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July 14, 1972 - Image 2

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1972-07-14

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Page Two


Friday, July 14, 1972

Page Two THE MiCHIGAN DAILY Friday, July 14, 1972

FOREST cinema
FIRES BURN hitchcock bounces back...



Frenzy makes it

When a, director is as prolific
as Alfred Hitchcock, it's almost
inevitable that his batting aver-
age be somewhat uneven over
the years. And I guess it's just
as inevitable that some critics,
will always be there, ready to
predict an artist's decline after
one or two failures and just as
ready to proclaim the artist's
miraculous return to greatness
when he bounces back with a
worthwhile film. Hitchcock is no
stranger to fickle critics; George
Perry writes in The Films of
Alfred Hitchcock that as early as
1934 once-pessimistic critics call-
ed The Man Who Knew Too
Much the director's comeback.
Well, I'll confess my sin right
off ; after Marnie, Torn Curtain,
and most especially Topaz, I too
was ready to count the Master
of Suspense among the ranks of
the once-great, now cinematical-
ly senile directors (De Sica,
Ford, Capra). Not that every
critic shares my opinion of those
films. Robin Wood, in his book,
Hitchcock's Films, calls The
Bird and Marnie the culmination
and highest points of Hitch-
cock's career (as of 1964), and
even goes so far as to label
those two and the preceding
three films masterpieces.
All of which he attempts to
justify by painstakingly dissect-

ing each film in turn. The Birds
he sees as a profound and hu-
man tale about several isolated
and confused people who change
when attacked by the "concrete
embodiment of the arbitrary and
the unpredictable" - the birds.
Marnie he views with no less
respect; "This is of all his films
the one that most clearly formu-
lates his (Hitchcock's) moral po-
sition and most decisively, in a
positive form, embodies his pre-
occupation with sexual relation-
I wouldn't care to argue with
Wood's analysis of these films;
I once actually took the time to
watch The Birds with Wood's in-
terpretation in mind, and much
of what he says seems to me to
hold water.
What bothers me about Hitch-
cock's films of the 60's, though,
is not their lack of profoundity.
Their failure is a much more
basic and primary one; they just
do not succeed on the simple
level of entertainment.
Marnie to my mind is cheesy
and unconvincing. The amateur-
ish painted backgrounds and
cheap camerawork that Wood
describes as stylized is more
likely Hitchcock's means of deal-
ing with the worst major studio
around, Universal. Marnie her-
self might possibly be meant to
represent, "The quintessence of
neuroticism," as Wood says she
does (I rather doubt it); for me,
she's simply a bore.
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Give me Hitchcock's less am-
bitious, infinitely more exciting
and successful films, films like
North by Northwest, The Thirty-
Nine Steps, and The Lady Van-
ishes, anyday. Granted they are
not particularly profound. What
they do have is all sorts of tech-
nical excellence, a consistently
interesting world view, and all
sorts of interesting bits of shtick.
Mark van Doren, writing in 1937,
accurately described Hitchcock's
British films as "nothing but de-
tail, and all of it good." But
most importantly, those films
were fascinating and refreshing,
a hell of a lot of fun to watch-
something his films of the sixties
were not.
And something Frenzy defi-
nitely is. In fact, several critics
have compared Hitchcock's latest
to those earlier British films.
They do seem to have some
things in common. All the tech-
nical excellencies H i t c h c o c k
seemed incapable of during the
60's, for example - a witty,
script, fine camerawork, a uni-
formly convincing cast, careful
weekend with your T.V., look
on Page 8 for The Daily's in-
stant review of all the weekend
Then too, both The Thirty-Nine
Steps and Frenzy incorporate a
somewhat similar Hitchcock for-
mula; circumstantial evidence
incriminates a perfectly inocent
man, who must then fight time,
the police, and the real criminal
as he tries to bring the villain
to justice. This formula has in-
herent in it certain important
elements of the director's unique
world view, elements that be-
come more distinct as Hitch-
cock's career progresses. Whet-
ther in The Thirty-Nine Steps,
North by Northwest, Psycho, or
The Birds, Hitchcock's universe
is a precarious, unordered,
amoral, almost perverse one. In
The Thirty-Nine Steps, a man
harbors a frightened woman
only to become incriminated
when she is murdered.
In Psycho, Marion Crane fin-
ally decides to return the money
she -has stolen . . . and then
decides to take a shower. As
Wood points out, Hitchcock has
the birds tin the movie of the
same name) attack school chil-
dren to show just how senseless
this violent force is. And now, in
Frenzy, Richard Blaney (Jon
Finch), on the basis of purely
circumstantial evidence, is jailed
as an insane sex murderer.
Not only in this once respect
does Frenzy reflect Hitchcock's
vision of an amoral universe.
Blaney in the past has suffered

for no seeming reason. Having
fought valiantly for his country,
he returns to England, marries,
and opens a roadhouse-only to
be divorced and broke, working
as a bartender a decade later.
And Blaney is not the sole re-
ceiver of the rough blows Fate
deals. Brenda Blaney, a seem-
ingly generous, considerate wo-
man, is raped and murdered.
And perhaps most ironically of
all, Blaney's barmaid-girlfriend,
Babs, winningly played by Anna
Massey, swears to her boyfriend
not to tell anyone his where-
abouts, "Cross me 'eart and
'ope to die." Hitchcock has Ro-
bert Rusk (Barry Foster, fruit
merchandiser, friend to Blaney,
and sex murderer, ask Babs as
to Blaney's whereabouts. Babs
refuses to tell . . . then walks
away with Rusk to her death.
All very much in keeping with
the world view expressed in
Hitchcock's earlier work. Yet
there is something very distinct-
ly 1972 about Frenzy. For one
thing, it is an important part of
Hitchcock's technique that he be
always one step ahead of his
audience, and, as we become
familiar with Hitch's old tricks,
it is obviously necessary that he
move on to new ones. The first
half hour of Frenzy, for in-
stance, is pretty much one big
red herring, much more like
Suspicion and The Lodger than
Thirty-Nine Steps.
We are constantly made to
suspect that it is Blaney who is
the real murderer, yet, while we
are being led on, we constantly
think it is we who are outwit-
ting Hitchcock, and not vice
versa. Take the scene in which
Blaney nurses a drink in the
background while two gentlemen
discuss the sex murders current-
ly occurring at the bar, in the
Very ironic, I thought, while
watching this; two men discuss
a crime while, unknown to them,
the criminal is directly behind
them. Yet Hitchcock, of course,
is playing games with us; sev-
eral minutes later, Blaney is
revealed to be the innocent hero,
wrongly accused of his wife's
Part of Hitchcock's strategy in
keeping one step ahead of us is
his expectation that his audi-
ence will, after having seen his
recent bombs, distrust his taste
and his movie-making ability.
The very funny scene in the po-
tato truck, for example, Rusk
fights with a corpse for his tie
clip, clutched in a rigor mortis
frozen fist. Black comedy for
sure, but exceptionally tastefully
done. Then, after vainly trying
to unclench that fist, Rusk pulls
out his pocket knife.
See WHO, Page 9

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