THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956)
1956, Universal, 120 min, USA, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock remakes his own entertaining but lightweight 1934 thriller as a melancholy examination of the pleasures and nightmares of family life. When the son of James Stewart and Doris Day is kidnapped while on vacation, the couple’s long-simmering resentments threaten to get in the way of their attempts to rescue him. Although the film is rightly celebrated for setpieces like the famous Albert Hall assassination sequence, the depth of Hitchcock’s vision is more effectively felt in the film’s quieter moments: The scene in which Stewart tells Day their son has been kidnapped is one of the most powerful in all of Hitchcock’s cinema.


SUSPICION
1941, Warner Bros., 99 min, USA, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock’s technique takes a huge leap forward with this extremely unsettling piece of "escapist" entertainment. Young wife Joan Fontaine suspects that husband Cary Grant is trying to kill her, and the question of whether she’s prescient or paranoid dominates the film. Throughout the movie Hitchcock toys with our assumptions, a conceit that works thanks to Grant’s astonishing performance (one of the best of his career). Without resorting to gimmicks or dishonesty, Grant convincingly plays the husband in a manner that makes both his guilt and his innocence equally valid possibilities, and Hitchcock adds to the overall sense of menace with subtle visual devices (he rarely shows Grant actually walking into a shot, for example - he always seems to magically appear like a ghost). The studio-imposed finale has divided Hitchcock fans on SUSPICION’s merits, but Grant’s consummate professionalism allows Hitch to pull off the last-minute reversal.


SHADOW OF A DOUBT
1943, Universal, 108 min, USA, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

What starts out as a charming portrait of idyllic small-town life gradually darkens into one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most devastating thrillers. Teenager Teresa Wright’s romantic illusions about her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) gradually are shattered by the suspicion that he may be the diabolical Merry Widow serial killer. Add to the mix a rewardingly rich tapestry of eccentric characters (Henry Travers, Hume Cronyn and Patricia Collinge are standouts in the cast), and you have one of Hitchcock’s most brilliantly constructed films.


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