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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.


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?


Hitchcock Blogathon #13: Marnie


Marnie (1964)

     For me, the downward path of Hitchcock’s films started with Marnie and the lifting of the Production Code. Hitchcock had been great at sneaking things by the censors or making deals, but when he was finally let go to insert formerly taboo subjects such as rape and prostitution, his films lost their subtlety and classic feel. This is especially true with Frenzy, a film that depicts nudity, rape and strangling all in one scene (although I admit I would like to give this film a second chance). I thought giving Marnie a second chance might redeem it, but I remain resolutely against this film.

     Marnie, played by Tippi Hendren, is a compulsive thief who uses her looks to get jobs in office buildings where she eventually takes off with the contents of the company safe. When she is hired at the Rutland company, businessman Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) recognizes her from her previous job, but takes her on anyway. When she takes off with company money, Mark figures out where to find the woman and forces her to return. He blackmails her into marrying him.

     Marnie has many peculiarities. She is afraid of thunderstorms, the color red, and is absolutely adverse to the touch of men. On their wedding night, the woman cowers in a corner as Mark tries to consummate the union. They agree that they will essentially persist as friends, but a few days later Mark is ripping off her nightgown and forcing the wifely duty out of her. Marnie attempts to drown herself, but Mark finds her in time. The only thing Marnie does like is her horse, which Mark brings to their home. But when the color red sets her into a frenzy while riding, the woman and beast have an accident and she mush shoot the animal. Her next compulsion is to return to the Rutland company safe and hit the road with the cash. Mark catches her and forcibly takes Marnie to her mother, whom he suspects is the source of the woman’s problems.

     It turns out that Marnie’s mother worked as a prostitute near the docks, taking sailors into Marnie’s bed and forcing the child to the couch. One particular night, when a man was kissing on Marnie, the adults have a scuffle and Marnie must save her mother by bludgeoning the man with a fire stoker. The revelation of this story occurs in flashback with Hendren giving the most infantile of all her performances as her loony character reverts to a childlike state.

     I know some people like this movie, but the horrible performances by Hendren and the mother, Louise Latham, make Marnie laughable. Hendren’s behavior when being upset by red objects or storms is so goofy, it is difficult to take seriously. I admit I am far from a Hendren fan, but movies like this are why. The film, advertised as a “sex mystery”, was set to star Grace Kelly, taking a reprieve from the princess life, but she pulled out because the people of Monaco could not abide their royalty enduring rape, even within wedlock. That scene caused trouble among the writers on the movie but is said to be why Hitchcock wanted to do the story, not surprisingly. Writer Evan Hunter wrote both a rape scene and one he preferred that had Mark backing down, and he was fired for pushing for the act’s exclusion. The final credited writer, Jay Presson Allen, however, had no qualms with writing the scene.

     Marnie also seems to be absent any Hitchcockian humor, at least as far as I could deduce. There is no witty dialogue to lighten the mood, which is a true disappointment.

The MacGuffin: The color red.

Where’s Hitch? Entering from the left of the hotel corridor after Tippi Hedren passes by.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!

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

Cinematic Shorts: The Birds


The Birds (1963)

Your first reaction to the rating above might be: “What? Rachel thinks a Hitchcock movie is only so-so?” Implausible as it might seem, I nevertheless concluded after multiple viewings over the years that The Birds is a Hitchcock thriller better suited for collecting dust.

The greatest flaw for me is our lead actress, Tippi Hendren. A sorry stand-in for Grace Kelly — whom Hitchcock had planned this and the Marnie role for but who declined to leave her princess duties — Hendren is not only a disappointing actress, but really annoying to watch in that silly hairdo and ugly green suit. I particularly cannot stand her performance toward the end after being attacked nearly to death by the birds when she sits on the couch gazing and muttering child-like things. Fortunately for society, after Marnie, Hitchcock still held an exclusive contract over Hendren that prevented her in appearing in films for a couple of years.

The film is certainly not without its artistic value, however. Hitchcock cleverly created the entire film without a musical soundtrack. The opening credits offer nothing but the sound of squawking and flapping birds.

The iconic closing sequence is also eerie because of a lack of sound other than the deep chirps of surrounding crows, which has inspired such parodies as a “Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror” segment called “Night of the Dolphins”.

The story is based on a Daphne du Maurier novel, who also wrote Rebecca, and chronicles a small California coastal town upon which masses of birds descend and attack and kill people. The occurrence is in tandem with Hendren’s arrival in the town as she pursues Rod Taylor. The end offers no explanation as to the cause of the phenomenon, and a variety of theories have been offered, including that the birds are a manifestation of Taylor’s mother’s (Jessica Tandy) rage over Hendren trying to take her middle-aged son away from her. This does not fully work as an answer for me, however, because once the mother warms up to the intruding woman, the birds do not desist. Plus they put the mother in danger as well. Although film endings without explanation can be a chance for the viewer to form his own conclusions, I find The Birds‘ ending to be most unsatisfying because there is not enough evidence to work with in forming a hypothesis.

The Birds is among the Alfred Hitchcock films that everyone should experience at least once in his life, but it contains certain qualities that detract from its enjoyability for me. I’ll take an evening with Notorious instead, please.

Dang it. She’s still alive.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

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