Tag Archives: Suspense Saturday

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.

 

 

Suspense Saturday: Strangers on a Train

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One of my personal favorites, Strangers on a Train stars Farley Granger as Guy Haines and Robert Walker as Bruno Antony in an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel. Important viewing for all lovers of Hitchcock and avid viewers of suspense, Strangers encompasses a lot of what can make a movie stand out. The stand out actor is Robert Walker, who would never get to see the impact his character had. Farley Granger is a worthy co-star as the guy brought into the situation.
Guy Haines was not personally sought out by Anthony but he may has well been. The chance meeting on the train turns to chaos for the tennis star when Bruno proposes a switch. You kill my father, I’ll kill your ex-wife. It is a story known around the globe; constantly re-told in varying ways but nothing holds a candle to this Hitchcock adaptation of the novella.

 

 

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Farley Granger as Guy Haines and Robert Walker as Bruno Anthony

 

 

I have read about and viewed the film many times. One of the best to study, Strangers shows us our capabilities as story tellers and film makers. Many elements, like in all of Hitchcock’s films, create a hectic bow ready to be tied. The great suspense in this film belongs to our villain Bruno Antony, the man you want to win. It’s odd that in many Hitchcock films you root for the good guy but in Strangers you find yourself falling for the lovable psychopath who believes himself to be justified in getting rid of bad people.
A momma’s boy who disdains his father and dresses flamboyantly, many people have come to believe that Bruno is gay. In the end that does not matter. What I do think is important is that Antony’s strength lies in his unassuming femininity. If he were masculine the chances are people would have an easier time catching onto him. With his feminine ways, Anthony is seen as far weaker than he actually is. He is able to use what some may refer to as his weakness as his strength.
When you find yourself watching Strangers on a Train don’t forget to pay attention to everything. No detail is too insignificant. From the opening credits to the ending moments, Strangers on a Train has many elements that make up a great picture.

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.