Alfred Hitchcock: Movie Review Of Hitchcock (2012), Spellbound By Beauty In Life and Films

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Suspense and Humor

Hitchcock (2012) is an entertaining film and could be more rightly titled by the famous producer-director's nickname Hitch, because it seems an engaging parody, rather than a bio-pic. Several sources bill the film as a love story between Alfred Hitchock and his wife, Alma Reville, during the late 1950s and the making of Psycho. Helen Mirren as Mrs. Hitchock is completely droll and fun to watch. Anthony Hopkins is fun to watch as well, but is funnier than he may have intended to be. Regardless, the film has caused me to recall that our local MyTV station is rerunning Alfred Hitchcock Presents and I'll be sure to watch it late at night.

Alfred Hitchcock on location in 1975, directing "Family Plot."
Alfred Hitchcock on location in 1975, directing "Family Plot." | Source
4 stars for Hitchcock (2012)

According to his biographers, the master of horror and mystery, Alfred Hitchcock, rarely spoke about any of the beautiful legendary actresses that he chose and directed on film. They comprise a Hall Of Fame all their own, but his few remarks on them were either indifferent or entirely hostile.One wonders about hsi treatment of actresse during the filming of his classics and whether it was staged to evoke specific emotional respoinses from the women on screen

Hitchcock's strange relationships with his lead actresses is nowhere more pervasive than in the bio-film Hitchcock (2012), starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johannson. The screams of Janet Leigh in Psycho, portrayed by Johannson were vividly real, provoked by Alfred Hitchcock with sudden unannounced behavior during the iconic shower scene that scared the actress to the bone. The knife he weilded at her could have cut through the bone, as scene in film trailers of Hitchcock.

While the film is based on a different book, author Donald Spoto biographied Alfred Hitchcock and his odd dealings with actresses, along with his parents' odd dealings with him as a child in a trilogy that ended with the profound number: Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto Crown Archetype; 2008:352 Pages. This last book was held back until all of the persons in the book that might have been harmed by its contents werre deceased.

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Jail cell.
Jail cell. | Source

Spoto tells us that as a boy, Alfred was made to stand at the foot of his invalid mother's bed every evening and report the events of his day. This was a sort of inquisition and could not have been a happy repeating event. In one particularly odd occurrence, young Alfred's father had him locked into a jail cell for a day by local law enforcement as an object lesson, although the boy had done no wrong. This cannot have contributed to the good mental health of the boy. However, all of these events might have contributed to his methods of film direction.

One scene from the Spoto book stays with me -- During filming of The Birds, attacking birds were attached to the actress Tippi Hendren by elastic bands so that they could not get away from her, nor her from them. This treatment of animals would not be allowed under today's laws.

Many such instances of odd - though sometimes brilliant in screen results - treatment of actresses are listed in Donald Spoto's book. However, the foundation of the film is in Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello. Both books would be excellent to read before or after seeing the film.

Spoto writes that Hitchcock prepared his female stars in off beat ways. He had received advice of "experts" who called for the toture of actresses as necessary to obtain good screen results. He did, indeed, torture his actresses and today, such efforts would lead to allegations of sexual harrassment and abuse.

It is difficult to know to what extent childhood experiences with his parents influenced Hitchock's filmmaking methods. However, a bit of insight into some childrearing practices in the UK is given by reading comedian and talk show host Craig Ferguson's autobiography American On Purpose. Raised in Scotland, he was regularly beaten at school with a leather belt in Kindergarten, located next to the factory that made the belts. Some of acting's best performers have had the most horrid experiences.

Best Features

Helen Mirren in likely the best part of Hitchcock. I knew little ot the great director's wife until have een this film and am sorry to have been to long in the discovery of her. Mirren is admirable as Alma Reville and hilarious, She also has scenes of anger well played and may be the most realistic performer in the cast.

Anthony Hopkins is humorous and frightening by turns as Hitchcock and that is likely how Sir Alfred behaved in daily life. The fat suit Hopkins wears seem too fat, though, and the voice not quite right all the time - Thus, the parody-like nature of the film. Yet the film contains inights. Hallucinations of speaking with multiple murderer Ed Gein (on whom the Robert Bloch "Psycho" books were formed) are insightful a well as entertaining.

Scarlett Johannson is a good pick for Janet Leigh. In late night television talk show interviews after the film's release, she both looked and sounded like the elegant female stars of the 1950s and 1960s.

One reviewer on Rottentomatoes.com thought at first that the director of Hitchcock (2012) was Sacha Baron Cohen, rather than Sacha Gervasi, and I find that very funny. The film contains wit and humor, but nothing as slapstick as Borat.

I give the movie four stars altogether as a rating. I'd see it again and probably will.

All the Psychos

  • Psycho (1960) - Stars Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins.
  • Psycho II (1983) - Sequel. Stars Anthony Perkin, Vera Miles, and Meg Tilly.
  • Psycho III (1986) - Sequel. Stars Anthiony Perkin (who also directed), Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey, Donna Mitchell, and Roberta Maxwell.
  • Bates Motel (1987) - Unsuccessful TV pilot. Stars Bud Cort, Kurt Paul, and Lori Petty.
  • Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) - A made-for-cable-TV horror film. Stars Anthony Perkin, Henry thomas, and Olivia Hussey.
  • Psycho (1998) - remake of the 1960 classic by Gus Van Sant, starring Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn.
  • Bates Motel (2013) - TV series on A & E. Stars Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highnore. See http://www.aetv.com/bates-motel/about/

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Comments 4 comments

Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 3 years ago

I wanted to see this movie, since I love almost everything that Alfred Hitchcock made. I watch "Hitchcock Presents" all the time. I was very excited when I found out they were making a movie about this amazingly talented individual!

Thank you for the review, I can't wait to see it now!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

I think you will like this movie very much. It has some intense scenes, but some really good humor and I laughed out loud more than once!


joanwz profile image

joanwz 3 years ago from Katy, Texas

I love Hitchcock films. For these suspense films, it's not what you see that's so scary it's what you DON'T see that scares the bleep out of you. I think they are are way more scary than the horror movies that throw all the blood and gore in your face.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

I agfree, joanwz and think that is what Hitchcock intended as well. North by Northwest is probably my favorite, followed by Psycho and Rear Window.

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