Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Stage Fright (4 Stars)

It's very rare that I sit down to watch a film that I know nothing about. Usually I've at least read a small review or seen the trailer. But when I put this film into my DVD player today I only knew two things about it: I knew the film's name, and I knew it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. That's why I watched it, of course. This was one of the few Hitchcock films that I had never seen before. His name is a guarantee for quality.

On the other hand, I don't like Hitchcock's films as much as I used to. When I was young I would never miss any of his films when they were shown on television. I would sit and watch them with my mother, who was also an avid Hitchcock fan. Her favorite film was "Spellbound". When I watch his films today I still enjoy them, to a certain extent, but they seem so old. They haven't stood the test of time. "Stage Fright" was made in 1949, and its age shows.

The film features two of the typical leitmotifs of Hitchcock's films: the beautiful but evil blonde, and the neurotic mother. A psychiatrist would have had a lot of fun with him. The blonde is played by Marlene Dietrich. Hitchcock had met her while working in Germany in the 1920's. They remained in touch after she moved to America and became an American citizen, but this was the first time she starred in one of his films. Respectfully, he gives her songs to sing in the film, and whatever else happens in the film I consider her performance of "The Laziest Girl in Town" the highlight. Marlene just oozes sexuality.

In the film Marlene plays Charlotte Inwood, a highly successful actress who has been having an affair with a less successful actor, Jonathan Cooper. One day she goes to Jonathan's house and tells him she has accidentally killed her husband after he hit her. Even though it was self defence she is afraid that she will be arrested, so she asks Jonathan to cover up for her. Jonathan goes to her house and fakes a robbery, but he is seen by the maid who identifies him to the police. He realises that he's been set up and goes to his friend Eve, a student actress, for assistance. Eve uses trickery to become Charlotte's new maid to look for evidence of her guilt.

On a not completely unrelated topic, I have recently been accused by one of my blog readers of having Nazi sympathies. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you read my posts carefully you will find that I've made many pro-Jewish comments, as well as condemning the Holocaust. The reason for the criticism, which I understand even though I reject it, is that I don't accept the viewpoint that because Hitler did bad things everything he did should be considered bad. For instance, when I went to school I learnt that Germany started the Second World War by invading Poland. It's said that history is written by the winners, and this is a very warped version of the facts. The German forces were actually taking back German territory that Poland was occupying. At the time Poland was in the process of relocating German citizens to other parts of Poland and moving in Poles to seal their ownership of the land, so Hitler had to act fast. If Churchill hadn't stood up in defence of Poland war could have been avoided and millions of lives could have been spared.

This doesn't mean that foreign countries should have sat by and accepted the German slaughter of Jews. This could have been stopped by diplomatic means. The war against Germany only served to increase Hitler's paranoia about an international Jewish conspiracy. The concentration camps could have been closed by diplomatic means, for instance in exchange for returning the land taken from Germany in the Treaty of Versailles.

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