Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Master of Suspense

Sir Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock
Let's take a brief Ghost Break, shall we?

There are almost as many stories about the making of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho as there are analyses and commentaries on it. First, it truly is a masterpiece, despite its lurid (especially for 1960) subject matter. Imagine seeing Psycho for the first time in 1960. Not only did the director force you to arrive before the movie started by not letting anyone in after the first ten minutes (a trick that changed movie attendance forever), but the lovely leading lady is killed in the first act! And not just killed, but brutally knifed to death in the shower! By someone who turns out to be a man in women's clothing! Someone who taxidermied his own mother!

Based on the novel by Robert Bloch, which in turn was inspired by the true story of Wisconsin murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein, Psycho was unlike any movie anyone had ever made before. And it was a sensation. It was also the movie no one, including Hitch's wife Alma, wanted him to make. Of course, modern 'slasher' films make Psycho look quaint by comparison, though not even the best of them displays a tenth of its artistry. And I won't even go into Bernard Herrman's astonishing and iconic score, other than to say that everyone makes those staccato violin sounds when pretending to stab someone.

Now, in one of two competing films about the filmmaker (HBO's The Girl examines the director's relationship with the star of his other great horror classic, The Birds), director Sasha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil) takes a look at the making of Psycho and its toll on the director and his wife in Hitchcock. Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs; Magic) as Hitchcock; Dame Helen Mirren (The Queen) as Alma; Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers) as Janet Leigh; Jessica Biel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - also inspired by Gein) as Vera Miles; James D'Arcy (the upcoming Cloud Atlas) as Anthony Perkins and Michael Wincott as Gein. Toni Collete; Ralph Macchio; Danny Huston and Wallace Langham round out the amazing cast.

Psycho's influence on film and it's fans (not to mention the horror genre) is more far-reaching than almost any other since Citizen Kane.  

Hitchcock is one fall film I will most defintely NOT be missing.

Toby Jones (most recently seen as a dwarf in Snow White and the Huntsman) takes on the role of the lecherous director with a penchant for blondes in The Girl for HBO, alongside Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedron, later this month. 

More, anon.

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