The Lady Vanishes (1938)


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Sidney Gilliat based on the short story by Ethel Lina White
(number 277)

An early Hitchcock. I think the only one I’ve seen of his which was earlier was the 30 Steps. If I have indeed seen that one, which I don’t actually recall if I have or not. Anyway, it’s got all the hallmarks of a great Hitchcock – trains, weird disappearances, ordinary people and a good sticky mystery.

The film is beautifully made, just like all of Hitchcock’s work, it’s slick, the people are stylish and the lighting is totally perfect all through. There’s some great sound design and it’s just a very entertaining and exciting film. I can’t even think of too much to say about it because I enjoyed it so much. (Also I don’t want to give away the plot at all.)

I wonder if Iris’s two friends Blanche and Julia are gay? I mean, one of them was wearing a fantastic pant suit and we assume they’re rooming together. They’re both begging Iris not to go through with the wedding too.. Well, headcanon says yes.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. Iris is completely adorable and Gilbert is a kind of charming cad. Sort of Flynn Ryder-ish and somewhat sweet really. I love Miss Froy as well, she’s a brilliant character and she’s someone you genuinely worry about when she’s gone.

Bechdel test: Iris talks to both her girlfriends Blanche and Julie about food, champagne and her wedding plans. Then she speaks at length to Miss Froy about the noise, about Miss Froy’s bag, and tea, and whether or not Iris is all right after being hit in the head. Lots of passes! It happens when the lead character is a woman.

Best line:

Charters: sir, would you happen to know what time the train leaves Bale for England?
Stranger: – speaks in another language –
Charters: oh, really? – tuns to his friend – the fella doesn’t speak English.

Iris: well I may be very dense, but if this is some kind of joke, I don’t see the point.

State of Mind: What an awesome trip that was. I loved it and recommend it to anyone interested in a good mystery or a romp. The characters are brilliant and the fashion is gorgeous. Will definitely be watching it again – maybe to spot more clues and see if I missed anything in particular. Great film, go watch. Hitchcock cameo is very near the end, and he looks weirdly young with dark hair.

Watched movie count

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Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Robert E. Sherwood Joan Harrison and based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier
(number 326)

I had wondered if I’d watched this movie previously. In my mid-twenties I tried to get through as many Hitchcock films as possible, hiring them for free from the library I worked out. But I mustn’t have got to this one as it’s all totally new. A delightful Gothic horror of a romance starring one of Hitchcock’s blondes which if this movie was remade now I think Taylor Swift would be the best match for.

I feel like I could count the number of Laurence Olivier films I’ve seen on one hand and wouldn’t even need to use my thumb. And I think the others are off this list! He is very dashing in the 30s – 40s way.

This is a gripping story, it makes me want to read the book. It’s a lush Gothic mystery and very much put me in the mind of Beauty and the Beast with Belle in the enchanted castle, and also Bluebeard’s Bride for the ghost of the women who came before. I haven’t played the game of Bluebeard’s Bride but from what Anna told me the servants were out to get the bride in a similar way to this movie.

It really is compelling – spooky, mysterious and at times very funny.

Does it make me love the people? You do feel for Mrs de Winter, isolated as a fish out of water in a strange land. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t go for the breakfast buffet though. I’d never pass up a breakfast buffet. But seriously, you really feel for her while all the madness happens around her. Mrs Danvers in particular…

Bechdel test: I thought it did straight away but it’s tricksy. Joan Fontaine’s character is not named until she marries Maxim de Winter, and then she becomes Mrs de Winter. She talks to Edith and Mrs Danvers. I’d say it’s a pass as the naming is deliberate to serve the story and the obsession everyone has with Rebecca. (It’s also in the novel, she’s got no christian name.) She also talks to Beatrice on several occasions.

Best line:
Maxim: I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.

Beatrice: Oh, but you can’t go by me. I can tell by your clothes you don’t give a hoot how you look.

Maxim (king of emo): Happiness is something I know nothing about.

State of Mind: Blown away. It was a long movie but it didn’t feel it, so many twists and turns and characters who were compelling and played to perfection by classic actors. Loved it and will definitely watch it again, and am now planning to read the book even. In fact I keep thinking about it, and I’ve also been having a nightmare or two about wandering through a fancy and empty house all alone. I really want to watch it again with Anna.

Watched movie count

The Birds (1963)

The Birds
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Evan Hunter based on the short story by Daphne du Maurier
(number 350)

I first watched this some time in the early to mid 2000s when I was trying to watch as many Hitchcock films as possible. I’d say it’s in my top 5 of Hitchcocks, but definitely not my favourite. Anna had never seen it before and watched while writing school reports.

It’s a strange, slow burning film. Scenes of weird unexplained bird terror interspersed with quiet introspective relationship scenes. I have the colourised version on DVD and I love the lushness of the greens, especially the ones that Tippi Hedren’s Melanie wears.

Hitchcock’s treatment of Tippi Hedren in this film was famously awful. One has to imagine that the birds acting in this film were also poorly treated, and those things do make the film harder to watch.

It seems almost like blasphemy but watching this I did keep being reminded of the hilariously awful Birdemic: shock and terror – amazing that the film made so much later and with computer special effects is so much less convincing. Well, even with inflation I’m sure Hithcock had more funding. I think one of the strengths of The Birds is in never explaining why the birds are coming after people – it’s speculated about by the ornthilogist but generally everyone is asking ‘why’ more than anything else. It creates a strange, nightmareish mood which I enjoy in a film. Birdemic by contrast is ham fisted with its explanations for why the birds are attacking.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely – Melanie more than anyone, but you definitely feel for Lydia with her emotional hangups and Annie, the lonely possibly gay school teacher. Generally the people in this movie aren’t good or bad, just ordinary people dealing with a strange situation. The characterisations of minor parts is subtle and believable.

Cathy and Melanies quick friendship is also believable. Seeing how cold and formal Lydia is, even self centred, you an imagine that meeting a woman who is kind, open with her emotions, fun loving and stylish would be appealing to an eleven year old.

Bechdel test: Passes all over the place. First up Melanie talks to the pet shop clerk called Mrs Macgruder. Cathy talks to Melanie about the love birds, about her party. Melanie talks to Annie and Lydia several times, and only about half the time about Mitch or other men. It’s lovely – of the main four characters only one of them is a man, then the main secondary character is Annie. Good times.

I really like Mrs Bundy the ornithologist as well. She knows a lot about birds.

Best line:

Melanie Daniels: On Mondays and Wednesdays I work for the Travelers Aid at the airport.
Mitch Brenner: Helping travelers?
Melanie Daniels: No, misdirecting them.

Mother in Diner: [to Melanie] Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? They said when you got here the whole thing started. Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from? I think you’re the cause of all of this. I think you’re evil. EVIL!

State of Mind: Still awesome. Anna was particularly pleased with how everything is so clearly explained and wrapped up in the end… no seriously, she enjoyed it well enough. She laughed at the jokes and was generally disturbed by the enthusiasm the birds show in attacking. She agreed with the crazy lady in the diner that it all did seem to be Melanie’s fault.

Watched movie count