Alfred Hitchcock’s Last Ride: FAMILY PLOT (Universal 1976)


cracked rear viewer

Critics in 1976 were divided over Alfred Hitchcock’s FAMILY PLOT, which turned out to be his final film. Some gave it faint praise, in an “it’s okay” kinda way; others decried it as too old-fashioned, saying the Master of Suspense had lost his touch – and was out of touch far as contemporary filmmaking goes. Having recently viewed the film for the first time, I’m blessed with the gift of hindsight, and can tell you it’s more than “okay”. FAMILY PLOT is a return to form, and while it may not be Top Shelf Hitchcock, it certainly holds up better than efforts made that same year by Hitch’s contemporaries George Cukor (THE BLUE BIRD), Elia Kazan (THE LAST TYCOON), and Vincente Minnelli (A MATTER OF TIME).

Hitchcock reunited with screenwriter Ernest Lehman (NORTH BY NORTHWEST) to concoct a devilishly clever black comedy about phony psychic Blanche Tyler who, along with…

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6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1960s


Sonny and Cher walk down the 1968 Oscars Red Carpet

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1960s.

Psycho (1960, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

The director was nominated.  Janet Leigh was nominated.  Amazingly enough, Anthony Perkins was not nominated for playing the role that would come to define him.  And, in the end, the film itself was not nominated for best picture.  Perhaps it was too sordid for the Academy.  Perhaps they resented no longer feeling safe in the shower.  Regardless, Psycho has gone on to influence every horror thriller made since 1960.  And let’s not even talk about how much we all cried while watching the finale of Bates Motel.

From Russia With Love (1963, dir by Terence Young)

The first great James Bond film should have also been the first Bond film to be nominated for best picture.  Actually, looking over the films that actually were nominated in 1963, From Russia With Love should have been the first Bond film to win best picture.

Blow-Up (1966, dir by Michelangelo Antonioni)

Mimes playing tennis and David Hemmings briefly breaking out of his shell of ennui to investigate a murder that has no solution!  How could the Academy resist?  Somehow, they did.  Michelangelo Antonioni received a nomination but the film was, at the time, considered to be too controversial to nominate.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1967, dir by Sergio Leone)

Though initial reviews were mixed, Sergio Leone’s Civil War epic has come to be recognized as one of the greatest and most important Westerns of all time.  Perhaps it’s understandable that the Academy of 1967 would be skeptical of an Italian western starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef.  Still, it would have been one of the coolest best picture nominees of all time.  (Shockingly, not even Ennio Morricone’s iconic score was nominated.)

Petulia (1968, dir by Richard Lester)

Though Richard Lester will probably always be best known as the man who directed the first two Beatles films, he also directed one of the definitive 60s films, Petulia.  Sadly, in a year when many lackluster films were nominated, the challenging and rather melancholy Petulia was not.

Night of the Living Dead (1968, dir by George Romero)

Again, we really can’t be shocked that the Academy held off an recognizing a low-budget, independent film about zombies  But come on!  A Night of the Living Dead vs. Petulia Oscar race would have bene one for the ages.

Up next, in an hour or so, the 1970s!

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Pictures: The 1950s


The Governor’s Ball, 1958

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1950s.

The Third Man (1950, dir by Carol Reed)

Now, it should be noted that The Third Man was not ignored by the Academy.  It won the Oscar for Best Cinematography and it was nominated for both editing and Carol Reed’s direction.  But, even with that in mind, it’s somewhat amazing to consider all of the nominations that it didn’t get.  The screenplay went unnominated.  So did the famous zither score.  No nominations for Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, or even Orson Welles!  And finally, no Best Picture nomination.  1950 was a good year for the movies so competition was tight but still, it’s hard to believe that the Academy found room to nominate King Solomon’s Mines but not The Third Man.

Rear Window (1954, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Alfred Hitchcock directed some of his best films in the 50s, though few of them really got the recognition that they deserved upon their initial release.  Vertigo is often described as being Hitchcock’s masterpiece but, to be honest, I actually prefer Rear Window.  This film finds the master of suspense at his most playful and, at the same time, at his most subversive.  Casting Jimmy Stewart as a voyeur was a brilliant decision.  This film features one of my favorite Grace Kelly performances.  Meanwhile, Raymond Burr is the perfect schlubby murderer.  Like The Third Man, Rear Window was not ignored by the academy.  Hitchcock was nominated and the film also picked up nods for its screenplay, cinematography, and sound design.  However, it was not nominated for best picture.

Rebel Without A Cause (1955, dir by Nicholas Ray)

Nicholas Ray’s classic film changed the way that teenagers were portrayed on film and it still remains influential today.  James Dean is still pretty much the standard to which most young, male actors are held.  Dean was not nominated for his performance here.  (He was, however, nominated for East of Eden that same year.)  Instead, nominations went to Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood, and the film’s screenplay.  Amazingly, in the same year that the forgettable Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing was nominated for best picture, this popular and influential film was not.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955, dir by Robert Aldrich)

It’s unfortunate but not surprising that Kiss Me Deadly was totally ignored by the Academy.  In the mid-to-late 50s, the Academy tended to embrace big productions.  There was no way they were going to nominate a satirical film noir that featured a psychotic hero and ended with the end of the world.  That’s a shame, of course, because Kiss Me Deadly has proven itself to be more memorable and influential than many of the films that were nominated in its place.

Touch of Evil (1958, dir by Orson Welles)

Speaking of underappreciated film noirs, Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil is one of the craftiest and most brilliant films ever made.  So, of course, no one appreciated it when it was originally released.  This cheerfully sordid film features Welles at his best.  Starting with a memorable (and oft-imitated) tracking shot, the film proceeds to take the audience into the darkest and most eccentric corners of a small border town.  Everyone in the cast, from the stars to the bit players, is memorably odd.  Even the much mocked casting of Charlton Heston as a Mexican pays off wonderfully in the end.

The 400 Blows (1959, dir by Francois Truffaut)

Francois Truffaut’s autobiographical directorial debut was released in the United States in 1959 and it was Oscar-eligible.  Unfortunately, it only picked up a screenplay nomination.  Of course, in the late 50s, the last thing that the Academy was going to embrace was a French art film from a leftist director.  However, The 400 Blows didn’t need a best picture nomination to inspire a generation of new filmmakers.

Up next, in an hour or so, we continue on to the 60s!

 

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1940s


Gary Cooper. Joan Fontaine, Mary Astor, and Donald Crisp at the 1942 Oscars.

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1940s.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Amazing, Alfred Hitchcock never won the Best Directing Oscar.  In fact, it was rare that his films were even nominated.  (Though Rebecca did win Best Picture, it could be argued that film’s style was as much to due to David O. Selznick as it was to Hitchcock.)  One of the best of Hitchcock’s unnominated films was Shadow of a Doubt.  With its dark sense of humor and wonderful performances from Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright, Shadow of a Doubt was Hitchcock at his best.  It was also, perhaps, a bit too darkly subversive for the Academy.

Detour (1945, dir by Edgar G. Ulmer)

The ultimate film noir nightmare, Detour was actually well-received when it was originally released, though it would take a while for the film to be recognized as a true classic.  Still, there was no way that the Academy was going to nominate a low-budget B-movie about a guy who hitchhikes across America and manages to accidentally kill two people.  Detour was far too nightmarish and surreal for the Academy but it’s remained one of the most influential films ever made.

Gilda (1946, dir by Charles Vidor)

Another classic film noir, Gilda is the film that, for many, will always define Rita Hayworth.  Through the film was a financial and critical success, it was ignored by the Academy.  The success of this film and the popularity of Hayworth’s performance led to the fourth atomic bomb to ever be detonated being named Gilda.  Rita Hayworth was reportedly not happy to hear it.

Black Narcissus (1947, dir by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)

One of the most visually stunning films ever made, Black Narcissus won Oscars for Best Cinematography and for Art Design but it received no other nominations, not even for the outstanding performances of Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron, as two nuns who have very different reactions to the Himalayas.

Out of the Past (1947, dir by Jacques Tourneur)

A world-weary private investigator (Robert Michum) is hired by a slick and psychotic gangster (Kirk Douglas) and ordered to track down the gangster’s girlfriend (Jane Greer).  So beings this rather melancholy and introspective film noir, one that is distinguished by wonderfully shadowy photography and which features one of Mitchum’s best performances.  Sadly, the Academy recognized neither the film nor Mitchum’s performance.

Portrait of Jennie (1948, dir by William Dieterle)

This haunting and dream-like fantasy stars Joseph Cotten as a painter who meets, paints, and falls in love with a mysterious woman (Jennifer Jones) who may not be what she seems.  The film was apparently not a huge success when it was first released but, seen today, it’s hard not to get swept up in the film’s romantic sadness.  Though it received a nomination for Best Cinematography, it was otherwise ignored by the Academy.

Up next, in about an hour or so, the 1950s!

Necktie Party: Alfred Hitchcock’s FRENZY (Universal 1972)


cracked rear viewer


Alfred Hitchcock’s  previous two films, TORN CURTAIN (1966) and TOPAZ (1969) weren’t well received by critics, who claimed The Master of Suspense was too old-fashioned and had lost his touch. One wag even suggested that, after fifty years in films, it was time to put Hitch out to pasture! But Hitchcock wasn’t quite ready for a life of tea and crumpets in the garden, and came back with 1972’s FRENZY, complete with all the blatant sex, nudity, gore, and profanity of other early 70’s auteurs, proving he could not only keep up with the times, but surpass them by giving us the blackest of horror comedies.

Hitchcock had returned to his native England before to make a few films, but always with actors who had box office appeal in America (Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten in UNDER CAPRICORN, Marlene Dietrich and Jane Wyman in STAGE FRIGHT). This time around, he…

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4 Shots From 4 Films About The London Fog: The Lodger, A Study In Terror, Murder by Decree


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, we celebrate the horrors of the London Fog!

4 Shots From 4 Films About The London Fog

The Lodger (1927, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

The Lodger (1944, dir by John Brahm)

A Study in Terror (1965, dir by James Hill)

Murder By Decree (1979, dir by Bob Clark)

Horror on the Lens: The Lodger (dir by Alfred Hitchcock)


A serial killer known as “The Avenger” is murdering blonde women in London (which, once again, proves that its better to be a redhead).  And while nobody knows the identity of the Avenger, they do know that the enigmatic stranger  (Ivor Novello), who has just recently rented a room at boarding house, happens to fit his description.  They also know that the lodger’s landlord’s daughter happens to be a blonde…

Released in 1927, the silent The Lodger was Alfred Hitchcock’s third film but, according to the director, this was the first true “Hitchcock film.”  Certainly it shows that even at the start of his career, Hitchcock’s famous obsessions were already present — the stranger accused of a crime, the blonde victims, and the link between sex and violence.

Also of note, the credited assistant director — Alma Reville — would become Alma Hitchcock shortly before The Lodger was released.