Tag Archives: Mystery

Suspense Saturday: Psycho

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Screen shot of Janet Leigh in Psycho 

Often seen as a precursor to the modern horror/slasher film, Psycho is one of Hitchcock’s most known films among modern audiences. Shot in black and white after Hitchcock already used color and technicolor in previous films, Hitchcock made a deliberate choice that added to the atmosphere of the film. Most famous for the character of Norman Bates and the infamous shower scene, Psycho is has laid the ground work for many writers and directors in the suspense and horror genre.

After stealing money from her bosses client, Secretary Marion Craine runs off with the money. After ditching her old car in favor of her new one, Marion stops at The Bates Motel during a stormy night. This would be her biggest mistake. After her disappearance, Marion’s sister searches for her with the help of her sisters lover Sam Loomis and Private Detective Milton Arbogast.

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Promo shot from the set of Psycho 

Using a television crew and a small budget, Psycho was a big departure from his previous film North by Northwest. Hitchcock’s willingness to take risks and try new and exciting things aided him in a long and successful career that spanned six decades. Beginning in the his career in Britain during the silent film era, Hitchcock made five silent films. In the thirties he would make one musical and one of his best and better know British films The Man Who Knew Too Much. After his move to the US, Hitchcock found greater success with his films like Rebecca, his first film in America and Shadow of a Doubt in Film Noir style. The Fifties would become his peak years with films like Rear Window and Vertigo that are often cited as his best films. His first film in the sixties was Psycho and you can tell that Hitchcock can’t do the same thing over and over. His peak years that came in the decade prior all had a different flair and that would be the same for his films in the sixties.

Receiving mixed reviews upon its initial release, box office sales changed things for Psycho and it has grown into a classic film often scene as a top movie for Hitchcock. Adapted from the novel of the same name, Hitchcock got as many copies as he could not to spoil the ending something impossible today.

 

 

Film Noir Friday: The Third Man

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Joseph Cotton with Wiener Riesenrad behind him

 
Directed by Carol Reed from a screenplay by Graham Greene, The Third Man is a British Film Noir often considered one of the best films from Britain. Starring Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli and Orson Welles, The Third Man is celebrated for its acting, score and cinematography.

American Holly Martin is given in a job in Vienna by his friend Harry Lime. When arrives he is told that Lime is dead. Believing the death to be suspicious, Martin begins to investigate.

One of the top films that I love to recommend to people, The Third Man is a stunning look at post World War II Vienna through shadows and distorted angles as a man investigates the death of his friend. Played by real life friends with multiple collaborations under their belts, Joseph Cotton as Martin and Orson Welles as Harry Lime add a little something extra to the characters.

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Orson Welles as Harry Lime

The Third Man is a great use of a variety of film techniques and looks like the perfect mesh between British and American Cinema during the time of the film’s release. The use of Vienna’s landmarks, American lighting techniques, and Dutch “Deutsch” angles, a German filming technique used to portray psychological unease, The Third Man mixes various genres and styles to create a film that makes you feel out of place.

With one of the greatest scenes and film speeches of all time, one you have to hear for yourself, this 1949 Film Noir is a must see. If you are an aspiring director or a successful one, this is a film you should study. Also an important film for Cinematographer’s to view, The Third Man’s use of angles and lighting portray the unease of being in a foreign country while dealing with strange circumstances.

The Third Man is available to watch on Netflix. Perfect for Friday night viewing, turn off the lights, make some popcorn and grab a beverage of your choice. It’s time to investigate the death of Harry Lime.

Film Noir Friday: Shadow of a Doubt

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Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright

To some Film Noir is a genre not unlike Westerns and Gangster movies. They all seem to fit into a certain mold. Unlike the two genres mentioned, Film Noir is a little different. It doesn’t fit into a well defined mold. Yes, the majority of Film Noir’s have a detective. Sometimes that detective is the star and sometimes he is after the main male and female characters. Sometimes he is also the bad guy. While Film Noir has a specific set of rules those rules are meant to be broken and it has a style of film making that goes beyond the restraints of a genre.

Film Noir, meaning Black Film in French, is a very American style of film making that many directors of the forties into the fifties have tried. Some live in the genre while some have tried and moved into a different style. Hitchcock tried the genre more than once but Shadow of a Doubt was easily his most successful foray.

Starring Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie and Terese Wright as his niece Charlie, Shadow of a Doubt is Hitchcock’s favorite of all the films he made. It is also my own personal favorite Hitchcock film. Uncle Charlie is a black widower who murdered several older women. Adored by his namesake niece and his older sister, Uncle Charlie comes to his family’s home in Northern California after the cops begin to hone in on him.

Joseph Cotton’s performance as Uncle Charlie is among one of my favorite performances of all time. One reason being the incredible dinner scene. Without giving to much away, young Charlie is beginning to have her doubts about her beloved Uncle after she meets one of the detectives on his trail. Uncle Charlie is beginning to lose his grip as he lets his family get a little too close to the personality behind the facade.

Note: Hume Cronyn’s film debut playing older than his years. Joseph Cotton delivers a performance unlike any performance he gave before. Most well known as the good guy to Orson Welles less likable characters, Cotton went against type in the gamble of his career.

Suspense Saturday: And Then There Were None

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Released in 1945

Adapted from the novel and play by Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None adapts the plays more Hollywood friendly ending. Released in October of 1945, And Then There Were None received rave reviews and currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That probably wouldn’t be the case if were made today. Mostly due to the changing times, there is less of a need for happy endings and for pretty  people to win. Today we want more realistic and honest stories. While the book and a more recent adaptation gives us that, And Then There Were None is given an ending that reflects the production system of its era and not the truth of the situation. That being said, And Then There Were None is still an enjoyable film and a must see for mystery lovers.

Today’s audiences and lovers of cult classic Clue probably recognize the story as And Then There Were None is one of the most adapted and used plots of the 20th century. Before the release of the novel there wasn’t many like it. That changed after the publication and popularity. With the release of the film and the success of the play the plot has been adapted and reworked plenty of times.

Ten strangers are summoned to a remote island. As they wait for their mysterious host to arrive they listen to several recordings dealing out serious accusations. Soon they begin to die one by one and they reach the only conclusion that makes sense. One of them must be the murderer.

The film is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Suspense Saturday: Murder!

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Murder! released in 1930

Let’s go back to the early days of Hitchcock. In 1930 Alfred Hitchcock was still a budding director; co-written by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and Walter C. Mycroft it is based on a book and play Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson. The third talkie film directed by the future master of suspense Murder! may not be one of his most popular films but when you watch it you will see the directors signature from the beginning.

Actress Diana Baring, played by Norah Baring, is accused of murdering fellow actress Edna Druce when she is found in a daze with blood on her clothes and the weapon at her feet. She has no recollection of the events and the police arrest her due to the damning evidence. The two young actresses are thought to be rivals and she withholds information that could help the police. After she is found guilty, juror and actor-manager Sir John Menier played by Herbert Marchass, feels responsible so he begins investigating the crime to prove her innocence.

Spoiler Alert

His investigation leads him to another actor in the troupe. Menier fakes an audition, calling in actor Handell Fane, who often plays cross-dressing roles. When Fane realizes that he is accusing him of the crime he leaves and goes to his job in the circus. When he realizes that he is caught, Fane hangs himself while performing his trapeze act. If it wasn’t for the work of Menier, Diana would have suffered that same fate in prison.

Murder! has me feeling more sympathy towards the actual perpetrator of the crime than I do for the women falsely accused. Considering the time of this film I highly doubt that was the intention but also, knowing Hitchcock, he probably wanted us to feel things far beyond our own comfort zones. Was that intentional?I don’t know, but like in all art, it is entirely up to our own interpretation.

Murder! is available to watch on Amazon Prime as well as on various free streaming sites.

 

By the Lake

In January (No specific date has been set.) I will release my debut novel through Amazon.

By the Lake is a Mystery, Crime Fiction novel set in the present day. It contains strong language and adult themes.

After the passing of her mother Sara and her friend McGreogor take a trip to a family cabin in the woods. While on a hike Sara witnesses a murder. She has trouble getting the local authorities to believe her. Sara begins to wonder who she can trust and lives are in danger while searching for the body by the lake.

Kentucky native Ainsley Peace was raised on PBS programming. She fell in love with the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s work and she eventually began to read the books. Her love of mystery and crime fiction began to grow and now in her twenties Ainsley decided to write her own and By the Lake was born.

Check out By the Lakes official Facebook page.