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The Long-Awaited Return Of Hitchapalooza! Hitchapalooza 15: Foreign Correspondent (1940) & Jamaica Inn (1938) July 6, 2010

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.

Good God, has it been nearly a year since I’ve written some post on a Hitchcock film I’ve watched either for the first time in years (like Foreign Correspondent) or for the first time ever (like Jamaica Inn)?

They’ve been sitting in my DVR for quite a while, and I thought I’d reward myself with a bunch of movie watching after FINALLY finishing the rough rough draft of the Wagstaff novel. (Thank you, thank you) Both of these were a mixed bag – I get the feeling that now with only the earlier Hitchcock films left on my never-seen list, I’m going to have this reaction a lot. But I suppose what makes the early films worth watching is how you get to see the formulas and motifs that he’d use and reuse develop, as well as spot various ways in which he spent the later portion of his directing career ripping himself off.

There’s a bit in Foreign Correspondent where a couple o’thugs show up at Joel McCrae’s hotel room pretending to be cops. Just like we’d see later on in North By Northwest, our hero sneaks out of a bathroom in his undies leaving the water running as a ruse to fool the bad guys. And also much like North By Northwest, we get a scene where our hero returns to the scene of the crime and finds it totally cleaned up & different, so that his friends think he’s lost his mind. We also get a villain who, like Claude Raines in Notorious, has an underlying personality that makes him a decent person in some ways.

But Foreign Correspondent contains some wonderful stuff – beautifully staged camera angles during the aforementioned windmill segment when McCrae discovers the plot thickening; the wonderful visual of the umbrellas in the rain bumping and moving with the escape of an assassin underneath; and a ocean airplane crash staged with great effect for 1940. This one was mostly fun – the comic relief works well, George Sanders (not playing a villain this time) gets elegantly funny British dry wit for dialogue, and McCrae handles the aw-shucks innocent American abroad bits well. When he turns crusader at the end, thanks to a “let’s get in the war” propaganda speech courtesy producer Walter “hardly know ‘er” Wanger, it gets a bit much, but it reminded me of another movie I’d seen recently that challenged American neutrality at the start of World War 2 – Confessions of A Nazi Spy. Both movies strive to edjumacate the audience as to the Nazi threat, and both movies feature George Sanders.

Jamaica Inn takes a while to get going – we’re introduced to the main characters – crazy Charles Laughton, a motley crew of scurvy scum shore raiders, matey! and our requisite innocent, played by Maureen O’Hara. She winds up staying at the scary home of the pirate band, Jamaica Inn, which turns out to be led by her aunt’s growlin’ hubby. As the plot finally kicks in after about a half hour, it’s not that bad – we get duplicity, police in disguise, devoted pirate wives, treachery, loyalty, and a rather bizarre race to the rescue when Laughton totally goes out of his mind. In the end, this one was mostly a curiosity, certainly not one of Hitchcock’s better movies. Only some of the claustrophobic camera work within the inn really qualified, at least to me, as evidence of “the master’s touch,” and the entire story was rather silly in the end. But in my quest to see ’em all… I’m glad I enjoyed what I did.

Next up to bat – something from the cheap-o DVD set of early Hitchcock I’ve had sitting in the queue for far too long.



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