Alfred Hitchcock Redux—Murder and Mayhem

I really enjoy Alex’s blogfests. I also enjoy movies…and when the two are combined:

Whoa. Did we really dress like that? Yes. I had shirts very similar, except in brown … and green … and mauve. This is such a dated commercial with the Walkmans and the over-the-hair headphones that doubled as earmuffs. And is that an open crock of peanut butter the girl is carrying down a crowded sidewalk? Who does that? She was just asking for chocolate to crash-land in her peanut butter. Or a big ol’ dollop of bird crap. But I digress…we’re talking movies today, not peanut butter and poop.

Best and Worst Movie Remakes BlogfestThanks to Alex Cavanaugh, Al Diaz, Stephen Tremp, and Livia Peterson for hosting The Best and Worst Remakes of Movies.

For a full list of the participants, give their links a click. As for me, I’m anxious to find out what their and everybody else’s picks are. The varying viewpoints should prove interesting.

Hmmm…this was rather difficult. Not the worst ones—they’re a dime-a-dozen—but the best ones. I was hard-pressed to come up with any, until I narrowed it down to a couple of movies by director Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock is one of those great directors who, if you’re going to reshoot one of his films, you’d better do a fantastic job. His movies were perfection, with no real way to top them, only to make them different (someone should have given a heads-up to Gus Van Sant, whose version of Psycho was a scene-by-scene, camera-angle-by-camera-angle rip-off of the original—BAD idea).

Hitchcock also knew how to choose the leading ladies. Both of the films I’ve chosen showcase Grace Kelly, the epitome of elegance and style. I’ve always had a thing for GK.

So without further ado, I’ll administer the medicine first (that would be the worst remake), then the spoonful of sugar to help it go down (and that would, of course, be the best).

Rear Window

This 1954 masterpiece starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, and Ironside (Raymond Burr) exemplifies movie-making at its best. I originally watched this when I was 21 and the constant suspense kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. There is no cussing, no sex, no special effects…just good acting and great story. A must-have for any video library worth its salt.

Watch the three-minute clip by Tom Lucas for an excellent analysis of the movie. Did you know that people actually study the intricacies of this film in the same way we study the nuances and plot points of a great novel? Actually, it would behoove any writer to do the same for a better understanding of how to handle suspense and conflict, romance and humor (Thelma is priceless!). Listen to what Tom has to say:

Then there’s the 1998 remake, starring Christopher Reeve and Daryl Hannah. I’m sorry. Maybe I don’t like it because they up and frucked with one of my favorite movies, but it paled in comparison. They added sex, flesh, violence, and all the flash of modernity, but lost the real suspense. The story suffered for the sake of sensation.

I understand that it was a vehicle for Christopher to shine after his riding accident, but the story didn’t play as well with a quadriplegic in the role. While Jimmy had a broken leg, his other abilities were unhindered, so he could do more and act more and fight back…more.

Unfortunately, Christopher didn’t have this luxury, so much of the film was full of holes and implausible scenarios that had me screaming at the screen. Plus, when watching, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh, it’s so good that Christopher has a new movie. Poor thing…not much out there in the way of roles.” In other words, it was hard to separate the character from the real person. It kept taking me out of the action. And Daryl Hannah is no Grace Kelly.

But if you want to do a Hitchcock remake right, then take a gander at this original and its successor:

Dial M for Murder

Another 1954 outing of Hitchcock’s, and another suspenseful tale without all the sex, violence, and rock and roll. Watch the scene:

Now compare that to a similar scene from 1998’s remake starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow:

A Perfect Murder

Yeah, I know…this does have all the sex, violence, and rock and roll (with the addition of Viggo Mortensen) but it is all done damn well. Great casting, realistic updating, and the suspense of the story was never compromised. Both were excellent, with period-appropriate language and degree of turmoil.

When once asked what makes great suspense, Hitchcock thought for a moment, then replied,

There is no terror in the bang…only in the anticipation of it.

I think most remakes in general concentrate on adding to the bang instead of focusing on the anticipation, and that’s where they fail. What good is the shock and awe and fillers of newfangled flash when there is no story to back it up? There is none.

And that’s that. I hope you enjoyed my offering, and be sure to go around and check out all the other participants of the fest!

Peace,

ML Swift

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43 thoughts on “Alfred Hitchcock Redux—Murder and Mayhem

  1. LOVE Alfred Hitchcock! Have not liked any of the remakes. Didn’t like A Perfect Murder at all. But the worst one for me was the remake of Rope into RSVP – must admit, the remake was so bad it was funny. They turned it into a slasher film.

    1. Sir Al has been one of my faves since I was a kid, with the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine as my reading material and the movies as my visual fix. Excellent, and I wonder why I don’t write mysteries and suspense more.

      I’ll have to respectfully disagree with the nay-say on “A Perfect Murder,” though. I thought it was great! True to the basics of the original…suspenseful…tasteful bed scenes, minimal violence and profanity. The final scene (when Michael was killed)…great. Of course it helps that I’m a Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow fan.

      Rope was sort of odd in it’s original state, too. Your thoughts on the remake don’t make me want to run right out and get it.

      I’ll be by later!

  2. Hey folks…

    I’ve much running around to do today…doctor’s appointments and such…so I won’t be around to answer comments or visit others until the late afternoon. I am anxious to see what everyone chose, though.

    See you then!

    1. Here’s the skinny on The Birds. It was scheduled to be remade with Naomi Watts in the role that Tippi Hedron played. But…the original director left to make The Green Lantern and the movie was shoved to the back-burner.

      Since then, it’s going through a lot of hands and rewrites. Who knows? If done, I hope it’s done well. The hands that it’s currently in prefer blood and boobs over substance.

  3. I remember watching Dial M For Murder for some class I took along my educational way. It is a classic and sometimes classics should not be messed with. I’ll have to watch the other ones you mentioned.

  4. Exactly. Hitchcock was in a class by himself for anticipation. He didn’t need the distractions that modern movies so often rely on.
    It’s funny – I love Psycho and The Birds but I’ve never seen Rear Window or Dial M.

  5. I think the difference between a good remake and a bad one is how fresh they make the movie compared to how much they just try to make the original better. If they start thinking they can make the original better, then the movie’s going to be a bust. Better to make it your own 🙂

    1. Exactly what I was trying to express in the last part of the post, Jennie. And that’s also why I think A Perfect Murder was so good. It was a fresh take on it. Yeah, they followed the basic story line, but made it “their own.” I didn’t realize it was a remake until well into watching it.

    1. Exactly, Christine. And due to censorship, a kiss couldn’t last longer than three seconds. Hitchcock worked his way around that by having them kiss and pull away (but remain close), kiss a little more, pull away, kiss a little more, until it felt like a long, hot smooch.

  6. Remember the really cool cassette for the walkman? Loved that fast forwarding stuff. I miss the whir sounds in my ears.

    I’ve never seen either remake. I’ll pass on the Rear Window (Loved the original), but will have to check out the Perfect Murder.

    1. Have you seen the original Dial M? You’ll see the similarities…the key is what gave away the remake. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known it was a redo.

      1. I have, but it’s been so long ago, I’m in need of a refresher. I should just watch them all again. Much to be learned about pacing from a Hitchcock movie.

  7. A perfect murder- I liked that movie very much. I didn’t know it was a remake though. You always manage to teach me something new. Hahahaha, just remember the comment you left at the cave and seeing your selection makes me wonder if you’re not planning a remake called How to kill a mocking Dragon. 😉

  8. Good choices, Mike. Plus, I didn’t know “A Perfect Murder” was a remake of “Dial M for Murder.” You have schooled me on that one. I thought “A Perfect Murder” was an awesome movie. Loved the suspense of it. I saw “Dial M for Murder” back when I was a teenager and remember likeing it as well.

  9. I caught ‘Rear Window’ in a film as art class in college but none of the rest of ’em! And thank you soo much for that commercial. Yes, I do believe we dressed like that (to an extent, anyway.) Have a great weekend!

  10. I love ‘Rear Window’ aside from all the technical perfectness, it’s just a darn good movie. And, what’s not to love about Jimmy Steward and Grace Kelly. I had not heard of the remake with Reeves – good thing. There was a recent remake called
    ‘Disturbia’ (actually remake is a stretch – same premise, but totally different setting, etc.) and it was a stinker.

    Also, did not realize the other was a remake. I’ll have to check it out.

    Thanks for the ‘save’ on the Oz character, you sir are a true movie buff.

    Nice to meet you.

    1. I saw “Disturbia” and noticed that similarity…a suburban ripoff of RW. I think Shia LaBoeuf was in that, wasn’t he? His “broken leg” came in the form of house arrest, if I’m not mistaken.

      We’ve lost something over the decades…our innocence, and have been desensitized by being shown too much that wasn’t necessary to get the point across. Now, it seems like without those things (a gory murder or soft porn sex scenes), we walk away disappointed.

      When I first watched Rear Window, I was a young adult. I had experienced the horror and gore of the newer cinema. But I was entranced with the suspense and wonderful storytelling of that 1954 classic. It was through that movie that I understood what the important aspects of film are. Not the visual, but the mental. Get our minds drawn in. What is going to happen next? Oooo…now THAT makes a good movie.

      Thanks for coming by, and for leaving such a thorough comment. 🙂

  11. Greetings friend,

    The Blogger’s Information Hotline was aware of this blogfest in what seems to be a never ending series of blogfests and blog hops and blog parties and whatever.

    Seriously, in regards to, “Rear Window”, I totally agree with you that the Hitchcock original was a masterpiece. Also, brilliantly filmed with all the
    peripheral action. As for the remake, I haven’t seen it.

    Thank you for this.

    Gary 🙂

    1. It’s a blog, blog, blog, blog world! Where’s Spencer Tracy? Last I saw, he was running around looking for the four palm trees that form a “W.”

      Thanks for swinging by, Gary. Rear Window is indeed a cinema standard for excellence, and all this talk has renewed a desire to see it again. You bring the popcorn…I’ve got the binoculars. It’s a Rear Window Blogfest!!

  12. I have seen A Perfect Murder and I thought it was good at the time, but I didn’t realise then it was a remake, and haven’t seen Hitchcock’s version. I’ve only seen one Hitchcock movie so far (eek!), but I do have a trilogy so I have 2 others to watch.

    1. Which one have you seen? Other than the two listed, might I also suggest: Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, Notorious, Spellbound…goodness…so many good ones.

    1. Goodness gracious, Lynda, you haven’t? That surprises me…I figured you’d be a big Hitchcock fan.

      Well, it’s my recommendation that you take a weekend afternoon, rent about five Hitchcock movies (a dreary, rainy day would be preferable), pop the popcorn, curl up on the couch, pull a blanket around you and settle in for MURDER.

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