Posts Tagged ‘ Alfred Hitchcock ’

Peter Lorre: The Aggressive Mimicry of His Defining Roles

Great villains have the ability to attract and destroy. Like predators in the wild, these characters trick their prey  by posing as something familiar, harmless, or friendly. It’s a form of aggressive mimicry. These monsters of reality and fiction hunt without the world knowing it, a quality Peter Lorre brings to his performances, ensnaring the audience with unpredictable characters. The dangerous and unassuming  Lorre made the most bizarre and terrifying characters unbelievably magnetic.

Lorre’s career has been defined by several iconic roles: the first being in Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece, M. And while his face remains confined to the film’s conclusion, his presence in the film is undeniable. Mostly heard offscreen enchanting children with a wholesome whistle, Lorre remains in the shadows for much of the film’s runtime. The once banal act of whistling shifts the atmosphere. The killer approaches and dread takes over.

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The Birds and Attack the Block come to different conclusions about outsiders

Outsiders can generally be found at the center of horror movies. Their presence causes a disturbance that sends the community, whether it’s a summer camp, a small town, an apartment, or a neighborhood block, into flux. The values of the outsider gives the horror something to oppress, and the character a core system of belief to uphold. This can be most easily be pointed out in slasher movies where disruption generally follows “The Last Girl” or the virgin. Because she won’t conform to the standards of her sinful friends, she must uphold her pureness against the monster. In the end, if she can maintain her beliefs, she will survive.

Two movies in particular use the disruption of outsiders to their own advantage, one to punish and the other to politicize. The Birds and Attack the Block were made for and in different eras. The former exists at the dawn of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution, the latter in a world rife with gentrification and racial profiling. But while these movies seem completely different externally, at their core, they pit a social outsider against an invasion, allowing them to be punished or vindicated. Continue reading

200 Words or Less: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

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The Man Who Knew Too Much is Hitchcock’s first crack at this story; he would later remake with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day in 1956. There’s still a lot to like in this one—though, most of that has to do with one creepy performance from Peter Lorre. Having recently escaped the Nazi Germany, Lorre couldn’t even speak English when Hitchcock cast him as this skunk haired deviant. Nevertheless, he turned in a supremely weird performance that both harkens to his child-hunter in M and the future-weirdo Joel Cairo.

The Man Who Knew Too Much follows a family of clay pigeon shooters and wealthy cynics who have their daughter kidnapped after stumbling on a clue in a dead secret agent’s hotel room. To get her back, the girl’s parents must keep their mouth shut long enough for a pack of gang of political activists to, well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

This is Hitchcock before he really got rolling. With an early use of his “Accidental Secret Agent” plot, Hitch does what he does best, though, in more primitive form. Still, the twists, laughs, and suspense are all there. And at 75 minutes, it’s definitely worth your time.

Lights, Camera, Vertigo: How Hitchcock Explains the Madness and Fallacy of Filmmaking

Vertigo-alfred-hitchcock-865414_1024_768In Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock goes beyond the psychoanalysis that defined a majority of his work, throws out the twisted mother and son relationships, and looks inward at his own experiences with filmmaking. Using the tools at his disposal, the director exposes the inherit lie of filmmaking, and how we fall for it. Hitchcock puts his relationship with his film and his audience on display in Vertigo. Through his overt use of editing, character doubles, and kinetic camera work, the director makes note of all the cinematic things we take for granted. The steady flow of disruptions throughout the plot and the film’s construction makes things people want, like relatable characters and logic, almost impossible to obtain.

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