Music Video Friday: Faith No More – Last Cup Of Sorrow

Today’s video is Faith No More’s Last Cup Of Sorrow co-starring Jennifer Jason Leigh in a fun take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

I should’ve posted this video the week I posted My Top Ten Jennifer Jason Leigh Movies. Then I thought “Well, I’ll wait until I finally see The Hateful Eight then I can update that Top Ten & post this video”. Okay, I’ve still not seen The Hateful Eight but I just really felt like finally posting this video. So many awesome things combined! Faith No More, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Alfred Hitchcock! If only Totoro & David Bowie had somehow been in this video, too – then it would be the coolest thing EVER. 😉

I love Faith No More & always thought they were an underrated band at the time. Their songs still stick around on my iPod to this day whereas I’ve moved on from a lot of the other music I listened to in the late 80s/early 90s. I mean, who still has stuff like Candlebox on their iPod these days?! Ha – I seriously can’t now name one Candlebox song but I swear I have an entire Candlebox album knocking around somewhere in my house…

Last Cup Of Sorrow came along in 1997, much later than the album with their most well-known stuff (1989’s The Real Thing). I think everyone knows Epic but Midlife Crisis may be my favorite song.

Singer Mike Patton also had another band called Mr. Bungle. They made some pretty damn weird stuff. I liked the above album but can’t say I’ve heard it in years. I remember Squeeze Me Macaroni & I was kind of fond of the song Egg. My ex used to love both Faith No More & Mr. Bungle and was quite proud of the fact that he & his friend picked up some chicks once but managed to scare them off since he was playing Mr. Bungle. I can understand why but clearly I was weird enough to not be scared away. 😉 Patton also did the “creature vocals” for the movie I Am Legend since he can do such crazy shit with his voice. I love that bizarre fact.

Come to think of it, that ex had a collection of all of Faith No More’s videos. I should really buy that if it’s still available… It may be where I first saw this video – I don’t remember if it was a big enough hit to get much play on MTV? That’s a shame – I can’t think of any other Hitchcock-inspired music videos! A video like this would never get made now. I really miss the creativity there used to be in music. Where has that gone?!

Well, here’s Faith No More’s Vertigo-inspired video for Last Cup Of Sorrow, co-starring the lovely Jennifer Jason Leigh: 🙂

Okay – I just had to Google Candlebox to see if I remembered any of their songs. I think I vaguely remember Left Behind!

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Bizarre Video Combines Hitchcock and Kubrick Characters Into One Nightmarish World

I love when my favorite things get put together in mash-ups such as these! This time we have Stanley Kubrick characters inserted into Alfred Hitchcock/Jimmy Stewart movie scenes.

This video was put together by Gump and you can read about it here: GeekTyrant. I want to see more movie mash-ups of two brilliant directors! 🙂

Vertigo (1958) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from James of Back To The Viewer. Thanks for the review, James! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Vertigo, IMDB rank 48 out of 250.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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When I volunteered to take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo for ‘Cinema Parrot Disco’s ‘IMDB Top 250 Challenge’ I was hoping to have a better experience compared to my first viewing. I was willing to give it a second chance after my first experience consisted of yawns and animosity but it wasn’t to be. Usually one to see the good in almost everything I seriously struggled with this one but here goes.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of Alfred Hitchcock’s ability to navigate his way around the human psyche I’d like to start off by addressing the BFI’s decision to adorn Vertigo with top honours on the ’50 Greatest Films of All Time’ list in ‘Sight and Sound’ back in 2012. Sparking an incessant debate two camps emerged. Firstly, those who agreed with the decision, or were at least impartial. Secondly, those Kanites who, through an act of self-excommunication, refused to allow their holy grail in the form of one Citizen Kane to be associated with anything lower than top spot. Refusing to align with the critics’ choice a fierce debate ensued which thankfully has died down since. What worries me here is the day Vertigo falls from grace. Will it come quietly or will it put up a fight grappling with the bell tower banister drenched in sweat, fearful of the dizzying descent leaving in its wake a tainted throne for the successor? Naturally what Hitchcock’s Mystery Romance boils down to is not a detective story but an allegory of his own directorial style. Hardly a revelation in the film studies world but ever a significant point. However, little attention is paid to the subtleties that hide in plain sight. The past plays such an important role in Vertigo right up to the closing shots that it begs to wonder whether Hitchcock knew with some prescience of mind that his 45th feature was going to leave such a lasting and debatable impression on cinema culture.

On at least three occassions are the words ‘power’ and ‘freedom’ used in the same sentence. First by Gavin Elster when he recruits John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson to follow his wife, he mutters in reference to San Francisco’s colourful past “I’d liked to have lived here then. The colour and excitement…the power…the freedom.” But despite the colour Hitchcock employs, Vertigo makes for a dark mystery overtly presented in the second instance by the book shop owner and historian Pop Liebel. Also in reference to San Francisco’s past but specifically the dominant patriarchal society, “They had the power… and the freedom,” spoken as the room is gradually, masterfully consumed by darkness. Lastly, spoken by Scottie himself “the freedom and the power.” This last one has been sidetracked slightly through fear of revealing too much but the words stand alone and stand out, to me at least. Perhaps from my History education, or perhaps more likely from my curiosity. Why would Hitchcock make this point consistently throughout? Bringing it back to the earlier point that Vertigo is more about film direction then it could refer to the power and the freedom Directors enjoy in their choices and decisions. It’s no secret that Hitchcock had a very specific vision for his leading ladies and the efficacy with which he pulled it off is inarguably sublime, Kim Novak is just that.

Delivering a complex performance to say the least as Madelaine, Gavin Elster’s wife to whom Scottie is assigned, Novak moves effortlessly between the lines of vulnerable alluring damsel to tragic innocent caught in a web of deceit. James Stewart puts in a solid performance as Scottie and with Hitchcock at the helm it would have been rude to expect anything less. Outside players such as Midge, Scottie’s adoring friend, can only watch helplessly as he falls deeper and deeper into a spiral of psychological acrophobia mixed with a healthy dose of curiosity, passion, and obsession.

The reason Scottie is hired to follow Madelaine on her day to day travels is revealed by Elster during their first conversation on the matter. Elster informs Scottie that Madelaine of late tends to leave this world for another, her eyes cloud over and she is somewhere else. Eventually coming to and having no recollection of her whereabouts. Enough to fuel Scottie’s intrigue he tentatively agrees to report on Madelaine’s activities. In a warped plot that seems as ludicrous to us as it does to Scottie Elster believes his wife has become possessed by the ghost of Carlotta Valdes. Tragically befalling to her own maddening sickness Valdes committed suicide at the age of 26. Madelaine is 26 hence Elster’s apprehension over her mysterious activity. However, the relationship between Carlotta and Madelaine forged by Hitchcock seems strained and forced whereas the symbolic relationship between Carlotta and Scottie burgeons throughout, initially unnoticed but retrospectively significant.

What Hitchcock has produced with Vertigo is a timeless tragedy perpetually spiraling, perplexing, and intriguing viewers. My first viewing of Vertigo was tainted by the anticipation of a gripping masterpiece. I left feeling a little unsatisfied and bemused, much like the original audiences upon its release way back in 1958. Despite what others have said in retrospect Vertigo will unfortunately never take the crown in my top 10 and the same can be said when put up against Hitchcock’s other features. North by Northwest and Rear Window do it for me, sorry Alfred. Given the resurgence of critical attention since its original re-evaluation in the 60s and even more so since 2012 with ‘Sight and Sound’s controversial decision my reaction to Vertigo remains unimpressed. It has some defining features, the iconic nightmare scene, psychedelic title sequence and the famous film making technique, dolly out-zoom in, but for all this auteuric style Hitchcock subdued his thrilling archetypes for the sake of a farfetched mystery that just doesn’t cut the mustard. Having said that I’m not one to discredit Hitchcock’s mastery behind the camera and these rare moments have warranted Vertigo a better rating than I care to get across in my review.

It was Worth my time to give Vertigo a second chance, and who knows perhaps with time it will grow on me. But that says it all really, if the greatest film of all time doesn’t do enough to impress me after two viewings then I’m going to need some of Scottie’s medicinal Brandy if it ever comes to a third.

Psycho (1960) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Kelechi of Confessions From A Geek Mind. He also did Singin’ In The Rain. Thanks for the reviews, Kelechi! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Psycho, IMDB rank 29 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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****WARNING: SPOILERS****

IMDB Top 250 Guest Review – Psycho (1960)

If you’ve noticed the tagline on my blog banner then you can probably tell where I borrowed it!

Yes the words “we all go a little geek sometimes” is a play on words from Norman Bates’s famous line from Psycho and honestly, Psycho is one of my favourite horror movies.

Psycho tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), an office worker who is fed up with the way life has treated her. She regularly meets up with her lover Sam (John Gavin) during her lunch breaks and would love to move forward with him. However there is a catch. Sam is a divorcee and has to pay alimony money. He cannot afford to move on and provide a decent way of living for Marion. In an opportunistic move to start a new life, Marion decides to steal $40,000 from her employer who entrusted her to pay into the bank. On the run as a thief she decides to get out of town and head to California where Sam is located. After a long drive she pulls into The Bates Motel, which is managed by a quiet young man called Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his controlling mother. As the hours tick by, Marion suddenly becomes a first hand witness to Norman’s deep dark secret.

“I think I must have one of those faces you can’t help believing.” – Norman Bates

To start off, I guess you need to ask is why Psycho has lasted over the years. Why is it considered Hitchcock’s greatest film and why is it one of the best horror films ever?

Modern horror films rely on gore to surprise the audience, using endless clichés that has been repeated a thousand times before. They almost become comedic because of this exposure. Psycho differs purely because it is (pardon the phrase) a psychological approach to the horror genre.

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Psycho doesn’t rely on a creature/monster/a guy with some deformity or mask who lusts for revenge on the people around him. On the surface, Norman Bates is just an ordinary, everyday man. He has that innocent and charming face, an all American type hero that would happily help you with anything (which is how Anthony Perkins got the part). He’s unsuspecting. Norman Bates is that friend you knew from school, a work colleague or that person you bumped into at a shop. In essence, these key attributes play an essential and powerful role in the ending and ultimate reveal of Norman’s secret.

What separates Norman from the sane folk in the world is his mental psychology. Norman is an expert in duality (trying very hard not to spoil this!) His life is completely dominated by his mother in every aspect yet plays the dutiful son responsible for her well being. At times he reacts fearfully or angrily based on what his mother would think or behave. He can be defensive about his mother because the outside world doesn’t understand their relationship. When Marion turns up at the Motel, psychological jealously ensues with Norman being attracted by Marion and his mother being very disapproving. In the extremity of it all with its steady build-up of clues and uncertainty, it eventually leads to shocking and murderous intentions as demonstrated in the famous shower scene where Marion Crane is brutally stabbed to death by Norman’s mother.

Psycho illustrates within each frame of film how dangerous, twisted and scary the human condition can be. You can never truly know what someone is thinking (unless you’re a psychic). By making this point it’s central theme, it makes the audience uneasy, questioning and self-doubting. Without you realising it, it creates an aura of unpredictability in the human behaviour that Norman Bates (with his poster boy charm) embodies. His devilish smile at the end of the film is a great example of that distorted duality which he accepts and embraces.

Oh, we can see each other. We can even have dinner but respectably in my house with my mother’s picture on the mantel and my sister helping me broil a big steak for three.” – Marion Crane

In reality, Psycho is two stories for the price of one. What often gets remembered and talked about is the second half because of how disturbing it is. However, it is the first half of the film that importantly sets the second half of the movie in motion.

In some parallel universe, Marion Crane would never have met Norman Bates. She would have kept on driving and probably made it to California with her lover, $40,000 richer as well.

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Marion (like Norman) goes through a psychological change but of a different kind. Her backstory is not heavily dwelled on. She’s not perfect but she is a decent woman seeking to better her frustrated life. Sensing the perfect opportunity to change her fortunes, she becomes a thief, stealing money from her employment. It’s clearly her first offence – she acts nervously and cautiously around a car salesman and a policeman, desperately hoping not to get caught. When she does feel she’s out of the woods, she begins to smile, enjoying the thrill and a clear satisfaction that her plan is coming to fruition.

It is only when she turns up at Bates Motel that her euphoria rapidly changes.

Whether it’s female intuition or just a natural conscious within her, her small talk with Norman Bates becomes revealing. She begins to notice the strangeness behind the false façade of his personality – his mother, taxidermy as a hobby, twelve rooms with twelve vacancies etc. You could probably hint at Marion beginning to feel a little uncomfortable and it is through this self-doubting exchange that she develops a conscience. She begins re-evaluating her decision, calculating how much she spent from the stolen money. She may have flushed the calculations down the toilet but it was her way of recognising and apologising for her mistake. She then takes a shower to “wash away” her sins.

In the end, despite the change of heart she still gets punished – stabbed to death by mother.

Some could argue that Marion got her comeuppance. If she didn’t steal the money she wouldn’t have found herself in a vulnerable position. But then again – did she really deserve that? Was her crime fiendishly bad in comparison to what Norman Bates was doing?

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This build-up is crucial to how the second act of the film plays out. Marion (just like Norman) is an everyday person – a beautiful and attractive woman who made a mistake. We quell our thoughts of criminality by our own sense of morality and conscience (unless you’re playing Grand Theft Auto) but Marion decides to act on them. Her sudden and dramatic death after she tried to correct a wrong comes out of the blue. The shower scene highlighted how exposed Marion was, powerless and defenceless to stop the assault. In Bernard Herrmann’s dramatic score, each sharp-pitched string note represented the sound of the knife sinking deeper and deeper into Marion’s skin, prolonging the agony the longer it went on. It wouldn’t have the same memorable impact if the entire scene was silent, something that Hitchcock originally intended. The rest of the film takes a dramatic and sinister tone as the audience slowly begins to uncover the dark undertones of Norman’s personality, with Sam and Marion’s sister leading the enquiry.

Janet Leigh was a popular actress in her heyday so to see her killed off halfway through a film was a bold move. Usually when a star headlines a film, they stick through to the end. Again this provides further evidence of Hitchcock’s mantra with Psycho – no one is truly safe.

The two stories are beautifully woven together. At first they appear random but the criminal undertones and characteristics are present with Marion and Norman. Unfortunately for Marion, she met someone far more devious and dangerous than herself.

There’s an old saying, “First customer of the day is always the trouble!”” – California Charlie

Another cool benefit to Hitchcock’s directorial work on Psycho is the low budget feel of the movie. It’s a cinema release yet feels like a TV special. Everything about Psycho feels intimate, drawing the audience closer to the story and the clues. Filming in black and white made Psycho visually engaging. Colour would have been distracting; black and white maintained the mystery, hiding the truth in plain sight and keeping character motivations ambiguous. It was also a clear nod to Hitchcock’s favourite film at that time – Les Diaboliques (1955). Psycho represents Hitchcock at his best, utilising his skills and knowledge from his TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and bringing them to the big screen.

Hitchcock also created hype with Psycho aiming to create illusion and surprise. Audience members were refused entry to the cinema to see the film if they turned up late. It’s essentially the director punishing you for your time-keeping skills but also giving you a fair opportunity to watch his film without guessing or questioning the context by watching it as it was intended – from A to B. Even the original 1960 trailer ran over six minutes which was completely unheard of as Hitchcock wanders through the set teasing the plot like a crime scene detective.

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho will always be fondly remembered as one of the best horror films because the film exploits the psychological fear within it. The events that occur in Psycho are believable and real and could happen to anyone. That fear is scarier if you knew that madness was happening on your doorstep instead of some grotesque monster suspiciously lurking around the neighbourhood. It’s a fear we choose not to entertain too much as it’s easier to believe in supernatural characters that defy logic such as Freddy Kruger or Pennywise the clown.

Nevertheless, those characters had an inspiration and Norman Bates leads the way for that realistic portrayal of fear.

As Norman would say – we all go a little mad sometimes.

Dial M For Murder (1954) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. She’s already reviewed The Godfather: Part I (HERE) and Part II (HERE) as well as The Departed (HERE) and The Green Mile (HERE) and Big Fish (HERE) and Snatch (HERE). Thanks once again for all these reviews, Zoe! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about Dial M For Murder, IMDB rank 167 out of 250.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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So Miss Mutant still had a few movies on her “to take” list for her IMDB Top 250 challenge. I know I have taken quite a few, but I had very recently watched Dial M For Murder for the Alfred Hitchcock blogathon that Rob of Movie Rob and I hosted. Lo and behold, Dial M For Murder was still lingering, looking for a taker. I figured because it was so fresh in my mind, I might as well.

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SYNOPSIS: An ex-tennis pro carries out a plot to murder his wife. When things go wrong, he improvises a brilliant plan B. – via IMDB

“People don’t commit murder on credit.” – Tony Wendice

I had never seen Dial M For Murder prior to it being on my Hitchcock films to watch. Getting to it certainly proved it was one of the better ones that I had seen during my run. This presents a solid film from Hitchcock, and it was decent. While maybe not my favourite of his, it had a lot going for it.

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I enjoyed the cast. Grace Kelly is an absolute beauty, and I still think Robert Cummings is a real cutie, and I enjoyed him here as a mystery writer Mark Halliday. Although I thought it was wrong for Margot to be cheating on Tony (Ray Milland) with Mark, and there is no way to justify it, the man was neglectful and careless with his relationship with his stunning wife, and ultimately viewed her as nothing more than keeping him in the right circles and serving as her meal ticket. She deserved a man to honour her and treasure her, such as Mark, but it still isn’t right how they went about that. If Tony was such a prat, she should have just left him.

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Besides my moral gripe, the movie has many other things going for it. The plot was very simple, and laid out in a straightforward manner. Sometimes bells and whistles do detract from the overall experience of a film, when people try to get too fancy and smart, they leave holes and continuity issues. This one came together nicely, and was paced well. John Williams portrayed Chief Inspector Hubbard fantastically, and he was certainly a character I enjoyed thoroughly.

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Dial M For Murder was shot nicely, the performances were solid all round, and the score complemented the film. Cummings and Kelly shared some great chemistry, even though there was not much of it on screen all the time. However, when it was, it was great. Tony’s scheme was really clever – on paper and in his mind – but it was evident that he had not thought of any possible unforeseen circumstances, which provided an interesting concept on how he was going to deal with all the little things that started popping up all over the show. His flawless Plan A suddenly doesn’t look so grand anymore, and his impromptu Plan B seems to be so much better laid out than the original, anyhow. Much… neater, almost. Definitely a decent watch to look into, escpecially if you enjoy Hitchcock!

Strangers On A Train (1951) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Rob of MovieRob. He also reviewed Saving Private Ryan HERE and The Manchurian Candidate HERE and Pulp Fiction HERE. Thanks for the reviews, Rob! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Strangers On A Train, IMDB rank 138 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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“My theory is that everyone is a potential murderer.” – Bruno

Number of Times Seen – 1 (4 Nov 2014)

Brief Synopsis – After two strangers meet by accident during a train ride, one of them suggests that they commit crisscross murders for each other so neither will be suspected of the crimes.

My Take on it – Despite being a co-host of a Hitchcock blogathon a few months ago, I still haven’t seen most of his movies yet.

This is one of them that I have been meaning to see for years, but for some unknown reason, I have constantly procrastinated seeing.

I knew the basic premise (which was re-used in Throw Momma From the Train (1987) and couldn’t wait to see how Hitchcock handled it.

As a fan of movies, I generally prefer good and gripping plots as opposed to masterfully filmed movies from a technical standpoint. That’s probably the reason that I never fully appreciated Hitchcock’s films because he was known more for his camera angles, shots and perspectives than for his storylines.

That’s actually my major gripe about this movie tho; the premise is genius, but the actual storyline execution is weak. The characterizations and plot should have been developed more instead of making sure that the reflection through a pair of eye glasses was done properly. But that’s what one should expect from a Hitchcock movie, so I can’t really complain about something I was already aware of when I watched this.

There are a few great suspense filled scenes, the most notable one is with a lighter in a storm drain.

I wish I could say that I loved this movie, but frankly I can only say it was very good.

Bottom Line – Amazing premise and great work by Hitchcock, but the story itself is weakly plotted. Camera shots are excellent and perfectly done just like Hitchcock was known for. Recommended!

Rating – Globe Worthy

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***MOVIES FOR MOVIEROB & THE IPC

Hi. Your Cinema Parrot Disco host here. So, a few months ago, Rob did a review of Need For Speed for Eric’s Shitfest at The IPC. At the end of the review, he posted 10 pictures from 10 road racing movies and said that whoever got the most right would be able to choose 5 movies for him and 5 movies for Eric to watch & review. Well, I WON! 🙂

Sorry for the huge delay, guys – I know you’ve been anxious for these, Rob! Life has gotten in the way these last few months but, as promised once October was over, here are your five movies each. I have a few alternates in case you’ve seen any of these already or if you can’t get a hold of some. I’ve put links in on the ones I’ve reviewed and there’s also one I’ve never seen (Nikita). No time limit whatsoever on these (although I’m sure Rob will have these watched, written, and posted by lunchtime tomorrow). 😉

Rob’s Movies:

Harold & Maude
Before Sunrise
Amelie
I Origins
The Babadook

Eric’s Movies:

The Secret In Their Eyes
Sisters (aka Blood Sisters)
Vanishing Point
The Brood
Nikita

***Stay tuned the next two weeks for two more IMDB Top 250 Alfred Hitchcock guest reviews.

Marnie (1964) Review

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I’ve participated in the hugely ambitious Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon being run by Rob of MovieRob & Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. They’ve managed to get reviews for every single Hitchcock film! Great work, you two! 🙂

You can read my contribution, a review of Hitchcock’s 1964 film Marnie, HERE.

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North By Northwest (1959) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Niall of Raging Fluff. Thanks so much for contributing to these IMDB reviews, Niall! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Alfred Hitchcock classic North By Northwest, IMDB rank 42 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE. See the full list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

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***SPOILERS THROUGHOUT***

North by Northwest (1959)

Number of Times Seen: Too many to recall

Synopsis: A Madison Avenue ad executive, Roger Thornhill, is mistaken by enemy spies as CIA agent George Kaplan, a man who doesn’t even exist. Or, as the publicity had it, “it’s a deadly game of ‘tag’ … and Cary Grant is ‘it’!”

My Take: Should obviously be seen by Hitchcock completists and fans of Cary Grant, but should also be essential viewing for anyone interested in editing and scoring.

First, let’s get the film’s flaws out of the way. At 136 minutes, it’s far too long. James Mason as the villain is unfortunately given far too little screen time. The famous finale at Mount Rushmore is, for me, not as exciting as I think it could be, and several of the effects shots are rather shoddy. The filmmakers were prohibited from filming on top of the real Mount Rushmore. The plot itself doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, and the famous crop-dusting scene – brilliant though it is – is the most ludicrous way to dispose of someone: wouldn’t it be easier to just drive by and shoot him?

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All that aside, it is still wonderfully enjoyable and holds up to repeated viewing. It’s a great piece of romantic suspense cinema. Director Alfred Hitchcock turned down the suggestion of Cyd Charisse as the girl, casting Eva Marie Saint instead, and we should be happy that the hero is played by smooth Cary Grant instead of drawling James Stewart, who was the original choice.

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman was originally hired to adapt The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes, but finally admitted to Hitchcock he simply couldn’t do it without turning it into “a boring courtroom drama”. Hitchcock told Lehman they would simply work on something else; the studio brass couldn’t believe their luck, thinking they were going to get two Hitchcock films for the price of one. In the end, Hitchcock passed on the Innes story to others, and he and Lehman focused on North by Northwest. Film fans should be grateful: we got, in Lehman’s words, “the Hitchcock film to end all Hitchcock films”, and The Wreck of the Mary Deare is seldom remembered.

North by Northwest is a marvellous, breezy and confident retread of the best of Hitchcock, combining parts of The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Man Who Knew Too Much. It has many of Hitchcock’s great touches: a fantastic score by Bernard Hermann, a brilliant title sequence by Saul Bass, an ice-cold blonde, a suave villain, a powerful mother-figure, and a shallow, sophisticated big-city hero caught in a story of intrigue that will put him in peril in a sequence of masterful set-pieces.

TITLE SEQUENCE:

He’s a shallow, possibly unlikable character, Roger O. Thornhill: R.O.T. (“What does the O stand for?” “Nothing.”) He begins the film as a man in total control, a 1950s movie idea of success, a smooth-talking, twice-divorced adman, dapper in his grey suit, without conscience or guilt, dictating instructions to his secretary that include buying kiss-off gifts to girls. For reference, let’s say he’s closer to Roger Sterling than Don Draper. By the end, he’ll have been almost killed several times, start an affair with a beautiful double agent, beginning with one of the sexiest conversations in cinema, have hung off Mount Rushmore (a working title for the film was ‘The Man in Lincoln’s Nose’), and finally be successfully married.

It wouldn’t work if the man wasn’t handsome and charming Cary Grant, but because it’s him, and because many of the dramatic scenes are played as high comedy, the film bounces along on its own sense of ridiculousness. He’s abducted by a couple of heavies and transported to a Long Island mansion. “Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets for the theatre this evening.”

They pour a vat of bourbon into him and put him behind the wheel, hoping he’ll drive off a cliff. He doesn’t, and when the police arrest him for drunk-driving, he calls his mother from the jailhouse. “They poured a whole bottle of bourbon into me … No, they didn’t give me a chaser.” Thornhill’s mother (Jessie Royce Landis, in real life the same age as Grant) doesn’t believe his abduction story. She’s almost as joyously reckless as he is. When they’re in a lift beside the thugs, she turns to them and cheerfully asks, “you gentleman aren’t really trying to kill my son, are you?”

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Of course Thornhill calls his mother. He still lives with her. He is still essentially a child, even if he is a ladies’man. Mind you, he’s the one who gets seduced by the beautiful Eve Kendall (Eva Marie-Saint). She turns out to be the mistress of the chief villain, but also a double agent. Their romantic meeting on the train has been copied several times, most recently in the forgettable The Tourist with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

The villain, Van Damm, is James Mason, and to watch he and Grant together, trading witticisms in their beautiful voices, is one of the great pleasures of film-watching. Mason casually says, “the least I can do is afford you the opportunity of surviving the evening.” Van Damm’s chief henchman is played by a nervous-looking Martin Landau, who plays the role with a hint of homosexuality: at one point he asserts his “woman’s intuition.”

The villains think Thornhill is a man called George Kaplan, who it turns out doesn’t exist. He’s a fiction created by the CIA as a decoy so the bad guys don’t realise that the real CIA agent is right under their nose. The McGuffin – only revealed at the end – is some microfilm they’re trying to smuggle out of the country. Having failed to kill him in the car, they try again, luring him to an Iowa cornfield, where they try to kill him with a crop-duster. The reasons for the scene makes very little sense, but it’s so brilliantly conceived and constructed – nearly six minutes of silence before anything happens – and the fact that it’s urbane Cary Grant in a nice suit being chased by a plane in the middle of nowhere, make it unforgettable. If you want to study how effective direction, editing and music score can be when combined correctly, watch that scene repeatedly.

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As with much of Hitchcock, the film has to do with his own fears. He distrusted authority and was afraid of the police. The crop-dusting scene works in part because its setting induces agoraphobia: no matter which direction you look, all you see is a flat expanse of nothingness extending to the horizon. The film also has a lot to do with the suave and charming persona of “Cary Grant”. It was their fourth film together. He was 55 when he filmed North by Northwest – getting up there, but still something of a romantic lead – and some have read his journey in the film as a journey through his career. It’s an interesting idea: at times you can see the Grant of Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and The Philadelphia Story. There’s a wonderful moment where he breaks into a hospital room and wakes up a woman. She screams “Stop!” Then she gets a good look at him, melts and breathes “Stop…?”

Some other moments worth noting: the opening shot of the side of a skyscraper reflecting the traffic; the incredible overhead shot of the plaza in front of the United Nations building; the schoolboy joke of the train going into the tunnel that ends the film.

As enjoyable as North by Northwest is, I’d probably still choose to watch Hitchcock’s The Thirty-Nine Steps first. It treads similar ground with verve, wit and economy (a mere 81 minutes), and is beautifully filmed in black and white, instead of the rather lurid technicolour of the 1950s.

Niall McArdle

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TRAILER:

Rebecca (1940) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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For our second IMDB Top 250 Guest Review (you people are so quick!), we have Rob from the delightful MovieRob blog. Rob watches lots of movies. And by “lots”, I mean that he’s seen way more movies than me. And way more movies than you. And, luckily for us, he reviews them all! He’s a lovely guy and always willing to have a chat about movies so please stop by his blog & leave him some comments. And this won’t be the last time you see him as part of this IMDB Top 250 series. 🙂

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE.

Now let’s turn things over to Rob & hear his thoughts on the (genius, in my opinion) Alfred Hitchcock film Rebecca, IMDB rank 123 out of 250

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“I’d like to have your advice on how to live comfortably without hard work.” – Jack Favell

Number of Times Seen – 1 (11 Feb 2014)

Brief Synopsis – A woman falls in love with a rich man who’s previous wife died mysteriously.

My Take on it – Here is another Best Picture winner that I had yet to see and thanks to Table9mutant’s challenge, I finally got around to watching it.

This movie is a very interesting psychological thriller/mystery which Hitchcock did quite well.
The acting by Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine is very believable and you can feel the tension building up throughout due to their performances. Hitchcock was known for finding ways to get the most out of his actors and this movie is no exception. It is rumored that Olivier was quite snobbish to Fontaine because he wanted his girlfriend (Vivien Leigh)cast in the role instead of her. Hitchcock heard this and told Fontaine that everyone hated her (not just Olivier) in order to get her to play her character more subdued and closed up.

As always, Hitchcock keeps us on the edge of our seats as he throws twists and turns at us throughout until we finally understand what is going on.

I only had two problems with this movie:

1) The main character played by Fontaine doesn’t have a name and is only referred to as Mrs. de Winter throughout which is quite annoying. Apparently since the book is all in first person, there is no need for her to have a name, but in a movie I found it slightly distracting.

2) This movie doesn’t age well, the psychological tension is still there, but it seems a bit subdued. I’m quite surprised that this won Best Picture, but when you look at it’s competitors, I can’t say I’m too surprised.

Winner of 2 Oscars (out of 11). It won Best Picture and cinematography. It lost Director (Hitchcock – This was his first nomination of 5); Actor (Olivier), Actress (Fontaine), Writing, Art Direction, Film Editing, Special Effects, Music and Supporting Actress (Judith Anderson)

Bottom Line – Interesting psychological thriller when Hitchcock was still warming up. Nice cast and Hitchcockian twists galore. Seems a bit dated now tho.

Recommended!

Rating – Globe Worthy
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Check out Rob’s *updated* movie stats here
To see his reviews of all Oscar Best Picture Winners click here

Stoker (2013) Review

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Stoker

Directed by Park Chan-wook

Produced by:
Ridley Scott
Tony Scott
Michael Costigan

Written by Wentworth Miller

Starring:
Mia Wasikowska
Matthew Goode
Nicole Kidman
Dermot Mulroney
Jacki Weaver

Music by Clint Mansell

Running time: 99 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

India Stoker’s beloved father dies in a car accident on her 18th birthday. Soon after, the mysterious Uncle Charlie comes to stay with India and her cold & distant mother. India never even knew her father had a brother and she starts to suspect that Uncle Charlie may not be all he seems.

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My Opinion:

First of all, thanks to everyone for voting when I asked which film I should review next. Stoker was the winner.

I think it’s pretty well known that the inspiration for Stoker was Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt. Being a pretty big Hitchcock fan and having just watched that one this year (review HERE), I can certainly see how similar the films are and how much Wentworth Miller clearly must love Shadow Of A Doubt. As to be expected, though, it’s not as good as Hitchcock’s film.

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I missed Stoker when it was in cinemas and I was so mad because it looked interesting & I really wanted to see it. But as it wasn’t Fast & Furious 23 or some shit like that, it was only on for one week at my local cinema. So, anyway, after fellow movie geeks seemed to love it despite some not so great reviews I think I had probably hyped it up too much in my mind & that may be why I was a little disappointed with the film.

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I’ve never seen Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy and had wanted to do this review along with that one but just haven’t had time to watch it. I’m assuming it’s a better film with all the best bits of Stoker, like some great visuals and all that director-y stuff that I know nothing about, but with a better story. Stoker looked great & it had this wonderful creepy atmosphere that I really liked. But the overall story wasn’t all that shocking or original and, with a different director, I think it would be a very forgettable film.

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I also think everyone did fine in their roles but no one really blew me away.
Mia Wasikowska was fine but I think plenty of other actresses could have played the role too. Matthew Goode has this insane look going on in his eyes so I think he was right for the role but, again, I think there are others who could have played Uncle Charlie and I can’t help but say that Joseph Cotten was a creepier Uncle Charlie in Shadow Of A Doubt. At least the character of India in Stoker has much more depth than Hitchcock’s Charlie, niece of the uncle with the same name. Nicole Kidman is also fine but she always is – I didn’t really feel like we were seeing anything new from her here.

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Overall I just found the story too predictable. It was too much “style over substance” for me. I don’t think it was bad but, if you’re going to make a film so clearly inspired by Hitchcock, I think you need to do a better job on the suspense in the film. You’re not going to top the Master in that regard but there are other films that have achieved a growing sense of anxiousness more than Stoker does, which never exactly had me on the edge of my seat.

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Summary:

Stoker is a very atmospheric film that is lovely to look at and one I’m sure that people who know anything about filmmaking would probably appreciate. In the hands of a less talented director (and without a certain shower scene), I think it would be a very forgettable film. It’s a good Hitchcock-inspired mystery but just can’t match his brilliantly suspenseful storytelling. But who can? Although it sounds like I almost hated Stoker, I did actually enjoy it. It’s a solid effort & I appreciate the attempt to make something other than the same old tired mainstream movie in this world full of horrible sequels, remakes, and “Ow, my balls!” comedies. Stoker is worth a watch for film fans but I would hope that everyone will have already seen Hitchcock’s biggest classics first to see the true master of suspense at work.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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And I’m on a Movie Haiku kick again so here’s one for Stoker. Warning if you’ve not seen it – SLIGHT SPOILER:

Strange Uncle Charlie
Masturbating in shower
Hitchcock this is not

Which leads me to two of my lists on which Stoker probably now at least deserves an honorable mention. 😉

My Top Ten Shower & Bath Scenes In Movies

My Top Five Movie Scenes Of Self-Pleasure

Mondo Celebrates Alfred Hitchcock’s Birthday With Posters For Psycho and Vertigo

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Happy Birthday to Alfred Hitchcock – A true genius. Check out the following link for new posters from artists Tomer Hanuka & Ghoulish Gary Pullin for Mondo to celebrate Hitchcock’s birthday: SlashFilm

I love Hitchcock’s films. I’d seen all the biggest ones years ago but watched & reviewed a few I hadn’t yet seen when I started my IMDB Top 250 Challenge this year:

Notorious Review

Rope Review

Shadow Of A Doubt Review

This year’s Stoker has often been compared to Shadow Of A Doubt but really doesn’t come close to Hitchcock’s classic. Nothing does… I absolutely loved the TV episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents & The Alfred Hitchcock Hour as a kid as well.

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Happy Birthday, Mr Hitchcock – Thanks for all the great films. 🙂

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980)

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IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #16 – Notorious Review

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Notorious (1946) – IMDB Rank #155

Watched 6/5/13

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Starring:
Cary Grant
Ingrid Bergman
Claude Rains

Plot (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, is recruited by government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate an organization of Nazis who have relocated to Brazil after World War II.

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Alfred Hitchcock:

Alfred Hitchcock is the director with the highest number of films in the IMDB Top 250. I love Alfred Hitchcock and think he deserves to be at the top. (If you’re curious, here’s a list of the directors with the most films in the IMDB Top 250). He currently has nine films in the top 250 and I’d seen all but three (of ten) when I started my IMDB Top 250 Challenge on 01/01/13. The films are:

1. Dial M for Murder
2. North by Northwest
3. Notorious
4. Psycho
5. Rear Window
6. Rebecca
7. Rope
8. Strangers on a Train
9. Vertigo

I’m working off the list as it was on 01/01/13. Unfortunately, Shadow Of A Doubt has now been knocked out of the Top 250. That’s a real shame. Again, far too many current films are knocking the classics out of the top 250 (don’t get me started on that). Anyway, I figured I’d work my way through the Alfred Hitchcock movies I’d not seen first. My previous reviews are here :

Rope Review

Shadow Of A Doubt Review

With Notorious, I’ve now seen all the Hitchcock films in the Top 250.

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My Opinion on Notorious:

Of the three I watched to complete my Hitchcock Top 250-watching, I enjoyed Rope the most. Notorious is a close second but it felt very different from other Hitchcock films to me. The plot sounds intriguing & suspenseful but the story that unfolds is actually far more simple than in a lot of other Hitchcock films. This felt more like a romance film than a film from the master of suspense. Not that I’m complaining, though. Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman have great chemistry and all that kissing was AWESOME. Seriously. They kissed. And kissed. And kissed. And having just looked Notorious up on Wikipedia, I read that there was actually a ban at the time on movie kisses more than three seconds long so Hitchcock got around this in Notorious “by having his actors disengage every three seconds, murmur and nuzzle each other, then start right back up again.” Well, it worked because those kisses felt like they went on forever. Loved it. 🙂

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I’m still a bit new to watching classic films but I’m trying to watch more of them and working my way through the IMDB Top 250 should help with that a bit. I’ve not seen THAT many films with Cary Grant but even fewer with Ingrid Bergman (other than Casablanca but to be honest I was SO young when I saw that that I really should watch it again). She’s fabulous. Sexy. Why can’t more actresses be like that nowadays? Classy. And not exactly a thin little stick insect, either. Give me CURVES on women! Why am I going on about this? Lol. How about Cary Grant? So handsome and SO cool & aloof in this film. What is it about the cool & aloof men that I always find SO sexy? 😉

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Okay – this film is about more than lots of sexy kissing (although that’s what I happened to enjoy the most about it). I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that Bergman & Grant’s characters fall in love in this (what with all that kissing talk). Or do they? You’re kept guessing on the true nature of their relationship throughout the entire film. Bergman is asked to go further and further into her deception of her father’s Nazi friends, forming intimate relationships with them and putting herself in great danger while never knowing if the agent who recruited her, Cary Grant, cares about her fate. These are the things that remind you that this is a Hitchcock film – there ARE some great moments of suspense in amongst all that sexy kissing.

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Summary:

Cary Grant & especially Ingrid Bergman shine in this excellent classic from Alfred Hitchcock. As to
be expected from Hitchcock, there’s some real suspense as Bergman’s character puts herself in great danger while infiltrating a Nazi organization. But the thing that really makes this film such a classic (for me, at least) is the smoldering romance between the steamy & passionate Bergman and the cool & aloof Grant. And ALL THAT KISSING. Great stuff. 🙂

My Rating: 7.5/10

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(Oh, I’d just like to say how annoying it is that when you Google Notorious, it’s the Notorious B.I.G. movie that always comes up first!)

IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #3 – Shadow Of A Doubt

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Shadow Of A Doubt (1943) – IMDB Rank #243

Watched 5/1/13

The day after watching Rope I decided to watch the one other Alfred Hitchcock movie in the IMDB top 250 that I hadn’t yet seen and had on DVD (I now have only Notorious left to watch somehow!).

The story is about a young woman whose uncle comes to visit but she soon discovers he may not be the nice Uncle Charlie she remembers anymore.

Of the two, I preferred Rope. Shadow Of A Doubt was only five years before Rope but feels so much older than Rope – I think it hasn’t aged quite as well. But I also really like Jimmy Stewart so that probably helped me like Rope more!

Teresa Wright is the young woman and Joseph Cotten is uncle Charlie. Both give good performances and Joseph Cotten is very menacing and creepy. And I got excited when Henry Travers was in it and started talking and I was like “Hey, that’s Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life!”. Because I love Clarence. And I admit that I don’t know many actors in old movies as I haven’t watched enough movies that are sort of pre-1970. 😉 I plan on watching more old movies this year, though, as all of the sequels & remakes are really getting on my nerves these days!

As with Rope, Shadow Of A Doubt isn’t up there with the likes of Rear Window, Psycho, etc, but it was still a good watch. That’s always a guarantee with anything from Hitchcock. 🙂

My Rating: 7/10

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IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #2 – Rope

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Rope (1948) – IMDB Rank #207

Watched 4/1/13

I find it interesting that Alfred Hitchcock has more movies than any other director has in the IMDB top 250 list. I love Alfred Hitchcock and have a nice big boxset of 14 of his movies so I figured I’d watch two of the three remaining films of his in the top 250 that I’d not seen (Rope & Shadow Of A Doubt, which I watched the night after Rope. Notorious unfortunately isn’t in the boxset so I’ll have to get ahold of that somehow!).

I enjoyed Rope. It’s not up there with the likes of Rear Window, Vertigo & Psycho for me (or The Birds – not even in the top 250! Boo!). It’s still very good, though. And James Stewart is in it. Love him. 🙂

It was originally a play so the movie is that way – all set in one apartment. So it’s all about the character development & the building tension that Alfred Hitchcock did so well. You know – the type of movie they couldn’t make today because people would get too “bored”!

There were some really enjoyable characters in the movie, such as the maid (who I read wasn’t in the original play and was added by Hitchcock) and Jimmy Stewart’s character (who was changed quite a bit from the original character in the play). I also read that James Stewart didn’t like this movie later and thought he was wrong for the role. I really liked him in this, though – I’m most used to him in It’s A Wonderful Life, of course, so it was nice seeing him being so different from how he was in that.

Between the two I preferred Rope to Shadow Of A Doubt, which I’ll try to do at least a short review of soon.

My Rating: 7.5/10

And, if anyone cares, here’s a short little post I did on the three Alfred Hitchcock TV episodes that freaked me the hell out as a young child. 🙂 I absolutely LOVED Alfred Hitchcock Presents & The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (and The Twilight Zone!) from a very young age. I think it’s why I may not be completely right in the head now. :-p

https://table9mutant.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/alfred-hitchcock-2/

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Alfred Hitchcock

His movies are brilliant, of course. But l sooo loved the TV episodes as a child! There are three specific ones that still haunt me to this day – The Jar, The Magic Shop and, especially, Where the Woodbine Twineth. OMG – that last one messed me up for years! It was about a girl whose doll would come to life & play with her. I remember the final scene of that show like it was yesterday- I couldn’t have been more than 8 or so when I watched that. Superb creepiness!

The Jar:

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The Magic Shop. Hard to decide which kid is creepier – this one or the boy from The Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life”:

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Where the Woodbine Twineth. I’m getting the heebie jeebies just looking at the picture…

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