And now the Top Ten...Can I even build suspense to the #1 film?
#10 -- Torn Curtain (1966) -- B+
I'd actually avoided this film for years despite its "star power" of Julie Andrews and Paul Newman because I was worried it was going to be too "Cold-War-y" for my tastes. However, I was quite impressed with Torn Curtain's ability to keep me in suspense throughout. Many set pieces (including the one that uses the pi screenshot above) work incredibly well at consistently raising the tension. Definitely worth a look.
#9 -- Saboteur (1942) -- B+
Saboteur was actually off of the Hitchcock Month list when I first started and was only added when I tacked on the little addendum to November. I had already seen the film and didn't remember all that fondly. I'm certainly glad I watched it again because it is a true glimpse at who Hitch would become. Hitch has a knack for making "the wrongly accused man" a great central character and here it is no exception. Yes, there are certainly some dated aspects to the production, but this time around it struck me as an early precursor to The Manchurian Candidate and this film definitely deserves to be in that revered film's company.
#8 -- Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) -- B+
Hitch's only remake...and he does much better the second time around. While I can't dislike Jimmy Stewart at all, Doris Day is the one who impresses in this. Known for her comedic work, Day is kind of amazing in certain scenes in this film. I was genuinely riveted in certain moments all because of her acting. Moments like that don't come often enough in film and there were a few times that happened here. Another thing to love about this movie is that a good ten minutes of the build-up to the climax are completely dialog-free. Hitch stages everything with music only and it is stunning to watch a director build tension with only visuals and music and no words whatsoever.
#7 -- The Birds (1963) -- A-
Yes, it's a pure horror film. Yes, it's kind of silly. But The Birds works. It's genuinely eerie and freaky that these damn birds just start attacking and killing people. Nothing deep here, but it's a fun ride.
#6 -- Shadow of a Doubt (1943) -- A-
A lovely little film that's a departure from Hitch in that the film takes place mostly in small-town America. Imagine it's 1943 and you're in a theater and you realize that the town that's onscreen is very much like your own. And then Hitch introduces a murderer into the mix (and that ominous train carrying said murderer in the picture above is now draping the town with shadowy deviousness). Some terrific performances from Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten buoy the film. Shadow of a Doubt is a film that I appreciate much more now that I've gotten a little older. It isn't the least bit showy...but not everything has to be.
#5 -- Vertigo (1958) -- A-
I never "got" this film until this viewing as part of the month-long Fest. Now, I can't wait to watch it again. Some of Hitch's best visual work is on display (as depicted in that rather beautiful shot above) in perhaps Hitch's most "adult" film. All the characters are tortured in their own ways and things don't exactly end happily for most of them. Part of me wanted this to fall outside of my Top Five simply because my Top Five is already filled with "classics" and I hoped to have something "fresh" in it...but these top flicks of Hitch's are revered for a reason.
#4 -- Rebecca (1940) -- A-
Perhaps the only film in my Top Five that may not fall on the lists of many others, Rebecca was a film that I was not expecting to love, but kind of adored. Part of that love comes from the two ladies above. Joan Fontaine as the unnamed twentysomething who meets and falls in love with the dashing Max de Winter and Judith Anderson as the creepy, maniacal maid Mrs. Danvers who wants this new ingenue out of Mr. de Winter's house both make this movie shine. Hitch's only movie to win Best Picture, there is a kind of "richness" on display that is reminiscent of other films released around this time (Gone with the Wind as an example) that isn't all that common in many of the director's other films...but Hitch manages it all quite well.
#3 -- Rear Window (1954) -- A
The movie that made Jimmy Stewart one of my favorite actors of all time. I saw this so long ago (it was definitely one of my first experiences with Hitchcock), but it still holds up so well all these years later. To think that every single scene is shot in Jimmy Stewart's character's apartment or as a view from his window is kind of a directing tour de force. And Grace Kelly looking all sexy. What's not to love?
#2 -- North by Northwest (1959) -- A
I didn't think Rear Window could get knocked out of spot #2, but North by Northwest surprised me this time around. Cary Grant is absolutely winning in this and Eva Marie Saint is his sexy counterpoint. Watching this film this time around, I was bowled over by Ernest Lehman's screenplay. I truly think it's one of the best written films of all time. From the dialog to the plot, everything works so ingeniously. And Hitch lenses everything so well. Dare I say that perhaps later viewings might actually kick this rating up to an elusive 'A+'? I could see it happening in a few years.
#1 -- Psycho (1960) -- A+
Nothing needs to be said other than the following: The Best Movie of All Time.
And there you have it. The month-long celebration of Hitchcock has come to a close. There were some flops, but some definite winners. One must remember that I'm a somewhat harsh critic and I typically say that anything I rate a 'C' or higher is something that I'd recommend for others to see. With that being the criteria, 25 out of the 34 movies I watched, I'd recommend. Not too shabby.
There were definitely some surprises in the mix that fared much better than I expected -- Torn Curtain, Marnie, The Wrong Man.
There were certainly some films that I expected much more from -- Lifeboat, Dial M for Murder, Strangers on a Train.
But I also found some new classics for me -- Rebecca, Shadow of a Doubt, Saboteur.
Overall, this whole thing solidified one thing -- Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director and that's probably something that will never change. He is the Master of Suspense, and with "suspense" being perhaps my favorite "genre" of cinema it doesn't get any better than putting a Hitchcock film in the dvd player and giving it a go. 75% of the time, you're gonna get something good...and even in the bad, there's gonna be something worthwhile there.
So, do yourself a favor and rent a Hitchcock film if you don't own one. You won't be disappointed.