Thursday, February 4, 2010

Stage Fright. A-

(spoliers) 'Stage Fright' follows the usual Hitchcock trajectory where the good guy is framed for a murder that he didn't commit. But the movie has quite a surprise in the end, which then makes way for an even bigger shocker: the use of a false flashback. That is, the flashback, which we witness early in the film, lies. 'Stage Fright,' a quintessential Hitchcock title, gets going immediately. In the opening scene we see a man and a woman in a car speeding down the road. The man, called Cooper (Richard Todd) is telling his friend Eve (Jane Wyman) about a murder committed by his lover (Marlene Dietrich, in a fantastic performance). After a series of events, in the middle of which is a bloody dress, Cooper realizes that he has been framed for the murder and flees the police. Now unlike most of Hitchcock's pictures, the accused isn't the center-point of the story. It's actually Eve, who comes up with her own clever scheme to save Cooper. Along for the ride is a detective (Michael Wilding), who's really more of a plot device than a character. Still, his presence is very welcome. 'Stage Fright' is a very good movie, yet it's not often cited as a Hitchcock classic. I assume part of it has to do with the lack of 'big stars' in the movie (this should not keep you from watching it, as all the performers are good here). Also, the plot might move around a little too much, which keeps the film from getting 'personal' with the characters (an example of that would definitely be 'Vertigo'). 'Stage Fright' definitely has its moments of brilliance that Hitchcock always effortlessly fits into his movies. One that stood out was when Eve, disguised as a maid, is going through the killer's house when Detective Smith (he knows Eve, but is unaware of her interest in the case) arrives to investigate. The sequence is impeccably crafted. Also, the final scene with Cooper and Eve with the flashes of light on their eyes was a great example of how lighting changes the mood of a scene. This is a movie well worth seeking out, even if you don't go for Hitchcock's work. But then again, who doesn't?

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