Rear Window Timelapse

Jeff Desom has constructed an ingenious timelapse video using footage from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954).

It plays chronologically but the effect is quite startling, especially if you are a fan of the film (I’d place it amongst his very finest).

More information on how it was made is here: http://jeffdesom.com/hitch/

The music used is Hungarian Dance No. 5, composed by Johannes Brahms (arranged by Hugo Winterhalter).

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> Jeff Desom
> Rear Window at the IMDb

Eureka to release Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend

Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945) and Lifeboat (1944) are getting dual-format DVD and Blu-ray releases in the coming months.

It is amongst a clutch of interesting titles that Eureka Entertainment are releasing through their Masters of Cinema label.

The full press release is as follows:

Eureka Entertainment is pleased to announce its forthcoming releases for the months of April, May and June 2012. There will be seven new releases added to the Masters of Cinema series (DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE LOST WEEKEND, LIFEBOAT, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, RUGGLES OF RED GAP, SANSHO DAYU and UGETSU MONOGATARI) as well as one non-Masters of Cinema release, namely Takashi Miike’s YATTERMAN. Eureka also continues its ongoing association with Bounty Films (responsible for the UK release of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE) with the release of Yamaguchi’s DEADBALL.

Curator, Founder and Production Director of the Masters of Cinema, Nick Wrigley: “We’re very excited to finally be welcoming British legend Alfred Hitchcock into the Masters of Cinema Series. He made LIFEBOAT during WW2, his only film for Fox, and the same year he made two shorter films for the war effort – BON VOYAGE and AVENTURE MALGACHE – both collected here, in new HD restorations as a sumptuous Dual Format special edition.

Our two best selling Mizoguchi titles, the enormous Japanese masterpieces SANSHO DAYU and UGETSU MONOGATARI will receive the upgrade treatment in April when they appear in new HD restorations / Dual Format editions alongside OYU-SAMA and GION BAYASHI, also in HD.

May 2012 sees a Charles Laughton double-bill. One of England’s most-loved actor/directors (his only directorial effort – THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER – being one of the most remarkable one-offs in the history of cinema), Scarborough-born Laughton has a marvellous time in the pre-Code Universal horror classic ISLAND OF LOST SOULS. Three years later he starred in Leo McCarey’s amazing RUGGLES OF RED GAP.

The director of MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW directs Laughton who plays an English valet whisked away to the American west. Banned on release by Nazi Germany because of Laughton’s moving recitement of the Gettysburg Address.

In June we welcome the great Billy Wilder into the Masters of Cinema Series with two of his very greatest achievements on Blu-ray only – DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, and THE LOST WEEKEND (1945), which stars an Oscar-winning performance by Welshman Ray Milland.”

Full line up is as follows:

Released on 23 April 2012
LIFEBOAT (Masters of Cinema) DUAL FORMAT (STEELBOOK EDITION ALSO AVAILABLE)
Alfred Hitchcock’s only film for Fox, made at the height of WW2, stars a first-rate ensemble cast, led by grande dame of the stage Tallulah Bankhead, as the survivors of a Nazi attack set adrift on a lifeboat in the Atlantic Ocean, pitted against interpersonal animosities, creeping paranoia, and the captain of the Nazi sub that placed them in their current predicament…

UGETSU MONOGATARI (Masters of Cinema) DUAL FORMAT
Mizoguchi’s intensely poetic tragedy consistently features on polls of the best films ever made. This new HD restoration is the film’s first appearance on Blu-ray anywhere in the world, and is accompanied by an HD presentation of Mizouguchi’s 1951 classic OYÛ-SAMA.

SANSHO DAYU (Masters of Cinema) DUAL FORMAT
One of the most critically revered films in Japanese cinema history, Mizoguchi’s deeply affecting classic has been newly restored in HD and appears here on Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in the world, and is accompanied by an HD presentation of Mizoguchi’s 1953 classic GION BAYASHI.

YATTERMAN DVD & BLURAY
Classic seventies anime series Yatterman flies to the silver screen in a brilliant crime-fighting explosion of candy-coloured camp, over-the-top adventure, and pure popcorn entertainment. Directed by legendary cult director Takashi Miike (13 ASSASSINS, ICHI THE KILLER, AUDITION) and featuring a brand new plot and re-imaged characters, this live action debut of Yatterman will re-define the robot action adventure genre.

DEADBALL DVD (Released by Bounty Films)
A hilariously offensive, politically incorrect sports splatter comedy, DEADBALL is director Yudai Yamaguchi’s follow-up to his earlier zombie baseball classic BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL, and once again features action star Tak Sakaguchi (VERSUS, BE A MAN! SAMURAI SCHOOL).

Released on 28 May 2012
ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (Masters of Cinema) DUAL FORMAT (STEELBOOK EDITION ALSO AVAILABLE)
For the first time in the UK, one of the most imaginative and nightmarish fantasies from Hollywood’s golden age of horror – starring the legendary Charles Laughton. Originally rejected by the BBFC, this first and best screen adaptation of H. G. Wells’ THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU, is one of Hollywood’s wildest pre-Code pictures.

RUGGLES OF RED GAP (Masters of Cinema) DUAL FORMAT
The UK home viewing premiere of one of the finest films of Leo McCarey (MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER) finds Charles Laughton in one of his greatest roles as a personal valet shipped off to America in the service of the brash and wealthy Egbert Floud (played, coincidentally enough, by Charlie Ruggles); a sophisticated comedy of rude manners ensues.

Released on 25 June 2012
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Masters of Cinema) BLU-RAY (STEELBOOK EDITION ALSO AVAILABLE)
Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler team up to create one of the greatest, and quintessential, films noirs of the studio era, a classic of the hard-boiled genre nominated for seven Oscars, and whose performances by Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson have been leaving audiences breathless for almost 70 years. Now, exclusively restored by The Masters of Cinema Series for its first ever release on Blu-ray anywhere in the world.

THE LOST WEEKEND (Masters of Cinema) BLU-RAY (STEELBOOK EDITION ALSO AVAILABLE)
An Academy-Award-winning (including Best Picture) triumph from the great Billy Wilder, with Ray Milland as a writer’s-block-ridden and booze-sodden author spiralling into a days’-long rock-bottom binge crafted by Wilder with expressionist fervour. This gorgeous Blu-ray edition is the first available anywhere in the world.

Further details of the Masters of Cinema releases can be found at www.mastersofcinema.org and Eureka’s new Facebook site www.facebook.com/EurekaEntertainment

Eureka are also upgrading a batch of their previous releases to DUAL FORMAT EDITIONS on 13 February 2012. These upgrades are for Kurosawa’s TOKYO SONATA, To’s MAD DETECTIVE, Godard’s UNE FEMME MARIEE, Imamura’s VENGEANCE IS MINE, Laloux’s LA PLANETE SAUVAGE, Tashlin’s WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER, Ichikawa’s BURMESE HARP & Jia Zhangke’s THE WORLD (not previously available in a DVD format

> Recent DVD & Blu-ray releases
> The best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2011

Hitchcock Masters of Cinema Interview

An interview with Alfred Hitchcock around the time of Frenzy (1972) provides a useful overview of his career.

What makes this programme particularly interesting is that the first part of the interview is conducted by Pia Lindström, the daughter of Ingrid Bergman.

Note that when she asks about Spellbound (1945) and Notorious (1946), she’s asking about films which starred her mother, which gives her questions an interesting subtext.

They talk about:

The second half of the programme is with critic William Everson and he asks Hitchcock about the earlier part of his career, including:

> The Hitchcock Wiki
> The Evolution of the Hitchcock trailer
> More on Pia Lindström and William Everson at Wikipedia

The Evolution of the Hitchcock Trailer

Once he was established as a Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock cleverly used his persona as a major promotional tool for his films.

Although he is rightly regarded as one of the great directors in cinema, the marketing of his movies reveal a lot about how he managed to combine his artistic sensibilities with commercial instincts.

Charlton Heston was once quoted as saying:

“The trouble with movies as a business is that it’s an art, and the trouble with movies as art is that it’s a business”.

Perhaps more than any other director, Hitchcock managed to solve this conundrum and we can see his mastery of the movies as both an art and a business by looking at the trailers to several of his films.

For his breakthrough US work Rebecca (1940), the trailer played up the fact that it was a David O’Selznick production as much as an Alfred Hitchcock film and that it was also “the most glamorous film of all time”:

At this point, despite his experience, he was essentially a director for hire and had yet to become the portly icon of later years.

Notorious (1946) goes for the ‘big fonts proclaiming big things’ approach to trailers and Hitch is still nowhere to be seen, although it is worth noting that he is referred to as ‘the master of suspense’.

A sign that Hitchcock was more talented than the average Hollywood director was the ambition of Rope (1948), a film which had the illusion of being mostly shot in one take, although it was actually a string of set pieces cleverly stitched together.

The trailer was partly narrated by Jimmy Stewart’s character and didn’t feature the director, although the form of the film played an important part in establishing his reputation as more than just a director for hire.

The 1950s saw Hollywood embrace all kinds of technical innovations (e.g. Cinemascope, 3D) to stave off the threat of television, but Hitchcock was embracing it both as a form in itself and seizing the opportunity to become a familiar face to great swathes of Americans every week.

In 1949 one million Americans owned TV sets and by the end of the decade this number had sky-rocketed to over 50 million, so here was a director clearly in touch with both his audience and the emerging trends of the time.

By 1955 Hitchcock had his own TV series – Alfred Hitchcock Presents, later to become The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – which became famous for his opening monologues.

This is the first episode, where he addressed the audience in his own inimitable way:

On the burgeoning medium of television during this period it provided invaluable publicity for his career as a movie director.

It was ironic that in an age of chiselled movie stars he would become such an American cultural icon, especially after a childhood in England crippled by shyness and obesity.

But perhaps there was a conflicted showman inside the director.

What else could explain his famous cameos throughout his career, which were a simultaneous expression to stay hidden and be noticed?

By The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), which saw him remake his own film, his reputation was established but for the trailer it was Jimmy Stewart who again who addressed the audience to describe the making of the movie.

The same year Hitchcock made his first notable appearence in a trailer, talking about himself in the third person no less, whilst narrating the outline for The Wrong Man (1956):

A vitally important film for the director both in content and style, it seems appropriate that he would make an early marketing appearance here.

Perhaps his promotional performances every week on TV in front of millions of viewers had convinced the studio bosses he not only had a reputation but could be trusted to sell to the audience directly?

For Vertigo (1958) however, Hitchcock took a back seat to a conventional narration guy.

Was it because the story of an obsessive man who forces a reluctant brunette to become an icy blonde was a bit too personal for him?

After the relative commercial failure of this hypnotic film – which would mushroom in critical esteem decades later – he returned with his most commercial project to date.

North By Northwest (1959) was a pretty big deal for MGM and they let Hitchcock completely take over the trailer, using his dry wit to play up the humour in the material and guarantee they would be in for a ride.

Can you imagine any modern studio or contemporary director approve a trailer like this?

His next film was less obviously commercial, based on a novel with grisly real life influences, and was to be filmed in black and white with his TV crew.

The project began life at Paramount, who were so put off by the material that they originally refused to make it and sold off key rights to Universal and the director (even today it is often mistakenly thought of as a Universal movie).

Psycho (1960) certainly presented a marketing challenge and Hitchcock responded with perhaps his most famous trailer, which was this 6 minute promotional short.

It was a shrewd move as the director’s trademark humour let viewers know that the film wasn’t as dark as they may have heard.

That being said, the sudden climax at the end, complete with Bernard Herrman’s violins hinted that there was something dark and sinister within the main attraction.

Not only did Psycho represent the high watermark of the director’s artistic and commercial career, is also saw him reach a plateau as a marketing genius.

Hitchcock persuaded cinemas not to allow audiences in if they were late, which intensified the must-see factor and also provided the film with valuable extra publicity.

Who did audiences see in the foyer of their local cinema?

The director pointing at his watch and telling them that if they were late they had to attend the next showing of the film.

Whilst the public loved it, critical reaction was decidedly cooler with The Observer’s critic embarrassing themselves by not even staying until the end (I’m happy to report that their current critic Philip French always stays until the end credits of each movie he sees).

For The Birds (1963), the director repeated the trick with another witty short.

Note how the dry humour again deflects from the dark subject matter, which could have proved a commercial turn off.

By this point Hitchcock was a major cultural personality due to both his movies and TV shows, which first aired on CBS from 1955 to 1960, and then on NBC from 1960 to 1962.

This was then followed by The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which lasted from 1962 to 1965 and such was the director’s longevity that even after his death in 1980, NBC and USA Network even revived the show for four seasons in the late 1980s.

If you think of each TV introduction as free publicity for his films, it also ranks as one of the longest and most cost-effective marketing campaigns in movie history.

The Marnie (1964) trailer continued the concept of the director as master showman.

Such was Hitchcock’s elevated status at this point – note how he literally ascends from a lofty position at the beginning – that he could refer to his previous films with the expectation that the general audience would know what he was talking about.

Perhaps one of his most interesting films, the trailer captures the changing social attitudes of the 1960s as Hitchcock is being less coded about sex and uses his dry, comic prudishness to neat effect.

One can almost imagine the team from Mad Men working on the campaign for this movie, and although Cary Grant in North By Northwest is often rightfully cited as an influence on Matthew Weiner’s show, Sean Connery’s character in Marnie seems like a more accurate touchstone for Don Draper.

In retrospect, the film is a fascinating collision of two cinematic icons as the ‘Master of Suspense’ cast James Bond in a major role – the commercial side of Hitchcock’s brain wanted a star in Sean Connery, but the artist knew his screen presence would add an extra dimension to the film.

However, the explosive success of the Bond franchise may have had an adverse effect on Hitchcock’s films as the mid-60s craze for Cold War spy films led him to make two films which saw him go somewhat astray.

Torn Curtain (1966) was beset by production difficulties and reflected the uneasy reality that was dawning on directors like Hitchcock and studios such as Universal.

Stars like Paul Newman and Julie Andrews were becoming increasingly important and the days when the men in suits could order them around like cattle were beginning to change.

This is reflected in the trailer which plays up Hitchcock’s brand name but places greater emphasis on the two leads, violence (‘Shock! Intrigue!’) and the Cold War intrigue which had gripped pop culture.

Topaz (1969) saw the problems of his previous film multiply and is rightly considered one of his weakest.

Again we have a Cold War spy thriller, although this one is even more muddled.

We briefly see Hitchcock at the beginning saying that it is ‘a story of espionage in high places’, before a self-consciously groovy montage of split-screen techniques which seems to reflect the messy, fragmentary nature of the film.

In creating his own worlds he was often a master, but in this period he was less successful in crafting suspense out of the complexities of the Cold War, when actual news stories could be more shocking than anything in his imagination.

Frenzy (1972) saw Hitchcock return to his home country of England and is by far his most interesting later work.

The trailer sees him return to centre stage with a monologue which seems to reference his extended promotional short for Psycho – which is appropriate as both films revolve around a sinister murderer (Mrs. Bates/The Necktie Murderer) and a single location (Covent Garden/Bates Motel).

This film saw the director’s career come full circle, as he returned to the murder-mystery genre after his unsuccessful espionage movies and it was set and shot around Covent Garden, where his father used to make a living as a greengrocer.

It is hard to watch the bit where Hitchcock spots his tie without thinking of the childhood story the director once told about being sent to a police station as a boy, or the William Friedkin anecdote about when Hitch questioned his young apprentice for not wearing a tie whilst shooting the final episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

The trailer for his swan song Family Plot (1976) sees the director make his final appearence in a trailer.

The quality of the film and his customary dry wit seem to betray the fact that he had one eye on retirement.

What do all these trailers say about Hitchcock?

In them we can see the evolution of a director who managed to use the very commercialism of the Hollywood system to his artistic advantage.

By cultivating a showman persona, he enticed audiences into cinemas and once they were there he usually surprised them in strange and imaginative ways.

> More on Alfred Hitchcock at Wikipedia
> The Hitchcock Wiki
> Hitchcock TV

Bernard Herrmann at 100

One of the greatest film composers of all time would have been 100 today.

Bernard Herrmann is best known for his long term collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, but his career was a remarkable one that saw him score for directors such as Orson Welles, Fred Zinneman, Nicholas Ray, François Truffaut, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese.

After working in radio with Welles at the Mercury Theater company, he joined the precocious director for his debut feature film Citizen Kane (1941).

Groundbreaking in so many ways, Herrmann’s distinctive score marked him out as a composer to watch and he won an Oscar for his second film, William Dieterle’s The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941).

He also composed the memorable score for the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) using a theremin to great effect.

His work with Hitchcock began with The The Trouble with Harry (1955) and was followed up when the director remade his own movie The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – Herrmann even makes a cameo appearence as the conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra during the sequence at the Royal Albert Hall.

Arguably the most famous director and composer team ever, Herrmann’s scores for Vertigo (1958), North By Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960) are gold-plated classics and on The Birds (1963) he created an innovative sound design instead of a traditional soundtrack.

The 1960s also saw some fine work with Cape Fear (1962), Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966).

His later years saw him move to London, but in the final year of his life he worked with Hitchcock devotee Brian De Palma on Obsession (1976) and Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver (1976).

The latter film provided a fitting epitaph with its brilliant use of percusion, strings and saxophone. Scorsese dedicated the finished picture to him.

Since his death, his reputation has continued to grow with directors like Quentin Tarantino (theme from ‘Twisted Nerve’) and even pop stars like Lady Gaga (main theme from ‘Vertigo’) using his music.

Back in 1988, KIOS-FM broadcast a 2 hour radio documentary on Herrmann’s life and career by Bruce Crawford and Bob Coate, and you can listen to it in three parts here: www.bernardherrmann.org/articles/present-celebration-broadcast

You can also watch part of a documentary on him here:

NPR also broadcast an interview with Professor Jack Sullivan about his book Hitchcock’s Music back in 2007:

And finally, this photo is a classic:

> The Bernard Herrmann Society
> Find out more about Bernard Herrmann at Wikipedia
> Herrmann Marathon Blog which looks at each score one-by-one