lexlingua 😊 chipper
Listens: Fools - Glade
Three Hitchcock Movies
The 39 Steps (1939)
I read The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan more than 15 years ago. I did not remember much about the book except that it was about a man on the run from a dangerous criminal mastermind who wanted to reveal the country's military secrets to the enemy. I also remembered that there was no female protagonist in the book, and that the criminal mastermind had a "hooded" gaze. The hooded gaze, like that of a bird of prey, somehow made him very sinister in my eyes.
Fast forward to 2017, when I learnt that there was more than one movie version of the book. The Hitchcock version of 1939 was the most touted one, and was also billed as his "most romantic". Er? I though there were no females in the book? Turns out that in the movie, Hitchcock takes artistic license, and handcuffs the running man with a lady lead. 'Tis a suspicious bickering-to-love kind of entanglement, with some innuendos thrown in. Height of "romance", of course. *rolls eyes*
Here's what I liked about the movie: it is attention-grabbing from the get-go. Mr. Memory's strange abilities to remember historical and technical details, the mysterious secret agent's paranoia about her would-be murderers, the controlled fear on our running hero's face as he flees from one blinded authority to another. And the hooded gaze of our villain engineered by him looking down at his hands from time to time? Brilliant direction.
Rating: 7/10. Recommended. Watch on YouTube.
The Trouble with Harry (1955)
The Trouble with Harry is a Hitchcock black comedy in technicolor, and is about a corpse found in the forest that everyone wants to hide from the police. Why they want to hide it more mysterious than whodunnit, and solving the puzzle is like peeling an onion, layer by layer. I would also think it is actually much more "romantic" than The 39 Steps, but maybe I'm not the best judge.
I would go so far as to call it a screwball comedy, as it is replete with Hitchcock's trademark sly humor. Everyone and everything is so distinctly odd that odd becomes the new mundane. Like the door being loose and sliding open most mysteriously again and again. Like finding the statue of a vermillion mermaid and washed underwear in the studio apartment of an old tugboat captain. Like confessing the most private secrets in a prosaic tone, as if you were discussing the weather. Like having to dig up a dead body four times in the same day. The wit is subtle and wry, and if you hold on for the first half an hour, the movie will turn out to be an absolute delight.
Rating: 8.5/10. Highly recommended. Watch on YouTube.
With Spellbound, my next 2 hours whizzed by effortlessly, as Ingrid Bergman plays the psychoanalyst to Gregory Peck's amnesiac hero. Don't go by the movie's title, which seems to imply some magician's trick or two people besotted with each other -- the tenor is much darker and revolves around the mysterious impersonation of the dead Doctor Edwards by Peck.
There are some quirks to the movie. Like many old movies, the background music in Spellbound turns to high pitches at the drop of a hat (causing my palpitating hands to rush to the volume button!) and can be annoying. There are also some moments in the movie that (intentionally) highlight the chauvinism of the time, when Bergman, who is the only female doctor in her circle, gets to hear some uncharitable remarks about how she will wither away in scientific pursuits, and later that a woman in love turns stupid, aka "spellbound". But even that didn't take away the suspense of the plot as we wait for Peck to regain his memory and to prove that he isn't really a murderer. It doesn't hurt that our leading lad and lady are so very good to look at.
Rating: 8/10. Recommended. Watch on YouTube.