I started a Hitchcockathon about a year ago and have so far managed a pathetic seven films. It's good in a way because even though I've seen them all so many times, it's so long between viewings that I can never remember what happens.
This week I re-watched the criminally underrated work of genius that is Foreign Correspondent. Sweet zombie Jesus it's good. Every Hitchcock film has at least one standout moment, and in this film it's a perfectly constructed sixteen-minute real-time sequence that goes from a shocking assassination to a daring escape via every emotion you could hope for in a thriller. I'd throw in a clip here but you need to see it in context to truly appreciate it, so instead here are some shots which will mean even less but will hopefully persuade you to dig a copy out and watch it instead of wasting your time enjoying the sunshine or communicating with other human beings.
Bang! Dutch diplomat Van Meer is shot right in the fizzog. Immediately we're confused, shocked and generally boggled.
Who shot him? Why? Surely some kind of chase is in order?
And sure enough, here it is. An innocent cyclist gets a
stray bullet, there's some fancy footwork amongst the trams
and then it's off on a terrific car chase. I'm so excited!
There's always time for LOLs; while chasing the assassin at high speed, upper class twit Scott ffolliott (the incomparable George Sanders) explains the history of his ridiculous surname to our hero Johnny Jones (the decidedly comparable Joel McCrea).
Johnny stumbles upon the bad guys' hideout after
noticing the windmill's sails turning in the wrong direction.
Good detective work, Jonesy!
Sneaking about inside the beautifully lit windmill,
Johnny keeps our fingernails to a bare minimum as we cack
ourselves waiting for the baddies to spot him.
What's this? Some crucial plot exposition delivered by the guy who had his chops blown off ten minutes ago! THIS IS AMAZING!
Johnny risks discovery and mangling of the limbs as his mac gets caught in the windmill's cogs, then executes a daring escape along the outside. The audience books a collective blood pressure check.
At this point there's still over an hour left, and you're not quite sure if your heart can take it. As it happens it doesn't get that good again until a tremendous plane crash at the end, but there's more suspense in those sixteen minutes than in almost any other film, like, ever.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock, not for the first (or last) time, The Incredible Suit salutes you.
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