Alfred Hitchcock defined himself in 1934-1935. Although he was an established director with specialty in tense filmmaking, these years saw him go from being a director to the Alfred Hitchcock. In 1934 his original version of The Man Who Knew Too Much established one of Hitch’s main career touchstones: the innocent man swept up in a world of intrigue.

While a great film (though I prefer the remake, singing and all), The Man‘s formula got a tweak with 1935’s The 39 Steps. The tense spy drama was blended with just a bit of wry levity and a liberal dose of romantic meet-cute (where ‘cute’ means ‘handcuffed together’, I guess).

Murder! Mystery! Treachery! Romance! How many of Hitchcock’s classics would that describe? Probably not Psycho, but still quite a few of the others.

The 39 Steps
Monday, April 28th
at The Riverview Theater
7pm
Buy Tickets

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Hot Blood review by Trylon theater manager Nikki Weispfenning.

Our Nicholas Ray retrospective is almost over, and what have we seen? Lynching! Police brutality! Murder during wartime! Before we get back to the serious problems of the juvenile delinquents in Rebel Without A Cause (screening at the Heights on May 8), let us take a moment to enjoy the lighthearted respite provided by Hot Blood.

Initially titled No ReturnHot Blood was intended to be a study of the Gypsy subculture in New York City – a movie based in the realities of a marginalized ethnic groups with customs and rituals that were foreign to most Americans at the time. Nicholas Ray’s ex-wife Jean Evans was researching a book about the Gypsy community on the Lower East Side, and based upon her research, Ray (with the aid of a young screenwriter, Walter Newman) wrote a film treatment in 1951 – a serious drama with a dark ending.

The film that Nicholas Ray actually made in 1955 was far removed from his original concept. Instead of a gritty movie about a real ethnic minority, Hot Blood became a quasi-musical, replete with dancing, elaborate sets, and garish costumes. And although most people involved with the production have spoken disparagingly of Hot Blood, the movie is very charming. Jane Russell is radiant here –  a Hollywood star in top form, easily stealing scenes from the male leads. The dance numbers are dynamite! Color saturates the screen! Hot Blood is not the movie that Ray set out to make, but it is a lot of fun.

And if you don’t believe me, here is a quote from Francois Truffaut: “Ray gives us his cause for living with this intelligent, devil-may-care film, bursting with health and life.”

Nikki Weispfenning lives in South Minneapolis with a handsome cartoonist, two black cats she met in suburban Virginia, and a very large puppy. She enjoys trashy detective fiction, river roads late at night, and obsolete technology.

Hot Blood is screening Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 and 8:45. Purchase tickets here.

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Young and Innocent (1937), one of the more rarely seen films by Alfred Hitchcock, hits the screens at the Trylon this weekend. When a writer named Robert discovers a body on the beach and runs to get help, two women who see him fleeing naturally peg him for the murder with the police believing the false accusations. Young and Innocent is a classic case of guilty until proven innocent by individual tenacity, but it is also a story about the fine line between danger and passion. Robert escapes from the grasp of the police dragging the daughter of an inspector with him. The couple’s mutual suspicion seems to be masking a fiery attraction as their relationship slowly evolves. Young and Innocent is not to be missed with this rare chance to see it on 35mm and to see the groundwork for a master filmmaker. Check out the amazing crane shot in the clip below.

Young and Innocent plays Friday and Saturday at 7:00 and 8:45, Sunday at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:30. Advance tickets available (with no service fee!) at www.trylon.org

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The Sixth Annual Hitchcock Film Festival continues at the Heights Theater with a wonderful 35mm screening of Suspicion, regarded by some to be the master’s finest (and starring the intense Joan Fontaine, and a very strange Cary Grant.)

Suspicion review by Aaron Vehling.

Dear Aaron:

I’m getting married to this seemingly great guy in a couple weeks, but I’m not entirely sure he is who he claims to be. I haven’t met any of his family and he sometimes gives confusing and conflicting answers to simple questions about where he is, who he was with and what he was doing. I love him a lot, and let’s just say I’m not one of those people who has much luck in the dating world. So I figure this is my one shot at true happiness. I’m afraid to talk to him about it. I’m not sure what to do.

-My Lips Are Sealed

 

Lips,

Your question reminds me of someone who was in a similar situation, but she ended up marrying the guy and it all became a mess. To avoid the emotional turmoil that wealthy Briton Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) suffers in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1941 psychological thriller Suspicion, when she marries ne’erdowell Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant), here are some tips for you but also others who are similarly situated:

1. Don’t stay out of the dating pool for too long. It’s like going too long without caffeine or food. At some point you lose your ability and/or will to make informed decisions, and before you know it you’re at some shoddy gas station gulping down crusty, burnt coffee and inhaling radioactive hot dogs filled with starch-polymer “cheese product.” You didn’t even see the healthier, better-tasting options across the street or next door. Experiencing a decent number of people, even if goes nowhere, ensures you never have to feel like you have only “one shot.”

This is especially important if that one-shot man or woman serves up nothing but lies and maybe is just with you for your money.

2. No one is ever entirely who they say they are, especially when you first start dating. We all kick-start our marketing initiatives at first to keep things going, highlighting our positive traits — good looks, financial stability, reliability, encyclopedic knowledge of disparate facts and witticisms, perhaps — and burying the negative — little to no money, unemployment, gambling addictions and a thirst for blood. In most cases this stuff consists of little white lies, but every now and then you get a situation where it seems the day after the wedding that perhaps your spouse was full of it all along. You thought he was a rich, charming man from a good family and it turns out he has no money and gets by on a series of escalating lies and financial fraud schemes that are coming to a tipping point of jail time or worse. If only you had stayed away from the gas-station hot dogs.

3. Communication is key. You can save yourself sleepless nights and anxiety-induced stomach aches, and stave off long periods of awkward silent treatments, if you just tell your partner what’s on your mind. For example, if you were to ask your husband if he killed his friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce) while they were in Paris, perhaps he would tell you that he didn’t and it was all a misunderstanding. Perhaps that life insurance policy he took out on you, coupled with your knowledge of his felonious tendencies, won’t induce him to kill you, too. But you will never know what the truth is if you sit silently like a 1940s British aristocrat, aghast when you find out he has been asking your murder-mystery author neighbor about undetectable poisons. I mean, maybe all of this is just some curiosity he has. Maybe he just like’s murder mysteries?

3b. A corollary of this is the big “money talk.” Before signing that marriage license, make sure that your future spouse doesn’t have a history of embezzlement, gambling and other forms of financial tomfoolery stuffed underneath his tool chest of charms. Suss out if he is one of those types who trades on his good looks and artificially created status to further along a seemingly preternatural ability to be involved in a series of escalating situations that will culminate in something horrible happening, like death (maybe yours).

To learn all of tips for avoiding unhealthy surprises after the Big Day, I would recommend seeing Suspicion, one of Hitchcock’s great films. It is the first of four collaborations between the famed British director and Grant (also British). It would be followed by Notorious, To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest. Grant shines as the debonair and dashing hot-mess Johnnie and Fontaine puts in a performance as Lina that earned her an Oscar for Best Actress, the only such honor for a performance in a Hitchcock film.

Suspicion mines the familiar Hitchcock concepts of anxiety, fear, mistrust and lust (albeit with moral code limits), but there is more of an informal quality about it when compared to his more famous films from the late 40s and 50s. It is a dress-rehearsal for the degree of analysis to which Hitchcock would later subject his characters and audiences.

In future American films he would dig deeper into the dark, rotting psyches of humankind (see Vertigo and Rear Window), but in Suspicion there is a sense of levity that keeps the fatality question-at-hand from becoming too serious. For this reason, it might be a good starting point for those who are not yet ready for Psycho or the others listed above.

But while it might be less serious than other Hitchcock films, there are still those perennial questions about human relationships that come up. You still want to know who exactly Johnnie really is and what exactly it is he is lying about in relation to that trip to Paris. We are not only curious on Lina’s behalf, but on the behalf of all of those like letter-writer “Lips.” We all want to know: Just who is this person we’ve let into our lives? Just whom did I really marry?

Aaron Vehling is a former journalist and current communications professional who loves the music of Johnny Jewel and the films of Lars von Trier. Though he’s from Longfellow, Minneapolis, he now lives in Harlem, New York, on the same block as the mansion from The Royal Tenenbaums.

Suspicion screens Thursday evening at 7:30 at the Heights Theater. Purchase tickets here.

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Is there a better way to open our Sixth Annual Minneapolis, Minnesota Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival at the Riverview Theater than with Psycho? Probably not.

Psycho review by Trylon volunteer Caty Rent.

Psycho was based on a novel by pulp novelist Robert Bloch. The novel was loosely inspired by Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, who, it might be argued, also inspired Buffalo Bill in the Silence of the Lambs. Psycho is regarded as one of the most quintessential Hitchcock films, and it deserves all the acclaim and recognition that it has been receiving for over fifty years. The sparse amount of characters and small areas of plot development unfold into sheer terror by the end.

When it first debuted in 1960, there was a Special Presentation Policy that declared Psycho should be viewed from the very beginning. Bold signs proclaimed, “No one, but no one, will be admitted in the theatre after the start of the performance!” The showtimes were listed exactly to the minute. Long lines circling America’s theaters and smash box office numbers proved these tactics worthwhile.

Shot with a low budget in black and white, Psycho at first  feels a little more like the television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, probably because much of the crew for Psycho also worked on the show. Hitchcock felt comfortable working with them and they weren’t as expensive as some of the crews he had worked with in the past.

Janet Leigh plays Marion Crane, a woman who is trapped in one of the moral dilemmas of most career girls for the time. Crane has a man she’d like to marry but can’t afford to. She has an opportunity to steal a large sum of money from her employer and doesn’t resist the temptation–instead, Marion takes the cash and heads for her boyfriend.

Eventually Crane finds herself driving in heavy rain and needs to find a place for the night. She finds a little spot far removed from the main highway. Even though it is the setting for most of the film, the Bates Motel almost seems like a character itself. Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies. Norman Bates, played masterfully by Anthony Perkins, is the astute, peculiar, and charming manager of Bates Motel.

Crane and Bates have a pretty long conversation, within it we find out that Norman enjoys to do taxidermy on birds and that he was raised alone by his Mother since he was five. One of Norman’s lines specifically stands out: “We’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and claw, but only at the air; only at each other and for all of it we never budge an inch.” During the chat, it is apparent that Crane has changed her mind and wants to return the stolen money.

They abruptly part ways and Crane decides to take a shower. Although gory for the time, her shocking murder was still mostly left to the viewer’s imagination. The full naked body or brutality is never really shown, which is one of the Hitchcock devices; some things are much more shocking when left unseen. The shower scene from Psycho is one of the parts that everyone seems to remember. Fun fact, the fake blood used was actually just chocolate. It worked better for a nice contrast with the black and white film.

Caty Rent pretty much lives coffee and is obsessed with the Batman.

Psycho, opening the Sixth Annual Hitchcock Film Festival, screens only once, at 7:00 at the Riverview Theater. Purchase tickets here.