Charles Laughton can be relied upon to achieve what no other actor has - being effortlessly brilliant in ridiculously over-the-top, hammy roles (there’s a fine line between a Laughton and a Blessed!)
Leslie Banks is wonderfully villainous and surprisingly effective in his grubbiness
and even Robert Newton has some charm although he’s no Donat or Redgrave (and to be fair the role isn’t written with the charm of a Richard Hannay or Gilbert).
The story is a great one, although it feels a bit rushed in places that makes some of the character’s actions seem a bit odd, and the sets and models are nicely convincing - the wreck model sequences are tense and exciting and the murderous wreckers are brilliantly evil.
If anything’s lacking it’s probably Hitch - this is a standard above-average British film of the 30’s - it doesn’t have any flashes that set it any higher.
Last night I finally got to see that international treasure Calvin Johnson in London
I’ve been a fan of Calvin, in all his many guises, for so many years - I remember borrowing a copy of Black Candy off Graham shortly after it was released - so this must have been around 1990 or so I guess. I’m not sure if this was my introduction to Beat Happening, but it does imply my Calvin love is getting on for being 30 years old!
Which makes it baffling that in all that time I’d not managed to see him live until last night. And I almost missed that, I only found out about it on Friday and nabbed myself a ticket instantly. It helped that the show was happening in West London which gigs so rarely do these days. Bizarrely the venue was a small circular structure attached to the former BBC building in White City - a building that once housed the BBC Club, and a staff dentists.
Early on Monday evening I had booked to see a film at the BFI but it didn’t seem likely to be a problem - the film would be finished by 8 and I should be able to get to White City before 9 and catch most of the show.
On Thursday the boy and I managed to blag our way into Luna's soundcheck at The Islington Academy in London. We were up on the mezzanine, Lee spotted us!
They later played Fourth of July. Luna! Playing Fourth of July pretty much to just me! And the boy. Sadly I decided to record that on my phone so it looked and sounded dreadful - and it really wasn't - it was beautiful. I applauded. Alone. And quietly.
I guess this might be the last time I talk about my Favourite Hitchcock film - I've talked about it in my posts on The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent - and neither of those films have a 10 because ... what if I love The Lady Vanishes more!?
In 2012, the BFI had a Hitch season ~ it was their little bit of cultural Olympics. Hazel and I went and saw quite a few of them (at least 12, maybe more). One of the highlights was seeing The Lady Vansihes in a full NFT 1 - there was something beautiful about being in a room full of people watching this film - most of whom knew it, and knew it well.
I do love the film - Iris and Gilbert are lovely together (although Gilbert is such an arse at the beginning it's a wonder she tolerates him at all). I love the way the dialog fizzes ("cut it out kid, you're not drugged") - I love the stereotypes ("tea time, well all the English will be there") - I adore the fight in the luggage car ("don't stand hopping about there like a referee, cooperate. Kick him, see if he's got a false bottom") - I adore the model work, the sets, the gags and the happy ending.
But it's not a 10, and it's probably not my favourite Hitch film - I think maybe The 39 Steps got short-changed after all.
... although when we saw all those films in 2012 the only one I rated 10 then was... Young and Innocent!
It's probably one of those three though. Except... there's Shadow of a Doubt...
I've long maintained that Young & Innocent might be my favourite Hitchcock film, I rated it 10/10 when we saw it at the BFI in 2012 - but the big screen is invariably worth a point or two on a score. It's probably not a 10 film - and probably not my favourite Hitch film - not with The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes in the frame. But it's still a sweet and wonderfully paced gem.
The plot is shallow and won't hold up to too much scrutiny - but of course the plot is not the most important thing in a Hitch film. The leads are adorable, Nova is so funny and enthusiastic, and Derrick pulls off the charming male lead that Hitch's British films did so well. The sets are fantastic, particularly the mill. The car falling into the mine workings is genuinely hair raising stuff. And scattered around all of this are charming little set pieces - the Burgoyne family meals, Erica trying to clean up Robert's wounds after a brawl, and lots of lovely throwaway lines -
"I left my papers in the car go and get them for me."
"Get them yourself!"
"Well, ordinarily I would but if I was seen beside that thing I'd have to resign."
"Towser, we've left Towser behind!"
"It's all right, he's keeping up."
"I think it's very nice to have ladies company for a change."
"Don't you have lots of it? I thought lorries were very popular."
"We've got to get a look somehow."
"What about dancing around?"
"Can you dance?"
"No, of course not, duckie, but I don't mind having a go. It's only half walking, anyway."
BUT the best bit doesn't have Nova or Derrick, or sets or cranes, or hair-raising thrills! No, the best bit is a beautiful model shot when they arrive in town trying to locate Old Will the china mender. It has trains and bridges and buildings and ends on lovely little model versions of Erica and Robert.
You can show me all the flashy CGI you like but there is nothing more beautiful than a model shot like this one - I've probably said it before but I will again. A model is a real thing, it exists in real space and is shot with real film and even if it doesn't look perfect it always looks real. CGI might look more accurate (although often doesn't) but it never looks real.
That famous crane shot in the Grand Hotel is pure brilliance - Hitch throws it in so casually and the timing of the twitch is perfect - not because it's a revelation, we already know who the murderer is, we know where he's sitting and we know he's got a twitch, and is going to twitch. So Hitch is giving us all of this for kicks! It's a freebie "I'm not telling you anything, I'm just showing you how good film can be.
Young and Innocent is wonderful. No, it's not my fave Hitchcock film, but I'll never get tired of watching it.