Friday, October 30, 2009

Alfred Hitchcock: A Tribute

I have a bunch of favorite directors. Most notably, Frank Capra, William Wyler, and Alfred Hitchcock. In the spirit of Halloween, here’s a tribute to the amazing Master of Suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

Brief Biography

His career spanned six decades, and everyone can name at least one of his incredible films. We know him for many of his ‘trade marks,’ whether it be his use of blondes, often making cameos in his films, his use of dark humor, or his neat camera angles. A lot can be said about the extraordinary man.

Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone, London, England on August 13th, 1899. His parents were strict Catholics and he attended St. Ignatius College, a school for engineering and navigation. When he was around fifteen or sixteen years old in 1915, he has his first job as an estimator for the Henley Telegraph and Cable Company. In 1920, he became a title designer. He designed movie titles for all the ones made as Lasky’s studio. The first film he directed was Number 13 in 1922, but it was unfinished. The director of Always Tell Your Wife (1923) fell ill and Hitchcock took after. After that, the rest is history. He married his wife, Alma Reville, in 1926 and was with her until his death in 1980 [that’s a long time]! He died on April 29th, 1980 of renal failure. He was eighty.

Although is career as a director was extremely successful and spanned over half a century, he never won an Oscar. He was nominated 5 times for Best Director [Psycho, Rear Window, Spellbound, Lifeboat and Rebecca]. He did receive the 1968 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award and in 1979, the American Film Institute awarded him the Life Achievement Award.

My Top Hitchcock Flicks

Rear Window (1954) - My favorite. Grace Kelly is stunning, and the entire film keeps you on your toes. A professional photographer (James Stewart) is wheelchair-bound after breaking his leg trying to get an ‘action shot’ at an auto race. To pass the time, he stares out the window of his New York apartment, spying on his neighbors and following their lives. However, he begins to suspect that one of the neighbors murdered his wife. He enlists in the help of his fashionista girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and his visiting nurse.

The Birds (1963) - Not the greatest ‘effects,’ as in the bird scenes… but still excellent in my opinion. A sociliate and prankster (Trippi Hedren) meets a man while shopping at a pet store. The man named Mitch (Rod Taylor) is looking to buy a pair of love birds for his sister’s birthday. She decides to buy her own pair and drive up to the lake where Mitch spends his weekends with his mother and sister. After being nipped by a seagull on the way across the lake, bizarre bird attacks begin to happen.

Psycho (1960) - I shouldn’t give too much away. I love the film though. A young woman (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000 from her employer’s client. While on her way to visit her boyfriend Sam, she grows tired and decides to stop at a motel for the night. However, tragedy strikes when the young hotel owner’s mother has pushed him too far.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) - Because I can’t summarize it as nicely… “A family vacationing in Morocco accidentally stumble on to an assassination plot and the conspirators are determined to prevent them from interfering.”

And of course, I do love Spellbound, North by Northwest, Notorious, and Vertigo a whole lot, also!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) vs. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to blog about one of my favorites. It’s been a debate for many, many years. Of course, there are various versions that have been released, but when asked if you have seen the movie, the most widely recognized of all are the two mentioned above. However, which one is the better one? It’s too difficult. Yes, the same synopsis and all that… but different effects, different actors… all of these things must be considered when deciding which film is better.

According to IMDB, the heavy makeup that Frederic March wore as Hyde almost damaged his face. If you have seen both. You know which Hyde looks scarier… Frederic March’s Hyde. The pulling down of the eyes, the hair, the teeth… March’s Hyde makeup was in various colors. How his appearance registered on the film depended on the use of different colored filters in front of a camera lens [which color was in front of the lens brought out which color of makeup the most]. I think Frederic March was the perfect person to play this role. It certainly showed that the actor could do ‘heavier roles.’

Now for the 1941 version. I’ve always loved Spencer Tracy. He is one of the greatest actors of all time [and he won two Oscars in a ROW. Like Tom Hanks!]. He turned down James Stewart’s role in The Philadelphia Story (1940) to make this piece. Anyway, the effects of Tracy’s Hyde is VERY different. Not as much hair….he doesn’t have the ridiculously droopy eyes. The teeth aren’t messed up really. I do think that acting might be what makes him Hyde. The scene where Ivy [Ingrid Bergman] brings him a drink, and he asks her to sit down… that’s creepy. His face, the way he watches and stares at her. The way he seems to angry and possessive. That’s Hyde. You don’t need the makeup and effects to tell that he is evil. However… even Tracy himself said this was the least of his favorite films and that his acting was awful. It’s not my favorite of his films by far. If more effects were used, then perhaps it could be more comparable to the 1931 version.

Audiences and critics felt that Spencer Tracy was ‘too American’ and ‘too rough’ to play the role of Hyde in the film. And perhaps they were right. But in a way, off topic but, I couldn’t picture anyone else playing James Stewart’s role in The Philadelphia Story (1940), and that’s just what would have happened.

So, I think 1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde takes the cake!

Watch this YouTube video. It’s actually a picture slideshow, but it does come very close to the 1931 [1932] part of the movie. Watch as his entire face changes…. the eyes, teeth, cheeks, hair… everything! The movie was well ahead of it’s time. It certainly it remarkable.

*NOTE: Although often said to be 1932, I put 1931... It was released on December 31st, 1931. IMDB placed it at 1931, as well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Creepy, Worthwhile Flicks

Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the United States, followed by Christmas. It surely is no surprise that October is probably the month with the greatest number of horror flicks shown, while December is the month for heartfelt Christmas stories.

Anyway… Halloween is two weeks away! So, it’s time to get into the spirit by watching a good horror flick or two. It of course, depends on the type of film that suits or fancy. Creepy? Eerie? Just plain off? I’ll be honest, I’m not too much of an ‘old’ creepy film watcher… mostly anything from the 1970s through the early 1990s. Besides Hitchcock, I love more modern day movies when it comes to thrillers and/or mystery and suspense films. I haven’t seen any remakes of the classic 1970s and 1980s movies, such as Rob Zombie’s take on Halloween or the new Friday The 13th film. The following four films are the to me, the coolest films and a requirement to watch during the Halloween season. Also, if you want a synopsis of the movie, either check it out and be surprised, or search on IMDB.

Halloween (1978) - It had an extremely low budget, it was Jamie Lee Curtis’ big break, and Michael Myers always came back to life after dying. The mask was a William Shatner mask, for goodness sakes. But as a child, this film scared the living daylights out of me. The music is eerie, the mask was creepy, and I was always on the lookout for the killer in real life. Of course, the franchise still continues, but they certainly aren’t anything comparable to the original.

Friday the 13th (1980) - I first saw this film with my boyfriend three years ago. I was frightened, even being fifteen. The music was also a tad creepy, and the mask was nothing more than the clichĂ© hockey mask that a goalie wears. The budget was only $500,000, but made over $39,000,000. This film didn’t have to convince me twice, but I never even planned on being a camp counselor ever again.

Psycho (1960) - Alfred Hitchcock once wanted to make a film in Disneyland in the early 1960s. Walt Disney refused because Hitchcock made “that disgusting movie ‘Psycho.’” Yes, the film had that much of an impression… the famous shower scene gives us all chills, and the ending was just wonderful and spooky. Plus, who would think that Anthony Perkins could harm anyone? It was Hitchcock’s last black and white film, but surely, it was one of the most bone chilling ones.

The Exorcist (1973) - A young teenager becomes possessed by an evil spirit. Two priests must help. Simple plot, but still a great film. The evil voice is really creepy, and Billy Graham claimed that an actual demon was living in the celluloid reels of this film. It’s only pea soup, but the effects are everlasting. If you adjust for inflation, this film is the highest grossing R-Rated film. Yeah, think about that.

They may be 'newer,' but they are certainly classic.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Favorite Classic Love Stories

If you have seen any of my other posts, you might know that I am such a sucker for any romantic movie/love story. Whether it’s from the 1920s or 2000s, any romantic plot in a movie [whether small or large] often makes me tear up a little on the inside. So, here is the Classic Movie Bug’s Greatest Love Movies list.

Two for the Road [1967] - Starring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, this is probably one of my absolute favorites. It chronicles the ups and downs of a European couple. The movie shows their travels and the love they have for each other, despite problems such as having a child and infidelities. Some of the greatest lines/quotes, in my opinion, come from this film. The music by Henry Mancini makes the movie complete perfection. Just lovely!

“We agreed before we were married that we weren't going to have any children.“
“And before we were married we didn't.”

Roman Holiday [1953] - Another lovely love story involving Audrey Hepburn, this film also stars the ever-so-handsome Gregory Peck. Peck plays an American journalist [Joe Bradley] stationed in Rome. When Princess Anne [Hepburn] escapes and flees from her princess duties, she disguises herself as Anya and meets Bradley. Bradley figures out who she is, and thinks it’s the perfect time to have a one-on-one interview with her [as well as to photograph her having a blast in the wonderful city]. However, she does not know that he knows who she is [sounds confusing, haha]. They fall in love at the end, but they know they can’t be together, without stating why.

“At midnight, I'll turn into a pumpkin and drive away in my glass slipper.”
“And that will be the end of the fairy tale.”

An Affair to Remember [1957] - The remake of 1939’s Love Affair, this film is a classic tearjerker. Terry McKay [Deborah Kerr] and Nicky Ferrante [Cary Grant] fall in love during a cruise from Europe to New York. They both agree that they will meet again in six months at the Empire State Building. However, tragedy strikes and Terry is kept from meeting Nicky, leaving him to believe that she has married or no longer loves him. I think that the pairing was perfect, and I can’t picture anyone else taking on those roles. A MUST SEE!

“I really hope you've found happiness, and if you're ever in need of anything, like someone to love you, don't hesitate to call me.”

Casablanca [1942] - I can’t make a romantic movie list without mentioning this beautiful, well-done, amazing classic. This film stars Humphrey Bogart as “Rick Blaine” and Ingrid Bergman as “Ilsa Lund.” Two star-crossed lovers who are destined to be together. Rick is the owner of Rick’s CafĂ©, a central spot in Morocco, Africa. Victor Lazlo, an underground Czech leader, arrives to Morroco with Rick’s one time love, Ilsa. Although bitter to her in the beginning for leaving him, he learns she has a good reason to. Some of the greatest quotes of all time are from this movie. Tearjerker.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

So, that’s it for now! I might make a Part II… who knows! But that’s all I have got for right now. I’d love more comments/feedback, and I’d love if more people voted in my polls!

Friday, October 2, 2009

October is Here! C:

I really hope that with this new month, comes a new time to relax and watch a bunch of movies. Once again, I have lacked watching films all together…except for the occasional movie playing as background noise as I do assignment after assignment.

I really want to expand my horizons this month… I want to catch a dozen new stars and fall in love with them. I want to watch a movie that is worthy of going on my Facebook’s Favorite Movies list [I know there are a lot listened there, but really, it’s an honor].

I hope to catch Esther Williams on her five-movie marathon next Thursday. I want to see a bunch of Leslie Caron films on Mondays or William Castle films playing Tuesdays this month. And who could forget… the month of films revolving around the Great Depression [another chance to see Henry Fonda and fall in love all over again (:]

So, although this month is once again filled with schoolwork, I am going to learn to relax and think about myself for at least one weekend. Plus, I will make two more journeys to Penn State University Park to pick up my boyfriend this month, who perhaps will let me watch a good movie or two with him.


One of my favorite movie scenes...

Rear Window: A Movie Review and Synopsis

I am a freaking huge Alfred Hitchcock fan. Seriously. The suspense in each of his films… ah, perfection. The camera angles, the music, especially his storylines. They get me every time. I watch with delight as the story unravels on the screen… I am instantly drawn to it. My eyes aren’t oranges; they can’t be peeled.

But, anyway… the first Alfred Hitchcock film that I ever saw just happens to be my favorite one, as well as the one that is playing tonight on Turner Classic Movies [9 PM; EST]. Rear Window. Agh, just saying the name gets me anxious. I believe the film gained a new life after Disturbia came out in theatres. Disturbia is based off of the Hitchcock classic, but is centered around a teenage boy who is on house arrest.

In this film, a professional photographer named L.B. Jeffries [James Stewart] is wheelchair bound after breaking his leg. To amuse himself and pass the time while in his apartment, he spies on his surrounding neighbors. He is then convinced that one man has committed a murder. With the help of his high-society girlfriend [Grace Kelly] and his visiting nurse, they are able to investigate what really went on in the apartment of the ‘murderer.’

The film keeps you on your toes. Grace Kelly looks absolutely breath-taking… one of her best films. The Technicolor is magnificent. My boyfriend even thought it came out in the 1970s? [Well, that is coming from someone who thought his favorite film, Star Wars, came out in the 1990s and West Side Story came out in the 1980s]. Hah, but it really is great. Four stars. Sir Alfred Hitchcock is the master of Suspense.