Birdwatching in Bodega Bay

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My better half and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary by taking a leisurely road trip through the Sonoma backwoods and along the California Coast. On our return, we decided to make a stop in Bodega Bay where Alfred Hitchcock shot THE BIRDS (1963). I’ve spent time in Bodega before and it is one of the loveliest little coastal towns in Sonoma. It’s also extremely proud of its association with one of Hitchcock’s best and most celebrated films. While I was there I wandered along the wharf, visited some filming locations and spent time at the Hitchcock museum located inside the Bodega Country Store. The trip was a lot of fun and I snapped many pictures while I was there so I thought I would share my adventure in Bodega Bay with TCM’s blog readers.

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March 21, 2015
David Kalat
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Fathoming Rear Window

Our story starts in 1967.

OK, all you furious pedants out there, getting ready to split hairs. Yes, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window was made in 1954, but… we’ve gathered here today to celebrate this masterpiece in anticipation of its limited theatrical reissue thanks to TCM’s partners at Fathom Events. Fathom will be screening Rear Window in select theaters on March 22 and 25 (click here for information or to buy tickets), but if you’re lucky enough to live near one of those theaters and go see this American treasure on the big screen, you won’t just be celebrating the good decisions Hitchcock made in 1954. You’ll be celebrating the good decisions other people made, much later, to unmake the bad decisions Hitchcock made in 1967.

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KEYWORDS: Alfred Hitchcock, Fathom Events, Hitchcock's Rear Window, Rear Window
COMMENTS: 15
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A FREUDIAN LOOK AT THE BIRDS

The Birds

TCM viewers can watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) this upcoming Friday the 13th. I’d also urge anyone that might be reading this who lives near Boulder, Colorado, to come see it on 35mm (March 12th) when it screens as part of the International Film Series. For the latter screening I’ve recruited one of my poker buddies, Paul Gordon, to do a special introduction and Q&A for the film. Gordon teaches a popular “Hitchcock and Freud” class at C.U. Boulder, and is the author of the recent Dial ‘M’ for Mother book. Paul was kind enough to take some time to field some questions that might be of interest to Hitchcock fans. [...MORE]

Saying Good Night to Brian G. Hutton (1935-2014): Night Watch (1973)

taylorhutton1Last week this blog started to resemble the obituary section of my local newspaper and while I hate to continue that trend I couldn’t let Brian G. Hutton’s demise go unmentioned. The New York born director and actor is best remembered today for his work on two popular big-budget WW2 films, WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968) and KELLY’S HEROES (1971) but he also appeared in some memorable films such as John Sturges’ GUN FIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (1957) and the Elvis vehicle, KING CREOLE (1958) as well as many popular television shows including GUNSMOKE, PERRY MASON, RAWHIDE and ALFRED HITHCOCK PRESENTS. The last film Hutton helmed was the Indiana Jones inspired HIGH ROAD TO CHINA (1983) and soon afterward he retired his directing chair. According to the fine folks at Cinema Retro, Hutton’s self-deprecating sense of humor often led him to criticize his own movies and he didn’t look back all that fondly at the time he spent in Hollywood but many film enthusiasts like myself appreciate the eclectic body of work he left behind.

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Bad Movie Mothers We Love to Hate

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TCM is celebrating Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11th) with a great program of classic films showcasing notable mothers. While looking over Sunday’s line-up I was surprised to spot NOW, VOYAGER (1942), which features Gladys Cooper as the incredibly cold and domineering mother of Bette Davis. Cooper won an Oscar nomination for her memorable performance and went on to play another overbearing mother in SEPARATE TABLES (1958) who torments poor Deborah Kerr. While considering Gladys Cooper’s portrayal of two heartless mothers I started thinking about other horrible movie moms that I’ve enjoyed watching over the years. Many good actresses have portrayed nurturing mothers who treasure their children but it takes incredible range, a lot of skill and a strong backbone to portray the kind of rotten mother that Gladys Cooper was so apt at playing. In honor of Mother’s Day I decided to pay tribute to a few of my other favorite bad movie moms. These women would never be nominated for a Mother of the Year Award but a few of them were nominated for an Academy Award.

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April 20, 2014
David Kalat
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Alfred Hitchcock’s Half-Formed Grab Bag

There are some directors who make their breakout hits early in their careers.  Their landmark films announce the arrival of an important new talent by showcasing distinctive visual or thematic ideas—but these marks of distinction can also serve to limit that filmmaker’s future growth.  Their subsequent films can’t help but be compared to their early classics, and after a while they risk being accused of simply repeating familiar motifs, cobbling together pastiches and Greatest Hits collections.

Not Alfred Hitchcock.  Not only did his later works like Marnie or Topaz veer wildly away from anything in that career that preceded them, it’s in his early films that we find what might be called pastiches—only these are pastiches not of past glories, but patchworks of the masterpieces yet unmade.

Consider Secret Agent.  It’s a 1936 wartime spy thriller (bet you couldn’t guess that from the title, huh?) based on some stories by Somerset Maugham, and made for Michael Balcon and Ivor Montagu during Hitch’s British period.

It is by no means one of Hitchcock’s greats—even in 1936, it was only voted the fifth best British movie.  But it’s a template for almost everything great Hitchcock did after it.

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KEYWORDS: Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Lorre, secret agents
COMMENTS: 4
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April 19, 2014
David Kalat
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Occupy Fritz Lang

There is a secret conspiracy that rules the world.

This hidden power can make or break a fortune at a moment’s whim.  It decrees the rise and fall of nations.  It chooses who lives, and who dies.

There are some—like the heroic British spy with a number for a name, or the alluring Mata Hari-like international woman of mystery he keeps running into—who think they can use the tools of surveillance, cryptography, and overall spookcraft to expose this obscure force and save the world.

Wanna know a secret?  This secret power—he’s a banker.  You can Occupy Wall Street all you want: the Great Banker is the spider at the heart of this massive web, and he will outlast you all.

So, yeah, for a silent movie made in Germany in 1928, there’s a lot going on here.  You can play along at home if you want when TCM runs this later tonight.

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KEYWORDS: Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, spies
COMMENTS: 4
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Lost Films, Found

So, y’know, London After Midnight is airing on TCM later tonight.

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Well, sorta—a “reconstruction” of that legendary holy grail of lost films assembled from stills is being screened, which isn’t the same thing.  But it’s not outside the realm of possibility that one of these days London After Midnight would be recovered—in the last few years (and months!) we’ve already had a slew of high profile discoveries and recoveries: Alfred Hitchcock’s White Shadow, the full-length Metropolis, FW Murnau’s silent version of City Girl, Charlie Chaplin’s The Thief Catcher, an alternate cut of Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith… And for the Doctor Who fans among us, Enemy of the World and Web of Fear were brought back from oblivion and released on iTunes a couple of weeks ago, which fairly boggles the mind.

The problem is that when we talk about lost films and about recovered films, we are actually talking about two different phenomena.

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Vincent Price’s Small Screen Successes

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Vincent Price & Alfred Hitchcock on the set of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1957)

Last week I wrote about Vincent Price’s early stage career and this week I’d like to focus some of his notable television appearances. As regular readers know, every month I try to spotlight a particular telefilm that deserves more recognition in a yearlong feature I’ve christened Telefilm Time Machine. But this month I thought I’d take a small screen diversion into Vincent Price’s extensive career in television. Price only appeared in a few telefilms but he made many appearances on TV specials, game shows and popular dramas that endured him to audiences and undoubtedly gained him many new fans. Programs as varied as BATMAN, THE BRADY BUNCH, DANIEL BOONE, F TROOP, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, LOVE AMERICAN STYLE, GET SMART, HERE’S LUCY, THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, COLUMBO, THE BIONIC WOMAN, THE LOVE BOAT, HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, SCOOBY-DOO and THE MUPPET SHOW (just to name a few) all benefited from Price’s talent and worldwide celebrity. It’s also worth pointing out that Price’s last performance was in a made-for-TV mystery called THE HEART OF JUSTICE (1992) where he has a few scenes playing the elderly neighbor of a pulp writer (Dennis Hopper). Price’s television appearances are so numerous and noteworthy that instead of focusing on just one standout role I decided to compile a list of my favorites that should appeal to classic film fans eager to see Vincent Price in some of his most interesting small screen successes.

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Daliwood

Salvador Dali’s surrealist career was bookended by his experiences in the movies.

I have to couch that statement with the limiter “surrealist career” because Dali was a prolific and prodigious talent whose larger artistic career in toto is almost incomprehensibly vast—he was painting like a pro when he was a small child, and kept at it until 1989.  That’s right, Dali was around to witness the first Internet virus.  Just wrap your head around that.

But… he is known and celebrated primarily as a surrealist, and it is that phase of his career which intersects the world of movies.  And therein lies our tale.

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