchcock began to have doubts about its viability as a commerical film and even considered chopping it up to make a 3 part "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episode. From memory, Hitchcock told two people that they'd "saved" the film (i.e. restored his faith in the project) -- one was Bernard Herrmann (after hearing the score) and the other was Simon Oakland (who delivers the explanation). I'm also pretty sure that I read Oakland did his entire scene in a single take?

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...very few publicity stills of Kim Novak emphasised her figure.
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Old 11-09-2008, 13:25   #72
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Noted. But I think the debate about this "letter-writing" scene has always been about suspense v. shock. Should Hitch have alerted the audience to the identity of Judy Barton so early (and let the audience stew with suspense about what Scotty was going to do when he found out), or should he have exposed it at the end, as a shocking denouement? I think this scene was put in, then taken out; put back in, then taken out again; I think it was pretty much cellotaped into the original release prints, hence its graininess.
Blimey, I don't know where you get your information from. I'd seen Vertigo several times on the big screen before its restoration and the scene wasn't more grainy then. Anyway it's all there in the DVD extra about the restoration and the book "Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic" by Dan Aulier if you want to know why the scene looks different in the resored version.

Judy's flashback scene wasn't taken out and and put back again. In a deliberate departure from the source novel, the denouement is exactly where Hitchcock planned for it to be.

Last edited by Todd Tomorrow; 11-09-2008 at 13:27.
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Old 11-09-2008, 13:31   #73
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Blimey, I don't know where you get your information from. I'd seen Vertigo several times on the big screen before its restoration and the scene wasn't more grainy then. Anyway it's all there in the DVD extra about the restoration and the book "Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic" by Dan Aulier if you want to know why the scene looks different in the resored version.

Judy's flashback scene wasn't taken out and and put back again. In a deliberate departure from the source novel, the denouement is exactly where Hitchcock planned for it to be.
Yep - I have that book right in front of me, and I'm pretty sure I got the info from it. But I haven't read it in a few years, so there's always a possibility I could be horribly wrong...
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Old 11-09-2008, 13:42   #74
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Here it is:

"Comparing the transcripts reveals that the only reel to change time was reel 11 - the reel containing Judy's letter-writing confession scene. Before May 1st, reel 11 was 552 feet and four frames long; after May 1st, it expanded to 924 feet and ten frames - nearly double its original length. Up until this final edit, the four-minute confession scene had not been a part of the picture." (p.160)

Peggy Robertson: "We were not sure whether we should let the audience know too much too early. There was much discussion over that scene. And we screened it without the scene, but it didn't work as well."

Herbert Coleman: "We went to great expense [taking out the letter-writing scene]... In the end though, I won and it was put back in... When [Hitch] released the picture this way [without the confession], I had to call all the prints back that we had sent all over the country and recut the scene and redo the music and everything and send those out." (p.160).

It's all there in the Aulier book, where I indeed got the info. Seems clear to me...
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Old 11-09-2008, 14:01   #75
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That's the scene which reveals the plot twist around which Vertigo revolves, so I'm not sure how that could be an expositionary scene too far.
The only thing I wondered about that revelation was why Hitch chose to do it so quickly after 'Judy's appearance? Like the Stewart character, he could have kept the audience in the dark as well until the necklace sequence much later. I mean, necklace scene could have been the revelation for all concerned.

Even now, an editor could theoretically swap that flashback to the scene when Stewart confronts Novak with his new found knowledge as they climb the church tower at the end.
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Old 11-09-2008, 14:11   #76
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Here it is:

"Comparing the transcripts reveals that the only reel to change time was reel 11 - the reel containing Judy's letter-writing confession scene. Before May 1st, reel 11 was 552 feet and four frames long; after May 1st, it expanded to 924 feet and ten frames - nearly double its original length. Up until this final edit, the four-minute confession scene had not been a part of the picture." (p.160)

Peggy Robertson: "We were not sure whether we should let the audience know too much too early. There was much discussion over that scene. And we screened it without the scene, but it didn't work as well."

Herbert Coleman: "We went to great expense [taking out the letter-writing scene]... In the end though, I won and it was put back in... When [Hitch] released the picture this way [without the confession], I had to call all the prints back that we had sent all over the country and recut the scene and redo the music and everything and send those out." (p.160).

It's all there in the Aulier book, where I indeed got the info. Seems clear to me...
Ok, cool I was wrong on that one. Read up on the restoration as well though.

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The only thing I wondered about that revelation was why Hitch chose to do it so quickly after 'Judy's appearance? Like the Stewart character, he could have kept the audience in the dark as well until the necklace sequence much later. I mean, necklace scene could have been the revelation for all concerned.

Even now, an editor could theoretically swap that flashback to the scene when Stewart confronts Novak with his new found knowledge as they climb the church tower at the end.
..because it generated suspense for the entire last act of the film as to whether Judy gets found out and it creates tremendous tension as Steward transforms her into Madeleine. The film simply wouldn't work as well with a conventional twist at the end.

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Old 11-09-2008, 14:27   #77
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..because it generated suspense for the entire last act of the film as to whether Judy gets found out and it creates tremendous tension as Steward transforms her into Madeleine. The film simply wouldn't work as well with a conventional twist at the end.
OK, that's one way of looking at it. But I have to say (even though I do not care much for her looks or acting ability), Kim Novak did a convincing job of both the sophisticated Madeliene and the more worldly Judy - enough for an observer to believe that they were two different people. I still feel that AH could have had a go at witholding the revelation till the end.
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Old 11-09-2008, 14:36   #78
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The only thing I wondered about that revelation was why Hitch chose to do it so quickly after 'Judy's appearance? Like the Stewart character, he could have kept the audience in the dark as well until the necklace sequence much later. I mean, necklace scene could have been the revelation for all concerned.
It's worth considering what the film would be like without the scene. From memory, one of the writers (I forget if it was Coppel or Taylor) suggested that the revelation should come early, as Hitchcockian "suspense" required the audience to know more than Scottie does.

One other thing -- "Vertigo" was the closest Hitchcock came to his lifelong dream of making a film of the J.M. Barrie stage play "Mary Rose". The young Hitchcock had seen the stage production and tried several times to emulate it's eeire quality (twice he had studio staff try and locate a copy of the musical score used in the original production of the play). The following quote is from a subscription article about a more recent stage production...

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The trauma of war inflicted losses (plus those due to the flu epidemic) also fed into Barrie's lifelong yearning to replace the brother who died as a boy in his mother's heart and the consequent persistent fixation on the missing and dead being in a sort of limbo that leaves the living mourning them and yet longing to have them back. His twice disappearing Mary Rose, first as a girl and later as a young wife and mother, can thus be seen as a psychologically complex ghost whose second and longer disappearance turned her into a reverse Peter Pan— a symbol of all the mothers in search of their lost children.
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Old 11-09-2008, 14:54   #79
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Read up on the restoration as well though.
Indeed. Apparently the negative and elements from that scene had vanished and it was too expensive to restore it - something like a 10% improvement for Ł100,000? But I'm wondering why the elements and negative for that scene alone have been lost. Could it have something to do with it being stored in a different place from the rest of the movie, as if it had been something somehow seperate? Just a thought!
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Old 11-09-2008, 14:57   #80
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I seem to recall that Vera Miles was the original choice for Madeleine but got pregnant, and that Novak was as resistant to the grey-suit and blonde hair-style as Judy Barton!
Dan Auiler's book on "Vertigo" has a slightly different spin to the Miles story -- firstly that Hitch had been disappointed with Miles's performance in "The Wrong Man", and secondly that Paramount wouldn't be happy about having a star of Stewart's calibre paired up with Miles, who was a relative unknown.

Auiler's book also recounts that Novak originally refused to wear the grey suit. So, Edith Head met with Hitchcock to come up with plan. Novak was then recalled for fitting and Head showed her a large selection of grey cloths (which Hitchcock and Head knew would appear similar to the original suit colour on film) and Novak chose the one she liked best.
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