Discussion in 'Movies' started by ClassyCo, Sep 17, 2019.
I noticed no one's said anything about Psycho. I assume it's because some people might think it's over-hyped, or that Hitchcock's other films were better. Psycho is a jewel for me. It's one of those films I could watch time and time again, and still come out as a thoroughly fed viewer. It never leaves me empty, and I always seem to find something I missed or like better after each viewing.
It was one of my Nanny's favorite movies. I can't watch it without thinking of her.
I don't think anyone was neglecting PSYCHO. Many of us listed it. But this is still a fairly new thread.
PSYCHO apparently upset the studios because they were expecting a glossy, technicolor thriller like Hitch had been doing in the '50s. But Hitch deliberately went with B&W, using the crew from his TV series, in order to give PSYCHO a drab, downmarket look.
Interestingly, Hitchcock got the idea to do PSYCHO based on William Castle's artless B-level horror movies which were doing well at the box office, his wondering how the end result might be if "somebody good" (i.e., himself) did one. Later, Castle was so impressed, he did PSYHCO homage, HOMICIDAL, one of his more polished pictures. So, with HOMICIDAL, you had an imitation of an imitation from a man imitating his imitator.
PSYCHO put off some critics (Walt Disney called it a "dirty movie" and refused to allow Hitch to film TORN CURTAIN at Disneyland because of it) who, like foolish Bosley Crowther, gave it a bad review that Summer of 1960, and then placed in their Ten Best list that December. So one has to remember the cultural context of the time that saw the film as vulgar and "nasty," when one today might wonder what they were talking about. Norman peering through that peephole into Janet Leigh's room today barely gets notice (and he doesn't seem to be entertaining himself in the manner in which Vince Vaughn did in the 1997 reshoot, although one assumes that the implied moniker, Master Bates, was intentional).
I was watching recently a mini-doc about the making of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) and someone astutely pointed out that any kind of sexual scandal which ever emerged about anybody in the press always felt "really dirty," even through the mid-'60s at the very least.
PSYCHO's shower scene became the most famous movie murder scene of all time, or at least held that honor for decades. And is today cited as the first "modern horror film" because it deals with a serial killer (instead of monsters or Victorian gothic romance in a windswept castle) -- a trend from which cinema has never recovered, really. Though PSYCHO remains unique after 60 years for being a rare entry in that it both humanizes the victim and the perpetrator, something unheard of during the slasher film era of the '80s really let loose after Miss Leigh's daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, did HALLOWEEN (1978) a genuine B-movie which was nonetheless superior to its imitators.
But a lot of PSYCHO's power comes from the TwilightZone/JFK/ColdWar flavor of the early-'60 when The Bomb was new and virtually all you had to do was turn a camera on and everything felted haunted and ghostly, as if the veil between this world and the next was somehow briefly thinner in all its sacredly pre-apocalyptic mournful desolation.
Which is why it still works. I once said at a startlingly early age that "if you don't have the sad, you don't have the scary." PSYCHO had both, in its cold-as-ice '60s way, even if it seems tame by the graphic standards of subsequent decades.
What happens to me with Hitchcock is the same thing that happens with "Dallas": I love both of them so much, that it´s hard to pick up a favorite movie or episode.
If I had to, I´d choose the Ingrid Bergman movies, "Vertigo" and both Tippi Hedren films. I love all of them, but I have watched the above mentioned so many times that I never say no to watching them again.
There´s something about "Marnie" and "The Birds" that make me think they belong to the same universe, or are part of an unexisting series of movies. Maybe it has to do with the photography, with Tippi or with the era. Sort of "Peyton Place" meets "The Twilight Zone", and I find it irresistible.
This also happens with others like "Rope" and "Rear Window" (with James Stewart maybe playing twins separated at birth), or "Strangers on a Train" and "Shadow of a Doubt", and even "Rebecca" and "Suspicion". You really could imagine a crossover of the villains into each other´s movie.
This AFI special is really excellent, watch it if you haven´t!
'The Birds,' 1963, I loved how Hitchcock never used a Motion Picture Soundtrack for the movie, because it seemed Hitchcock created the suspense, Anxiety and terror through the birds themselves. It worked perfectly. The Movie as a whole, was like that throughout, as you could never tell when the horror would come.
I agree with you 100%. The movie was about Fear itself, not so much about the characters. Fear of the unknown, the unpredictable or the inevitable. Just like "Marnie" was about sex repression (in the 60s!) or "Rear Window" about watching and being watched (or "voyeurism"), "The Birds" (and the birds too, literally) is a symbol of what we people are afraid of, in life. Of course, like every great movie, it can be just seen as the story of the stiffed woman who begins to come down when she visits that little town with its little black birds, but is redeemed by her love towards that hottie Rod Taylor. Oh the "Falcon Crest" producers were really obsessed with the Hitchcock actors (like moi...)
Kathy darling, you scream all that you want,
but we know you actually like the birds picking on you...
I love Hitchcock too.
He was such a talented director that it amazes me that he never won an Oscar for any of his films!
My favorite Hitchcock movies are: To Catch A Thief (1955), Rear Window (1954), Rebecca(1940), Dial M For Murder (1954) and Vertigo (1958).
I have not watched all of his movies yet though. So there are several that are on my "too watch" list. Among them are "The Birds" (1963) and Notorious (1946).
THE BIRDS was also always a favorite. (Current audiences complain about it being too slow-burn in its pacing). But that gradual build-up is part of why it works so well, and even as a child, that never bored me for a millisecond. The silences are deafening. And the movie is a good example of how that eerie TwilightZone/Psycho/JFK/ColdWar vibe of the early-'60s could easily translate to color.
Some people have disparaged model Tippi Hedren's performance, but I disagree. Her quirks and clipped elocution worked perfectly well, and she even seems oddly birdlike (even her name is "head wren"). Rod Taylor is quintessential leading man material. Husky-voiced Suzanne Pleshette is perfect as the doomed ex-girlfriend. And Jessica Tandy is properly haunted as Taylor's widowed mother. The real life Bodega Bay locations in northern California sleepily effective.
The birds seem an obvious metaphor for nuclear build-up, such an issue at the time. And everyone feels so isolated from one another even when they're not, the breath of winter's approaching chill surrounding everything.
Hedren's scenes in the phone booth and the attic feel close cousins to Janet Leigh's experience in Norman's shower. And horrific moments like that in Dan Fawcett's farmhouse crime-scene bedroom -- when Miss Tandy peeks around the bureau to find his bloody corpse, still in pajamas, his eyes pecked out -- still have the ability to shock despite decades of subsequent off-the-charts cinematic sadism and gore.
The end of the world seems imminent. As much from the small, quiet moments. And in a way far more resonant and convincing than the 24/7 dystopian film and television projects of our current period.
Numerous genre fans have cited the 1960s as the best decade for horror, for various reasons. THE BIRDS is maybe the best horror metaphor for what was going on at the time. And for issues we still haven't resolved, even if we've gotten used to them.
It's weird about that --- we have this image of the '60s, certainly TV in the '60s, of being more repressive and innocent, because it was several decades ago, with even the "sexual revolution" touted in the '60s emerging as a result of that repression. But I recall catching an old 1965 episode of GIDGET with Sally Field in which her friend and her father discussed the depressive funk the fifteen year old was in, and one of them suggested it might be the result of "sexual frustration."
Sexual frustration? In a fifteen year old? In TV in the '60s?
You couldn't even have that exchange today in American TV. Not in the same way. Yes, you can talk about a fifteen year old being molested by an exploitive adult. You can talk about a fifteen year old having under-aged sex due to destructive "peer pressure" or because they "want to be cool". But the very idea that a fifteen year old might be experiencing "sexual frustration" because they're not getting something which is actually natural for fifteen year old, and referring to it in a matter-of-fact way with no moralizing about it --- well, that's just not the way it would go down today, as it were.
So bygone eras like the '60s (and earlier) may have been more repressive or oppressive (or discreet) in certain ways, but there also wasn't the infantilizing of the culture, or wide swaths of it, which exists in the present, where teens aren't permitted their own sexuality unless it's victim-y and/or ultimately destructive.
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