All the Suspense Is Killing Me
All the Suspense Is Killing Me
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
As a fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies, I’ve been dying to see the new biopic simply titled “Hitchcock,” a behind-the-scenes look at the director who gave us suspense masterpieces ranging from “The Lady Vanishes” to “Strangers on a Train” to “Rear Window.” Even a little horror sojourn appropriately titled “Psycho.”
We film critics knew Hitch was “bent,” that he had a hang-up for icy blondes.
The evidence was there onscreen – from Madeleine Carroll in “The 39 Steps” to Grace Kelly in “To Catch a Thief” to Kim Novak in “Vertigo” to Eva Marie Saint in “North By Northwest” to Tippi Hedren in “The Birds.”
Unfortunately for Hitch, his roly-poly brunette wife Alma looked nothing like this.
Rumors around Hollywood suggested the fat man liked to watch. A voyeuristic kink that seemed appropriate for a film director. After all, he was a porky Brit who’d got his start doing movie storyboards and title designs. Among the many suspense techniques, he pioneered the moving a camera in a way that mimics a person’s gaze, “forcing viewers to engage in a form of voyeurism.”
Hitch’s psychologically-driven films often had strong sexual undertones. His heroines tend to be cool blondes who “seem proper at first but, when aroused by passion or danger, respond in a more sensual, animal, or even criminal way.”
French director François Truffaut captured hints of Hitchcock’s proclivities in his 1968 interview-book “Hitchcock, Truffaut.” Screenwriter David Freeman got the frightmeister to admit even more in “The Last days of Alfred Hitchcock.” And biographer Donald Spoto’s book “Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies” shared a lot too.
Now along comes “Hitchcock,” a tell-all film by Sacha Gervasi that lays it out for all to see. Based on Playboy contributing editor Stephen Rebello’s book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” it centers on the relationship between the director and his wife during the making of that controversial horror movie.
We learn from “Hitchcock” – now playing at the Tropic Cinema – that his wife was the power behind the throne.
As Hitch said when he accepted an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, “I beg permission 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."
In “Hitchcock” we’re treated to Academy Award-winners Anthony Hopkins as the title character and Helen Mirren as his wife. In an attempt to make him look like Hitchcock, Hopkins is in full makeup and a fat suit. Tall and regal, Mirren looks nothing like squat Alma Reville.
But never mind. I was going for story here. The inside gossip. The dish.
Eh, but there was not so much about the cool blondes.
Frankly, it’s impossible not to compare “Hitchcock” with “The Girl,” a TV docudrama about the director’s turbulent relationship with Tippi Hedren (Melanie Griffith’s mother). Hedren has called him “A mean, mean man.”
Gervasi’s Hitchcock is less mean, more henpecked, a more sympathetic, even comedic, assessment of the man behind the portly silhouette. Helen Mirren carries the story.
But Hitch is still a driven man – whether by his wife or his psychological demons.
Biographer Donald Spoto described Hitchcock as “a man in the grip of uncontrollable impulses.” According to Spoto, his more perverse traits included “misogyny, sadistic tendencies, and fantasies of rape; bathroom and various other fetishes about sex and the body; overwhelming guilt, anxiety, and a mother fixation; and phobias toward women, people in general, and the world at large.”
Do we blame it on Hitchcock’s strict Roman Catholic upbringing? A mother fixation? A dominating wife? An obsessive need for fame?
Hitch achieved fame. He put his name on a mystery magazine, hosted a television anthology show (“Alfred Hitchcock Presents”), became known for his ironic twist endings. He directed more than fifty feature films in a career that spanned six decades. In late 1979, he was knighted, making him Sir Alfred Hitchcock. He died the following year of renal failure.
Moviemaker magazine has described him as “the most influential filmmaker of all time.”
His trademark was quick cameo appearances in his films. “Hitchcock” is one long 98-minute appearance, surrounded by his angst and quandaries and psychosexual hang-ups. Maybe it would have been better to leave Hitch to his cameos.