Favoured Fives… Hitchcock movies

It being Hitchcock, you’d think I’d struggle with this one. But nope. I have very distinct tastes when it comes to old lugubrious jowls himself. In fact I struggled to name a fifth movie I liked enough to put in that spot. The other four, however, presented an entirely different struggle. My number one spot in SET IN STONE. Immovable. Absolute. FIXED.

Not like one of those Whovian fixed points in time old timey-wimey himself can seem to find a wiggle room on, but a definite, non-negotiable STALWART. I am shouting a lot. Imagine me in a bowler hat and monocle, with excessively red cheeks. I am that passionate about this. CHAP PASSIONATE. I say! And indeed! The positions preceding numero uno, on the other hand, are not such fiesty fellows.

No indeed. I struggled to find the order of preference, and had to talk myself down from shoving them all in at number two and just expecting everyone to damn well go along with it! Mainly because I love them all with a fierce love of fierceness (though not as much as the number one favourite) and think them all to be equally awesome. So please, when reading the order of four to two, hold in your mind the genuine angst that went into separating three beloved movie children into order.

With no further ado, I present:

FAVOURED FIVES: HITCHCOCK MOVIES

Falling down from a great height to land at number five is: VERTIGO

Ah, Jimmy Stewart, you crackle-voiced lion of the old guard. Here seen gargling the acting wine at it’s finest vintage, playing a man plagued by the fear of heights and yet drawn to them by his obsession with a beautiful woman whose only aim in life appears to be throwing herself from one. Poor Kim Novak. Much like all of Hitchcock’s blondes, she gets to be hysterical, conflicted, broken and tragic whilst beautiful enough to turn a man inside out. But she also gets to be apparently red haired and trashy. It doesn’t do much for my blood pressure, seeing these women of his, but dear god Kim acts her socks off.

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This convoluted, edgy thriller riffs off many of Hitchcock’s usual tunes: obsession, the damaged woman with the secret past, fears lodged deep in the psyche and the helplessness of man against power of attraction, even when the woman to whom he’s magnetically drawn may well see the end of him. Though Vertigo is, stuck here at number five, my least favourite of Hitchcock’s delicacies, it still has the power to make me take a nibble every now and then and enjoy every last bite (wow talk about belaboured metaphors!).

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Oh, and the final scene in this? Absolute corker!

Frantically choking at number four, we find: FRENZY

The neck-tie murderer is on the loose! Women drop like flies. Their bodies crop up all over the shop and still he stalks the streets of London. Ah, I love this movie. It’s rip-roaringly good, meaty action, filled to the brim with Hitchcock’s signature hectic tension.

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Unusually for Hitchcock, this puppy is R-rated, frolicking quite recklessly with nudity as well as some pretty darned in yer face violence. Back then, that was quite the thing, by jove! I love it because it’s Hitchcock cranked to eleven, loud and lary and in your face. Not to mention it plays quite brilliantly with the notion of the wrong suspect. A terrific movie. Truly.

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Attacking for no explicable reason at number three, here come: THE BIRDS

Based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier, this taut, horror drives deep into the hear of paranoia and fear on the back of thousands upon thousands of wings. Did Melanie Daniels bring this plague of birds upon Bodega Bay or is there something far more sinister and elemental afoot?

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As the birds attack in their droves, and the body count rises, we are never certain as to what it is driving their bloodlust. Even at the end, we have not had the question of their actions answered, and are left instead with a certainty that, whatever it was, they are not finished. Everything about this movie, even despite its affects ageing badly and the occasional lapse into melodramatic acting, is perfection. LOVE.

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Slashing through your shower curtain at number two, beware of: PSYCHO

Apologies here for the trailer, it’s not the original, but I think this modern remix gives a far more telling view of the movie. Everyone knows Psycho. It’s a gem of a movie. Maniacal mothers, insane sons, villainous women who make bad choices and end up paying most horrifically for their transgressions. The house on the hill, framed by darkness, its sinister windows lit with yellow light and leering out over the motel courtyard. Psycho is the bar against which all subsequent suspenseful horror movies have been tested, often to dismal failure.

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What makes this movie, far apart from Hitchcock’s tremendous and confident direction, is Anthony Perkins tremendous performance as Norman Bates. Ah, Norman Bates, never a more mixed-up, maligned and malicious figure of terror. That poor, matriarchially-challenged mess of a boy who could never quite cut the apron strings strangling his neck, not even after he killed her…

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This is simply a masterpiece. End of. So you may wonder why it’s not at number one. Wonder no longer…

Stealing in at number one, comes the deceitful and ultimately tragic: MARNIE

Framed by the lugubrious old scoundrel himself as a ‘sex mystery’ this one really does fire off on all cylinders when it comes to the sexist portrayal of women. I should loathe it, the way Marnie is hunted by the wealthy businessman she intends to steal from, the way he forces her into a situation untenable to her. The way his obsessive need to find out what’s wrong, his obsession with her, is styled as love. It’s all abhorrent to be honest, but oh dear Hades and his immortal armies of doom, I do so love this movie.

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And Tippi Hedren is the reason why. Thanks to Tippi’s wholehearted, gutsy interpretation of this role, you get the feeling that, once Mark’s done his best to free her from the shackles of what makes her so broken, Marnie will turn it all around and explode through his life with the force of an atom bomb. Mercurial, machinating, smart, ballsy, courageous and at times so cool that cucumbers frantically crowd to take notes, this woman is not for the turning! Every time I watch this movie I alternate between rage at the way women are portrayed and cheering at how awesome Marnie will be, how awesome she is. There are movies you love because they’re easy to, and then there’s movies like this. Movies that challenge and provoke, that make you want to hate them, but for the stand out brilliance of one particular role.

Bravo, Tippi, BRAVO.

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And there we have it. My favourite five Hitchcock movies. Tell me in the comments, if you so desire, what your favourite Hitchcock movies are and why. I’d love to know!

Next time on Favoured Fives I will be bringing you something that will doubtless cause me many a sleepless night, my favourite five Bond movies. *develops immediate headache trying to figure out which five movies out of such a long and gloriously cheesy franchise I might favour above all the others*

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