It must have been kismet that I received my copy of the Fox Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection late, too late to feature it the week it actually came out. Because now it leads off the Halloween week MSN DVD column. Hitch wasn’t really a horror director outside of Psycho, but The Master of Suspense was a master of thrillers, and this set features his very first thriller:
The Lodger was Alfred Hitchcock’s third film, his first classic, and arguably the first “Alfred Hitchcock movie.” Moody and textured, the 1926 silent thriller stars music hall superstar Ivor Novello as a mysterious figure who arrives at a boarding house out of the foggy night. Hitch creates some of his most expressionist images (the ceiling dissolves to a man pacing above, the fog that swirls about the mysterious lodger) and introduces his murky world of guilt and innocence in the story of an eccentric figure who may be Jack the Ripper. Previously available only in inferior versions, this remastered and digitally restored edition looks superb and offers two scores: Ashley Irwin’s vivid, dramatic orchestral score, and a more somber and impressionistic one by Paul Zaza.
The set features eight films all together, including two of his early British thrillers (the classic Sabotage with Sylvia Sidney and lighter and lesser Young and Innocent), his World War II drama Lifeboat and all four films made for David Selznick: the Gothic classic Rebecca (Hitchcock’s only film to win an Oscar for Best Picture), the Gregory Peck films Spellbound and The Paradine Case, and the romantic masterpiece Notorious. Alfred Hitchcock had everything he needed to make cinema magic when he undertook Notorious: a brilliant cast of beautiful, seductive stars (Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman at their most galmorous) and excellent character actors (Claude Rains and Louis Calhern), one of Hollywood’s smartest and most adept screenwriters (Ben Hecht), and best of all a producer with lots of money and class who was too busy to interfere–for once. The result is one of his most sparkling romantic thrillers, smooth and silky with a dangerous, darkly suggestive undercurrent of sex, power, and sacrifice.
The DVD is featured on my MSN column here.
Lucio Fulci’s surreal giallo masterpiece The Beyond has been out of print for years. Now Grindhouse brings their restored edition back out. Lucio “King of the Eyeball Gag” Fulci is hardly a favorite of mine, but this film is a wild, eerie, mad masterpiece. The largely incoherent plot has something to do with a turn of the century curse and a doorway to hell in the cellar of an old New Orleans hotel, but then plot in giallo is rarely more than an pretense. If you can overlook little things like wooden acting and clumsy dialogue and arbitrary twists, you’ll find an insane tale of zombies from hell invading Earth and eating their way through a cast of crucified martyrs, blind visionaries, creepy hotel handymen and befuddled cops, while a plucky pair of heroes desperately fleeing a horde of hungry undead. The blood red art direction is eerily beautiful and Fulci’s relentless long takes, punctuated by jolting shock cuts and eruptions of grotesque violence, creates a mood of sheer paranoid horror right down to the final, mind bending image. Just let yourself get carried away on the creepy visuals and it’s a surprisingly stylish treat, an eerie, edgy bit of gothic gore pitched in all it’s bone crunching, flesh ripping, organ splatting glory. But beware: this sadistic, sanguinary hell-spawn tale is for gore-hounds only.
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