Throughout his career, Alfred Hitchcock engaged in a battle of wits with film censors in Britain, Hollywood and World War II-era Washington. On this episode, we learn about Hitchcock’s ability to evade censorship controls. Our guest on this episode of “The Online Movie Show” is John Billheimer, author of the new book “Hitchcock and the Censors.”
BOOTLEG FILES 678: “Elstree Calling” (1930 British musical revue co-directed by Alfred Hitchcock).
LAST SEEN: We cannot confirm the last public exhibition of this film.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On bootleg video labels only.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Never made available for U.S. commercial home entertainment release.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is possible, but not a priority.
In 1930, the first British musical feature film was released under the title “Elstree Calling.” Today, most people are aware of the film only because of Alfred Hitchcock’s involvement in the production.
While most people would consider films like “Psycho,” or “Rear Window” to be top notch Hitchcock, I often insist that “Rope” is where Hitchcock manages to shine the most. At the very least it’s what I consider the best Hitchcock has ever been because he manages to challenge himself at every turn here. With “Rope,” adapted from an actual real life crime, Hitchcock lingers on his characters and his setting, adopted ten minute long extended takes that were the length of a normal camera magazine. With the long takes, Hitchcock is allowed to use the camera as a proxy for we, the spectator, who are watching and waiting to see if our villains Phillip and Brandon are going to be caught.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a hardcore film and horror buff and one of the first shots of a horror movie I ever recall watching was the scene in “Psycho” where Marion Crane is stalked in her shower and mercilessly stabbed to death. It’s a scene I’ve seen at least a thousand times since I was a child and its effectiveness and impact have never worn off for me. Every scene, every second, every single shot is so deliberate and meticulous that Hitchcock creates an entity on to itself in a genuinely flawless horror film. It’s not often you’ll find a full length documentary about one shot in an entire movie, but the iconic moment with Janet Leigh is a sequence that warrants so much examination and analyses. It’s every bit the symbolism and metaphor audiences of the fifties weren’t expecting.
Fans of Grace Kelly will be impressed to see what Warner has in store for them with the release of the Grace Kelly Collection. It’s a compilation of six really important and notable films from Kelly’s acting career, spanning a four year period where she was quite the cinematic heavy hitter. The only caveat to the release is the omission of “Rear Window,” which I think would have topped a great set, but that’s not to say this box set isn’t a heavy weight in its own right either.
Imagine waking up one morning to run your errands, and you’re then stopped by police who insist you’ve committed a horrible crime? And what happens when everyone else you come across swears you’ve committed this horrible crime, and you know yourself that you’ve never even held a gun? How do you convince everyone that you’re an innocent man, when people can identify you as a criminal, and present evidence that contradicts your claims? What happens when you’re about to go to jail for a crime you have committed and can’t prove that you didn’t commit it? That’s the nightmare Manny Balestrero, a family man, finds himself in, in Alfred Hitchcock’s gripping and awfully horrifying thriller that sees a wrongly convicted man who has no chance of proving he’s committed the awful crime he’s been accused of.
You have to wonder if Gus Van Sant either garners an enormous amount of hubris, or just has a masochistic streak in him. Why else would he dive head first in to a remake of a hallowed horror and cinematic classic? And why else would he deliver a remake that’s exactly shot for shot? And “Psycho 1998” isn’t a remake that’s shot for shot with some liberties taken. It’s shot for shot to where director Van Sant copies every single shot of the original film, except with new actors. Van Sant fills the remake with a surreal tone in the vein of David Lynch to where the movie is adrift in a time period blurred between the fifties and contemporary time.
Director Alfred Hitchcock managed to set a precedent in 1960, not only for creating one of the greatest psychological thrillers, but for films that could become masterpieces despite their low budget. He also helped pave the way for the classic shocking twist that many directors continue copying today. Adapted from the novel that was based on the murders of Ed Gein, Hitchcock offers film-goers as much twists and turns as possible while managing to scare us at the same time. “Psycho” is the psychological examination of the twisted human psyche, the darkness in every human as Hitchcock was brilliant in conveying.