Getting Hitched!

No, I haven’t died and I’m most definitely still watching movies. The reality is that I took a promotion at work a couple of months ago and as a result I’m putting in much longer hours currently (I’d like to say that my pay rose to reflect the twelve hour days I’m often doing at the moment, but still). Something’s got to give, and at the moment it’s the scouring of TV schedules and putting comments together for these pages that’s losing out. It’s my choice and I don’t regret it, but in all truth I’m generally coming home from the job ready for nothing more than something to eat and some sleep, and FOTB is simply at the back of my mind.

All the same, as a fun side project and ‘to keep my hand in’, as it were, I’m working steadily on another ‘Best to Worst’ article for the site, this time on the directorial adventures of Alfred Hitchcock. I would argue that over the years of film viewing Hitch has become my favourite auteur of them all and so it’s quite a pleasure to plough through his extensive back catalogue. I own copies of just about every film of his that’s available (on DVD; there will come a time when I update the lot to HD format but that sounds like an exhausting assignment), and at the time of writing I’m up to the late 1930s, a very rich period for Alfred and featuring some brilliant movies. Similarly, to help I’m referring often to several books about him, including the terrific The Art of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto, and Charles Barr’s English Hitchcock. Both volumes contain extensive critiques of his films, often going into exhaustive detail about pictures where I’m confining myself to around 500 words apiece.

Despite the risk of nullifying my poor family into endless boredom with Hitchaphenalia, I’m enjoying this project immensely. Clearly, producing an actual ranking is going to be very difficult. Even the great man’s duds aren’t poor works by most people’s standards. Generally derided entries, like Number Seventeen and Waltzes from Vienna, have something to recommend them, whether it’s the former’s crazy chase scene (featuring some lovely model work), or the bravura debut performance of Blue Danube by Strauss Jr. Neither film is going to come close to troubling the higher spots, and God knows how I’m going to work that out (personal preference is as good a guide as any ultimately), but we’re talking about some very serious talent here. Luckily it’s a nice dilemma to have to deal with.

As I write this I’m listening to a Bernard Herrmann playlist on Apple Music. Herrmann isn’t even close to entering Hitchcock’s orbit on my viewing schedule yet, however the number of documentaries about him that I’ve seen recently are all daubed liberally with the great composer’s scores, and let’s face it there’s no chore in hearing his music, is there? Despite his close association to Hitchcock, I confess the main joys right now are coming from his soundtracks for Ray Harryhausen movies. If there’s a better fun work than that he did for The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, then I’m yet to hear it.

In the meantime, it’s always worth checking out the poll of Hitchcock’s movies that Sergio compiled over at Tipping my Fedora. I don’t agree with the entire top ten produced by this public vote, yet that just shows the sheer variety and richness on offer. Not a sign, in the upper echelons, of entries like I Confess and Rebecca, both of which I love, nor Dial M for Murder, Frenzy, Sabotage, Young and Innocent or Foreign Correspondent… Similarly, the trilogy of lengthy podcasts done by The Secret History of Hollywood covering Hitchcock’s life and work can’t be recommended highly enough.

Again, please forgive the hiatus taking place on these pages. And with that, I’m off to watch The Lady Vanishes

10 Replies to “Getting Hitched!”

  1. Sorry to hear about the insane workload (one sympathises) and thanks for the kind words – and I agree about the way the skewed results in my polls came out as it was done too try and spread the load across the decades because I always think the 20s and 30s tend to get ignored too much. So yes, I admit it, I did weight the results! Look forward to seeing what you come up with, when you get back to us. And yes, those podcasts are fascinating, but they’re about 5 hours each, right? My phone (a very old but much loved Nokia) just could’t cope!

    1. Thanks Sergio. I work in a high school and have taken on running the exams, which is just a massive job. I live in mortal fear that I’ve forgotten something and have ordered the wrong papers, or don’t have any kids, or other things that stop me from sleeping! Still, two weeks down and no major disasters so far, and it’s half term this week so I’m not back in work until tomorrow. Thank god.

      I really liked the way your ran the poll over at the Fedora. Having ploughed through the silent era and now the 30s – two boxsets, Early Hitchcock and The British Years, have come to the fore – I completely agree that there are some gems here, and I think part of it was that Hitchcock himself could be quite dismissive of his work during this time. Still not sure which version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is the better one, but there’s loads about the 1934 edition that’s incredibly rewarding and it’s a fun watch. Your poll was a lot of fun to contribute to and I enjoyed seeing the results, plus I’ve no complaints whatsoever about the title that emerged as number one, though I was surprised at how divisive VERTIGO turned out to be amongst your friends and commenters. Horses for courses as always, and sometimes perhaps a film that’s routinely considered at or near the top generates its own stick to be beaten with, but I think every frame of it is wonderful. I am stopping myself from jumping a bit and rewatching some of those 1950s classics just to eke out the wait.

      1. Enjoy the break chum! Re-watching them in chronological order is something I have not attempted probably since the 80s, sounds like a fantastic idea – I did re-watch YOUNG AND INNOCENT and it was even better than I remembered, which was very nice (and Barr makes some very pertinent comments about how it links to THE BIRDS). Have you got the Robin Wood book on Hitchcock? I don’t agree with everything but his passion and intelligence shine throughout.

      2. I’ll have to pick up that Robin Wood book, it looks fascinating and the wealth of psychological interpretation it is supposed to offer sounds like it will be well worth exploring.

        The 1980s chronological watch you mentioned reminds me of a season Channel 4 screened, one Hitchcock per Sunday, back during the mid-eighties, back when they did this sort of thing. It was my introduction to him and I remember being really bowled over by my first viewing of the likes of REBECCA, amongst others.

        I quite like Barr’s comments on the whole. He’s an awkward screen presence but his insights are really something, and thanks in part to him I keep spotting tropes in the movies like birds and dogs….

      3. I should fess up as Charles used to be my professor at University and we are still in touch (I even get a thank you in his BFI Fill Classics volume on VERTIGO). Robin Wood’s HITCHCOCK’S FILM REVISITED is much more analytical, but very persuasive (well, apart from MARNIE, which i still don’t really ‘get’).

      4. What a lovely claim to fame! And what a lovely guy to know, surely a well of comment and ideas on the great man. As for MARNIE, I could do with reading Wood’s thoughts on it because it isn’t a title I have a lot of time for, mainly as you say because it’s a bit enigmatic.

      5. Charles is probably thanked in more British film books than any other person I can think of, but apart from being very good, he also, like Wood (and Victor Perkins and Raymond Durgnat) pretty much helped create and establish film studies as a pukka academic discipline. Wood ended up saying (and indeed, did so at a lecture I attended at the NFT at the end of the 90s) that if you don;t love MARNIE then you don’t love movies. Now, I know what he means, and his defence of this position is wonderful (he more or less repeats it on the DVD extras for that film) – the book is terrific

      6. There’s a lovely sense of sincerity about Professor Barr’s comments that I can’t help but admire, not to mention his clear authority on the subject. I’ll definitely check out Wood’s book.

  2. Good to hear you’re keeping yourself going on this and getting some entertainment in despite the workload.
    I’ve been on a break from the net myself and, for a whole variety of reasons I won’t go into here, that’s likely to remain the case for some time still.

    1. Thanks Colin. Sometimes for whatever reasons you just need a break, don’t you? Life gets in the way, at the moment for me a heavy going job, but these things happen and covering AH on the side is nothing but a pleasure. Hope all’s well Colin.

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