Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Stage Fright (1951)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!


Genre: Crime Drama Thriller Noir

Starring: Jane Wyman (The Lost Weekend; All That Heaven Allows), Marlene Dietrich (Shanghai Express; The Blue Angel)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Number Seventeen; The Manxman)

Overview: A young woman helps a man in love as he seeks to clear the name of his lover from the murder of her husband.

Acting: Jane Wyman is one of those actresses who you wouldn't call hot. You'd call her adorably cute. The young naiveté of her character frames her face perfectly. As for Marlene Dietrich, I mentioned once that she was a fake-seeming sort of woman, but in this, those false pretences fit the character so perfectly that when Girlfriend of Squish said, "Wow does she ever seem fake," My reply was "she's the only one who can pull off fake and not seem it."
Rating: 8

Cinematography: One of the final scenes, the one below, has this extreme close-up conversation whispered in the dark. We can't see the mouths of the actors talking, but we can see their eyes and perfectly sense their fear. In a way I'm not surprised at how good this was, since this is exactly what I expected for good ol' Hitch. What surprises me is that he doesn't do it more often!
Rating: 8

Script: Greatness in a script comes from one of two things. Either the story is explained so simply that no one could miss its unfolding while still not feeling like you're being spoon-fed, OR so much back-story is conveyed by simple lines that you have immediate depth of character instantly. Neither happened here, but it's still nice and innocuous.
Rating: 7

Plot: Nice twists I must say. The film starts with a bloody-dressed Marlene going to her lover and asking him to go back to the house and get her a new one since she's performing later. From there we get into the comfortingly predictable 'getting seen' scene and then he's on the run with only a woman who pines for his love as her aid. This story has a nice finish and a fine bouquet...
Rating: 8

Mood: When I mentioned this darkened scene below, I attributed its greatness with the acting and the lighting. Well there's another insanely suspenseful scene where a bloody dress is presented to the murderess while she's on stage. I shan't go and spoil any of the set up by detailing it, but I use that example to illustrate how well put together and filled with moments of deep mystery and suspense that remind me of Saboteur and The 39 Steps. Though the tension isn't as high as in those classics, they're really original and worthy of praise.
Rating: 8

"I brought you here because... because I'm secretly a German Expressionist!"

Overall Rating: 78% (Have No Fear)

Aftertaste: After having seen Hitch's first colour film, I wondered why this one wasn't in colour too. The transition to Technicolor is one hell of a mystery to me and the thought that television was black and white even in the sixties blows my frikken mind. Anyone got any reference material I could read about this long transition? I wish that the talkies transition from the silent era has been so slow...