Hitchcock fest offers director’s greatest – and not so great movies

CorrespondentMay 16, 2013 

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright starred in the 1943 classic, "Shadow of a Doubt."

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    What: “Alfred Hitchcock Revisited”

    When: Friday through May 30

    Where: The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham

    Cost: $9, $7 for matinees

    Details: 919-560-3030 or www.carolinatheatre.org/

“Directed by Alfred Hitchcock” is an instantly recognizable product. Take stylish suspense, mix with murder and romance, add surprising psychological depth. What you come up with are the ingredients for enduring cinematic success.

So “Alfred Hitchcock Revisited,” beginning Friday at the Carolina Theatre, is cause for rejoicing. It’s a series of 14 films the master of suspense made between 1942 and 1966, his peak creative period. Even though the portly English director never helmed a truly terrible movie, the films in this series do vary wildly in quality. Here’s a guide to help you choose which ones to see.

Must-Sees

“Shadow of A Doubt” (1943) – Teresa Wright begins to think her favorite Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) is a serial killer. Taut, creepy and well-acted. This was Hitchcock’s favorite of all his films.

“Rear Window” (1954) – Jimmy Stewart is stuck in a wheelchair, but still romancing Grace Kelly while checking out weirdo Raymond Burr across the courtyard. Truly suspenseful.

“Vertigo” (1958) – Hitchcock’s masterpiece, a compelling film about love and obsession, with James Stewart fixated on Kim Novak. Mesmerizing, gripping, with one of the great endings in cinema history.

“North By Northwest” (1959) – Ridiculous on almost every level, but incredibly entertaining. Who can forget Cary Grant in a cornfield running from a lethal crop duster, and that Mount Rushmore climax?

“Psycho” (1960) – This is the birth of the modern horror film. Norman Bates, psycho killer, and that incredible shower scene. Still goose-fleshy after all these years.

“The Birds” (1963) – Another creepfest from Hitch, as birds mass to attack a small California town. Those black birds gathering on a school jungle gym? Scary.

Good, Not Great

“Dial M For Murder” (1954) – Stagey film about hubby Ray Milland plotting to kill wife Grace Kelly. Not bad, but no “Rear Window.”

“To Catch A Thief” (1955) – Bubbly film about former jewel thief Cary Grant trying to clear himself of robberies he didn’t commit. Glamorous leads (Grace Kelly is the femme), but utterly banal.

“Marnie” (1964) – Trashed when it first came out, this flick about a thief (Tippi Hedren) with severe psychological issues and the boss (Sean Connery) who blackmails her into marrying him has grown in reputation over the years. Still not great, but definitely intriguing.

Save your money

“Rope” (1948) – Hitchcock shot this murder mystery in 10-minute takes. Despite the attractive cast – Farley Granger, John Dall, Jimmy Stewart – it’s more a technical exercise than an interesting film.

“Stage Fright” (1950) – You’d think a murder mystery set in the London theater world and starring Marlene Dietrich would be a winner. It’s not.

“The Wrong Man” (1956) – Jimmy Stewart stars as a musician wrongly accused of robbery. Not bad, but Hitch and a realistic style are not the best combination.

“Torn Curtain” (1966) – Although it contains the most gruesome murder scene in any Hitchcock flick (think: gas stove), this Paul Newman/Julie Andrews Cold War mystery is mediocre at its core.

“Saboteur” (1942) – Despite a cool ending on the Statue of Liberty, this film in which Robert Cummings tries to prove he’s not a spy is dated and clichéd.

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