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Greetings again from the darkness. Here goes: John J McLaughlin wrote
this "Hitchcock" screenplay based on Stephen Rebello's book "Alfred
Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho", which was based on the filming of
the Psycho screenplay from Joseph Stefano, which was loosely based on
Robert Bloch's book, which was based on the real life crimes of Ed
It's kind of interesting that Alfred Hitchcock is hot again. His Vertigo recently displaced Citizen Kane as the all-time greatest film. HBO is still running their recent production of "The Girl", which is based on Hitchcock's making of "The Birds" and his unhealthy connection to Tippi Hedren. And now, we get this Hollywood production, supposedly based on the master of suspense. I saw supposedly, because this film plays like it was written by the heirs of Alma Reville, Hitch's long time wife and collaborator. We all knew she worked on his films and contributed ideas, but the film wants you to believe she was the real genius behind the public genius.
The movie is entitled "Hitchcock" and is based on the making of "Psycho", but in fact, it's more the story of Alma and her husband. While there is nothing wrong with that story ... in fact, it is quite interesting and entertaining ... it's just kind of false advertising.
Helen Mirren portrays Alma, and instead of the mousy woman who usually faded into the background, we see a fairly strong and talented woman who goes toe-to-toe with Hitch in her best scene. Sir Anthony Hopkins dons some facial appliances and a fat suit and does a solid job of capturing the odd, creepy, leering, disturbed, insecure genius we recognize as Alfred Hitchcock. He comes across as louder and more in-motion than what we have previously seen. And while director Sacha Gervasi makes it clear that Hitch is not a "normal" guy, he doesn't dwell too much on the blond fixations.
The emphasis on the skills and importance of Alma would be fine were it not so exaggerated. Surely every great director and writer and artist has a muse and/or support system; and, there is no question Alma was a very talented lady, but her strength here bordered on distracting to the overall picture. Especially needless was the storyline of Alma being attracted to screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who wrote "Strangers on a Train" for Hitchcock.
The Hitchcock humor is allowed to shine through and his battles with Paramount Studio head Barney Balaban (Richard Portnow) and the censorship board (Kurtwood Smith) are excellent. Hopkins finds the humanity under the fat suit and is especially good in his work with Scarlett Johansson (as Janet Leigh) and Jessica Biel (as Vera Miles). I also got a kick out of James D'Arcy as the affected Anthony Perkins and all his quirky mannerisms.
Though this barely qualifies as a story on the making of Psycho, it was chilling to watch the addition of Bernard Herrmann's iconic score added to the shower scene. In fact, Danny Elfman does a nice job of subtly adding a Herrmann-type score to this film. I'm not sure if the film will play well with real Hitchcock aficionados, but if you can forgive the Alma slant, it's actually quite interesting and entertaining and kind of a sweet film at its core.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After the appalling & fraudulent character assassination last year that
was "The Girl", I'd looked forward to seeing this biography in hopes it
would redress the balance somewhat, & to some degree it does that,
especially in its showing the long, devoted partnership between Hitch &
his wife Alma.
It's hard not to compare the two films, & I have to say I think Toby Jones' Hitchcock was far more convincing than Anthony Hopkins here - Hopkins seems the wrong shape, even with all the prosthetics, & too old & wrinkly, where Hitch in real life looked like a man-sized baby pretty much to the grave. His accent, too, comes & goes wildly, never really convincing.
On the other hand, you get a far bigger budget, star-studded movie, whose point of existence is more than simply a feminist agenda depiction of male sexuality as repulsive & predatory. Which is nice.
AND you get to look at Scarlett Johannson a little, which can never be a bad thing.
I guess in an attempt to appeal to a wider female audience (well, they're no going to see it for Alfred Hitchcock's six-pack abs, now are they), the biggest part of the film is devoted to his wife Alma, here portrayed by Helen Mirren as the woman running the show, writing the scripts, mothering little Alfred & still finding time to contemplate an affair with a smarmy hack writer. You go, girl.
In real life, Alma was, it's true, Hitch's longest collaborator & closest confidant, but here she is given way too much credit & comes off - rather laughably - as the real genius while Hitchcock just bumbles around putting no more work into 'Psycho' than simply deciding to make it in the first place. And this is another of the major weak points, that the astonishing technical & artistic accomplishments of The Master in that classic don't factor into the story at ALL, which seems much more content to dwell on generic soap-opera plot devices than the achievements of one of the greatest of all cinema artists. Which is a pity, as surely it is the work of an artist that is the only reason any of us are interested in him in the first place. Correct? In this film, Hitchcock remains a mystery, & we feel no more empathy or understanding for him than in "The Girl". We don't really care anything about him or understand any of his actions - practically all of which are fictionalized anyway. It is Alma we care for & identify with, while Hitch is seemingly used as no more than a famous face, a recognizable brand name, a symbol of some kind, but for what we never learn.
In the end, this is a rather dull film, with nothing much to say & little skill employed in saying it. Because it has no interest or affection for either the artist or the man, it has to make up its screen time by dwelling on or inventing trivial matters to inflate for dramatic gain. Perhaps the most damning failure of all is simply this: that in a film about a man who created some of the most unforgettable images in all of cinema, there is not one single memorable shot of its own. One gets the feeling that once some Hollywood executive came up with the title, they felt it would simply 'write itself'. Unfortunately, it didn't.
Now, when you are searching for the truth, even non philosophers out there, here is a big rule of thumb: Whenever someone proffers a highly fanciful, unlikely account that, in a stroke of amazing coincidence, happens to parallel their hyper feminist misandrist agenda: rest assured it is complete crap. The movie presents Alma as the real creative genius assisting poor feckless, giant little boy Alfie with casting, writing, funding of Psycho. I swear, I would not have been surprised if the movie showed Alma washing Janet Leigh's car and pressing Anthony Perkin's slacks. Another very fascinating scene is Alma being falsely courted by Huston, his real purpose is to push his script, under false pretenses. Oh, those simply ghastly men! They are such evil monsters! Get the drift, see why Mirren took the role? Get the idea who wrote lots of these scenes? We do get some crumbs from the great matron of the casting, writing and filming of Psycho. But, as others have written, Alfred Hitchcock is a supporting character in this feminist tome on hidden svengalis who were the really power behind those wretched men who got all of their credit, the nefarious beasts!
What really irritates me is when a great director is long dead and cannot defend himself and a tart comes along and uses his life as a substratum for pushing her extremely far fetched and ideologically congruent fantasy. The greatest director is shown raiding the fridge, soaking in the bathtub, and constantly depending on the great sage Alma who: casts, writes, edits, and produces Psycho. I was shocked Hitch wasn't shown cleaning the restroom whilst Alma finished the movie off for release. As a philosopher, I assure you, when you find an account this painfully disparate with other's accounts, that just happens to mirror, perfectly, Mirren's personal misandrist agenda: it is pure crap. Please, leave Hitch alone he is long dead. If your career is sinking because of that dreadful Indian Restaurant movie, set in France, which nobody watched, choose some other figure to appropriate glory from. I am only partly English, but if I were more of that nationality, Mirren's treatment of their greatest director would not thrill me deeply.
The acting and pacing of the film are well done. Huston and especially Johansson do very well in their small roles. Hitch really did more in his life than drool over Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Tippi Hedren. The man's writing was one of a kind as was his direction. Maybe Ms. Mirren could play some relative of Beethoven's next and show us how he really never wrote those symphonies; he was mowing the lawn. She did it all, those dreadful men and how they never give us any credit. Hopkins gives an excellent interpretation of Hitch. If you can bear the Great Matron's odious presence and shameless misappropriation of glory that belongs to another, hold your nose and watch the movie. It is so pathetic and so indicative of a personality whose existential inner bankruptcy is equaled only by its desperation, in its vampirism, to take someone else's glory. Get Some Therapy and leave Hitch alone.
"The More Loudly He Spoke Of His Honor, The Faster We Counted Our Spoons." Ralph Waldo Emerson
In 1960, famed director Alfred Hitchcock released Psycho, the film to
which his name would be more associated than any other film in his
heralded career. In the new bio-film Hitchcock, Psycho is the backdrop
for the story between the proclaimed 'Master of Suspense' and his wife
and muse Alma Reville.
Directed by Sasha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil), the film stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as the odd-shaped director and Dame Helen Mirren as his wife Alma. We pick things up in 1959 and Hitch's ("Just call me 'Hitch'. You can hold the 'cock'") introduction to the story of serial killer Ed Gein. Hitch had just released North by Northwest starring Cary Grant and he was fascinated in the story of Gein that was the inspiration for Robert Bloch's novel, Psycho.
Hitch aggressively pursued the optioning of the story and began to adapt it as a theatrical release. But Paramount Studios, to which Hitchcock was employed, was not eager to bring the gruesome tale about a transvestite and his murderous relationship with his dead mother to the big screen. Even with Hitchcock's clout (he had already released over 40 theatrical films by 1959) was not enough to sway studio bosses, and Hitchcock eventually had to finance the film himself and mortgage his home in an effort to get the film into production (this risky move proved lucrative as Hitchcock earned an estimated $15 million by fronting his own money for 60% of the gross profits).
The film takes us through all aspects of the production of the film from financing through casting; from fights with the ratings board through the limited release of the film in only 2 theatres nationally.
But at the heart of the film is the relationship between Hitch and his wife, Alma. Hitch is hardly represented as a caring and understanding sort. Hopkins plays him as an arrogant, demanding sod who wanted to control over his leading ladies as her secretly admired his blonde actress hires unprofessionally in his private office. He was a heavy eating, heavy drinking auteur that never won an Academy Award despite such revered films as Rebecca, The Birds and Vertigo having been crafted by his immense talent.
Alma, on the other hand, is portrayed as the 'wizard behind the curtain'. She helps guide Hitchcock through his film journey's doing re-writes on scripts and providing directorial and production support. All the while, Alma is always pushed out of Hitchcock's limelight. And with Hitch's increasing jealousy over Alma's time spent with writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) coupled with the financial burden of financing the film, the relationship between the two hits troubled water.
Director Sasha Gervasi works off a screenplay by John J, McLaugnlin based on the book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" by Stephen Rebello and a good portion of the film is fascinating stuff. It's like watching a live-action movie about a making-of feature you would watch on a Blu-ray disc. From the casting interviews with Anthony Perkins (played dead on by James D'Arcy) and Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) to how Hitchcock didn't want to use music during the infamous shower scene but was convinced by his wife and the editors or how upon first cut of the film or how the test audience (which consisted of suits, agents and censors) loathed the film and its violent content; the peak behind the closed set doors was captivating viewing.
Unfortunately, when the film sways away from the production, it is less involving. Hitch and Alma had a collaborative and sometimes combative relationship, but their affection for each other was the least interesting part of the film yet the most consuming.
There is a great supporting cast that includes Jessica Biel as actress Vera Miles, Ralph Macchio and Toni Collette and the look and feel of the era seems captured earnestly. But the movie is squarely on Hopkins' shoulders who, at times, looked odd though the make-up effects. There are times that he loses himself in the role (we loved Hitch acting like a Maestro outside the theatre as he listened to the audience's screams). But there were a few times that we could have imagined Hannibal Lecter uttering the scripted lines.
Our overall response to the film is warm and it deserves a recommendation. Back in 1959, there were no documentarians or a team of staff videotaping behind-the-scenes action for a potential Blu-ray special feature. So it was nice to travel back in history and have documented some of the events that lead to one of the most popular horror films ever made. And for that, we are grateful.
The odds were against it, let's face it. Then after that TV film about the obsession of Hitch for Tippi Hedren, what was it called? something like "The Girl" Brrrr. I thought, what a pity. But then, I went to see it and I was not merely thoroughly entertained but delighted. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren make a formidable pair. Mirren, in spite of her glamour, I've never seen Alma Reville, as glamorous, Mirren truly captures the essence of the woman and makes that marriage not just feasible but ideal in so many ways. The script, smart and witty and gives a glimpse into what might have really happened. Janet Leigh (a terrific Scarlett Johansson)thanking Hitch and kissing him on the cheek. Look at Hitch/Hopkins's face when that happens. A child. I believed it. So, considering the odds against it, a triumph.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you are interested in Alfred Hitchcock DO NOT go see the film
'Hitchcock'. Read any of the many books written about him instead. The
inaccuracies are many, the tone is off, the premise is askew...with all
of the scandal vultures out there, there is not the slightest evidence
that he drilled a hole in a dressing room wall in order to spy on Vera
The plot of this Fox Searchlight film places great emphasis on the fact that Hitchcock couldn't find the usual financing to make Psycho - but totally ignores the fact that one of the ways he kept it low-budget was to use the crew from his television series.
Given the subject matter, this movie is very dull and lacking in inventiveness. (Although it does try, with a Marley visiting Scrooge approach - Gein's spirit haunting Hitch, and Hitch's direct-to-camera speeches.) On positive side: sharp, well-lit photography and settings.
The REAL Hitchcock buffs will be disappointed, in that this movie does
not delve deeply into the mind of this brilliant, creative filmmaker.
It deals with the superficialities of his existence, and not the big
issues of, for example, what propelled his interest in the Wisconsin
serial murderer Ed Gein? Was this interest tied to his pursuit of his
'blonde girls?' The dark side of his personality was shown through his
hallucinatory 'relationship' to Mr. Gein--who pops up occasionally--and
could be considered a clever device; I thought it a cop-out.
As another reviewer on this board wrote, the most enjoyable parts of the movie revolved around the casting, writing, filming and editing of "Psycho." Jessica Biel and Scarlet Johanssen were adequate, if not inspired; Helen Mirren was the movie's anchor, while Anthony Hopkins seemed to be trying too hard, and I was always conscious of him 'acting.'
BUT, as noted earlier, it moves along and is enjoyable. Just don't expect too much.
Marketed as an amuse-bouche blending Hitchcock's macabre humor with the making of 'Psycho', inspired by Stephen Rebello's fine 1990's book, it veers off course as it tackles the marriage of Alfie and Alma Hitchcock, his wife and collaborator. Daughter Pat has disappeared from the story altogether; kicked to the sidelines are Bernard Herrmann, Hilton Green, Rita Riggs, John Gavin, Universal, Revue Studios, and, notably, the Bates Motel and the brooding Victorian behind it, one of the most famous still-standing sets in Hollywood. Hitchcock's restless artistry, his challenge to late-50's mores, his pre-production design and planning process, and the almost accidental genius of the final product, now widely regarded as one of the great American movies, are abandoned in favor of Ed Gein fantasies and dull scenes of marital discord. A too-old Ralph Macchio plays Tony Stefano, whose script is entirely rewritten by Alma (which didn't happen): the genius of Stefano inspired Hitchcock to smash barriers (e.g.: the showing of the toilet was Stefano's idea). A few seconds of audience mayhem near the end approaches the reality of the era; otherwise a dull mess, brimming with lies.
When I first saw the preview for Hitchcock, I knew it would be right up my alley. I mean its about Alfred Hitchcock and what he went through to produce easily one of the greatest horror films of all time. And to top it all off Anthony Hopkins Plays Hitch himself, and when it comes to Hopkins, he brings his A-game to every single role. This movie blew me away, the acting is spot on, the cinematography is excellent, almost shot like an early horror movie in my opinion, lighting is precise and the music fits the mood and the story perfectly. I don't remember the last time I had so much fun watching a movie. Watch this one, its a gem!
A snapshot of Hitchcock's life and the lead up, shooting and release of
A perfect blend of entertainment, surprisingly emotional and a delight to watch. No doubt artistic licence is used but John J. McLaughlin's script based on Stephen Rebello's book manages to mix and balance the story elements perfectly without becoming the 'making of Psycho' which remains as a backdrop. It ultimately focuses on Hitchcock's intriguing relationships with his wife, cast and crew. There's some genuine laugh-out moments and heartfelt scenes. The surreal moments including Ed Gein subtly played by Michael Wincott injects an edginess to the proceedings and gives an insight into his psyche.
Any reservations of Anthony Hopkins' casting are dispelled within a few minutes, he is absolutely superb with the make up equally as effective. Helen Mirren as Alma is on fine form giving both a powerful and touching performance. Without nitpicking on Scarlett Johansson's facial indifference to Leigh and James D'Arcy's to Anthony Perkins they capture the persona wonderfully as too does Jessica Biel as Vera Miles respectively. Notable is Toni Collette as Peggy Robertson and from Danny Huston as Whitfield Cook to Kurtwood Smith Geoffrey Shurlock there is a fine supporting cast.
Fittingly book-ended with Hopkins as Hitch breaking the fourth wall in 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' style you can't help but smile. As satisfying as Hitchcock is it still leaves you wanting more.
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