23 November 2008

Hitchcock | Mary (1930)

Mary (1930)
written by Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Juttke, Georg C. Klaren and Alma Reville, based on a novel by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson

Shot simultaneously with Murder! Hitchcock would set up for a shot, film the English actors doing the scene and then immediately film the German actors doing the same scene. Yet, Mary -- even accounting for PAL speed-up -- is twenty minutes shorter than Murder! I don't think there were any scenes missing from the German version. Perhaps people speak German faster than they speak English?

There are other differences between the two films. I like some of the actors in Mary more than their counterparts in the other film. The German Sir John is a more emotional character. He seems more disturbed by Mary's (Diana, renamed) imprisonment and I think the actor portrays this better. The German Fane is... well... less gay. The German actor has a deeper, less effeminate voice. He still cross-dresses, but gone is the medium shot of him at the circus, which had illustrated certain contours of his leotard-clad form in the English version. I felt the English Fane was overacting almost to the point of camp in the Hamlet scene; the German version plays this scene more seriously. Generally, the movie is less comedic than the English one.

I think Hitchcock might've been either a little lazier with Mary than with Murder!, or he was refining the film on the second go-round as he went. It feels like some interesting shots are missing from the German version. The cutting between Diana, the weathervane and the shadow of the gallows is gone from Mary for some reason. The shot of Markham walking on Sir John's waterbed-like rug is also cut (a shot I could never figure out, anyway). Those are the two I can remember at the moment.

I wonder why the title change? Why not call this Mord or the English film Diana? I kind of like Mary as a title better. The murder's not really the important part of the film; it's a MacGuffin. Sir John's determination to right the wrong that imprisoned Mary/Diana is the thrust of the tale. In fact, the novel's title is Enter Sir John. Murder! sounds like a British International executive's idea of a titulation to drum up interesting in the film.

Other than a few things, Mary is nearly identical to the English film and shows the same problems and merits. (6/10)

Watched the region 2 DVD released by Arthaus in 2006. It's a horrible print, with constant tape splices and jumps. It's poorly compressed as well. Plus, there are no English subtitles. However, it's the only release of this movie available.