Master of tension fails to take fright
M, 1hr 55min
Reviewed by Peter Lampp.
Those of us with emerging wrinkles clearly recall the droll, bullfrog manner in which Sir Alfred Hitchcock introduced and closed his scary television whodunits.
Sir Anthony Hopkins, in this historical movie-biographical drama, sounds just like old "pudding face" did back then, even if the face doesn't quite match.
Perhaps the props department squashed too much cottonwool into his oral orifices.
Never mind. Hitchcock is an admirable production, which shows the chubby chap working behind his own cameras, in what is almost a "making-of" biopic. It is based on a non-fiction book about his biggest movie hit, the 1960 horror, Psycho.
He and his wife Alma Reville (Dame Helen Mirren) riskily mortgage their house to make the film, because the big movie houses won't take the risk in such conservative times.
This is not one of the great director's suspense-psychological films. It is a dramatic backgrounder heavily focusing on the marital relationship, separate beds and all that, between Hitchcock and Alma, who was one woman he didn't mess with, and who had a profound impact on his movies.
To get a breather from "His Nibs", she frivolously gads about with writer Whitfield Cook, who is lobbying for his own film.
Hitchcock has been nominated for an Academy Award for best makeup and hairstyling. But Hitch's jowls are excessive and Mirren's hair, which mostly looks good, does appear to be an auburn wig.
As almost always, Mirren stars, none less than when she is in full flight dressing down Hitchcock who, with his camel-hump frontispiece, looks incapable of attending to her needs.
There is almost no footage of Psycho, but the making of the shower scene with the plunging kitchen knife in Hitchcock's hands is dramatic. The best bit comes later, seeing a titillated Alfred in the theatre foyer at Psycho's premiere, peeking through the doors to witness the audience's reaction. Apparently, he was an old lecher, who put the heat on his leading ladies.
The movie doesn't echo this, not even with Scarlett Johansson bouncing about as Janet Leigh, and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles.