Hitchcock, movie, movie review, mystery, thriller

July 21st, 2017 Movie – Secret Agent

secret agent

Now that’s kind of funny. I started the work week with a movie from the Legends of Horror box set and I am ending it with a movie from that same set. Today’s movie happens to be another one of Hitchcock’s early movies, and another one which I have never seen. I think I am going to have to count up how many movies in this set are Hitchcock movies, just to see what the ratio is out of the 50 movies in the set. But I need to stop rambling now and focus on what I should be doing right now, namely watching today’s movie, Secret Agent.

The plot: During World War I in 1916, a memorial service is being held for a British Captain and novelist named Edgar Brodie but after everyone leaves, the attendant goes to move the coffin and reveals that it is empty. Later, Brodie is brought to see a man, who introduces himself as R, and Brodie asks what is going on. R explains that he needs Brodie to undertake a secret mission to locate an enemy agent that is trying to cause trouble in Constantinople. Brodie’s predecessor believed the enemy agent was staying at the Hotel Excelsior in Switzerland so R arranges transport out of town and tells Brodie to make his way their inconspicuously. Brodie is given a new identity, Richard Ashenden, and an assistant called the General, whom he briefly meets as the man is chasing after one of R’s maids. Ashenden makes his way to Switzerland and as he checks in to the hotel, he learns that his “wife” is already there, which catches him off guard. When he enters his room, he sees a man eating grapes in a chair while talking to a woman in the other room. When Ashenden makes himself known, the woman comes out and happily greets him, then introduces the man as Robert Marvin, who had been keeping her company during the day. After Marvin leaves, Ashenden questions his wife, who reveals that she is Elsa Carrington, and tells him she took the assignment for the thrills. Some time later, the General arrives and greets Ashenden and is upset to find that Ashenden is married to Elsa but when Ashenden explains that she is there as part of his cover, the General immediately begins flirting with her. Ashenden tells the General to cut it out and get some rest, as they have to head out in the morning to meet their contact in the church of a small village. Meanwhile, an old man enters a shop to buy some chocolate and is given a specific package and after he leaves the shop, he throws the candy away while keeping the wrapper, which contains a message about Brodie faking his death and for him to “take steps.” The next day, Ashenden and the General make their way to the church only to find their contact, the church organist, is dead. As they examine the body, they find a button in the man’s hand and believe it was torn off in struggle. When someone enters the church, they go hide in the bell tower but regret that decision when the person sees the body, then rings the church bell to signal the authorities. Meanwhile, Elsa has gone to the casino with Marvin, who continues to try and seduce her but she refuses, saying she loves her husband. When Ashenden and the General return to the hotel, they can’t find Elsa and the concierge tells them she went to the casino with Marvin so they head off to meet her. When they get there, Elsa asks what happened and Ashenden goes to show her the button but he gets bumped and the button ends up falling on the gambling table, where it lands on the winning number. As Marvin and the other competitors laugh at what happened, Marvin says that the button looks like it came from Caypor, the man who bumped into Ashenden and when he notices it looks like one of his buttons, Caypor assumes it is his. After Ashenden and Marvin help keep Caypor out of trouble when his dog runs into the casino, they invite Cypor and his wife to join them, Elsa, and the General for a drink. As they are drinking, Ashenden pulls the General aside and they arrange to have an argument about who is the better climber. Caypor, who is an experienced mountaineer, offers to act as judge and the three agree to head out in the morning to a nearby mountain. Elsa wants to go with them but Ashenden tells her to stay with Mrs. Caypor, as he doesn’t want Elsa to be there if they have to kill Caypor. The next day, Elsa is sitting in the Caypor’s room tlaking with Mrs. Caypor when Marvin shows up and starts discretely flirting with Elsa again. Meanwhile, Ashenden, Caypor, and the General take a lift up to the mountain but Ashenden doesn’t feel capable of killing him so the General climbs up with Caypor, then pushes him off the cliff. That night, Ashenden receives a coded telegram saying that they killed the wrong man and the General laughs about it but Elsa gets upset and walks off. She boards a ferry and Ashenden follows after her and she begins venting about what happened and how she fell in love with him when she first saw him but now she isn’t sure what to do about it. Ashenden admits his feelings for her and that he didn’t kill Caypor and decides to resign his commission in order to pursue a relationship with Elsa and the two end up kissing. The next day, the General goes to the room to speak with Ashenden and is upset to hear that Ashenden resigned. He convinces Ashenden to come with him and takes him to his room, where a woman is there in his bed. The General explains that the woman’s fiance works in a chocolate factory but it is really a mail drop for German spies. Ashenden calls his room and tells Elsa that he has to leave for a few hours and tries to make her understand. Elsa says she does but after hanging up, writes Ashenden a note thanking him for pretending but she sees that he can’t give up the job so he is better off without her. Ashenden and the General head to the chocolate factory and the General notices one of the workers writing a note and placing it in a box on the conveyor, which is taken upstairs. When the note is received, the person contacts his headquarters, who sends some police there to arrest Ashenden and the General. The General sees them arrive and warns Ashenden, who hits the alarm, and the police end up being delayed by the mass of workers trying to exit the building. Ashenden and the General meet up with the woman’s fiance, who gives them a copy of the last telegram that was sent and they learn that it was addressed to Marvin. Back at the hotel, Elsa meets up with Marvin in the lobby and, after learning that he is leaving, she asks him to take her with him. Ashenden phones the hotel to try and reach Elsa but he learns that she left with Marvin so he and the General contact R to let him know what is happening while they head off to the train station to catch them. At the station, Ashenden sees Elsa and calls out to her and tells her that Marvin is the spy and they have to stop him from reaching Constantinople. They board the train for Constantinople, with Elsa coming with them but she tries to stop Ashenden from going after Marvin and killing him. When the train passes into Turkey, soldiers get on and Ashenden points to three bodies that are hanging near the station, and one of the soldiers tells them that they are spies. As Ashenden and the General enter a compartment, Marvin sees Elsa and she accompanies him to another compartment in order to keep him from seeing Ashenden and the General. Marvin then admits to Elsa that he is a spy and plans on killing her but stops when they hear planes attacking the train. Ashenden and the General go looking for Elsa and eventually find her but when the General goes to kill Marvin, Elsa grabs Marvin’s gun and tries to stop him. When the train is derailed due to the plane’s bombs, Marvin ends up pinned by the wreckage and Ashenden has a chance to kill him but chooses not to. Elsa hugs Ashenden as the General approaches Marvin and sits next to him to rest. Marvin grabs the gun that the General put down and shoots him before dying from his injuries and the General laughs and salutes Ashenden before he dies and Ashenden and Elsa continue embracing as the choose to quit the spy business for good.

Secret Agent met with high praise from modern critics, holding a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics all tended to praise the cast and felt like it was one of Hitchcock’s better British era thrillers. John Gielgud (Ashenden) filmed his scenes during the day, as he was performing on stage in “Romeo & Juliet” at night. Hitchcock had convinced Gielgud to play the hero by describing him as a modern day Hamlet but Gielgud ended up hating the character as he felt that Hitchcock made the villain more charming.

This is a little confusing at times but a decent thriller of a movie. The acting was ok, with John Gielgud doing a decent job as Ashenden, but he was definitely eclipsed by Peter Lorre (The General), Madeleine Carroll (Elsa), and Robert Young (Marvin). The story was pretty good but it seemed like they tried to hard in disguising who the spy was so it got a little convoluted in the middle, particularly that scene in the chocolate factory. The suspense and drama were pretty well done, especially at the end with all of the soldiers on the train and Ashenden and the others trying to figure out what to do without being caught as spies. I don’t necessarily agree with it being one of his best early films but this is a good Hitchcock movie and worth watching.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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Hitchcock, movie, movie review, thriller

June 24th, 2017 Movie – Sabotage (1936) (a.k.a. The Woman Alone)

sabotage 1936

Well, well, well. It’s my old friend The Legends Of Horror box set or, as I like to consider it, “The mass collection of movies Hitchcock made before he came to Hollywood”. So once again, I get to watch a Hitchcock movie that I have never seen before, but I have heard of this one. This movie came up during a conversation I had with a co-worker, who is a big fan of classic movies, and when we got on the subject of Hitchcock movies, he recommended I watch this one if I ever got the chance. So I let’s see if the recommendation pans out as I watch today’s movie, Sabotage (1936).

The plot: In 1930’s London, the power suddenly goes out and panic grips the city, When workers at the power plant find sand in one of the boilers, they realize that it was deliberately sabotaged and wonder who did it, as a man is shown walking away from the power plant. At a downtown cinema, the customers are upset and demanding their money back and Mrs. Verloc, who is working in the ticket booth, wishes her husband was there to deal with them. Meanwhile, Karl Verloc, who was the man leaving the power plant, sneaks upstairs into the living quarters of the cinema and after cleaning up, lays down in bed and pretends to be asleep. When his wife comes upstairs, she is surprised to see him there, having thought he was gone, and asks what to do about the customers. Verloc tells her to go ahead and give them their money back, saying he has some money coming in to cover the loss. When Mrs. Verloc returns downstairs, she sees Ted Spencer, a helper at the greengrocer next to the cinema, telling the crowd that due to the power loss being outside the cinema’s control, the cinema did not have to refund their money. Mrs. Verloc argues with Ted about what he is doing and tells the crowd that she will refund their money but as the crowd heads to the ticket booth, the power suddenly comes back on and the crowd heads inside, with Mrs. Verloc thanking Ted for his help before returning to the ticket booth. Later that night, Mrs. Verloc is working on getting dinner ready and sends her younger brother Stevie to the grocer to get some lettuce. Ted comes back with Stevie and warmly greets Mrs. Verloc, then comments to Verloc about seeing him return during the bloackout but Verloc tells Ted he was mistaken and that he never left. After his shift is over, Ted takes a cab to Scotland Yard, where it is revealed that he is an undercover officer investigating Verloc, as they believe he is somehow involved in a plot of attacks against the city. His supervisor wonders if Mrs. Verloc is working with Verloc or merely unaware of his actions and recommends Ted get closer to her to find out. The next day, Ted talks with Verloc for a little bit as he leaves the cinema and then watches as Verloc catches a bus and Ted signals his assistant, Hollingshead, to follow him. Verloc heads to the zoo and meets his contact, who is disappointed that the papers are mocking the power loss and wants Verloc to place some “fireworks” at the Piccadilly London Underground station, though Verloc is uncomfortable doing something that can result in a loss of life. Meanwhile, Mrs. Verloc and Stevie are in town and Ted “runs into” them and invites them to join him for lunch, during which he speaks with Mrs. Verloc but she has no clue that her husband might be up to something. Later, Ted returns to Scotland Yard and yells his superior that he believes Mrs. Verloc is innocent and his superior tells him what Hollingshead discovered. Meanwhile, Verloc heads to a pet store and meets with the owner, who works as a bomb maker for the terrorist group, and is given a time bomb disguised as a bird cage and told to make sure to place at the station at noon on Saturday. As he is getting ready to leave the store, he sees a police officer walking by and worries about them investigating him or raiding the store and the store owner comments that it would be a bad idea if they did. The next day, Ted notices several men going to meet with Verloc and he buys a ticket into the cinema to see if he can learn what they are meeting about. Running into Stevie, Ted is shown a window behind the movie screen that opens into their living room and Ted climbs up and starts listening into the meeting. As the meeting goes on, one of the terrorists notices Ted’s hand propping open the window and he quickly grabs it and drags Ted inside the room. Ted and Stevie quickly apologize for the intrusion and leaves but one of the terrorists recognizes Ted as working for Scotland Yard and after Ted leaves, he informs Verloc and the others. The terrorists decide to cancel the planned attack and scatter and after they all leave, Verloc heads to the ticket booth to speak with his wife. He asks her if Ted had asked questions about him and when she asks why, he says that Ted was spying on the building. Verloc heads to the grocers and asks the owner about Ted and the owner confirms that Ted works for Scotland Yard but he figured that they thought the cinema was showing “funny pictures.” The next day, Verloc tries calling the pet store owner to take back the bomb but learns that he had left for the day. When Ted shows up with Stevie, Mrs. Verloc is cold towards him and he apologizes for doing his job, then tells her what they suspect about Verloc. Verloc has taken the bomb out of the cage and wraps it but when he sees Ted talking to Mrs. Verloc, he asks Stevie to take the package to the station for him, saying it is some film canisters that need to be delivered to Piccadilly Circus before 1:45. Stevie makes his way to Piccadilly Circus but ends up delayed by a salesman, who uses him for a demonstration, and The Lord Mayor’s procession. When  the parade is over, Stevie manages to convince a bus operator to let him onto the bus, even though it is illegal to carry film canisters on a public vehicle as they are flammable. As the bus makes it’s way through the city, Stevie keeps track of the time and when it is 1:45, the bomb goes off, killing everyone in the bus. Ted receives word of the explosion as he is finishing talking with the Verlocs and heads to the crime scene. As he looks around, he notices a film tin and realizes it is the one that Stevie was carrying. As the papers report on the explosion, Mrs. Verloc is worried about Stevie but when she grabs a paper and sees the article about the film tin, she faints in front of the cinema, and when she is revived, she goes to see Verloc. Verloc says he didn’t mean for Stevie to be harmed and says that if anyone is to blame, it is Ted, as he would have delivered the bomb himself if Ted hadn’t of been there questioning him. Mrs. Verloc is silent as Verloc tells her to pull herself together and later that day, as they are eating, she ends up stabbing him with a knife then, in a state of shock over Stevie’s death and her killing Verloc, she sits down motionless in a chair. Ted shows up and offers his condolences for Stevie’s death and says he has to arrest Verloc. When he discovers his body, he asks what happened and Mrs. Verloc tells him that he killed Stevie so she stabbed him. She plans on going to the police to turn herself in and Ted follows after her to try and stop her, saying he will do anything to protect her. Meanwhile, the bomb maker’s wife chastises him for using the bird cage to deliver the bomb to Verloc and she has him go get the cage back so they aren’t incriminated. As he heads to the cinema, he is followed by Hollingshead, who radios in his report and is told to head to the cinema and the chief inspector is on his way to meet them. Mrs. Verloc get’s upset and Ted comforts her and they end up kissing, then heading back to the cinema. As they near the cinema, they see the police arriving and Mrs. Verloc heads towards the Chief Inspector to tell him that she killed her husband but before she can, he is called away to oversee the raid. Meanwhile, the bomb maker makes it inside the residence but sees Verloc’s body and the police closing in. When the police knock on the door, he tells them he has a bomb and they, believing it is Verloc talking, quickly rush to clear the audience out of the theater before he can detonate it. The Chief Inspector returns to talk with Mrs. Verloc and ask if she can talk with her husband but she tells him that he is dead, just as the bomb goes off, obscuring all evidence that Verloc was stabbed. The Chief Inspector tells Ted to help Mrs. Verloc and take her away from there but as they leave, he tries to remember if Mrs. Verloc had said her husband was dead before or after the explosion occurred.

Sabotage (1936) met with unanimous praise from modern critics, holding a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics all seemed to feel like this was one of Hitchcock’s best thrillers before he came to Hollywood. While the hostile powers behind the bombings was never actually named, many people feel like it was Nazi Germany, due to the time that the film was made. While the movie was based on the novel “The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad, Hitchcock changed the title for his film, as he already had another movie coming out that same year titled The Secret Agent, though it was based on stories by W. Somerset Maugham.

While I don’t think it was as good as I was led to believe, this is still an incredibly good movie and really showcased Hitchcock’s talent for bringing out the tension in films. The acting was pretty good, with Sylvia Sidney (Mrs. Verloc), Oskar Holmaka (Verloc), and John Loder (Ted) doing great jobs in their roles. The story was pretty good, with my only real problem being that they didn’t really seem to explain the purpose behind the bombs. Yes, I know it was supposed to scare the British people but I meant the meaning besides the obvious one; the actual plan of which the bombs were only one step. Of course, they could have actually explained it and I just missed it but I honestly don’t recall them doing so. Hitchcock did a great job of using the tension in this movie to set the tone, especially in the final scenes of the movie. The scene with Stevie getting on the bus, and it driving by the various clocks as the time got closer to 1:45 was incredibly suspenseful, as you know what is going to happen but you keep hoping that something happens that keeps Stevie from being killed on that bus. The same kind of holds true when Mrs. Verloc kills her husband, as you feel like she is going to just snap but when she finally does, there isn’t a frantic reaction or anything as she actually seems pretty calm, though sudden, when she actually stabs Verloc. Definitely a movie worth watching, regardless on if you are a Hitchcock fan or not.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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drama, Hitchcock, movie, movie review, romance, silent movie, sports

May 22nd, 2017 Movie – The Ring (1927)

the ring 1927

Two old school Hitchcock movies in a row. This is a great start to the week. So this is another of his early silent movies that had never heard of before. So this is going to be a little interesting for me because while I enjoy watching sports, I don’t necessarily like watching sports movies. Obviously there are some exceptions to that but in general, sports movies just don’t really hold my interest. So let’s see how this one does as I watch today’s movie, The Ring (1927).

The plot: A man and his friend are walking along the grounds of a fair when they approach a tent where the barker is challenging members of the crowd to compete in a boxing match with the athletes. As the barker is promoting the talents of “One Round” Jack Sanders, the man becomes infatuated with the ticket girl, Mabel, and begins flirting with her. When Jack notices this, he challenges the man to be one of the fighters and the man agrees. Inside the tent, Jack easily defeats his first two opponents and then proceeds to fight the man, but the man is more of a challenge than Jack expected. When the fight last longer than one round, Mabel, who was watching the fight through a flap in the tent, informs the barker and he begins selling more tickets for people to watch it. The man eventually beats Jack and he leaves with his friend but as he starts flirting with Mabel again, she is upset because Jack and her were going to get married but Jack might have lost his job after he lost. The man’s friend hands her a card, revealing his name to be James Ware and that the man is the World Heavyweight Champion boxer Bob Corby, whom he manages. James and Bob approach Jack later that night as Mabel tends to his wounds and James offers Jack a job in becoming Bob’s sparring partner providing he win a trial fight. As they are talking, Bob continues flirting with Mabel and she leads him outside the tent, as some people were staring at them. Outside, they walk behind a trailer and Bob gives her a bracelet that he bought from the prize money as a gift. Mabel give his a quick peck as thanks but Bob kisses her again and she allows it but then reluctantly breaks it off when she notices Jack and James looking for them. As they are saying their goodbyes, Mabel does her best to keep the bracelet covered up, though Bob sees this and sneakily tries to get her to reveal it to Jack. After they leave, Mabel goes to the fortune teller’s tent and asks to have her fortune read but Jack shows up and believes the fortune is about him. The next day, Jack is washing his face in the pond behind his trailer and Mabel goes to talk to him when the bracelet falls off her arm and into the pond. When Jack retrieves it, he questions her about it and she admits that Bob bought it for her because he didn’t want to take their money. Later that day, Mabel receives a telegram from Jack stating that he won his fight and he would meet her at the church the next day so they can get married. Jack and Mabel get married, though Mabel appears a little reluctant to do so and at the reception, Bob, who had attended the wedding, jokes about wishing Mabel was the prize in their fight. Jack says he will fight any man to defend his wife’s honor and an exhibition match is arranged, which Bob ends up winning. Jack notices Mabel flirting and gets upset but his trainer has him take out his frustrations on the punching bag. Later, Jack tells James he wants to challenge Bob for the championship but James says that he is too far down on the list of contenders and will need to work his way up. Jack begins winning his fights and at a party at James’ house, James informs Jack that if he wins his next fight, he will be the #1 contender for Bob’s title. Jack worries about leaving Mabel alone while he goes to the fight, as he fears she is having an affair with Bob, but James says that he was doing this for her and to trust that she will be there for him. Jack wins his fight and afterwards, sees the barker and some of his friends from the fair were there to watch the fight. As the talk about the upcoming fight with Bob, Jack invites them back to his house to celebrate his win and surprise Mabel. When they get there, they find that Mabel is out and Jack pours some champagne, saying she should be back soon and they will drink when she gets there. As it gets late and Mabel still doesn’t show, their friends say their goodbyes and leave while Jack waits up for Mabel to return. Looking out the window, Jack sees Mabel getting out of Bob’s car and when she enters the apartment, they end up getting into an argument over her affections towards Bob. Jack then heads to the club to confront Bob over his spending so much time with Mabel and when Bob tries to punch him, Jack blocks it and knocks Bob down, then tells James that Bob can try and get revenge in the ring. When Jack returns home, he finds that Mabel is gone, having left a note saying she is staying with people that know how to treat her. On the night of the big fight, Jack’s trainer and the barker notice Mabel heading into Bob’s dressing room and they decide not to tell Jack that she is there. As the fight is about to start, Jack keeps looking out into the crowd to see if he can catch sight of Mabel but he doesn’t see her. As the fight commences, Jack notices Mabel sitting in the front row in Bob’s corner and it distracts him to where Bob is able to get the upper hand. As the fight continues, Mabel begins to get worried about Jack and starts making her way over tho his side of the ring. During the rest period before the final round, Mabel manages to reach Jack’s corner and tells him she is there in his corner and when he sees her there, he gets a second wind and manages to knock out Bob, winning the championship. As Jack celebrates his win, Mabel apologizes to him and he accepts and as they hug, she sees Bob watching them in the corner and takes off the bracelet he gave her and leaves it on the ground, which Bob’s trainer returns to him after the fight.

The Ring (1927) received high praise from the critics, holding a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics all seem to feel like this was one of Hitchcock’s best silent films, praising all of the visual nuances and symbols used to tell a compelling story. Out of all of the movies that Hitchcock made over the years, this is the only original screenplay that Hitchcock wrote himself, having collaborated with other writers for all of his other films. The movie was a success during it’s initial release but when it received a more general release, it was considered a failure.

I have to admit, this was a pretty good movie. The acting was good, with Carl Brisson (Jack), Lillian Hall-Davis (Mabel), and Ian Hunter (Bob) doing good jobs in their roles, though I also liked Gordon Harker, who made for some funny comedic breaks as Jack’s trainer. The story was very good, with the main three actors showing a lot of emotions to help showcase the drama of the situation. To be honest, some aspects of the story and fight, primarily the whole underdog aspect, kind of feel a little similar to Rocky and makes me wonder of this might have influenced Stallone a little when he wrote that movie. The fights and camera angles during them did look a little off at times and didn’t seem as clear as the rest of the movie but that could have been intentional. Regardless, this is a great movie in it’s own right and definitely worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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comedy, Hitchcock, movie, movie review, romance, thriller

May 21st, 2017 Movie – Rich And Strange

rich and strange

Ahh, I do love starting the day with a Hitchcock movie. Once more I find myself watching an early Hitchcock movie from the Legends Of Horror box set and am reminded of just how much I have been enjoying this collection. The only bad thing about all of this, if you can call it that, is that it has really made me want to buy several of his more well known movies. Well, maybe I can work on that at another time but for now, I’m going to focus on today’s movie, Rich And Strange.

The plot: After a rough day where nothing seems to go right for him, Fred Hill returns home to his wife Emily. As the two start to argue over finances, they receive a telegram from Fred’s uncle, who has decided to give them an advance of their inheritance so that they may, in Fred’s words, enjoy life a little more. Fred quits his job and the two decide to go on a cruise but as they are crossing the English Channel to Paris, Fred ends up getting sea sick. While in Paris, they decide to attend a show at the Folies Bergère but Emily wants to leave when somebody pinches her on the butt so the end up at a bar, where they proceed to get drunk and when they finally make it back to their hotel, they end up falling asleep on the floor with their heads on the beds. The next day, they board the ship to head to the Orient but Fred once again feels sea sick and heads down to their cabin, leaving Emily alone on the deck. While on the deck, she ends up meeting Commander Gordon and starts a friendship with him but as they spend more time together, they end up getting closer and Gordon kisses Emily on the deck before she heads back to her cabin. When Fred starts feeling better and is able to move about the ship, he goes for a walk on the deck and meets a German princess, who apologizes to him when she accidentally hits him in the eye with a rope ring from one of the deck games. As the voyage continues, Fred and Emily end up spending more time with their new partners and less time with each other. As the boat makes a stop in Columbo, they all head ashore, and Fred and Emily both tell their new lovers that they intend to dissolve their marriage and start new lives with the princess and Gordon respectively. When the boat arrives in Singapore, Emily leaves with Gordon and heads to his house. Along the way, Gordon tells Emily that the princess is really a con artist who is merely after Fred’s money and Emily, feeling bad about the way things became with her husband, leaves Gordon and heads off to warn Fred. Emily heads to Fred’s hotel and tries to warn him about the princess but Fred doesn’t believe her. As the two start to argue over everything that has happened between them during the trip, Fred leaves Emily crying in his room while he goes to locate the princess. As she is sitting there, a telegram from Gordon is delivered to her, stating that he understands her reasoning to stay with her husband. Fred returns, saying that the princess had run off onto a train for Rangoon and he finds a note stating that she was a simple street walker whose father owned a laundry in Berlin. Realizing that the fake princess took most of Fred’s money, they use what little they have left to pay the hotel bill and then book passage on a tramp steamer in order to return home. During the journey, the ship strikes something in the middle of the night and as everyone aboard begins to abandon ship, Fred and Emily find themselves trapped in their cabin as they see the water rushing up over the porthole. As they await their watery end, Fred and Emily apologize for how they have acted. In the morning, Fred and Emily discover that they are still alive and Emily opens the porthole so that they can climb up onto the deck and see where they are. They head into a nearby cabin to find some clothes, unaware that water has now started seeping into their cabin through the open porthole. When a Chinese junk appears and the crew begin looting the steamer, Fred and Emily manage to board the junk and the crew feeds them and tends to leave them alone. Fred and Emily eventually manages to make it back to London but as they get reacquainted to being home, they start arguing in the same fashion that they were before the telegram had arrived some months earlier.

Rich And Strange met with mostly positive results from the critics, holding a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most people felt that while it wasn’t one of his better films, it did provide a mature exploration of wandering affections and romantic betrayal. The movie was not a commercial success and most of this is attributed to the lack of dialogue, as the dialogue only occurs for about a quarter of the movie, and that there were several hold overs from the silent film style, such as scene captions and exaggerated acting styles.

Not exactly what I would prefer in a Hitchcock movie but it wasn’t that bad. The acting was decent, with Henry Kendall (Fred) and Joan Barry (Emily) doing good jobs in their roles for the most part. The story was interesting, pointing out something that can happen to every married couple if they stop paying attention to each other and work on strengthening their relationship, but the the mix between periods of dialogue and non speaking scenes and events made it a little difficult to fully grasp what all was going on. There wasn’t really any special effects as the movie used dialogue and situations to help carry the plot. An interesting take on relationships as only Hitchcock could tell.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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crime, Hitchcock, movie, movie review, mystery, thriller

April 22nd, 2017 Movie – Number Seventeen

number seventeen

Ahh, another movie from the Legends of Horror box set and wouldn’t you know it, it is a Hitchcock movie. Today’s movie is yet another movie that I have never seen before, making it one more win for this box set. So the question is, what kind of an early movie do I have; horror, mystery, or one of his rare romance movies. Which ever type I get, I hope I am entertained by today’s movie, Number Seventeen.

The plot: When a gust of wind blows a man’s hat into the front yard of a house for sale, the man retrieves it, then notices a light moving about inside the house. Opening the door, the man, Detective Barton, heads inside and begins looking around the ground floor before heading upstairs, where the light is coming from. Searching around, Barton comes face to face with a man holding a candle on the attic landing but when a sudden burst of lighting illuminates the landing, they see a body lying on the floor and the man holding the candle panics and ends up falling down the stairs. Barton goes down to check on the man and escorts him back upstairs to the body, asking if he had anything to do with the dead body. The man claims innocence of the murder and Barton asks him to empty his pockets. As Ben begins revealing the contents of his pockets, the shadow of a hand is seen reaching for a door knob and a sudden noise is heard. Barton hands the man the candle while he goes to investigate the sound and the man searches the body’s pockets and finds a pair of handcuffs and a gun. The man keeps the gun but leaves the handcuffs next to the body, which Barton notices as he comes back up the stairs. The men hear some noises above them and see the shadow of someone climbing along the roof, just before the person crashes through a weak portion of the roof into the building. The man manages the catch the person, who is revealed to be a woman, and Barton gives her some brandy to revive her. The woman starts screaming about her father and when she asks who they are, Barton introduces himself as Forsythe while the man says his name is Ben. The woman, Rose Ackroyd, tells them that she lives next door and when a telegram arrived for her father, she went to give it to him but found his door locked. She had attempted to climb up the roof and of the house to get into the skylight of her own house but had fallen through. “Forsythe” asks about the telegram, which informs Mr. Ackroyd that someone named Sheldrake has the necklace and is planning to make his getaway that night. Ackroyd is instructed to keep watch on #17, and the telegram is signed by Barton. “Forsythe” asks Rose if she knows Barton but she doesn’t. Realizing that something will be happening soon, “Forsythe” tries to get Rose to leave but she refuses. When the bell’s chime half past midnight, the door bell starts ringing and “Forsythe” goes to see who is there. While he is gone, Ben remembers the gun and decides to put it back in the corpse’s pocket but realizes that the corpse has disappeared. Downstairs, “Forsythe” opens the door to reveal a man and a woman, who claim they are there to look at the house. After they come in, “Forsythe” goes to shut the door when a second man appears, asking his “uncle” if he can come in as well. The men want to take a look upstairs but they refuse to look at any of the rooms, wanting to continue towards the attic but “Forsythe” tries to stall them. Ben calls down that it is ok and they head upstairs as Ben tries to head down. One of the men tells Ben to stop but Ben, fed up after being stuck in the house for over an hour, pulls out the gun. As “Forsythe” questions Ben about the gun, one of the men pulls out a gun of his own while the other one struggles with Ben over his gun. The gun goes off and “Forsythe” ends up being shot in the wrist as he tried to shield the woman. The men manage to get the gun away from Ben and have everyone enter one of the rooms. The woman helps “Forsythe” bandage his wound and one of the men tells him that she is unable to speak or hear. The men search “Forsythe”, Ben, and Rose’s pockets and find the telegram to Mr. Ackroyd. As the woman keeps watch on everyone, the two men step out of the room and begin to discuss what to do. Ben causes a commotion and tries to leave but the men grab him and lock him in a bathroom. As Ben stares at the door, a pair of hands reach out and strangle him but as the man, Sheldrake, goes to retrieve the necklace from the toilet where he hid it, Ben is revealed to have faked being unconscious and pickpockets the necklace while Sheldrake is staring out the keyhole. The two men and the woman have “Forsythe” and Rose out on the landing when the corpse starts walking up the stairs, revealed to be one of the gang of thieves. After confirming each other’s identities by the use of a card, the men proceed to tie up “Forsythe” and Rose, but Rose winks at the “corpse” as he ties her up. The corpse leads the two men and woman into a room to wait for Sheldrake, when he locks them in and frees “Forsythe” and Rose, revealing himself to be Rose’s father. As he works on freeing them, he asks about Ben and is told that he is locked in the bathroom. Mr. Ackroyd goes to free Ben to help him but ends up getting in a fight with Sheldrake. Ben tries to help but accidentally knocks out Mr. Ackroyd, then Sheldrake locks both Ben and Ackroyd in the bathroom. As Sheldrake frees the other thieves, they retie “Forsythe” and Rose, then Sheldrake leads them down to the cellar, but the woman drops her purse and whispers to “Forsythe” and Rose that she is coming back, revealing that she can talk. “Forsythe” and Rose struggle to free themselves but their efforts loosen the banister and the end up falling, and hanging from the stairs. The girl, Nora, returns and frees them but has to return to the crooks or they will start to suspect her. “Forsythe” and Rose go to free Ben, who accidentally strikes Rose, then Rose goes to tend to her father while “Forsythe” and Ben go after the crooks. In the cellar, Nora reveals she can speak by refusing to leave with the crooks but they take her with them, as she knows too much. Leaving through a secret staircase, they make their way to the nearby train tracks, where a train with an empty car is about to leave. “Forsythe” and Ben race after them and try to board the train but while Ben makes it on board, Sheldrake kicks “Forsythe” off of the car. Sheldrake and one of the crooks head towards the engine, where they knock out the engineer in order to take over the train. Meanwhile, “Forsythe” commandeers a bus in order to give chase to the train. Back on the train, the crooks want Sheldrake to show them the necklace and Sheldrake but he realizes that he no longer has it. Accusing one of the crooks of being a cop, Sheldrake and the other crook move to attack him but the man manages to avoid them, then heads to the car where Nora and Ben are being held. As the man starts to search Nora, Ben reveals that he has the necklace, just as Sheldrake and the other crook show up and they begin fighting over the necklace. The fake police officer pretends to grab the necklace and make a run for it but as Sheldrake and the other crook chase after him, the fake cop doubles back and returns to the car with Ben and Nora. Meanwhile, Sheldrake and the other crook continue searching for the fake cop and end up shooting the engineer, causing the train to speed out of control. The train ends up plowing through the docks and crashing into a ferry, causing the train and ferry to start sinking. “Forsythe” arrives and, noticing Nora is handcuffed, dives into the water and rescues her. As everyone is drying off, “Forsythe” is with Nora and the fake police officer says that he is Barton, but “Forsythe” reveals that he knows Barton is actually Henry Doyle and that he is actually Barton. Doyle is escorted outside to some waiting police officers Ben is shocked that Barton was a cop the entire time. Barton approaches Nora and asks her what she plans on doing and when Nora asks what he plans on doing, Barton suggests she come get breakfast with him, causing them both to laugh, while Ben reveals that he managed to swipe the necklace again.

Number Seventeen met with mixed results from the critics, holding a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics were mixed on their feelings regarding the plot, but felt this was a good early work of Hitchcock’s. When Hitchcock returned from a vacation in the Caribbean, he wanted to do a movie based on John Van Druten’s play London Wall, but the studio wanted him to do a film version of Joseph Farjeon’s play Number Seventeen instead. In a twist of fate, the director who wound up working on London Wall had actually wanted to do Number Seventeen instead.

This was an interesting movie but it could have been a lot better. The acting was ok, with Leon M. Lion really stealing the show as Ben, making for some great comedic moments, while John Stuart (Barton), Anne Grey (Nora), and Ann Casson (Rose) doing good jobs in their roles as well. The story was pretty good, but it felt like they spent too long on the build up of the events, so that the conclusion felt rushed. I think if the movie was a little bit longer, they could have paced it out better and it would have been more effective. There wasn’t much in the way of special effects aside from the train crashing into the ferry, but that honestly looked a little weak. The bigger problem for me was that the didn’t really do a good job of explaining who everyone was, which lead to a lot of confusion as to who everyone was and who was a good guy or a bad guy. Not one of his better works but it was still an entertaining movie.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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drama, Hitchcock, movie, movie review, romance

April 6th, 2017 Movie – The Manxman

the manxman

You know, it seems like every other movie in the Legends Of Horror box set is an early Hitchcock movie. Considering his film career, you could probably easily make a 50 movie box set of his movies alone. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying watching all of these old movies but I wish there was a little more variety in the set. But enough complaining, let’s get on with today’s movie, The Manxman.

The plot: In a small island fishing village, Pete Quilliam is a poor fisherman while his childhood friend Philip Christian is a up and coming lawyer. Whenever the fishermen come across legal troubles, Philip is always willing to help due to his friendship with Pete. The two head to the local tavern, where they are both interested in Kate Creegan, the owner’s daughter. Pete wants to ask Kate’s father, Old Caesar, for her hand in marriage and asks Philip to speak on his behalf. Philip speaks with Caesar about allowing Kate to marry Pete but Caesar refuses, telling Pete to leave because he is a penniless lout. Pete is angered over Caesar’s dismissal and vows to make him eat those words. Pete decides to travel to Africa and make his money abroad and rushes to tell Kate, with Philip reluctantly coming with him. Calling out to Kate until she answers, Pete stands on Philip’s shoulders so he can talk to Kate and tells her he is leaving for Africa and asks if she will wait for him. She agrees to wait for him and gives him a kiss before closing the blinds on him. As she peeks down on the two, she sees Pete telling Philip that she would wait for him and asking Philip to look after her but Kate suddenly seems nervous and goes to call out to them but the two men have already left. While Pete is gone, Philip begins calling on Kate almost every day and the two end up being attracted to one another. Philip’s mother says that his father ruined his career by marrying beneath him and she doesn’t want to see his chances of becoming Deemster, the island’s chief magistrate, and says he should break off his affair with Kate. Philip heads to the bar intending to do just that but he finds it full of the local fishermen and wonders what is going on. Caesar hands him a telegram, saying that Pete is dead, and Caesar says he might have been wrong about Pete and Kate as she hasn’t said a word to anyone. Philip goes to see Kate who tells him that they are now free and shouldn’t feel guilty about what they are doing. Meanwhile, Pete was still alive in Africa and had made his fortune. He writes a letter to Philip telling him he will be coming back and not to tell Kate, but Philip and Kate have begun to have a physical affair at an old mill. When Philip receives Pete’s telegram, he asks Kate to meet him and tells her the news. Kate says that she is glad Pete is alive but she doesn’t love him but Philip says she was promised to him and they have to end things as they watch the ship carrying Pete head towards port. Heading back to the tavern, Kate has Philip go inside first, as she is unable to face Pete just yet. Philip does and Pete embraces his friend before asking about Kate. Kate shows up and Pete embraces her before the two are led away by Caesar, who is happy to have Kate marry Pete now. The two are wed at the old mill where Philip and Kate had been having their affair and during the reception, Caesar gives a warning to them about dishonoring their vows, saying God will punish them. Kate goes through with the wedding but she can’t stand to be with Pete, as she is in love with Philip. Several weeks go by and Philip, who had gone on holiday after the wedding, is set to be appointed Deemster. Kate sends a note to Philip saying she must speak with him before the fishing fleet comes back. When Philip comes over, Kate begs him to take her away and when he asks why, she tells him she is pregnant with his child. Philip asks why she didn’t say anything sooner and she tells him he thought more of his career than her feelings. Kate insist that he take her away but Philip refuses, worrying about the shame they would face if what they did was known. Pete returns home and Kate starts to tell him the truth but seeing Philip walk away, she merely tells him that she is pregnant. Pete is excited and calls Philip back to tell him the news but as Pete turns his back, both Kate and Philip have sorrowful expressions on their faces. Time passes and Kate gives birth to a daughter, while Philip is made Deemster. After giving thanks to the crowd when he makes Deemster, Kate goes to see Philip and tells him that she left Pete and wants to be with him. Meanwhile, Pete returns home to find Kate missing and had left a note saying that she had loved another man and still loved him, leaving Pete with the baby. Pete is heartbroken but tells everyone that Kate had a rough time and was on vacation while he cares for the baby. Philip feels guilty when Pete tells him the news while Caesar finds the note Kate wrote but chooses not to say anything when Pete sees him with it. Meanwhile, Kate had been hiding in Philip’s office and wants Philip to run off with her but he refuses to ruin his career by doing so. Distraught, Kate returns to he home and Pete is excited to see her and have her back but she tells him she isn’t staying. Kate tells Pete that she is there for the baby and Pete refuses to let her have it. Kate then says that the baby isn’t his but he refuses to believe her and still won’t let her take the baby, grabbing the baby and locking themselves in the bedroom. Feeling completely hopeless, Kate leaves the house and decides to try and commit suicide by throwing herself off the harbor into the water below. Kate is rescued by a police officer and, charged with attempted suicide, brought before Philip’s court. Philip is shocked to see Kate there when suddenly, Pete, Caesar, and several of the fishermen enter the courtroom. Pete asks Philip to let him speak on her behalf and Philip agrees and after listening to Pete beg to have her released back to his care, Philip agrees to it but Kate refuses to go. Caesar, who figured out that Philip was the other man, accuses Philip and Philip admits to it, removing his powdered wig and vacating his position. Philip and Kate go to the house to pick up the baby and Pete kisses her goodbye and as Philip and Kate leave the island, facing the jeers of all the villagers who were watching from the windows, Pete sits at the table and cries as he has now lost everything, before returning to the sea with a haunted look in his eye.

The Manxman met with high praise from recent critics, holding a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics seem to feel that, several critics seemed to like the story but admit this isn’t one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. Hitchcock’s last silent movie, he began filming this movie two weeks after his daughter Patricia was born. Two key lines in the movie, where Kate tells Philip, and later Pete, that she is haing a baby, did not have intertitles to go with them and instead, the audience was left to read her lips to know what was being said.

To be honest, I am feeling a little indifferent towards this movie, but it is not a bad movie. The acting was pretty good, with Carl Brisson (Pete), Malcolm Keen (Philip), and Anny Ondra (Kate) doing great jobs in their roles, putting a lot of expression and emotion into their performances. The story was ok, though pretty predictable for the most part. I know it was based on a novel by the same name, but I wished Hitchcock could have added a little more suspense to it. The camera work was pretty good, showing plenty of close ups to help emphasize the emotions from the main actors. Definitely not something you would expect from Hitchcock but worth giving a shot if you want to see some of his early works.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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crime, Hitchcock, movie, movie review, mystery, thriller

April 4th, 2017 Movie – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

the man who knew too much (1934)

Now this is a treat for me. See, I have seen this movie before..or rather, the remake of it. Granted, it has been several years since I watched it so I don’t remember all the minute details of what happened in it. However, both of them were directed by Hitchcock, so there shouldn’t be too much difference in the style of each movie. So let’s see if I like the original version as I watch today’s movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much.

The plot: In Switzerland, Bob and Betty Lawrence are watching a skiing competition when Betty notices a dog had run on the course and runs out to grab it, causing the skier making his run to crash. As the crowd checks to make sure everyone is ok, the skier, a Frenchman named Louis Bernard who has befriended the Lawrences, says that it is his last night in the country and invites them to dinner. Bob and Betty accept and then head out to watch the finals of a clay pigeon shooting contest, which Bob’s wife Jill is competing in. When they get there, Jill is about to shoot when Betty runs up to tell her about dinner. Jill tells Betty to be quiet and hands her a broach that she had been bought for her, then prepares for her shot. As Jill takes aim, she is distracted when a man watch starts chiming and misses her shot. Jokingly blaming Betty for the miss, Jill watches as her opponent makes his shot and wins the competition. When Louis shows up, Jill jokingly makes a show of leaving with him as Bob, going along with the joke, pretends to break down in tears and blame the winner for his wife leaving him. At dinner, Jill is dancing with Louis, while Bob plays a prank on them, when someone shoots through the window and hits Louis. As he starts to collapse, he hands Jill a key and tells her there is a note hidden in his brush that she must take to the British consul. Jill tells Bob, who has Betty go up to their room while he heads to Bob’s room, unaware that he is being followed. When Bob gets there he starts searching for the note and finds it just before the police and hotel manager enter the room. Bob sneaks out the back entrance and encounters a man, who asks for the note, but they are interrupted by the police and Bob demands they call the British consul. Bob is taken to the manager’s office, where he sees Jill being questioned by the police and he is unable to speak with her. When a porter brings him an urgent message, Bob reads it and then forces his way into the room with his wife, making up some excuse as to why he had to speak with her as he slips her the note. Jill reads the note, which tells them to say nothing or the will never see Betty again, and ends up fainting, and Bob grabs the note and throws it in the fire before anyone else can see it. The two return home, and end up being questioned by some officials but after the bulk of the officials leave, a man from the Foreign Office stays behind. He tells the Lawrences that Louis was one of his men and had uncovered a plot to assassinate a visiting head of state and the details were in the note that Louis had hidden. The Lawrences consider telling the man when the receive a phone call from the kidnappers, who know the man from the Foreign Office is there and warn them not to say anything. Betty is put on the line and Jill speaks with her and tries to get her to say where she is being held but the call is disconnected. Refusing to say anything to the Foreign Office, Bob goes with his brother in law Clive to follow up on their only lead, a dentist’s office. Inside, has Clive fake a toothache so that he can search the outer office while the dentist tends to him, then has the dentist check his teeth. While in the chair, Bob hears a man with a ticking watch enter and walk to a side room. The dentist attempts to put Bob to sleep but Bob turns the tables on him, then quickly dons the dentist’s coat and pretends to be working on his mouth as the winner if the shooting competition enters and speaks with the man with the watch. When they leave, Bob and Clive follow after them and come to a temple for sun worshipers, and Bob recognizes the logo from Louis’ note. Heading inside, Bob notices a woman staring at them and tries to warn Clive but it is too late. The woman calls Bob up to the stage and hypnotizes him, then has the congregation leave except for a select few. Bob is forced to lock the doors, then Abbott, the man with the watch, tells him of his plan. Bob recognizes the shooter from the competition and struggles with him, catching site of a ticket for a concert hall. Bob manages to rouse Clive and tells him to call Jill and have her stop the assassination, then holds off the kidnappers long enough for him to escape. Abbott takes Bob to a house that is connected to the temple, and Bob is reunited briefly with Betty before she is taken away. Clive manages to call Jill and tell her Bob’s message but when he tries to get the police for help, Abbott has gotten to them first and convinced them that Clive was insane and he ends up being taken away. At the concert hall, Jill shows up and looks around for the possible assassin and when she sees the rifle, she screams out, causing the shooter to only graze the target. As the shooter heads back to the hideout, Jill points him out to the police and the follow after him. When the police attempt to enter the hideout, the kidnappers begin firing at the police, killing some of them and forcing the others back. The police get some rifles and a shootout occurs between the police and the kidnappers. During the confusion, Bob manages to get out of his room and sneak into Jill’s room, then attempts to help her escape but they are spotted by the assassin, who was sent to get Jill to use as a shield. The assassin wounds Bob and chases Jill up to the roof of the building, where she is spotted by the police and the stop firing. When they see the assassin chasing her, a rifleman is order to shoot him but he can’t take the shot so Jill grabs his rifle and kills the Assassin herself. The police storm the building and find most of the kidnappers dead but there is no sign of Abbott. Suddenly, the hear an alarm going off and the police fire at a door, then pull it aside to reveal Abbott, who had been hiding behind it and is now dead. Bob’s wound is tended to and Jill and Bob are reunited with Betty, who is still frightened over what happened.

The Man Who Knew Too Much met with mostly praise from the critics, holding an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics had a lot of praise for the film in how it showed glimpses of the greatness Hitchcock would soon be known for. The shootout at the end of the movie was based on a real life event known as the Sidney Street Siege, which happened in the neighborhood that Hitchcock grew up in. Peter Lorre had just left Germany and had a limited grasp of the English language before he was cast by Hitchcock for this movie and wound up learning most of his parts phonetically.

Yes, there are some differences from the remake (obviously), but this is still a good movie. The acting was pretty good, with Leslie Banks (Bob) doing a great job of mixing some humor and seriousness into his role. Edna Best (Jill) and Peter Lorre (Abbott) were also good in their roles, and some of the minor characters did a good job with their parts. The story was pretty good, with a decent amount of suspense to keep you interested but the ending honestly felt a little rushed. I think if the movie was a little bit longer, then they could have fleshed out the ending and not condense it to the last 10 minutes or so. A good movie and definitely something that any Hitchcock should want to watch.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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