Reviewed by Ally
Wealthy dowager Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) promises to bail out the small, bankrupt country of Freedonia, on the proviso that Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) is appointed leader. Trentino (Louis Calhern) — ambassador of neighbouring country Sylvania — tries to gain control of Freedonia by stirring a revolution, sending Chicolini and Pinky (Chico and Harpo Marx) to spy on Firefly, and wooing Mrs. Teasdale. A series of disagreements between Trentino and Firefly plunge the countries into war.
Not that any of it really matters. The main thing is, it’s funny!
Trentino consults his spies, the inexplicably Italian Chicolini and the inexplicably mute Pinky. The mischievous pair proceed to wreak havoc in Trentino’s office.
Trentino’s secretary brings in a telegram. Pinky rushes over, grabs it, then screws it up furiously. Chicolini explains: “He gets mad because he can’t read.”
Trentino gives Pinky a cigar. He tries to light it with the telephone receiver. When that fails, he magically produces a blowtorch from his coat pocket.
They eventually get down to business.
Trentino: Now gentlemen, please, will you tell me what you found out about Firefly?
Chicolini: Well, you remember you gave us a picture of this man and said follow him?
Trentino: Oh yes.
Chicolini: Well we get on the job right away. And in the one hour, even less than one hour —
Chicolini: We lose the pitsh! That’s pretty quick work, eh?
Trentino: But I asked you to dig up something I can use against Firefly. Did you bring me his record?
Exasperated, Trentino flings the record across the room. Pinky pulls a gun from his pocket and shoots the record in midair. Chicolini awards him a cigar, then shuts Trentino’s fingers in the lid of the cigar box.
Trentino: Now Chicolini, I want a full detailed report of your investigation.
Chicolini: Alright, I tell you. Monday, we watch Firefly’s house, but he no come out. He wasn’t home. Tuesday we go to the ball game, but he fool us; he no show up. Wednesday he go to the ball game and we fool him; we no show up. Thursday was a double-header, nobody show up. Friday it rained all day, there was no ball game, so we stayed home, we listened to it over the radio.
Trentino: Then you didn’t shadow Firefly!
Chicolini: Aw, sure we shadow Fire– we shadow him all day.
Trentino: But what day was that?
Throughout the scene, Pinky has been snipping things with scissors at regular intervals — Trentino’s cigar, his hair, even his coat tails. When the spies finally leave him, Trentino is left with a mousetrap on his fingers, a newspaper glued to his posterior and absolutely no information on Firefly.
Every time I watch Duck Soup, a different joke stands out to me. This time, it was a scene between Firefly and Pinky. Firefly asks: “Say, who are you anyway?” Pinky responds by rolling up his sleeve to show him a tattoo:
That clears that up…
There is, however, something missing from Duck Soup. It is so densely populated with gags, there was no room for Harpo and Chico’s customary musical interludes. Aside from this minor disappointment, there is nothing I can say against the film. Groucho delivers his trademark insults at breakneck speed, giving Margaret Dumond barely enough time to be shocked before he’s onto the next wisecrack. Chico and Harpo perform their finest piece of slapstick choreography as they torment Edgar Kennedy the lemonade vendor.
Oh, and Zeppo’s in it too…
Then there’s the classic “mirror scene,” in which Pinky disguises himself as Firefly and pretends to be his reflection in a missing mirror. The gag was first used by Charlie Chaplin in 1916, then Max Linder in 1921, but was surely immortalised by the Marx Brothers.
Reviewed by Rachel
Mrs. Teasdale welcomes Freedonia’s new leader, Rufus T. Firefly. This scene is a wonderful example of the fast-as-lightning dialogue of Groucho Marx and the straight-woman talents of Margaret Dumont.
Mrs. Teasdale: Oh, Your Excellency! We’ve been expecting you. As chairwoman of the reception committee, I extend the good wishes of every man, woman and child of Freedonia.
Rufus T. Firefly: Never mind that stuff. [He takes out a deck of cards] Take a card.
Mrs. Teasdale: [as she takes one] Card? What will I do with the card?
Rufus T. Firefly: You can keep it. I’ve got fifty-one left. Now what were you saying?
Mrs. Teasdale: As chairwoman of the reception committee, I welcome you with open arms.
Rufus T. Firefly: Is that so? How late do you stay open?
Mrs. Teasdale: I’ve sponsored your appointment because I feel you are the most able statesman in all Freedonia.
Rufus T. Firefly: Well, that covers a lot of ground. Say, you cover a lot of ground, yourself. You better beat it, I hear they’re gonna tear you down and put an office building where you’re standing. You can leave in a taxi, if you can‘t get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that’s too soon you can leave in a minute and a huff. D’you know you haven’t stopped talking since I came here? You must’ve been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.
Mrs. Teasdale: The future of Freedonia rests on you. Promise me you’ll follow in the footsteps of my husband.
Rufus T. Firefly: How do you like that? I haven’t been on the job five minutes and she’s making advances to me. Not that I care, but where is your husband?
Mrs. Teasdale: Why, he’s dead.
Rufus T. Firefly: I bet he’s just using that as an excuse.
Mrs. Teasdale: I was with him to the very end.
Rufus T. Firefly: No wonder he passed away.
Mrs. Teasdale: I held him in my arms and kissed him.
Rufus T. Firefly: Oh, I see, then it was murder. Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.
Mrs. Teasdale: He left me his entire fortune!
Rufus T. Firefly: Is that so? Can’t you see what I’m trying to tell you, I love you!
Mrs. Teasdale: Oh, Your Excellency!
Rufus T. Firefly: You’re not so bad yourself.
I recently put on Duck Soup for my nine-year-old cousin while the rest of the family chatted. His eyes never left the screen, and the adults in the room ended up watching it too; despite trying hard to have a conversation, they were too distracted by Harpo’s antics.
I realised then that the success of the Marxes is due to the fact that their films remain ‘go-to’ films for all generations. Considering the films are all nearing 80 years old, that is an incredible achievement. The plot of Duck Soup is utterly nonsensical, and some of the lines are slightly dated (and occasionally offensive…), but the majority of the Marxes’ verbal and physical gags haven’t aged one bit. If anything, the brothers improve with age, due to the fact they don’t make ’em like that anymore.
M’colleague and I decided not to choose the Mirror Scene as our chosen scene, as it is incredibly well-known and we wanted to give some other elements of the film a bit of an airing, so to speak. However, we both advise that if you want to see an impeccably executed piece of visual comedy, watch the Mirror Scene! (Perhaps even on youtube. ~ Ally)
Reviewed by Ally
Four real estate salesmen are supplied with contact details (“leads”) of people who are mostly unable or unwilling to invest in land. Company owners Mitch and Murray send sharkish salesman Blake (Alec Baldwin) to give a motivational talk. He informs the men that only the top two earners will be given the more promising Glengarry leads, and that their jobs are in jeopardy.
Blake: We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.
The men are pressurized into using dishonest tactics to close deals and keep their jobs. Shelley Levine (Jack Lemmon), fretting over his poor sales and his sick daughter, attempts to bribe the office manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) for better leads. Leading salesman Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) lies to an insecure customer (Jonathan Pryce), hoping to stall him until the cooling-off period is over. Dave Moss (Ed Harris) suggests to George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) that they break into the office, steal the Glengarry leads and sell them to a rival company.
There are several ways in which Glengarry Glen Ross is impressive. Firstly, it is a successful adaptation of a stage play, adding cinematic interest without sacrificing the appeal of the original play. Secondly, just look at that cast list! And thirdly, it made me sympathize with the very people from whom I dread receiving a call.
The salesmen of Glengarry Glen Ross are con men. They try to sell poor-quality land to people who can ill afford it. Those calls you get, “you have been selected for a special prize” — that’s them. This is the new world of sales, created by opportunists like Blake (Alec Baldwin) who destroyed the bond of trust between salesman and customer. You no longer sell a guy “five cars over fifteen years,” you make a fast buck and run. Bastards, right?
And yet, when Shelley Levine (Jack Lemmon) fails to make yet another sale, my heart breaks a little for him; the ending (which would be my “essential scene” but I decided not to spoil it) breaks what’s left of it. In the impressive ensemble cast, Lemmon’s performance stands out as the best of the film, and one of the best of his career.
This review is dedicated to Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)
Reviewed by Ally
Approx. fourth viewing
When veteran newscaster Howard Beale (Peter Finch) learns of his retirement, he has a breakdown live on air and threatens to commit suicide. His best friend, network executive Max Schumacher (William Holden), gives Howard one last chance at a dignified send-off, but he once again stirs controversy with his impassioned ranting. Despite Max’s protestations, programming executive Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) decides to exploit Howard’s breakdown, formulating a trashy news show around him, making him “an angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our times.” When viewers start following his bizarre instructions en masse, it becomes clear that Howard is a ratings sensation.
Having previously announced his intention to commit suicide live on air, Howard Beale is given one last chance at a dignified on-air send-off. Max Schumacher, executive producer Harry Hunter (Jordan Charney) and the team of directors watch from the control room as Howard once again strays from the script.
Howard Beale: Good evening. Today is Wednesday, September the 24th, and this is my last broadcast. Yesterday I announced on this programme that I was going to commit public suicide, admittedly an act of madness. Well I’ll tell you what happened: I just ran out of bullshit.
Harry Hunter: Cut him off.
Max Schumacher: Leave him on.
The monitor, which had gone black, flicks back to life.
Howard Beale: [aside] Am I still on the air?
Max Schumacher: If this is how he wants to go out, this is how he goes out.
Howard Beale: I really don’t know any other way to say it other than I just ran out of bullshit. Bullshit is all the reasons we give for living. And if we can’t think up any reasons of our own, we always have the God bullshit. We don’t know why we’re going through all this pointless pain, humiliation, decay, so there better be someone somewhere who does know. That’s the God bullshit.
Telephones have been ringing in the control room since Howard first uttered the word “bullshit.” Max answers one of the calls.
Max Schumacher: [on the telephone] He’s saying that life is bullshit, and it is, so what are you screaming about?
Howard Beale: And then, there’s the noble man bullshit; that man is a noble creature that can order his own world; who needs God? Well, if there’s anybody out there that can look around this demented slaughterhouse of a world we live in and tell me that man is a noble creature, believe me: That man is full of bullshit.
The director laughs.
Harry Hunter: What’s so goddamn funny?!
Director: I can’t help it, Harry, it’s funny!
Howard Beale: I don’t have anything going for me. I haven’t got any kids…
Harry Hunter: Max, this is going out live to sixty-seven affiliates.
Max Schumacher: Leave him on.
Howard Beale: …and I was married for thirty-three years of shrill, shrieking fraud…
A secretary bursts into the control room.
Secretary: Mr. Hackett’s trying to get through to you.
Max Schumacher: Tell Mr. Hackett to go fuck himself!
Howard Beale: So I don’t have any bullshit left. I just ran out of it, you see.
Howard finishes his piece and smiles to camera, satisfied.
Historical perspective changes a film. Nowadays we watch Casablanca safe in the knowledge that the Allies would eventually triumph over the Axis, that Rick and Ilsa’s sacrifice would not have been in vain. It’s hard to imagine how it would have felt to see that film while the war was still being fought. It’s just as hard to imagine a time when Network was, as promised by the poster, “perfectly outrageous.” Many of writer Paddy Chayefsky’s wildest projections have since come to pass, and Network now seems eerily prescient.
Unfortunately, that means it’s also not as funny as it was intended to be. Unhinged ranting on the news? Ho-ho, imagine that! But while the comedy may be diminished, the drama is still powerful. The acting is superb, as I have come to expect from Sidney Lumet films. It’s not a visually enticing film, nor a particularly life-affirming one — in fact, it’s mad as hell. And if Paddy Chayefsky could see how right he was, he’d be madder still.
Reviewed by Rachel
Howard Beale walks in from the rain to give another one of his rants on live television.
He tells his viewing audience that he knows things are bad. People are out of work, kids are running wild, homicides are on the rise. What can we do about it? He doesn’t know exactly. He’s just a TV anchor. But he tells his viewers that for things to change, they must get mad. They must not take it lying down and they must not ignore it.
He tells them to stand up, go to the window, and yell:
I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!
The control room gets excited. They are receiving phone calls from all over their network, saying people are doing exactly what Howard is telling them to do. People are yelling!
Max Schumacher is at home watching the television with his wife Louise and daughter Caroline. Howard rants onscreen:
Stick your head out of the window. Open it, stick your head out and keep yelling, and yell: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!”
Caroline stands up and starts to walk towards the window.
Louise: Where are you going?
Caroline: I want to see if anybody’s yelling!
Amongst the thunder and lightning, various people can be heard shouting “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!” People are standing on their fire escapes, or leaning out of the window, and they are yelling with all their might.
The power of television.
Network is very much of its time and can be enjoyed purely as an intelligent satire of ’70s media and politics. But now it additionally serves as a warning we should have heeded.
As a modern audience, we adore when people lose it on television. That’s why the networks brought us reality TV: It’s cheap, it’s full of genuine emotion and often ruins someone’s life. Ratings galore!
The current TV networks even represent every milestone a person can go through. There are live births, extravagant weddings and death-bed ramblings; and it doesn’t stop there. We can now go online and witness some often unspeakable events. Why does this pass for entertainment? Have we become desensitised? Network answered these questions long before we asked them, in a sinisterly familiar manner.
Why the hell didn’t we listen?
A sad fascinating fact: One aspect of Network was inspired by Christine Chubbuck, a US TV anchor who committed suicide live on air.
Reviewed by Rachel
Biopic of Joseph Merrick (referred to in the film as John Merrick), a young man with severe physical deformities which lead to him being nicknamed The Elephant Man.
Merrick (John Hurt) is part of a freak show in the East End of London, where he is abused by Bytes (Freddie Jones), his tyrannical “owner.” Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) visits the freak show and becomes professionally interested in Merrick‘s afflictions. He makes an arrangement with Bytes to take Merrick to a scientific lecture. However, upon his return, Merrick is savagely beaten by Bytes, and Treves becomes more involved in Merrick’s life than he originally planned.
Merrick is immediately installed in Treves’s hospital and over the coming days Treves realises that the man he thought was imbecilic is actually very intelligent. Treves sets out to bring Merrick the dignity and respect he deserves.
Finding one essential scene was very difficult. I’ve decided upon a small but very touching scene rather than a dramatic one. I believe this scene is based on fact, although it wasn’t Treves’s wife that Merrick was meeting when this occurred.
Dr. Treves has invited Merrick to his home. Merrick nervously stands alone but avidly eyes up the well-decorated room as Dr. Treves walks in with his wife.
Treves: Mr. Merrick, I’d like you to meet my wife, Anne. Anne, this is John Merrick.
Anne (Hannah Gordon) is visibly anxious, but kind and courteous. She smiles and offers her hand for a handshake.
Anne: I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr. Merrick.
Merrick takes her hand.
Merrick: I’m… I’m very pleased.
Merrick’s gaze leaves her face and he begins to sob softly.
Treves: What is it? What’s the matter?
Merrick: [between sobs] It’s just that I… I’m not used.. to being treated so well… by so beautiful a woman.
Phew, this one was a weeper. Perhaps I was easily taken in by sentimentality, but then usually I’m too cynical.
Although the (possibly over-dramatized) maltreatment and abuse of Merrick in the film is horrific, what affected me more than anything was the kindness that Merrick was shown from various members of society and, of course, Dr. Treves. Whether or not this occurred because Merrick was the “in” thing is to be debated, but those moments were incredibly moving.
However, I can assure those wondering where the David Lynch touch has gone that there is still an element of Lynchian unease. The Victorian era was full of the macabre, and Lynch subtly explores it. Merrick resides in two worlds; the sideshow backstreets and the comfortable society dwellings, and the two worlds mingle with eerie delicacy. Merrick doesn’t know when his days of freakshows and ridicule will come back with a bang, and that makes for nervous viewing at times. Lynch’s enigmatic touch also comes to play with sequences in which the viewer is unsure whether they are witnessing a factual flashback, or a strange dream.
At the very least, The Elephant Man is worth watching to get to know Joseph Merrick. Merrick’s gratefulness towards his new friendships and his childlike enthusiasm for the simple things in life stay with you long after you’ve seen the film.
For more information on Joseph Merrick, visit josephcareymerrick.com.
Reviewed by Rachel
Drag queen Mitzi Del Bra, aka ‘Tick’ Belrose (Hugo Weaving) is offered a gig at a resort Hotel in the Australian desert, but he needs two performers to join him. He enlists the help of young drag queen Adam/Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Guy Pearce) and transsexual Bernadette Basinger (Terence Stamp), both of whom have their own reasons for wanting to get out of Sydney. They purchase a big, dilapidated bus which they christen ‘Priscilla,’ and adventure does indeed ensue — with a few surprises along the way.
(Any dance scene is a must, but I also enjoyed this…)
Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette have arrived at their first pit stop, and decide to go into the local bar. Mitzi and Felicia are in full drag. Dozens of rather large, burly men stop what they’re doing and watch as Felicia and Bernadette sit down gracefully at the bar.
Bernadette: [to bartender] Hello. Could I please have a Stoli and tonic, a Bloody Mary, and a lime daiquiri, please?
An equally burly woman appears from amongst the men.
Woman: Well! Look what the cat dragged in! What have we got here, eh? A couple of show girls, have we? Where did you ladies come in from, Uranus?
Bernadette: [to bartender] Could I please have a Sto–
Woman: [slaps Bernadette’s hand down onto the bar] No! You can’t have! You can’t have nothing! We’ve got nothing here for people like you. Nothing!
Bernadette slowly takes the woman’s hand off hers and looks her straight in the eye. She replies, utterly calm and collected.
Bernadette: Now listen here, you mullet. Why don’t you just light your tampon and blow your box apart? Because it’s the only bang you’re ever gonna get, sweetheart.
One man roars with laughter and the rest of the bar’s inhabitants join in with guffaws. The woman slinks slowly away and everyone enjoys a night of drunken singing and drinking games.
It would be so easy to rely on stereotypes when dealing subject matters such as these, and that has probably been the downfall of many an LGBT portrayal. Very thankfully, Priscilla does not do this. It is kitsch at times — but what’s wrong with a bit of kitsch?
The characters in Priscilla are three-dimensional and have depth. Terence Stamp in particular is wonderful as Bernadette. He gives her such dignity and poise, even when she has to punch a man to defend poor Felicia. Priscilla not only preaches tolerance but it shows Bernadette, Felicia and Mitzi as exactly what they are; human.
I would go into a little more depth but that would ruin a few plot surprises. So I shall just say that this is my kind of road movie. The visuals of the deserts are so breathtaking, especially coupled with dance routines to ’70s music in killer, bright frocks. My goodness! Can we have a blu-ray soon, please?
Reviewed by Ally
Mild-mannered paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) prepares to marry his stern fiancée, Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker), who insists that they will forgo a honeymoon in order for David to continue his work — he has spent four years assembling a Brontosaurus skeleton, for which the last piece will soon be delivered. David is also expected to ingratiate himself with Mrs. Random (May Robson), who is considering donating a million dollars to the museum.
The day before the wedding, David meets Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn), a brash but hapless young lady with a knack for creating awkward situations. Susan falls for David and, determined to keep him close, forces him to help deliver a pet leopard (the eponymous Baby) to her aunt. Unbeknown to David, Susan’s aunt is none other than Mrs. Random, and a series of positively screwy incidents puts the museum donation, the Brontosaurus bone and the wedding in jeopardy.
Having met earlier in the day, Susan and David meet again in a restaurant. David storms out after Susan accidentally gets him accused of theft. She follows him to the stairs.
Susan: Now please listen, dear, you certainly can’t think that I did that intentionally.
David: Well if I could think, I’d have run when I saw you!
Susan: No, well if you’d only wait while I explain, I just gave you my purse while I–
As David tries to leave, Susan grabs him by the coat, which promptly tears in two.
Susan: Oh, you’ve torn your coat…
David approaches Susan angrily while she spouts apologies and excuses at a dizzying pace.
David: Look, will you do something for me?
Susan: A needle?
David: No, it’s simpler than that. Let’s play a game.
Susan: Oh? What?
David: Well, watch. I’ll put my hand over my eyes and then you go away. Then I’ll count to ten, and when I take my hand down, you will be gone. One…
Susan: [offended] Well I like that, I was only trying to be nice!
As Susan stomps off sulkily, the back of her dress rips off, having become caught under David’s foot. He rushes after Susan, who is oblivious to her wardrobe malfunction, and tries to hide her shame with his hat.
Anyone who thinks old movies are slow ought to try keeping up with Bringing Up Baby. Katharine Hepburn delivers her lines at lightning speed, and the rest of the cast aren’t far behind her. Plot points accumulate at a similarly alarming pace, and the situations are so absurd that characters telling the truth are dismissed as crazy. Take for example a scene where Susan steals David’s clothes while he’s in the shower, forcing him to answer the door in a frilly negligee. He becomes increasingly agitated under questioning —
Mrs. Random: [to Susan] Does he want to wear those clothes?
David: No, I don’t want to wear this thing, I just want to get married!
While a few scenes involving growling leopards, yapping dogs and shouting humans can get a bit headache-inducing, Bringing Up Baby is, for the most part, a classic example of screwball comedy. It’s quite likely that you’ll have “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” stuck in your head for quite a while afterwards though…
Reviewed by Rachel
Susan, David and George the dog have traced Baby to a house — a house that happens to belong to the psychologist that Susan rather annoyed the night before. They try to coax Baby down by singing her favourite song.
Susan: Oh, look David! Baby’s on the roof! Come on, Baby, come on down! Come on! Oh David, make him get down.
David: I suppose you’d like me to climb up and push him down.
Susan: Well… maybe we’d better sing. I can’t give you any — well, sing David. [David winces]
Both: [singing in harmony] I can’t give you anything but love, baby
That’s the only thing I’ve plenty of, baby
[George starts to howl]
Dream a while, scheme a while
[Baby starts to caterwaul]
You’re sure to find
Happiness, and I guess
All those things you’ve always pined for
Gee, it’s great to see you looking swell, baby
Diamond bracelets Woolworths doesn’t sell, baby
[Dr Lehman leans out of his window]
Till that day, you know darn well —
[Susan points out the doctor in the window]
David: Oh, Baby! [leaves]
Susan: Oh, David where are you going?
David: [offscreen] I’ll be back!
Susan: Oh dear! I can’t give you anything but love… [to Doctor] Not you — it. [sings] I can’t give you anything but —
Doctor: What are you doing, may I ask?
Susan: Singing. [sings] I can’t give you anything but love —
Doctor: If you are playing a bet there must be somewhere else you can do it.
Susan: I’m not playing a bet, there’s a leopard on your roof.
Doctor: I’m not going to bandy words with you at this time of night.
Susan: Dream a while, scheme a while — But there is a leopard on your roof, and it’s my leopard and I have to get it — and to get it I have to sing! You’re sure to find —
Doctor: There’s nothing on my roof.
Susan: [to Baby] Come on you fool — [to Doctor] There’s nothing on your roof? [titters] Alright, there’s nothing on your roof. [sings] Happiness, and I guess, All those things you’ve always pined for —
While Susan continues singing, the Doctor’s wife convinces him that Susan is obviously a patient in need of help, and the Doctor agrees. The Doctor’s arrival downstairs frightens Baby away so the Doctor cannot see to what Susan has been serenading. He promptly pulls Susan into the house to treat her delusions.
Susan: You’ve just had a bad day, that’s all.
David: That’s a masterpiece of understatement.
Bringing Up Baby is one of those films where the plot is beyond farcical, but it’s not to be taken too seriously. It’s the screwball that paved the way for all other screwballs. Both leads and the minor characters all show real flare for comedy. It’s incredible to me to learn that Katharine Hepburn had never done comedy before, and was trained by veteran vaudevillians prior to shooting. She also wore gorgeous trousers, got wet and muddy, and stayed very near to a very large leopard. For this, I’d call her a very cool lady.
I must admit, I am very biased when it comes to Bringing Up Baby. I have known this film for as long as I can remember and it’s never failed to entertain me. It’s fast, well written, infinitely fun — and it has Cary Grant in a fluffy dressing gown! Come on, what more could you ask for?
Fascinating Fact: Director Howard Hawks based Cary Grant’s character on silent comedian Harold Lloyd, even down to the horn-rimmed glasses.
Reviewed by Rachel
(Quiet, film buffs! I know that’s shameful!)
Detective John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart) has retired after his fear of heights causes his partner to fall to his death. Scottie thinks himself out of the police game until Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), an old college friend, turns up out of the blue and asks him for a favour. Elster wants to hire Scottie as a private detective to follow his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), who is behaving very strangely.*
I won’t describe this in too much detail, as there are certain plot points I don’t want to reveal.
Warning: Due to flashing images, this scene may not be suitable for sufferers of epilepsy.
Scottie is tossing and turning in bed, disturbed by visions. Sickly blue and purple tints intermittently cover the screen.
Scottie opens his eyes and looks upon a drawing of the bouquet of flowers that Madeleine was holding. The flowers turn into a moving cartoon. Alternating between black and white and colour, they then disperse all over the screen.
As an orange tint flashes on and off, Scottie stands next to two characters that are causing him so much grief.
Scottie’s disembodied head travels nearer to the camera with multi coloured tints and a busy background.
His body slowly falls through the air amongst flashing colours. (Mad Men, anyone?)
All colours and background dissipate as he gets nearer to the ground and a bright white light illuminates his falling frame.
Just before he hits the ground, Scottie wakes up with a start.
Dizzying just reading about it, isn’t it?
*The reason why I have been very brief in my synopsis, and why I’m going to be brief here, is that I truly believe that a first viewing of Vertigo should be done with as little plot knowledge as possible.
Vertigo is a stunning example of Hitchcock’s ability to disorientate both his audience and his characters. The constant feelings of uncertainty, fragile mental health and alienation coupled with the use of sickly tints hark back to his very first films — and boy, has the Master improved with age. And that’s saying something; if you knew how much I love his silent films…
This was my first viewing; I was aware of a few legendary images but that was all, and my reaction to the film is “Wowwy, wow, wow!” Yes, I am that eloquent. [Wow. ~ Ally]
So please excuse the brief review, but I do hope curiosity gets the better of you…