Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Incredible Suit's Hitchcockathon: Foreign Correspondent

Watching an Alfred Hitchcock film in the middle of the worst year for films, like, ever is like sleeping in your own bed after spending the last six months trying to catch forty winks on top of Nelson's Column while pigeons poo in your ears.

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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  1. Have you covered Saboteur yet? It's my favourite Hitchcock in a "I'm to cool to say something obvious like North by North West or The Birds" sort of way.

  2. Naturally it's somewhat of a cliche, but I bloody love Hitchcock. I've seen many of his films, many, many times.

  3. William, I like Saboteur but I don't love it so it's not part of my Hitchcockathon. Good cliche avoidance though. My favourite is Topaz, it beats the shit out of Vertigo.

    Jo, it's no cliche to love Hitch. It's the sign of a superior intellect, dazzling good looks and amazing sexual prowess.

  4. In a similar way to never being a fan of the Beatles, I am not a fan of Hitchcock. That is to say, I have only ever had perchance to watch one of his films, and not sought out to watch any others (conversely, I just think the Beatles are rubbish). In this way, I feel I can avoid the obvious Hitchcockiness that so many reviewers see fit to include in any 'Thriller' or 'Suspense' movie analysis. Thus watching such movies I can avoid any tarnishing of the big Cock's name and concentrate on the film without worrying about how his Cockness has been ripped off.

  5. Phil, you have chosen an interesting way of life and I respect you for it, but I feel so sorry for your empty soul.

    Also The Beatles are overrated.

  6. Not to worry, I fill my soul with drugs and ever-so-slightly legal girls.

  7. North by Northwest, Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window & To Catch a Thief are all brilliantly directed by the greatest film maker born in the UK.

    He took great pleasure in pulling off amazing shots in the days when everything had to be in camera. Rope was a film that seemed to be one take. Travelling Matte, glass shots, under or over cranking and double exposures were the camera tricks and bits of scenery that moved were used too.

    The word genius should be used sparingly. Hitchcock was a genius.

  8. I agree. I just havent seen almost any of his films. One day, I will, but I have not lost any sleep over it. I am sure the day I perform my own 'cockathon, I shall be enlightened. That day may come sooner, or later.

  9. Wow, those piccies musta taken ages to grab!

  10. Carol, you have no idea. Unless you were there...?

  11. I am pretty sure my aunt bought the painting of the woman with the viola from the Philadelphia mansion in Saboteur. (I don't think that's a famous painting that would be copied, although I am open to enlightenment.) My cousin has the painting now.