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Feature: Hitchcock Movie Posters from Italy

I put up a post a while ago comparing U.S. movie posters for American movies to the versions that were released for the same pictures in Italy. As I continue to roam the web, and particularly the newly discovered MoviePostersDB.com, I continue to find that foreign, particularly Italian, posters are far more artistic/intriguing/seductive than the American ones. This time I have focused specifically on Hitchcock movies, films that in and of themselves embody artistry, intrigue and seduction. These movies, because they were so well publicized, have multiple posters per country to their name, but here I have grabbed what appear to be the most common versions.

ITALY VS. AMERICA

I think there is no arguing that the American version of what would advertise Hitchcock’s first American film looks pretty bland compared the foreign one. I also concede, however, that the former looks a bit like a romance novel cover. And who is the gorgeous woman in the backdrop? Certainly not Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers. It could be the artist’s manifestation of the deceased Rebecca, but she is never shown in the picture, which is sort of the point. Nevertheless, I would rather see the Rebecca advertised by the image on the left than the one on the right.

 Notorious is possibly my favorite Hitchcock movie and one that is certainly darker than the American poster would suggest. Although the key depicted is of significance, the romance between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman is not as light-hearted as the advertisement would suggest. The Italian poster is a bit vague in its meaning and with the title perhaps suggests merely a story of an illicit affair, but it is by far the edgier version and one that better suits the tone of the actual movie.

Although I have always enjoyed the Dial M for Murder American poster, the Italian version is a bit more striking, and bloody. Because the Italian title translates as “Perfect Crime”, choosing to focus on the weapon rather than the phone that justifies the American title makes sense. It also notes other intricacies of the film, such as the scissors and the time. I can see the favorite of these two being a toss up for some people. Your thoughts?

I am not in love with either of these posters, but the foreign version is much more eye-catching. It highlights the one setting in which the entire film takes place while highlighting its star, who is perhaps not as mean as the poster suggests. The U.S. ad is just bland. We get it: it’s called Rope and there’s a rope.

In this instance, the Italian poster borrows from the American one but manages to give us a much different feel for the movie. The use of unnatural color and the red tone suggestive of blood makes The Birds a more frightening looking picture. The birds themselves also look more threatening in the overseas ad, which allows it to trump the domestic version.

I’m not sure I can entirely pass judgement and declare the Italian Vertigo poster better than the U.S. version. Although the foreign advertisement has many seductive and creepy elements, the simplicity of the American poster and its emphasis on the vertigo effect invented by Hitchcock in making that movie is difficult to rival. Again, the Italian movie title is not the same as the American, so “The Woman Who Lived Twice” likely inspired a different poster.

What do you think?

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What to Watch: Xmas Day

Most of us will enjoy time away from work and other distractions on Xmas day and will hopefully find ourselves relaxing in the vicinity of a fire, family and TV. Turner Classic Movies has a number of good films playing Dec. 25, not all of which are Christmas themed, but are essential picks nonetheless.

Bell, Book and Candle (1959)

Those for whom the promise of Santa and gifts are too much to stay asleep, Bell, Book and Candle will be airing at 4 a.m. ET. The Kim NovakJimmy Stewart picture is middle of the road entertainment-wise but is pretty goofy. Novak’s witch puts a love spell on Stewart’s character on Christmas Eve and the complications of a romance based on sorcery complicate the relationship. The movie offers some interesting concepts of laws surrounding witchcraft and is a cute romance, but the best part might be the name of the cat: Pyewacket (which apparently stems from a term referring to “a friendly spirit” associated with a witch). Add that to my list of future pet names!

Little Women (1933)

For those who decline to sleep in on the holiday, the 1933 Little Women will air at 6 a.m. ET. I think I have probably only seen this version of the classic novel and the contemporary Winona Ryder version and obviously prefer the former. The story, which also has some winter/Xmas ties, is a great family plot about sisterhood, love, adventure and regret. Katharine Hepburn is really fantastic as Jo, and the movie is definitely worth seeing if you have not caught this version. One of her earlier films, Hepburn really had the personality of an all-American tomboy-type girl that the character requires.

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

For those waiting for the rest of the family to roll out of bed, an 8 a.m. ET showing of The Shop Around the Corner might be the perfect fit. It’s what I believe to be the original version of a story used repeatedly throughout Hollywood’s history (including most recently as You’ve Got Mail). Set in Budapest around Xmastime, two shop employees become instant enemies who do not realize that their romantic pen pals happen to be each other. It’s a great story that was reincarnated as the Judy Garland musical In the Good Old Summertime and one that leaves me with thorough romantic feelings for the lead male, which in the original was Jimmy Stewart (what’s with that guy and Xmas movies?). definitely a good one to get into the loving spirit of the holiday.

Ben-Hur (1959)

When 1 p.m. ET rolls around and the gifts are open and the meal in the oven, it might be time for a long sit on the couch for Ben Hur. I will admit that I fell asleep for probably half of this movie but woke up to catch the chariot race, and frankly, I’m fine with that. The story was not my cup of tea, but the Best Picture winner is one probably every classic film fan should endeavor to endure at least once, even if dozing is involved. I will not go into the long, complex plot, but suffice it to say there are biblical references and Charlton Heston.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

When the kids have gone to bed and you have had enough of family, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  is set to warm your heart at 10:30 p.m. ET. I am not sure why this incredibly hard to watch picture is being presented on a holiday typically associated with positive feelings, but the Elizabeth Taylor triumph is a great picture. Opposite husband Richard Burton, Taylor showed for the first time her true mettle as an actress and her willingness to take on roles outside of the shapely sex objects with which she had come to be associated. I caught it recently, so check out the review for more.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

And if you are still up at 1 a.m. ET, Elizabeth Taylor returns in possibly her sexiest role in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I am a big fan of movies based on Tennessee Williams’ plays, and this is no exception. His stories all have a similar formula that involves some deep, dark secret surrounding a main character that is gradually revealed to the audience and usually has some sexual implication. In this flick, Taylor and Paul Newman are a young married couple but Newman’s character refuses to sleep with the severely seductive woman because of this “secret”. There is also plenty of family drama that makes one want to rip her hair out from frustration, but it’s really a powerful picture and a must-see.

14 Hours

Ring a Ding Ding

14 Hours (1951)

     At last I have triumphed over one of my movie checklists. 14 Hours concludes my viewing of all Grace Kelly Movies but unfortunately had very little of the princess. Being her first film, I knew she did not have a lead role, but she still leaves a memorable impact in this striking picture. From her appearance, one would not think this was Kelly’s first appearance on the big screen (she had done some TV dramas prior). She’s done up in her typical fashion: fur coat, black veil headpiece, glistening blonde hair, which belied her 21 years of age. Oddly, she would next make High Noon in which she looks the least like the Grace Kelly moviegoers came to know.

     Kelly was offered a stock contract with Fox after completing the flick but declined it to return to the theater, where she had worked on Broadway and in her home state of Pennsylvania. She was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and also did some modeling work in the early days to supplement her income. Her real break-out role was the aforementioned High Noon, in which she was cast as a Quaker bride because of her inexperience and natural reserved personality. With only 11 motion pictures to her credit, Kelly was choosy about which films she would take on, and frankly, Green Fire might be the only stinker among the bunch. It was actually in her least glamorous role, the wife of an alcoholic in The Country Girl, that landed her a Best Actress Oscar. She was also nominated for a supporting role in her third film, Mogambo.

     I will contend that High Society was a splendid end to Kelly’s Hollywood career, although I know Philadelphia Story purist will disagree. She married Prince Ranier and became princess of Monaco in 1956, just five years after making 14 Hours. Director Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she made three features, tried to lure her back to the movies after starting her new life, but scenes such as a marital rape in Marnie did not sit well with the people of Monaco. Unfortunately, Hitchcock failed to adequately replace the golden-haired star with Tippi Hendren, Eva Marie Saint and Kim Novak. So Kelly remained in Monaco, making a visit to her Hollywood haunts with her children in the ’60s. Princess Grace died prematurely in 1982 after suffering a slight stroke at the wheel of her car while traveling with her daughter down a road allegedly featured in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. The daughter was fine, but Kelly died from her injuries.

     14 Hours itself is a pretty great film. It is entirely centered around a man (Richard Basehart) perched on the ledge of a hotel 15 or so stories up. The film commences with him on the ledge and follows until he is finally inside after what I assume to be 14 hours. One traffic cop (Paul Douglas) manages to gain the prepared jumper’s confidence and talks to him throughout the whole ordeal trying to determine what has upset him. Kelly shows up as a high society woman visiting her lawyer’s office in order to finalize a divorce. The office provides her a view of the building. The streets are also blocked and crowded with what looks to be half the population of New York. Besides the action in the hotel, a couple small plots unfold among the spectators. Kelly’s character finds compassion after watching the man for a couple hours and decides not to follow through on the divorce, to her husband’s delight. Two young people standing next to each other in the crowd fall in love, lose each other and are reunited. Agnes Moorehead comes in as the man’s mother and gives a great performance as a patronizing matron. Barbara Bel Geddes also shows up as an ex-girlfriend, who might be the source of his anguish.

     The movie uses only diegetic sound until the story’s resolution, but it is not a quiet film. Always in the background is the sound from the street below as the thousands of spectators mutter concern and hedge their bets. This serves to really focus attention on the very human aspects of the film. The picture seems less like a movie and more like an actual crisis unfolding. Without music to tell the viewer when to be on-edge, the audience is left constantly nervous. 14 Hours might have inspired in part the contemporary Phone Booth, which takes place entirely in and around a phone booth, but also has some sinister stuff going on that this film lacks.

     Douglas really gives a splendid performance as the middle-aged, lower-ranked cop who seems to be the only one who truly cares about the man’s troubles. 14 Hours did not do well at the box office despite critical acclaim, so it is understandable why such a good picture has faded into cinematic history. This is not one that I have ever seen scheduled on TCM, so I had to Netflix it. Good thing it is available on DVD.

Sources: Grace Kelly: A Life in Pictures by Jenny Curtis; Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

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