Sunday, October 25, 2015

HItchcock Homage

I'm accustomed to seeing filmmakers pay onscreen tribute to Hitchcock. Brian DePalma's Dressed to Kill and Mel Brooks' High Anxiety are the most obvious examples. What I saw last night was that The Master also, on occasion, paid tribute to his peers.

In a special Saturday night Halloween Meetup, my movie group watched The Seventh Victim. I'd never heard of the 1943 movie before and was expecting a low budget "Creature Feature" kinda flick. I was surprised by how sophisticated it was. First of all, it wasn't about the supernatural or the undead. It was about a devil worshiping cult that operated in broad daylight in Manhattan. (Very Rosemary's Baby.) And it was really well made. It had it's campy elements to be sure (the leading man was Hugh Beaumont, aka Ward Cleaver, and all the sets were cheap and on the soundstage), but producer Val Lewton clearly had respect for the medium and his audience as he built suspense.

And as I was really getting into it, I was shocked by this scene. Not only because of the content -- one of the evildoers breaks into the heroine's apartment and confronts her when she's most vulnerable -- but because I've seen it dozens of times before.

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock knew Val Lewton in the 1940s when they were both under contract to David O. Selznick. They frequently dined together, talking shop. Obviously Hitch admired what his fellow laborer in the cinematic salt mines did, even without the budgets studios regularly afforded Hitchcock. Since I consider Psycho a nearly perfect film, I was fascinated to see this.

Just getting to the movie was filled with drama. First my el train was delayed at the second stop as cops boarded each car and eyeballed each of us passengers. Usually I appreciate the blue presence on the el because I believe it can be preemptive. But last night, the police were clearly looking for a very specific, and most likely not very nice, someone, and it was a sobering reminder that city living is not inherently safe. Secondly, it was making me late for the movie.

Then the train was halted altogether because of track construction. We were reassured that free shuttle buses would get us to our destinations. I was already running late! So while I toyed with just saying "fuck it" and heading home, I chose to spend the $10 for a cab and I made it barely in time.

I'm glad I chose to go. I learned something about a talented filmmaker, and it's always good to talk to people who don't know me from work. Really. Every now and again it washes over me how few civilians* I know anymore.

*People not at all involved in advertising


1 comment:

  1. Boy, do I get what you're saying about spending time and conversing with civilians. Most of my friends are teachers. We spend a lot of time commiserating.