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The Birds (1963)

Don’t they ever stop migrating?

— Annie Hayworth

You know how much I love Alfred Hitchcock movies. He is the only director that I have reviewed at least five on his movie at the time of the LAMBs in the Director’s Chair series. The Birds is another movie that I crossed off that list. It was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Visual Effects. This movie that did not make me feel the same way about birds as Jaws did with sharks.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) goes into a pet shop in downtown San Francisco to pick up a bird that she had ordered. Her bird had not come in the time it was supposed. She had to wait until a dashing young man comes into the store, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) mistaking her for the a worker there. Mitch asks Melanie about what type of bird is best for his sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). He wanted lovebirds. They begin to chat each other up until he leaves.

Melanie decides to surprise Mitch by buying the lovebirds and leave them out on his apartment. She learns that he is out-of-town for the weekend. He is visiting his family in Bodega Bay. She drives to Bodega Bay to find out where the Brenner house is located. She visits the local schoolteacher, Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) to ask her about the family home which across the bay. She charters a small boat to sneak birds into the house.

When she crosses back across the bay, she is attacked by seagull. She and Mitch thinks that it is a fluke until the birds of the town start going crazy and start attacking all the residents of the town. The town becomes under siege with seagulls, crows and blackbirds for neighboring towns.

The movie for the most part is unsettling to watch, but I didn’t completely buy into it. I have to say who the hell get killed by a bunch of birds. What, do they peck you to death? It sounds ludicrous to me.

Did anybody get the feels that there is something more about Melanie and Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy)? Did you get the sense of a man being a attracted to a version of his mother? I got that feeling big time.

Judgment: The movie is unsettling to with, but it won’t make you afraid of birds.

Rating: 7.5/10

1001 Movie Club: Marnie (1964)

Stephen Jay Schneider chose this movie as one of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” He compiled a massive list from the classic to the obscure for his anthology. The most worthy movies are chosen to be on this list. Every year, there is a revision to include the most essential movies to be on the minds of film buffs everywhere.

Marnie is a Hitchcock film that I never heard of before the 1001 Movie Club chose it as one of the films to watch. I didn’t know what the movie was about going into it. I went in completely blind. The result is that there is some intrigue in this mess of a movie.

Based on the novel by Winston Graham, the movie tells the story of a seasoned con artist by the name of Marnie (Tippi Hedren) who pilfered over nine thousand dollars from her former boss, Mr. Strutt (Martin Gabel) and is on the lam. When Strutt has the police over at his office, a client Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) overhears about the theft.

After the robbery, Marnie changes her identity like a chameleon with fake Social Security cards or changing her hair color from black to blond. She visits her emotionally distant mother, Bernice (Louise Latham) and showers her with extravagant gifts. She is jealous of a neighborhood girl, Jessie Cotton (Kimberly Beck) taking all of her mother’s attention. The mother is mindful that they shouldn’t have men in their lives, be free. Marnie has frequent nightmares about her childhood with her mother whenever red is shown or a thunderstorm. This happens frequently throughout the movie.

Marnie goes back out for her next con becoming another character looking for payroll clerk jobs to get close to the money to steal it. She is called in for an interview with the company that Mark owns. The trouble is that the two already met at Mr. Strutt’s company, but that was when she was raven-haired. Mark thinks that Marnie is familiar somehow, but he is not sure. He wants Mr. Warden to hire her instead of a more qualified person for the job

As Marnie starts her job, she learns more about the idiosyncrasies of the company like Mr. Ward (S. John Launer) never remembering the combination to the safe in his office and he has to rely on Mark and Ward’s secretary, Ms. Clabon (Mariette Hartley) to help him.

When Mr. Rutland wants her to work overtime, he discovers when a thunderstorm is happening. She is vulnerable. He kisses her and a relationship is blossoming, but remnants of her past of slowly eroding their relationship.

The Hitchcockian staples are present with the quick pan in and out, the weird close-ups on the characters faces, the obviously fake backdrops. There were some interesting moments in this film about the origins of Marnie’s panic attacks, her descent into madness towards the end of the movie. The plot itself was uneven. When a great moment was taking place, it is ruined by red on the screen or Tippi Hedren shrilling all over the screen.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movie Club Approved

Judgment: The movie is pure melodrama disguised as a Hitchcock movie.

Rating: ***

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North by Northwest (1959)


Now you listen to me, I’m an advertising man, not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself “slightly” killed.

— Roger Thornhill

Being the last day of June, I will continue to watch more classic movies from now on. Watching another Alfred Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest. It was nominated for three Oscars. It is currently#30 of the Top 250 of All Time on IMDB. This is another example of why Hitchcock is underrated as a director.

Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is an ordinary advertising executive that is caught up in a complex spy game when he is kidnapped by two henchmen, Valerian (Adam Williams) and Licht (Robert Ellenstein).

He is taken to estate by the name of Townsend. There is a man named Robert Vandamm (James Mason) thinks that he is an international spy named George Kaplan. Robert and his right hand man, Leonard (Martin Landau) question him about his intentions.

This tale of mistaken identity has many twists and turns that will spoil the movie.

Judgment: Another great movie by Hitchcock that should be seen.

Rating: ****1/2

The Lady Vanishes (1938)


I’m about as popular as a dose of strychnine.

— Gilbert

On Hulu, Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser known film, The Lady Vanishes is currently #200 on the Top 250 of All Time on IMDB. Movies like The Forgotten and Flightplan borrowed some elements from this movie. It was suspenseful to say the least, but not enough to immerse me into the experience.

The action mainly takes place on a train when a elderly woman, Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) befriends a young heiress, Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) who is getting married soon.

Iris falls asleep and the woman disappears. Everybody on the train claims that Miss Froy didn’t exist, because of an incident that happened when she had an object hit her in the head.

The obnoxious photographer, Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) tags along with her to try to figure out if Miss Froy existed or not.

The first twenty minutes of the movies was all over the place with the tone. The acting was not consistent. The central mystery of the film was the best part of it, but the resolution of it was not satisfying. The explanation didn’t make sense.

You could see the seeds of Hitchcockian methods on screen with the shadows, the composition, the perfect use of music.

Judgment: It was nothing special about the film. It was middle of the road.

Rating: ***

Vertigo (1958)


Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere.

— Madeleine

One of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films, Vertigo is currently#41 of the Top 250 of all time on IMDB. It was nominated for two  Oscars.

This is a simple “howcatchher” about a detective John “Scottie” Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart). He abruptly quits the force in the beginning of the film, when chasing a suspect on top of some apartment buildings he has a bout of vertigo and the second officer with him falls to his death trying to save him.

Feeling guilty and laid up in a back brace, Scottie seeks solace by his mousy best friend, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). When he gets the brace taken off, he is contacted by an old college friend of theirs, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) that wants to hire Scottie to follow his wife.

Gavin believes that his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak) is possessed by a spirit of a dead woman that died a century before. Scottie reluctantly agrees to it. His decision leads to a dangerous road to heartache, loss and regret.

I was impressed by the way that Hitchcock would make the woman has a memorable entrance in a movie. There was no exception in this movie was Kim Novak in a gorgeous gown.

The visual look of the film was spectacular. In some instances, it was film noir and sometimes a Douglas Sirk bedroom drama. Wonderful filmmaking.

I was never bored. The pacing was perfect. The way that the camera shows Scottie succumbing to his agoraphobia and vertigo was great.

Judgment: A fabulous movie that should be seen to believe.

Rating: *****

Rear Window (1954)

I really hate overrated films that get a whole lots of attention that they don’t deserve it. After seeing Burn After Reading, I wanted to see a GOOD movie. I went back to 1954 for a great movie that I haven’t seen, but I know the premise.

There was a big fuss over Disturbia ripping off the premise of Rear Window. I have to say that I think that Shia LaBeouf vehicle did borrow some elements from Alfred Hitchcock classic film. It not a complete ripoff.

This film was #16 on the top 250 on imdb. I love this movie. It was nominated for 4 Oscars. I think that Alfred Hitchcock was vastly overlooked as a director/filmmaker.

Grace Kelly epitomized her name. The first of her in the movie was film magic. She was luminous as Lisa Carol Fremont. I was gripped with her possible imminent danger. Was she in peril by the Mr. Thorwald?

My favorite character is the film was Stella, played by Thelma Ritter. She was very frank and blunt with her dialogue. I enjoyed every time that she was onscreen.

The movie was very cheeky. There was a glimpse of a woman topless for an instant. She was facing away from the camera, of course, but was on celluloid. There was almost a suicide in it. I just wanted to point that out.

I have one gripe about this movie, Jimmy Stewart’s voice. I don’t know what it is. It sounded like he came back from the dentist.

My rating: ****1/2 stars.

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