Ah, the day after Valentine’s Day, a time for horror movies if I ever saw one. Time to wash away all the wishy-washy romance and PDAs you had to deal with all day yesterday, buy heart shaped candies on sale, and hunker down to shake your mind of all happy thoughts. Who better to do than with than the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock?
Everyone knows his classics: Psycho, Vertigo (which I despise but let’s touch on that another day), Rear Window, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, etc. But there are plenty of lesser known Hitchcocks which are just as great that don’t get as much attention…and some that don’t deserve to ever see the light of day again. For the uninitiated, I present to you my own list of 5 Hitchcock movies you should watch and 5 you should constantly avoid.
5) Do Watch: Rope, Don’t Watch: Mr. And Mrs. Smith
Connection: Terrible Premises
One is about a divorced couple that keeps bumping into each other and the other is about two men who kill a guy for intellectual experimentation and then host a dinner party over the concealed dead body. Neither of these are great premises, in part because they’ve both been done before to some extent. Still, Rope is one of the most suspenseful films you will ever see, and can be incredibly creepy for a drama that only takes place in one room. It proves that Hitchcock really understood how to take a scene from bland to terrifying, mostly due to him shooting it in two or three long takes. Comedies, however, were not his forte, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (not what the basis of the Pitt-Jolie remake, mind you) is contrived, forced, and unentertaining.
4) Do Watch: Dial M for Murder, Don’t Watch: Torn Curtain
Connection: Couples Keeping Secrets
Lovers are always the mot trustworthy people, something which Hitchcock continues to remind us often. These two films are about just that — one or more lovers have some pretty scary skeletons in their closets. But Torn Curtain lacks the suspense, back-stabbing, blackmail, and intrigue that Dial M For Murder has, which is weird for a Hitchcock spy film. Still, if you’re looking for a movie to remind you that love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, pick up the phone on this one.
3) Do Watch: Rebecca, Don’t Watch: To Catch a Thief
Connection: The Lives of The Rich
The wealthy have it so much better than us except for the fact that their lives are always filled with people trying to rob or murder them. Rebecca is a tale of love, obsession, and murder (sort of) that works well because of its stellar casting giving some of their best performances. When held up against To Catch a Thief, it’s not surprising that this so-so tale of larceny and romance doesn’t have the plot nor the acting to compete.
2) Do Watch: Spellbound, Don’t Watch: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Connection: Famous Artists
This connection is a little more abstract. Doris Day, who stars in The Man Who Knew Too Much was a big celebrity in her day as a singer, but the artist in Spellbound doesn’t appear on screen. The film infamous dream sequence was created by the great Spanish artist Salvador Dali. Spellbound has a tight story with more twists and turns than a double diamond ski slope, keeping you guessing tip the end. The Man Who Knew Too Much was hampered by Doris Day, who is not a great actress to be frank, the constant inclusion of musical numbers for her to sing, and a total lack of engagement.
1) Do Watch: Notorious, Don’t Watch: Under Capricorn
Connection: Starring Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman is one of the greatest actress of her time, and one of Hitchcock’s favorite actresses to work with. Appearing in three of his films, Bergman brought that alluring foreign appeal to her roles. In Notorious, she’s an undercover spy who soon finds herself at the mercy of a former Nazi and his scheming mother. As for Under Capricorn… let’s just say historical dramas weren’t this director’s strong suit. Still, if you’re a big Bergman fan, you’d probably like them both.