Hitchcock Film By Film Thread

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by MLutthans, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Marysville, WA
    Benjaminhuf and I have been PM-ing about Hitchcock of late, and thought about doing a film-by-film thread. This sort of idea was put forth by member Wayneklein last year, but the problem seemed to be deciding where to start, as many members are completely unfamiliar with anything from the silent era, any of his early British films, etc.

    So, how about if we go BACKWARDS and start with 1976's FAMILY PLOT.

    For some reason, I've always felt like this movie could have been an episode on NBC's Sunday Mystery Movie. It just has the mid-70s Universal look to my eyes, at least on television (I never saw it in the theatre), and the matte shots (or whatever they are called) in the cars look really bad, IMO, and I don't feel like the characters are very believable.

    Generally, I don't find much to like about this one, but maybe I'm in the minority. Please chime in! Just please try to stick to THIS FILM, as we'll get to the others as things move forward...or backward!

    Matt (and thanks to Ben for prompting this thread)
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Let me know when you get to Nova Pilbeam.

    Attached Files:

  3. jojopuppyfish

    jojopuppyfish Forum Resident

    Family Plot-
    Anything with Bruce Dern is really annoying.
    The movie has a couple of nice shots, but over all, its dull.
  4. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    Matt: Great idea to try it in reverse chronological order....

    I've watched a few bits of Family Plot, but I haven't ever actually seen the whole thing through.

    I think it's clear, however, that by this time they were only willing to give Hitch a budget that was only a bit bigger than a good TV movie. It's to his credit that he didn't say, "I'm Alfred Hitchcock! Do you know who I am! If you don't give me more I'll just take my marbles and go home!" Or, maybe he did say that, or at least think it, but then he got down to work, even though his health was quite poor at that time.

    I grew up in Southern California, and sometimes the evening news would have human interest stories about show business. About 1975, I think, when I was c.10, I saw a little segment the local news did about the filming of Family Plot. The story, of course, was not so much the particular movie as the director. They said something like "We caught up with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock who is now filming his latest movie." But the picture was a bit distressing--Hitchcock directing from the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac. He was very big, as we all know, but rather than the jolly fat man he so often was in his tv show from 1955 to 1965, he was now just ill looking, and having trouble breathing. He spoke, a little, no doubt a pleased at the free publicity, but probably also feeling that he was no longer ready for his closeup Mr. DeMille.

    My ten year old self was a little sad and shocked. But now I find it a bit heroic that he kept working as long as he could in spite of poor health and relative studio indifference. By that point he'd been directing films since about 1925. 50 years. 50 films. What a career.

    I'll try to sit down and actually watch this one sometime in the next few days. Even if it's rather like a tv movie, it's probably a decent one....

    Oh, and check out this amazing site that has 1000 frames of almost all of Hitchcock's films:


    Attached Files:

  5. Sounds good to me. I was frustrated because we couldn't find any common ground...

    I like "Family Plot". Good performances far from a great Hitchcock movie but an enjoyable lark.

    A pity that Roy Thinnes fell out with Hitchcock and the role was recast.

    Bruce Dern was the only member of the cast to work with Hitch before on "Marnie" and they delighted in each other's company throughout the shooting.

    Surprisingly the scene where the car drives out of control down the hill because the brake line was cut is one of the LEAST suspensful sequences in a Hitchcock film which surprised me.

    Ernest Lehman and Hitchcock didn't play well during the shoot but they still left respecting each other but also realizing that they probably wouldn't work together again even if Hitchcock did do another film.

  6. Hitch got his budget because he owned a huge block of MCA shares. He sold his TV show lock, stock and barrel along with the rights to his production company and invested it back in MCA. There's no way they would say no to him given the circumstances.

    Additionally, the head of MCA at the time Lew Wasserman used to be Hitchcock's agent and their close relationship continued when he became the head of MCA.
  7. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Marysville, WA
    Because the production company was handed over to MCA -- isn't that the cause of Rope, Rear Window, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 version), and The Trouble with Harry, all originally released by Paramount, becoming Universal properties after all the legal haggling was over?
  8. Yep. It worked well for Hitchcock--he became amazingly...well off and had a huge amount of influence on Universal as a major stockholder.

    Universal to their credit took Hitchcock completely under their wing. They could have blown him off even though he owned a huge amount of stock or made sure all of his projects became dead ends but they recognized his value as a commerical filmmaker and artist.
  9. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Marysville, WA
    I know those five films were finally reissued to theatres around 1983/84, but when did the stock sale, Revue transfer, etc., actually take place?
  10. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden MichiGort Staff

    Livonia, MI
    Family Plot is a bit underrated, but definitely short of greatness. I really like Bruce Dern (slightly against type as a-non psychopath) and Barbara Harris in this one. The fact that it starts with a bunch of exposition-heavy dialog does not exactly pull audiences into he filmmakers' corner right off the bat, but it picks up as soon as Karen Black's character is introduced in her shades and blonde wig.

  11. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    ????Interesting....???? Never heard of this one? What is it really?
  12. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    Ah, that makes sense. Thanks wayneklein for explaining it.
  13. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Young And Innocent UK title, perhaps ?
  14. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    Yes, alexpop, it looks like you're right. And according to wikipedia Nova Pilbeam may still even be alive.

    Anyway, a great collection of Hitchcock that includes Family Plot and a lucky 13 other films is the Hitchcock "Materpiece Collection." It includes the following movies in a very nice box:

    The Masterpiece Collection (Psycho / Vertigo / Rear Window / The Birds / Shadow of a Doubt / Family Plot / Frenzy / The Man Who Knew Too Much / Marnie / Rope / Saboteur / Topaz / Torn Curtain / The Trouble with Harry)

    I think all of these films that weren't previously restored were restored for this set. For a long time amazon was selling this for c.$70. Unfortunately they recently raised the price to about $100. Still, it's a pretty good deal for 14 films--only about 7 bucks for each one. And there's a bonus disc with some interesting extras....

    Attached Files:

  15. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Thanks for the heads up !

    One way to get box with all those titles before blu ray takes over I guess, though I must admit I am only interested in the titles I highlighted. :cheers:
  16. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    Don't like The Man Who Knew Too Much?! It's one of my favorites....
  17. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    the first version ,)

    Oops, forgot that one ! :righton:
  18. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden MichiGort Staff

    Livonia, MI
    The Laurent Bouzereau documentary on the Family Plot DVD has some interesting insights. Apparently, Hitchcock absolutely hated spending big money on actors. He never got over having to pay US$700k a piece to Julie Andrews and Paul Newman for Torn Curtain and was determined not to do it again. Apparently, the first choice for Dern's character was Al Pacino, but he was a mega-star at the time and Hitch would not pay his going asking price.

    This featurette also indicates that William Devane was Hitch's first choice for the part of Arthur Adamson, but he was initially unavailable. Roy Thinnes was given the part instead. A week or two into production, Devane became available, and Hitchcock unceremoniously dumped Thinnes and re-shot the scenes with Devane. Thinnes still appears in some of the very long shots in the sequence shot at Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church. While none of the unused film footage seems to have survived, there are unused publicity stills out there with Thinnes as Adamson.

    This was Devane's first major cinematic role. I thought he played things a bit broad at times but generally liked his performance. If nothing else, the film confirmed that, like me, he is definitely not a "moustache guy". :)

  19. shokhead

    shokhead Let's get back to basics!

    Family Plot (1976)
    Frenzy (1972)

    Topaz (1969)
    Torn Curtain (1966)
    Marnie (1964)
    The Birds (1963)
    ... aka Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (UK: complete title)
    "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" (1 episode, 1962)
    - I Saw the Whole Thing (1962) TV episode
    "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (17 episodes, 1955-1961)
    - Bang! You're Dead (1961) TV episode
    - The Horse Player (1961) TV episode
    - Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat (1960) TV episode
    - The Crystal Trench (1959) TV episode
    - Arthur (1959) TV episode
    (12 more)
    Psycho (1960)
    "Startime" (1 episode, 1960)
    ... aka "Ford Startime"
    ... aka "Lincoln-Mercury Startime"
    - Incident at a Corner (1960) TV episode

    North by Northwest (1959)
    ... aka Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (USA: complete title)
    Vertigo (1958)
    ... aka 'Vertigo' (USA: poster title)
    ... aka Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (USA: complete title)
    "Suspicion" (1 episode, 1957)
    - Four O'Clock (1957) TV episode
    The Wrong Man (1956)
    The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
    The Trouble with Harry (1955)
    To Catch a Thief (1955)
    Rear Window (1954)
    Dial M for Murder (1954)
    I Confess (1953)
    Strangers on a Train (1951)
    Stage Fright (1950)

    Under Capricorn (1949)
    Rope (1948)
    ... aka Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (USA: complete title)
    The Paradine Case (1947)
    Notorious (1946)
    Spellbound (1945)
    ... aka Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (USA: promotional title)
    Watchtower Over Tomorrow (1945) (uncredited)
    The Fighting Generation (1944) (uncredited)
    Lifeboat (1944)
    Aventure malgache (1944)
    Bon Voyage (1944)
    Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
    ... aka Shadow of Doubt (USA: poster title)
    Saboteur (1942)
    Suspicion (1941)
    Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
    Foreign Correspondent (1940)
    Rebecca (1940)

    Jamaica Inn (1939)
    The Lady Vanishes (1938)
    Young and Innocent (1937)
    ... aka The Girl Was Young (USA)
    Sabotage (1936) )
    Secret Agent (1936)
    The 39 Steps (1935)
    The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
    Waltzes from Vienna (1934)
    ... aka Strauss' Great Waltz (USA)
    Number Seventeen (1932)
    ... aka Number 17 (USA)
    Rich and Strange (1931)
    ... aka East of Shanghai (USA)
    Mary (1931)
    The Skin Game (1931)
    Murder! (1930)
    Juno and the Paycock (1930)
    ... aka The Shame of Mary Boyle (USA)
    An Elastic Affair (1930)
    Elstree Calling (1930) (some sketches)

    Blackmail (1929)
    The Manxman (1929)
    Sound Test for Blackmail (1929)
    Champagne (1928)
    Easy Virtue (1928)
    The Farmer's Wife (1928)
    Downhill (1927)
    The Ring (1927/I)
    The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
    The Mountain Eagle (1926)
    The Pleasure Garden (1925)
    Always Tell Your Wife (1923) (uncredited)
    Number 13 (1922) (unfinished)

    I always watch Lifeboat.
  20. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    William Bendix reading the newspaper
    with a add to lose weight, nice Mr AH cameo. :)
  21. This occurred back in the early 1960's and it also accounts for why a Paramount film like "Psycho" (which was shot on the lot of Universal ironically enough) is now owned by Universal as well.

    It set Hitchcock up for life and insured that he had a place he could call home as a studio and not worry about having to find a studio to do his latest films. Hitchcock had been an independent producer-director since his contract with Selznick had expired and enjoyed that independence. He also became a profit participant through his production company as well.

    Interesting bit of trivia about "Vertigo" (I know were not there yet but I might forget to pass this along then) is that Hitchcock experimented with the editing of the film because he was honestly uncertain about how the audience might react to the big reveal of the "mystery" in the middle of the film so he took that sequence out of the middle and edited it so that the reveal would be at the end.

    He showed it to his wife Alma and those he trusted in a screening. Everyone said to go for the version we have--to trust the audience because making the mystery the central point of the film robbed the film of its emotional dramatic impact and diluted the themes.

    Alma was a great collaborator for him and is often over looked as she was his original collaborator when it came to working on scripts before (and sometimes after) they were handed over to another writer. When she had her series of strokes, it impacted his work weakening it and the more infirm she became the more I believe his work suffered. As he lost his team including Herbert Coleman (who worked on a number of Hitch's classics in the 50's), John Michael Hayes and others he was increasingly at the mercy of the quality of new collaborators and had to spend time "training" them.

    What's not known is that usually Hitch would have the bulk of the scenerio in his mind and script sessions would be discussing the scenerio, asking the writer his or her feedback, Alma's feedback (the most critical), etc.

    Hayes and Hitchcock's falling out was truly a tragic blow to his films impacting the quality (although he did find some terrific collaborators in the form of Lehman and Stefano but they didn't last) of his later films as his circle of trusted collaborators shrunk.

    Interestingly Hitchcock wanted to continue to work with Stefano but he had "The Outer Limits" pending and that put the end to their working relationship.

    I consider "Family Plot" a coda to a brilliant career with Hitch's last classic to be "Frenzy" which has some brilliant set pieces but we'll discuss tha later...

    Truly what works best in "Family Plot" are the performances of the cast. Yes, it has the aura of a glorified TV movie but Hitchcock wasn't above working in TV and doing a brilliant job of it. It lacked the scope and daring of his best films and Lehman had a major falling out with Hitchcock some of the plot particularly the last scene of the film IIRC. It's one of the few Hitchcock films that bows to the supernatural as well.
    kevinsinnott likes this.

  22. The good news is that The Masterpiece Collection does indeed have more restored films than ever before. Restoration wasn't extensive on many of these because none were in as bad a shape as Vertigo or even Rear Window but they did some nice work on cleaning them up, striking new cleaner prints where possible, etc.

    The big thing though is that these are all anamorphic which "Vertigo" wasn't in is original incarnation on DVD.
  23. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    Many thanks, shokhead. Great filmography here. We have a long way to go. Just stating the obvious here, but this could well take years....
  24. interesting story about MCA...Hitchcock's career at the end wasn't always happy-go-lucky with the studio. During the shooting of "Family Plot" Bruce Dern told Hitchcock that the San Francisco garage they were shooting in front of was too clean for the city. It needed graffiti. Dern asked Hitchcock what he thought it should say. "**** MCA" Hitchcock responded with a very dry tone.

    This comes back from the fact that he had two films that Wasserman did not approve for production. The first "Kaleidoscope" had a full script completed by Hitchcock that was rewritten by Howard Fast. Hitchcock shot an hours worth of footage in New York to get the feel of the film including a key sequence. These sequences later provided inspiration for the brilliant set pieces in "Frenzy" but the rest of the plot was new to the latter film. The "Kaleidoscope" footage still exists and is in one of the Hitchcock archieves.

    Hitchcock was inspired by watching "Blow Up" and was going to shoot "Kaleidoscope" on location using natural light where possible (again, something that was closer in approach with "Frenzy"). All of this occurred in 1967 and would have been completely against type much like "Psycho" was for Hitchcock. He wanted it to be a visceral, poweful, brutal (much like the first graphic murder in "Frenzy") film to shake up expectations of what Hitchcock could do.

    There was also another film called "Frenzy" (nothing to do with the film Hitchcock finally made) that was shot down.

    Instead, MCA was pushing for Hitchcock to make a "popular" thriller from a big novel with a big name cast.

    When Hitchcock presented the prosposal to Wasserman he shot down the ideas for both films. In the case of "Kaleisdoscope" Hitchcock presented the footage he shot (it was silent) along with stillers he commissioned to tell the story when he presented it to his old agent. While Wasserman was his friend and mentor when it came to "power and money" in Hollywood he was still, ultimately, Hitchcock's boss because he did go under contract to MCA. That didn't preclude him from working elsewhere but the times were such that to get the money for either the original "Frenzy" or "Kaleisdoscope" it would have taken someone with vision to approve them. There would also be the production costs of loaning out Hitchcock as well as the costs already spent on pre-production.

    Both films would have preceeded Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" and would have shaken up American cinema much the same way that Penn's film did--even more so because Hitchcock's films were much darker in tone closer to "Psycho" than anything he had made since that film (except "The Birds").

    I keep hoping that one day this footage and the stills will be added to an ultimate Hitchcock box set as it fills in the gap between "Torn Curtain" and "Topaz" (a film that he made in many respects for Hitchcock at least) on the fly.

    Nevertheless, all of this history carried over to "Family Plot". While Hitchcock could get many projects shot he still had to get approval even if he did own a huge chunk of stock at MCA/Universal. He was still in the end just an employee with stock and stock options.

    The flaws of "Family Plot" are glaring but the film was successful enough at the box office and Hitchcock's name, the film and the preceding critical acclaim for "Frenzy" bought Hitchcock a lot of favor so he was able to shoot "Family Plot" on location in San Francisco for part of the film. Wasserman no doubt saw it as a return to the "North by Northwest" type of film--a mixture of pure cinema entertainment with a dollop of subtext that gave it added critical value particularly with Ernest Lehman on board as screenwriter.
  25. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    Very interesting post here, wayneklein. Somehow I didn't know that about Vertigo. Alma, as you say, had a big role in Hitchcock's success. I'm glad they went with the version that they did.

    One of the key things that I like about Hitchcock is that his films aren't supernatural. I mean if you look at Twilight Zone, much as I love, it, it has had a huge and not necessarily good effect on the TV of today--Lost, Fringe, etc. Don't get me wrong, I actually like those shows, but there's something about the comparative realism of Hitchcock's TV show and his films that is quite bracing. Many of the things in Hitchcock's films or tv show may be unlikely, even highly unlikely, but they are not impossible...

    PS If you can find out what happened between Lehman and Hitchcock on this film, I think we'd all be interested to hear about it.

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