Friday, November 30, 2012


Review by James Colt Harrison 

Wearing a fat suit and a double chin, Anthony Hopkins has been transformed into iconic film director Alfred Hitchcock in the Fox Searchlight film Hitchcock. It works, and Hopkins also approximates the distinctive speech pattern of the English-born, Hollywood treasure.  

Mr. Hopkins does a credible job both with the appearance and Hitch’s mannerisms. It’s not easy playing a character who is so well-known around the world that there is bound to be unflattering criticisms. But Hopkins is a master actor himself, and he completely immerses himself in the role and we forget the fat suit. What we see is Alfred Hitchcock himself. 

The director is not one we would think of as losing his self-confidence. The story (based in the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello) is set during his contentious filming of Psycho, in what turned out to be his greatest hit and a smash sensation around the world. Paramount Studios and mogul Barney Balaban had no faith in the “slasher” film and refused to finance it. They promised to distribute if Hitch could raise the money for production. Hitch had to mortgage his Bel Air mansion to raise the low-budget $800,000 to complete the movie. The non-bending Balaban is played with charm and steel determination by Richard Portnow, a marvelous turn for one of Hollywood’s best character actors. 

All of the stress caused by the making of the film is compounded by Hitch suspecting his wife Alma is having an affair with a handsome young screenwriter (Danny Huston). Is it in Hitch’s imagination or is it real? Alma is played by British actress and Oscar® winner Dame Helen Mirren( born Mironov of Russian heritage). With the two of these fine actors battling it out as husband and wife, it’s hard to determine a winner. But there are many tender and funny scenes between the two, and it is suspected they loved each other very much. Their collaboration on almost all of Hitch’s films proved to be an unbreakable bond which got them the through the difficulties of making Psycho. 

Hitchcock was having doubts about his ability to carry off the difficult film at his age. The added doubt of weather his wife was unfaithful created a tremendous strain on the corpulent director. Hopkins captures the man’s insecurities, his humor, and his resolve with expertise. It’s a look into the inner man and his doubt sand fears. Both Hopkins and Mirren may be up for acting Oscars® this year. 

Scarlett Johansson plays the late actress Janet Leigh (mother of Jamie Lee Curtis) the star of Psycho. She captures Leigh’s natural friendly personality and beauty as the lead in the film. Unfortunately, she is sliced up like a Chiquita banana in the famous shower scene. 

It’s no secret Hitchock had a penchant for using “cold blondes” in his films, and he had a succession of them in Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Vera Miles and Tippi Hedren. Miss Miles, now 82 and retired, had been put under a 5 year personal contract to Hitchcock in 1957. His plans were to groom her for Vertigo in 1958. He was going to make her a big star. Miles threw a wrench into those plans when she got pregnant. The filming schedule could not be met, so Hitch had to cast Kim Novak in the part. After using Miles in the small part of Janet Leigh’s sister Lila (she still got top billing) in Psycho, he more or less lost interest in her. After that, her career took a nose-dive, although she continued to work in westerns and on television.  

For those movie fans who love to see the backstage look at filming, many scenes depict the Paramount Studios soundstages, the interior sets for Psycho  , the colorful streets inside the studio, and how the cameras are used to capture a scene. It’s a thrill for movie lovers.  

Expert artists who made the film look lush and colorful are Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, Production Designer Judy Becker, and Costume Designer Julie Weiss. 

Also in the cast are Toni Collette as Hitch’s secretary, Michael Stuhlberg as film mogul Lew Wasserman, James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins, Ralph Macchio as a writer, and Kurtood Smith as censor Geoffrey Shurlock. 

As a side note, the film Psycho cost only $806,000 to film and grossed more than $50,000,000, about three times that in today’s dollars. Mr. Hitchcock became a multi-millionaire and once again showed the moguls he knew what he was doing.


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