Friday, October 22, 2010

Hitchcock Month - Marnie

Marnie (1964)
Starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Unbeknown to me when I rather randomly set up the viewing schedule for Hitchcock Month, Marnie is a rather appropriate follow-up to yesterday's abysmal Spellbound.  Both are more character studies than thrillers and both deal with the psychological toll of childhood trauma on an adult.  Fortunately, Marnie fares much better than yesterday's flick and was a little sleeper of a movie for me.  I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised.

As I said, Marnie (played by Tippi Hedren) is really a character study of the title character.  She's a thief -- getting jobs at places where she would have easy access to company finances, warming up to her bosses and co-workers, and then, when they least expect it, taking money from them and running.  Through a stroke of fate, widower and book publisher Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) had seen Marnie working at her previous job and was aware of the theft that occurred there.  When Marnie unknowingly applies to work for Mark, he hires her on the spot.  Partly, Mark wanted to play detective, but he was also strangely turned on by a beautiful woman being so devious.  As Mark begins to express his love for Marnie, he soon realizes that she is terribly afraid of men and sex, and he decides that he needs to determine the root cause of Marnie's psychological problems before it causes her to do herself harm.

The headline on the poster is rather appropriate -- Marnie is a sex mystery.  Why is Marnie so afraid of men and what causes her to cower at a man's touch?  While the roots of Marnie's troubles are certainly discovered, the film never dips into the psychobabble that was omnipresent in Spellbound.  Because it veers away from from the "science" behind Marnie's fear, the film actually flies by.  It's actually one of Hitch's longer films (running 130 minutes), but it never dragged.

That's certainly a credit to Hitch who, once again, uses clever shots in order to unconsciously build the suspense for the viewer.  There's nothing visually in Marnie that stands out as a "wow" moment , but Hitch still proves to be a master of where to place his camera and how to allow it move within a scene.

That being said, it is in these later films of Hitch that one begins to realize he was not a fan of modernizing his techniques.  It is fairly obvious that he uses matte shots and green screens, and in the scenes where these special effects are utilized, the film looks cheap and poorly made.  Even by 1960s standards, the special effects shots are a disappointment.  Hitch really needed to step outside of the studio and film on location.  Still, this was his aesthetic that he kept throughout his pictures and, if one is willing to simply be drawn in to his story, it's easy to overlook the artificiality of some of these moments.  [However, I do find it odd that when he shoots in England [a la Frenzy] he seems to be much more prone to step outside the confines of the studio...maybe it's just because English production studios weren't as high tech as American ones?]

Hitch is helped by having the dashing Sean Connery as his leading man.  Even after he does some fairly horrific things to Marnie in order to try and rid her of her psychological entanglements, the audience can't hate the guy.  As far as Tippi Hedren goes, it's kind of easy to see why her career didn't really take off after her one-two punch of The Birds and Marnie.  There's just not a whole lot there -- she's either emotionless or over-the-top, but rarely somewhere in between.  Now, she's certainly adequate as the title character, but it certainly would have been interesting to see someone else in the role.  [Hitch desired Grace Kelly and he almost got her.  Kelly was very intrigued with the script and was ready to make it be a triumphant return to the screen following her marriage to the Prince of Monaco, but troubles in that country forced her to back out.]

It's viewing experiences like Marnie that make me happy I'm doing this month-long tribute to Hitch.  This is a flick that isn't particularly well-known, but I think it may be Hitch's last very good film (I still have Torn Curtain and Family Plot to view which were released after Marnie, and although I've never seen the former, I have seen the latter and, if memory serves me correctly, it isn't very good at all).  It's definitely worth a view if you've never seen it before.

The RyMickey Rating:  B


  1. Didn't like the movie at all when I was first watching it but by the end I liked it a bunch.

    Also, Torn Curtain is pretty darn good.

  2. It's an odd movie, but one that I was kind of fascinated with. It's a little overwrought and overdramatic, but it worked for me for some reason.