Tag Archives: Alfred Hitchcock

Vintage Sundays at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema

Vintage Sundays: Alfred Hitchcock

Vintage Sundays: Alfred Hitchcock

Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema is attempting once again to appeal to a wide variety of cinema-goers with its programming, with a new strand of Vintage Sundays currently boasting a season of Alfred Hitchcock films through January and February.

The season began with Vertigo (1958) and continues this weekend with The Lady Vanishes (1938) before continuing with Rebecca (1940), The Birds (1963), Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960).

The only downside is that the films are being screened in the smaller Screen 2 rather than the grander Screen 1, but if you want to see these films away from your TV then it’s worth heading over to the Cameo website for full details.

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Hitchcock leads a killer August line-up at Filmhouse

One of the joys of living in Edinburgh is the huge amount of films I can choose to watch on any given day of the week.

From the latest blockbusters in our multiplexes to smaller independent and international titles that are regularly shown at the Cameo and Filmhouse, not forgetting the Edinburgh Film Guild and numerous special monthly film groups and events, the city is a movie buff’s paradise.

Then there are the classic film screenings which inspired this very blog.

Helping to justify the blog’s existence for another month is Filmhouse, Scotland’s finest independent cinema which presents a more varied programme than any other in the country and which has just published its August line-up.

Read it and weep. I almost did.

The new programme is spearheaded by a season of Alfred Hitchcock films, The Genius of Hitchcock, ported over from London’s BFI, which will run over an impressive three month period. Starting with the newly restored version of 1926’s The Lodger on 10 August, we’ll be served up a total of 16 slices of murder and mystery before another batch are offered up in September and into October.

Elsewhere, there’s a full week’s worth of Marilyn Monroe films, including Some Like it Hot (1959), The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and All About Eve (1950), to mark the 50th anniversary of her death.

Gregory Peck pops up in both the Hitchcock season’s The Paradine Case (1947) and in 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the latter given a spit and polish and restored to its original glory.

J Lee Thompson’s 1957 melodrama, Woman in a Dressing Gown, arrives from 31 August until 6 September and stars Anthony Quayle and Yvonne Mitchell in a story that tells of the “impact of adultery on the psyche of three desperate characters” – I’m quoting from the website as I’ve not seen this one but will add it to the list.

In association with the Edinburgh International Book Festival there’s a screening of 1979’s Stalker on 7 and 8 of August, the Tarkovsky drama set in a totalitarian society.

Apologies if I’ve missed any more golden oldies, I only have so many hours of the day that I can spend perusing the programme.

Finally, I recommend booking a place at The Lost Art of the Film Explainer, a special event that takes place on Sunday 19 August in Screen One. I’ll once again quote from the Filmhouse website as it sums the event up better than I could:

“During the silent era, the live musician was an essential part of the cinema experience, but some audiences were also treated to the finely honed craft of the Film Explainer. Part narrator and part actor, the Film Explainer stood next to the screen enriching the movies with an entertaining combination of background information, unique interpretation and theatrical storytelling. Often more celebrated than the screen stars for whom they spoke, the art of the Film Explainer has since been largely forgotten.”

I managed to miss the first staging of this event at this year’s Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema so I’m glad to see it in the programme. Andy Cannon, Wendy Weatherby and Frank McLaughlin will present this and I’d urge every reader of this blog who can make it along to please do so.

What will you be going to see?

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DVD Round-up: Lifeboat, Island of Lost Souls and Ruggles of Red Gap

Alfred Hitchcock was always one for challenges. Whether he was attempting a series of long takes to suggest a single shot, as in 1948’s Rope, or making 1960’s Psycho with the crew of his TV show on a modest budget, Hitch wasn’t one for taking the easy option.

Lifeboat (1943) finds a cast of assorted characters, led by Connie Porter (Tallulah Bankhead) and Gus Smith (William Bendix), all at sea as their ship is sunk by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic and they’re left to drift towards an uncertain fate in the titular craft.

As the tiny vessel quickly fills with its motley crew, they drag on board a German sailor, Willy (Walter Slezak), who could be either be an innocent U-boat sailor or the captain whose decision it was to sink the ship.

The script, ostensibly by John Steinbeck’s but with input from various figures including Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville, may be lean and its dialogue punchy but it’s the director’s inspired shooting technique that has drawn the most plaudits over the years.

Confined to the small boat that could be cut in half and moved to various positions, Hitchcock is forced to be creative with his angles. Constantly moving around the boat and into the cast’s faces, the tension mounts as the days pass and the doubts about who is responsible for what increase.

Bankhead is a force of nature as Porter, more interested in her camera than those around her, but it’s Slezak who steals the film from her. The audience is as much in the dark as the survivors for much of the picture, sympathies moving from one person to the next as their stories emerge.

This may be a lesser known Hitchcock, at least compared to the usual suspects which fill up the box sets, but it’s still as taught and compelling as his later work and a welcome arrival on Blu-ray.

This new DVD and Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema also comes with two short films made by Hitchcock in France during the Second World War, Bon Voyage (1944) Adventure Malgache (1944), along with a featurette on the making of the film and a clip of the famous Hitchcock/Truffaut interview.

The first of two new Charles Laughton releases from Masters of Cinema in May, 1932’s Island of Lost Souls is Universal’s take on HG Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau, a film that was banned by the British Board of Film Classification on its release for being “against nature”. Gulp.

Souls finds us somewhere in the hot and steamy South Seas, where Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) is left in the capable hands of Dr Moreau (Laughton), a scientist with a penchant for vivisecting animals and trying to change them into humans.

Also on the island is the Panther Woman (Kathleen Burke), a poor creature who has spent some time under Moreau’s knife and ended up a glamorous half-woman who wants to get her teeth in Parker, so to speak.

This is a heady concoction that may not appear as nasty to modern audiences as it did back in the 1930s but which still causes the occasional flinch. Moreau’s experiments litter the island, men turned into strange abominations that cower in the bushes as Bela Lugosi’s “Sayer of the Law” tries to keep them in order.

Laughton is mesmerising as Moreau, his scientific curiosity now as mutated as his creatures as he plays God with anyone he comes into contact with. Combined with the atmospheric set design that works perfectly in black and white and you have a horror that stands up to repeated viewing along with its other classic Universal stablemates.

Looking stunning on Blu-ray, this dual format release includes new interviews with Laughton biographer Simon Callow and an informative video essay from critic Jonathan Rigsby, along with a fascinating booklet containing various essays. There’s also a smart limited edition steelbook edition of the set that is crying out for a place on your shelf.

The second Laughton escapade is thankfully on the lighter side, as he heads from the safety of Paris to the Wild West in Leon McCarey’s 1935 comedy, Ruggles of Red Gap.

When his employer, Lord Burnstead (Roland Young), gambles away his butler, Ruggles (Laughton), to a newly monied American couple, Egbert and Effie Floud (Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland), the bemused manservant must adjust to a very different life.

While Egbert is happy for Ruggles to be one of the guys, Ruggles is disgusted at the concept, and through various unfortunate escapades he attracts Effie’s scorn as her husband is returned to her in states of inebriation.

Although the centred on the unfortunate Ruggles, who we follow as he adjusts to his new world, rolling his eyes as he goes, there’s still plenty of room for Boland’s Effie to make herself heard at every opportunity. Boland and Laughton make for a fine double act, as do Charlie Ruggles and Laughton, particularly towards the end as the butler decides his fate.

Watched in tandem with Island of Lost Souls, Ruggles of Red Gap is a welcome change of pace and an opportunity to appreciate the many sides of Charles Laughton. It’s also another welcome addition to the growing library of Leo McCarey titles making it to DVD and Blu-ray, a director with a major influence on the Golden Age of Hollywood.

This new dual format release looks good for its age, restored from the original negative. The set also includes radio plays featuring Ruggles and Laughton, a recording of Laughton’s Gettysburg Address from the film and an informative booklet.

Lifeboat is out now. Island of Lost Souls and Ruggles of Red Gap will be released on 28 May, 2012.

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Alfred Hitchcock at the BFI

Exciting things are happening at the BFI as their Rescue the Hitchcock 9 project, which aims to fully restore the director’s nine surviving silent films, comes to fruition.

The BFI will be celebrating Hitch throughout the summer of 2012 with a series of gala premieres, namely 1921’s Blackmail, 1927’s The Ring, 1926’s The Lodger, 1925’s The Pleasure Garden. Full details can be found on the Genius of Hitchcock section of the BFI website.

As I’m in Edinburgh it’s unlikely I’ll make it down to many of these but I’m confident our Filmhouse will screen them at some point.

In the meantime, a new trailer has been released to promote the Hitchcock project and it’s rather lovely:

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Another classic film blog?

Hollywood, April 2011

Hollywood, April 2011

To blog or not to blog, that is the question. In a world stuffed full of film blogs, does it really need another, this time based in Edinburgh, Scotland and focusing on classic movies from through the ages?

I think so.

I’ve been writing about film in various places for the last few years, discussing the latest Hollywood output in the pages of a local newspaper, the Edinburgh Evening News, or happenings around Scotland as part of ReelScotland, but time and again I find myself returning to the topic of old movies, mostly those made before I was born.

Convinced that to ignore our shared cinematic heritage is a Very Bad Idea, the joy of discovering a film that was made in the 1920s is, for me, exactly the same as heading to the local multiplex and stumbling upon something great made this year.

Following a trip to Los Angeles in early 2011, where I attended the second TCM Classic Film Festival, I’ve realised that I need an outlet to discuss the type of films I’m willing to travel thousands of miles to watch in a darkened room. Speaking to actors such as The Trouble with Harry’s Jerry Mathers, it seemed I wasn’t alone in having a fondness for classic cinema.

TCM also confirmed my suspicions that classic movie fans are some of the nicest and smartest people around, equipped with the sort of knowledge about films made decades before they were born that tends to make me feel (slightly) better educated when I have a chat with them in person or online.

I’ll look back at cinema from all countries and eras, with a heavy focus on Hollywood’s Golden Age, from the 1920s to the 1960s. I’ll try to cover the very best films, actors, writers, producers, foley artists, gaffers and whoever else deserves a mention, along the way.

With the wealth of titles now available on DVD, Blu-ray and online, I’ll never be short of things to discuss, and I’ll also mention screenings of some of these films on the big screen, where they really belong. Add to that reviews of new books and special events plus the occasional interview, and there should be something here for most classic movie fans.

As for the blog’s title, Holyrood is a part of Scotland’s capital city which has little relevance to cinema apart from the fact that it sounds a bit like Hollywood. Simple really.

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