[Inspired by post Alfred Hitchcock: Man or Beast on the secret keeper 11/10/12]
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most famous directors in movie history. The Girl, a cable movie, elaborates on Hitch’s unrequited lust for Tippi Hedren, who portrayed Melanie Daniels in The Birds and the title character in Marnie. Tippi Hedren vehemently rejected Hitchcock’s not subtle advances. Tippi’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, reportedly, received the fall-out of Hitchcock’s cruelty. When she was a young girl, a doll of her mother was sent to her. Her mother was presented as a corpse, lying in a coffin. Hitch’s nature never appeared in similar outrages in the film Hitchcock. Watching this film, appealed to my feelings to reevaluate my opinion of Alfred Hitchcock.
Hitchcock, the film concentrates more on Hitch’s marriage to his former boss, a screenwriter and editor, Alma Reville. The film presents Alma [Helen Mirren] as the major influence of his life, professional and personal. She guides him as a decision maker, inspiration, and best friend. She helps him decide what film choices he should consider. When the book Psycho comes along, she suggests another script he should look at from a friend of theirs. Hitch already has his eyes on the book his secretary, Peggy [Toni Collette], brings to him, even though she feels it’s disgusting.
Hitchcock [Anthony Hopkins], has a list of films remembered today with a sense of familiarity. The list includes such greats as Rebecca, Notorious, Spellbound, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rope, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, and his greatest popular success at that time North by Northwest (1959).
It seems the critics, at the time, felt when North by Northwest was released, Hitch was getting too old and should retire. He was only 60. Who loses the ability to create at that age? Hitch wasn’t about to take these remarks and surrender by giving up. They made him want to fight and feel more determined to prove all his critics wrong. A force was alight in his soul and heart. Hitch was about to find the best story yet. He would prove to the critics and to himself, he still had the “fire in his belly.” His obsession began to grow for Robert Bloch’s book Psycho based on the life of the Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein.
Everyone tried to talk him out of using Psycho. It was too horrible. Not something anyone had ever seen in a film up to that period of time. The shower scene itself was enough to disturb the censors. But first he must get it past the studio heads at Paramount. Alma’s suggestion of their friend’s story brought out the vitriol in Hitch. He felt it had no life in it. Rejected the thought of it outright. Since Hitch was determined to make the film Psycho, Alma joined in on the decision making. First she tells Hitch to kill off the main character in the first 30 minutes of the film. It would be shocking. A major actress playing the main character dead by the end of the first act. It would be seen as totally outrageous. No one would expect it. No one does that.
What Hitch has in mind to change for the film from the book is macabre but it seems perfect. No one agrees. His agent is against the idea. Paramount absolutely refuses to let Hitch make the film, even though the studio earned a fortune off of Hitchcock films in the past. Alma hates the idea of Psycho. It is too disturbing and gory. Hitch has to come up with a plan, convince Alma to see what he sees in the story, and sell the idea of using their home to finance the film. Alma does eventually see her husband needs to do this film. Their home and pool is beautiful and would be a major sacrifice but eventually Alma agrees, it is their only alternative.
I came to the film Hitchcock with no pre-expectations of what it would be. Seeing the relationship between Hitch and Alma was fascinating. All along I saw Hitchcock as the creator of his films, never considering the major influence in his life was his wife. Her decisions are absolutely paramount to the success of Hitchcock’s films. She started out being his boss when they met. He needed to become an assistant director before he would even ask her out. Alma is a very strong character and equal in her ability to work on the same level as Hitch himself.
Now that the financing is covered, Hitch and his agent meet with the studio head of Paramount. At first, he still refuses to give Hitch the go ahead to use Paramount. Hitch’s agent talks a deal and eventually they hit on a final agreement, 60%, just want Paramount to distribute. Deal.
WARNING MAY BE DISTURBING & MAY HAVE SPOILERS
There is a story going on around what Hitch is doing with the making of Psycho, which is becoming an extreme distraction to Hitch. Alma is helping their friend rework his screenplay at a beach house. She spends long hours with Whit [Danny Huston]. This drives Hitch crazy when he makes this discovery. He has no idea what is going on. He suspects Alma is having an affair with Whit and feels betrayed. Eventually, it causes him so much stress and combined with overwork, Hitch collapses on the set. Alma needs to step in. The studio head at Paramount is circling like a vulture. Alma is stronger than anyone expects.
Her meetings with Whit come to an abrupt end. Reasons of which I will not go into, but Alma comes back home. Hitch finishes the filming of Psycho. It isn’t good. Hitch seems to have lost his touch. What happens next, it is important to watch Hitchcock to discover. I don’t like giving it away. Just like you wouldn’t want to know the ending of Psycho before you see the film. Just be assured the film Hitchcock makes has the scariest scene of any film ever made.
Hitchcock is a brilliant film. It may have taken away some of the bite out of what I felt toward Hitchcock after seeing The Girl, but it helped me to understand his predilection toward blonds. Having an obsession and a touch of perversion inside him, which I feel is true of Hitchcock. I see it as a psychological disturbance in his own psyche which he could not control. It does not excuse his behavior but it explains it.
Throughout the film Hitchcock he has the ghost of the serial killer Ed Gein guiding him through as he films the scenes in Psycho. Imagine having a serial killer influencing your creative thinking. An intriguing approach, but how much of this is made up or true, one may just have to speculate. It is a film worth seeing if you are a fan of Hitchcock and films. Also, if you enjoy a good behind the scenes, into the lives of real people who are creative and have given the world the gifts Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville have treated us to.
Don’t forget the film Psycho, which was born of this collaboration. About a boy named Norman Bates, who loves his mother so much he kills her, stuffs her and talks to his dead mother throughout the film, doing both voices. [Norman Bates played brilliantly in Psycho by Anthony Perkins and James D’Arcy, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Perkins plays Norman in Hitchcock] It, also, has the scariest killing scene ever. The killing of Marion Crane [Janet Leigh in Psycho and Scarlett Johansson in Hitchcock] in the shower scene, which kept everyone out of the shower following the viewing of this film. Janet Leigh, after viewing the scene, never took a shower again unless it was absolutely necessary. And let’s not forget the Bate’s Motel, the Infamous Mansion on the hill and those taxidermy animals and birds inside the Bate’s Motel office staring while Marion and Norman shared some sandwiches before she said goodnight.
I discovered from research that Hitchcock was denied permission to use any footage from Psycho or use the Infamous Bates Mansion. It still stands erect at Universal’s back lot. What seems disturbing is that the awful color remake was granted permission to do an exact replica of Psycho. Trust me, see the black and white Hitchcock version. The other is a waste of time and footage. It does not work.
I would like to believe we do get a real glimpse into Alfred Hitchcock, but I feel a great deal is hidden behind the façade of the silhouette of Hitch as he appears before each episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I have seen his extensive interview with Dick Cavett many times and found the interaction thoroughly enjoyable. Hitch was a hard one to capture in a truth or reveal. He slipped around the questions to give up only that which he chose to release.
Hitch’s relationship with his wife Alma was a pure case of voyeurism filled with joy to see they collaborated so well together. Alma had as equal a talent as Hitch did. It gave me an uplifting feeling Alma was finally given credit for her contribution to the success of Team Hitchcock. At last, it was being admitted to and revealed so openly.
Dame Helen Mirren as Alma Reville shows warmth and strength. The role is filled with intelligence and a depth of creativity that lifts women higher. Alma shows bursts of energy and vitality on the screen. Helen Mirren gives a brilliant performance.
Sir Anthony Hopkins appears as Alfred Hitchcock. Physically transformed. I see only Hitchcock coming from this superb actor playing a great role. Hopkins has me believing he is Hitchcock.