Saturday, April 7, 2012
BLACKMAIL (1929, GREAT BRITAIN), THE 39 STEPS (1935, GREAT BRITAIN), SABOTAGE (1936, GREAT BRITAIN)
As I was looking for old video games for my son in a neighborhood pawnshop recently, I came across A DVD collection called Alfred Hitchock: The Legend Begins, which included three films on the 1001 movie list. I became very excited (I get excited easily). I forgot all about looking for silly video games and bought the DVD.
The first film I watched was Blackmail, (1929) which I found out later was originally a silent film, but was changed after production began into Britain’s first talkie. It is disorienting in spots, as the film starts as a silent film and then somewhat awkwardly makes a transition to sound. That isn’t to say it isn’t a worthwhile film and it does have several touches that Hitchcock would later make his trademark (Woman kills man in self defense, man in love with her tries to cover it up and of course the blackmailer, himself.)
The second film, The 39 Steps (1935) is probably the most famous of the three, though it was admittedly my least favorite. Hitchcock takes a lot of liberties with John Buchan’s original story and employs the innocent man on the lamb plotline that Hitchcock would later use again in North by Northwest and other films. It does includes a lot of nice banter between Robert Donat and Madeline Carroll.
The last film from this DVD set was Sabatoge (1936). This was my favorite of the three films. The plotline of a saboteur (today we would just call it a terrorist) in London and the way Hitchcock builds suspense to the inevitable bomb going off are highlights. The portrayals of the main characters played by Sylvia Sydney as the wife and Oscar Homolka, as her not-so-innocent husband were effective. I also liked the way Hithcock shot Homolka with close-ups that showed off expressive face and bushy eyebrows. This film also has a short animated sequence, Who Killed Cock Robin? from the Disney studios which makes this film a must for Disney completeists.
I'm thinking now that I should head back to the pawnshop to see if I can find a Howard Hawks DVD collection. I’ve sure got plenty of his films left on my list.