Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 12 June 11, 1968
In And out they go; one weekers with scarcely the time to review them, let alone redress. Past week has included a new and greater Uncle film. In fact it isn't as good as two earlier ones that come readily to mind, but it does have its consolations. Not least is Lola Albright, at 33 still one of America's great neglected actresses. Not that she loses an opportunity when thrown her way. Winner of the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1966 for Lord Love a Duck, she was also the Star of Alexander Singer's A Cold Wind in August, alas a masterpiece that didn't get beyond Walter Street. Lola (breaking union rules?) was in Peyton Place for a while recently (New Zealand time), and filled out some of the better footage of The Way West. Also crossing swords with Messrs. Solo and Kuryakin was Bradford Dillman (Compulsion) and, looking as though she will replace Julie Haris, Carol Lynley (Blue Jeans). Apart from this, routine stuff.
If you missed the revival of Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry (1955) you should not be forgiven. One of Hitchcock's least successful films at the box-office (which is saying a lot), it is also one of his directorial chef d'oeuvres. Seemingly ignored by most, we have it on reasonable authority that it is Hitchcock's favourite film. And well he might. Extremely austere in his films, this is Hitchcock's only comedie noir, a welcome relief to those disillusioned by his more recent films.
The trouble with Harry is that he is unwanted but inescapable. Everyone is caught up in Harry's larger-than-life presence. They bury him, exhume him, several times . . . they undress him, clean him, and put him in freshly pressed pants. They even trip over him. It's the funniest thing since Aunt Nell's skeleton. Predictable, sure, but the plot becomes so intricate and delicate that even a heart condition couldnt break it up. The only typical Hitcheockian theme is that of ordinary folks being caught up in a web they cannot fully comprehend. But their attitude becomes strictly ruthless and comically irreverent.
Edmund Cwenn (an old-timer who died in 1959) thinks he shot Harry, and falls in love with Mildred Natwick who has equal reasons for supposing she did it. John Forsythe didn't do it, but he'd do anything to fall in love with Shirley MacLaine (making, among other things, her screen debut). And he does. Harry's corpse thus brings happiness to all (we are invited to believe, but of course we dop't). This is, after all, part of Hitchcock's genius and his yen for bringing murder into the living-room where as he insists, it always was.
Paramount are to be congratulated on re-releasing a film with which they were never happy. Today, perhaps, we do not feel so uncomfortable about death. Anyhow; black humour is now a staple feature of many films. It never pays to underestimate Hitchcock; no one has yet learned the lesson of the scene in Torn Curtain where Paul Newman demonstrated the gruesome reality of killing.
Let us hope that Paramount will also re-release their other Hitchcock films—To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, and Vertigo—at the earliest opportunity. The rest will be up to you, dear readers.
However, in this particular instance we are equally among the autumnal yellows of New England. Harry's feet frame several shots, and we are delightedly welcome to drop in on some perverse and witty dialogue. For this we thank John Michael Hayes (To Catch a Thief). As for the beautiful colour photography, we thank Robert Burks, who has collaborated with Hitchcock on all his films since 1951 (Strangers on a Train) surely something of a record in the business.
Harry also marks the beginning of Hitchcock's fruitful relationship with Bernard Herrmann, whose psychological music has been used to good effect in Psycho and The Birds, and latterly in the films of Hitchcock's French devotees, Francois Truffaut (Fahrenheit 451) and Claude Chabrol's yet-to-be-seen Champagne Murders.
Hammer's 50 —
Hammer of England have been churning out Technicolor horrors since Terence Fisher's re-discovery of Dracula and Frankenstein. Lately:, past the 100 film mark, Hammer have gone "prestige". No longer those double bills with the same sets and faces—although, to give them their due, they did make some real beauts (The Damned, The Nanny)—and instead we have high quality productions like One Million Years BC. The most recent have both suffered from the affliction of name-changes. The Devil's Own was The Witches, and Joan Fontaine, more than ably supported by Kaye Walsh, comes off beautifully in her first film for some time. The theme is witchcraft and Cyril Frankel slowly builds up the drama to its climatic ending, even though the virginal sacrifice is averted at the last minute. Great stuff, Equally so is Five Million Years to Earth (originally Quatermass and the Pit), a very well produced yarn about strange happenings down a subway under construction. Good, even horrifying effects, although the dialogue often doesn't match the visual quality. Queen of horror, Barbara Shelley, is on hand for her stint when the bottled-up Martians (that's where the new title comes in) get hold of her. Plausibly directed by Roy Ward Baker whose hew Bette Davis movie, The Anniversary, will be here soon.
Fitzwilly is Dick van Dyke whom the kids didn't like. A matinee fizzle that will only ensure that kids will not go to films that mum wants them to. Delbert Mann's flair for comedy eludes him here except for the final scene when a department store is reduced to ruins on Christmas eve by the offer of free colour TV with every purchase.