Rear Window on the Big Screen! Breakfast Club! Sound of Music!

I love catching classic movies on the big screen. Now that Regal has dropped their classic movie series, pickings have been slim. TCM and Fathom Events are bringing back Hitchcock’s Rear Window for two days only this month.

Rear Window

 

Rear Window (1954)

A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.”

Turner Classic Movies, Universal Pictures, and Fathom Events are bringing back Rear Window to the big screen. The dates are Sunday, March 22nd and Wednesday, March 25th. Showings are at 2 and 7 p.m. A list of participating theaters can be found here. Thankfully, my Carolina Cinemas is one of them.

The Breakfast Club

 

The Breakfast Club (1985) – Rated R

Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.”

On the 26th and the 31st of March at 7:30 p.m., Fathom Events will be bringing John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club (30th Anniversary) back to the big screen.

The Sound of Music

 

The Sound of Music (1965)

A woman leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the children of a Naval officer widower.

On April 19th and 22nd, TCM and Fathom Events present The Sound of Music 50th Anniversary Event.

Lifeboat – Don’t Get on That Boat! week

This is Don’t Get on That Boat! week. Lifeboat is currently available on instant Netflix.

Lifeboat

WATCH: Lifeboat (1944) – NR – Not Rated.

“Using a story by John Steinbeck as inspiration, Alfred Hitchcock stages a gripping World War II drama by cramming eight survivors of a German torpedo attack into the hull of a tiny lifeboat — among them, a magazine writer (Tallulah Bankhead), a radio operator (Hume Cronyn) and a crazy woman (Heather Angel) clutching the corpse of her dead baby. But the real trouble starts when one of the survivors (Walter Slezak) reveals he’s a Nazi.”

“Dying together is even more personal than living together.”

This movie begins excellently. The credits happen while we are looking at a smokestack. Immediately after the credits, we watch the smokestack sink into the sea. Hitchcock then pans over the flotsam from the Allied ship as well as a German sailor face-down.

There is another marvelous scene where an impromptu operation has to be performed. Obviously the particulars couldn’t be shown. Hitchcock shows the preparation and everyone gathers around blocking the view. The shot then shows an empty boot being tossed onto a plank.

Lifeboat was nominated (but did not win) for three Oscars. Hitchcock received one of his many nominations for director. Glen MacWilliams was nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White.

John Steinbeck (yes THAT John Steinbeck) was nominated for Best Writing, Original Story. He wrote this story specifically for Hitchcock. Steinbeck was very upset with the finished product.

A number of elements were changed from his story. In particular was some rather shameful racism. Joe (Canada Lee) was called Charcoal a number of times early in the film and his character is often treated with condescension.

Hitchcock loves to match an every-man type with a glamorous woman in his films. Tallulah Bankhead fits the glamorous role brilliantly. Her initial hairdo should win an award. The gradual disintegration of her looks and wardrobe is fun to watch. Tallulah herself caught pneumonia twice while filming this.

When Alfred Hitchcock was informed that Tallulah Bankhead wasn’t wearing any underwear, he famously said “I don’t know if this is a matter for the costume department, makeup, or hairdressing.”

The rest of the ensemble cast is quite good but are clearly overshadowed by Tallulah. John Kodiak plays the everyman Kovac (usually the focus of a Hitchcock picture but not here). A very young Hume (Cocoon, The World According to Garp) Cronyn plays Sparks. Henry Hull has a lot of fun with his role as Rittenhouse as does William Bendix as Gus.

Aside from the unfortunate racism, this is an excellent film and well worth watching. It is in black and white and is certainly a bit jingoistic. Keep in mind that this was released while we were still at war with those nasty Nazis. There is even a brief war bond ad at the end of the film before it abruptly cuts off.

People Watch: Hitchcock’s ubiquitous cameo occurs on a newspaper ad on the boat.

The Birds

Yesterday I praised Psycho and dissed Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. This combination of Hitchcock and nature must mean that today’s film is The Birds.

The Birds

WATCH: The Birds (1963) – “Chic socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) enjoys a passing flirtation with an eligible attorney (Rod Taylor) in a San Francisco pet shop and, on an impulse, follows him to his hometown bearing a gift of lovebirds. But upon her arrival, the local bird population runs amok. Suddenly, the townsfolk face a massive avian onslaught, with the feathered fiends inexplicably attacking people all over Bodega Bay”

The first thing to get out of the way is that while Psycho is a masterpiece, The Birds is not. The old-time special effects (rear-projection, etc.) look very dated but still better than much of what the Syfy channel movies offer. Tippi Hedren’s socialite is definitely one of those characters that exist solely in movies and this harms the beginning of the film and Rod Taylor doesn’t have a lot of depth here but Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette give good performances. The script bears only a passing resemblance to the Daphne Du Maurier story but is still scripted well by Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain). Long-time Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrman is given a sound credit though there is no actual score. The lack of a score makes a number of scenes stand out – in particular the gathering of birds while the children sing in the schoolhouse, an excellent nailbiter of a scene and probably the best in the movie. There are a number of nice tense escalating setpieces right up until the ambiguous ending.

People Watchers: The little girl Kathy is played by a very young Veronica Cartwright (Alien).

AVOID: Fallen (1998) – While not bad and featuring a nice cast (Denzel Washington, Donald Sutherland, James Gandolfini, John Goodman, Elias Koteas). The musical theme of Time is on my Side is well thought out but far too overused (almost to the point of parody). There are waaaaaay too many POV shots of the demon. The end idea is intriguing but the ending is ridiculous – I’d describe why but I wouldn’t want to spoil it save to say that there are two very ridiculous parts about it. Basically you have everything you need for a really good movie but it was all overblown so it ends up being just okay.

Psycho

Having discussed 1960’s Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom yesterday, it seems only fitting that I discuss Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho today.

Psycho

WATCH: Psycho (1960) – “When larcenous real estate clerk Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) goes on the lam with a wad of cash and hopes of starting a new life, she ends up at the notorious Bates Motel, where twitchy manager Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) cares for his housebound mother. The place seems quirky but fine … until Marion decides to take a shower. Director Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-nominated shocker has been terrifying viewers for decades — and for good reason.”

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is still a masterpiece. While it is definitely a progenitor of the slasher genre, there are actually very few deaths in the film. It starts off as if it is going to be a caper film and then abruptly changes direction a third of the way into the film. Janet Leigh and Vera Miles are wonderful and Martin Balsam is good but of course the film belongs to Anthony Perkins. His performance is pitch perfect – charming in a slightly socially inept way, with just a little hint that something is off. The only bad performance is from John Gavin and its not a terrible performance, he just seems to suck the energy out of his scenes.  Hitchcock really piques our interest as usual with a MacGuffin (the $40,000) in the first act and he has several impressive scenes with horrific imagery in the second and third acts (including the infamous shower scene). The black and white cinematography and framing are excellent and the sets are iconic enough to be part of a tourist attraction now.

People watchers: look for a young Simon Oakland (Kolchak) as Dr. Fred Richmond.

AVOID: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus: Great trailer (catch it on youtube) – terrible movie. Bad acting, worse directing, and really bad CGI add up to a truly dreadful film. The scene where the shark attacks a plane in flight is hilarious though.