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People have been complaining. On social media. “Despite amusing moments, Hitchcock is disappointingly inconsequential.” (Rotten Tomatoes). “Unlike Hitchcock films, it disappears from memory almost immediately.” (Twitter User). Let’s back up here now. This is the same social media that practically fell over Spielberg’s Lincoln, great reviews across the board and universal praise for a film that was over long, over talky and ultimately for the majority boring. There I said it, fuck you social graces. A case of expectation surpassing fact? Being required to like a film because Spielberg made it? Or just overfamiliarity? Either way, Hitchcock has been unfortunately maligned in the “critic circles.” I adored the film from the opening scene with a knowing Hitchcock (played brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins) casting a wry eye over one of Ed Gein’s murders and introducing us to the movie.

These moments of Hitchcock’s conversations with Gein were another highlight for me. They play out as dream sequences where Gein tells Hitchcock to make his movie and ultimately stick it to the man. The film in question is of course Psycho. A novel by Robert Bloch based on the gruesome murders of mummy’s boy and human lamp made of skin afficianado Ed Gein.

Hitchcock is fresh of the success of North By Northwest and is looking for a new project. He is read a few offers from his long suffering secretary (a ghastly thin, and quietly powerful Toni Collette). One of which is “the new Ian Fleming book, Casino Royale.” To which Hitch replies, “I’ve already made that, it’s called by North By Northwest.” Nice. He picks up a copy of Psycho and is instantly besotted, so much so he tries to convince his secretary by saying, “But my dear this is the man that murdered his mother and skinned his victims…. Boo!”

He approaches the studio, Paramount and they flat out refuse. So he approaches his wife, Alma (as always a brilliant Helen Mirren) and he asks her to mortgage the house to finance this film. She asks him, “Hitch why do you want to do this?” He replies, “My dear I feel I have been making money up to now. I want to make a film, my film.” She is almost in tears with Hitch’s heartfelt plea and drive for creative power and passion. And this is the crux of the film, the relationship between Hitch and his wife.

The wife who cooks, cleans and mothers him at home and at work cuts his scripts down, suggests the music for the shower scene, makes him off Marion in the first half hour instead of the end where Hitch wanted to do it. Behind every good man? Never a truer word spoken and when Hitch picked up his lifetime achievement award from the AFI in 1979 he dedicated his award he said this of Alma, “his love.”

I beg to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation and encouragement…and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen…and their names are Alma Reville.

The making of the film provides some interesting nods for film buffs and lovers of Hitchcock. Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) is brought in to play Marion’s sister and does not get along with Hitch and warns Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johannsen) of his penchant for blondes and that he “likes to watch the whole time.” I am well aware of Hitch’s disregard for actors and particularly women but I felt that Miles was just bitter she wasn’t the lead. As I do with Tippi Henderson who played the lead in The Birds. Her stories seem to get more vicious the more attention she receives for telling them. Just a thought.

The film gets made and Hitch retires to the editing room with Alma. He doesn’t want music over the shower scene, she does. “But why Alma?” “Because, Hitch you cannot scare people by just saying Boo!”. Wiser heads prevail and that infamous score is put in. But now the studio are only going to show the film in two theatres. So Hitch devises a clever marketing campaign by encouraging those theatres to hire armed guards in case people “find the film too terrifying and riot.” Genius. When the film is being shown Hitch waits outside for the reaction to the shower scene and when the strings make that all familiar screech they scream blue murder. Hitch dances to each swish of the knife and this made me smile. From ear to stupid ear, it worked. The film worked, Hitch is creatively satisfied and the house is safe…. As a house….

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and Hopkins doesn’t do an impersonation of Hitch, he plays him with more emotional depth than a simple cardboard interpretation of the portly genius. Mirren matches him scene for scene and they are the strongest links in a film that tells the story of a relationship trying to survive under the shadow of arguably the greatest horror film of all time and ultimately the first ever “slasher” film. Not bad for a film that couldn’t even get funding from a major studio.

A good time all round.

 

4 / 5

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Written by thepanch

February 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm

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