Confidently crafted and, in a strange way, Dark City's daylight twin. (8/10)
d. Andrew Niccol
24 January 2009
18 January 2009
16 January 2009
written by Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, Helen Simpson and E.V.H. Emmett, based on a novel by Joseph Conrad
A movie theater owner with a suspiciously foreign-y accent is actually an agent for... well, Hitchcock never says. England was still three years from WWII at this point. I take it they're just some nebulous force for nefarious evil with a grudge against Mother England. A MacGuffin, in other words. This force instructs the theater owner to first sabotage the power station and, when that doesn't cause the panic it desired, plant a bomb in Piccadilly Circus. On his tail is a detective from Scotland Yard posing as a fruit stand merchant.
I remember watching the bus bombing scene in a film class in college. We studied the masterful editing of this sequence, watching the young boy unknowingly carry a time bomb through London. As with the equally suspenseful assassination scene in The Man Who Knew Too Much, I am always amazed when films like these can actually increase my heart rate. Knowing the bomb is on a timer, Hitchcock cleverly delays the boy on his journey with parades and annoying street salesmen. Once he finally gets on a bus, Hitchcock cuts from the bomb to the boy with increasing frequency. As a viewer, you have to wince with each cut back to the bomb, knowing that may be the second it explodes. Intensifying the effect, I couldn't remember whether the bomb actually exploded or not. It does and it's about as grim as a 1930s movie can get. I suspect, in light of 7/7, this film isn't watched as often in England these days.
It struck me as odd that the last fifteen minutes or so of the movie turn into a remake of Blackmail. In both, a woman kills a man with a knife and her policeman boyfriend tries to cover it up while she tries to turn herself in. However, the woman's murder hardly phases her policeman admirer at all in this film. In fact, he uses the opportunity, while she's busy freaking out, to admit his love for her. An interesting hero the movie has in this policeman. He seems to be, as they say, "thinking with the wrong head" half of the time. Whether you could blame this for his failing to stop the bombing, I'm not sure I could say for certain. He is an interestingly useless hero, I do have to say. (7/10)
Watched the region 1 DVD released by Fox in 2008 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection. The transfer's fine.
14 January 2009
Technically competent, but desperately needed an application of Carpenter's roller coaster theory to pep it up. (6/10)
d. David Arquette
[Finally, the last of the Horrorfest 2006 films. I was not impressed. The films overall were about as bad as Masters of Horror season 2. The only one I can see myself watching again would be Dark Ride (mostly because I liked the setting a lot).]
I have a feeling it was only out of sheer cussedness that this dull-ass film finally made it through post-production, but even so, it is a marginally welcome alternative to the Robert Altman counterpart. (4/10)
d. Brian de Palma
12 January 2009
Secret Agent (1936)
written by Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, Jesse Lasky Jr. and Alma Reville, based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham and a play by Campbell Dixon
Sort of an anti-James Bond movie sixteen years before that character's invention. As in the previous two films, fate plucks a man from his regular life and turns him into a spy. This time, the man is a soldier serving in WWI. His mission, along with his secret agent "wife" and a goofy "general" played by Peter Lorre, is to kill a German spy.
I was quite surprised at the moral questions the film asks. I'm used to films from this era being unquestioningly patriotic. Hannay in The 39 Steps knows little more than that his country is in trouble and he does everything in his power to save it. In Secret Agent, Richard and Elsa are fine with their new job -- treating it with practiced nonchalance and childish excitment, respectively -- right up until it comes time to start the assassinating. After dining with the suspected spy and his wife -- getting to know the kindly old man as a human being -- Richard tries to derail the murder. His efforts, such as they are, fail. The General keeps to the task and pushes the suspected spy off of a cliff, but not before Richard has fled to an observation station to watch the events, as detactched as possible, through a telescope.
Of course, Richard could've tried harder if he really didn't want to see the old man killed. He could've warned him about exactly what was going on. He didn't, and I think was quite a normal, human reaction. Caught between two moral ideals -- serving your country and not pushing nice, old men off of cliffs -- he ultimately chose to do nothing. It's a lazy decision many of us make when faced with a dilemma.
Even at the end of the film, when he discovers with absolute certainty that the real spy is the nice American man Elsa is sweet on, he cannot complete the assassination. Some things, it would seem, are beyond patriotism. (7/10)
Watched the region 2 DVD released by Video/Film Express in 2005. It's a scratchy, dirty print given a blurry transfer. The audio is often hard to make out as well. Not a great viewing experience. I wonder if I should've kept my old Laserlight version? Ah, that's probably worse.