...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The George Herman Hitchcock project, Chapter 3B: Champagne


Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2A  and  2B

Chapter 3A

continuing from Chapter 3A...

Juno and the Paycock (1930)

The less said about this film the better, but I'm going to say it anyway.

"For the love of Christ, don't watch our film."
Anyone Anything could have directed this movie.  The mildew growing in your shower grout.  Governor Rick Perry's cowboy boots.  A jar of pickled radishes.  An empty shoe box.  A broken headlight.  The only reason I know that Hitchcock directed it is because he said he did.  More on that in a moment.

It's a statically filmed Sean O'Casey play, full of barely directed actors chewing through repetitive dialogue while employing broad Irish accents to portray broader Irish stereotypes.  I think it was supposed to be a combination of comedy and tragedy, but I cringed at the "comedy", laughed at the "tragedy", and fell asleep twice in the middle.

I kept wishing that I had a liter of the rotten potcheen the characters drank, but I would have been better off reading a whiskey label for eighty-five minutes than watching this.  The DVD transfer continually chopped off the actors' heads, which became kind of interesting.  So I pretended that their shoes were delivering the terrible performances.

Ostensibly the story's about a poor Dublin family living in the slums while the Irish Civil War rages around them.  The husband is a drunken, bloviating, layabout.  The wife complains about his inebriated slothly bloviations.  The daughter shames the family by getting knocked up outside of wedlock.  The one-armed son rats on the IRA and gets murdered for it.  There's an A-hole friend.  An A-hole bartender. And a bunch of other A-holes.

I have no doubt the play itself was of interest, but the film is not.  What's most frustrating is that Hitch was just coming off of Blackmail, his most solid film yet, and then turns in this unimaginative lazy turd.

In Hitchcock's own words:
"The film got very good notices, but I was actually ashamed, because it had nothing to do with cinema. The critics praised the picture, and I had the feeling I was dishonest, that I had stolen something." (Truffaut 69)
So what we're trying to say is that it's a fabulous film.

Murder! (1930)


Herbert Marshall!


A bit of Hitchcock trivia:  Brandy makes an appearance in every single one of his films.  I don't know why.  She wasn't that good in "Moesha".


"Listen very carefully to the sound of my handsome."
(pic Source)
There's a murder amongst a theatrical acting group.  One of the actresses is convicted by a jury and receives a death sentence.  One of the jurymen, also an actor, has second thoughts after the sentencing and leads his own investigation to get to the truth before the woman is hanged.

Yes, there are considerable logic issues with the story.  But Hitchcock and company have such a great time toying with reality, theatre, and theatre-reality that I wouldn't doubt some of the hiccups are part of the fun.  Also to be considered, Hitch's previous film was a labored (to be polite) adaptation of a theatrical piece, while this film plays with themes that surround The Theatre itself.

Plus, unlike Juno and the Paycock, the camera keeps moving and the quicker editing is tight.  Hitch even shows off a bit in one scene, dollying between two rooms, back and forth a half dozen times in one conversation, only to have all of that action dismissed by the other characters.

Some more good stuff:
-- Herbert Marshall, acting!
-- The jury: 12 Angry Men?  No, 12 Foolish People.
-- Death sentence handed down offscreen while the janitor cleans up the jury room.
-- Shadow of the gallows rising to mark time.
-- An impressively gruesome suicide.
-- A lisping transvestite mixed-racial acrobat.

And if you can catch it on Netflix (Quickster, R.I.P.) Watch Instantly, you'll get treated to two versions of the ending.

Though not at the same level as Blackmail, Murder! is an enjoyable film, especially if you like The Theatre.  Makes one look forward to the next films on Sir Alfred's slate.

Spoto, Donald. The Art Of Alfred Hitchcock. Anchor Books, New York. 1992.
Truffaut, Francois. Hitchcock. Simon & Schuster, Paris. 1984.


Ruth's pitching prowess continued in 1917, as did his relative dearth of hitting.  He led the AL in complete games by a considerable distance.  He finished 35 out of his 38 starts, a 92.1% rate, 5th best in the history of the AL up to that point.  He finished 2nd in wins, 2nd in innings, 3rd in opponent BA, 4th in WAR, but led lefties in every major pitching category.

He allowed only 2 home runs, but he hit only two home runs, again.  He led all pitchers in hits, singles, home runs, BA, OBP, SLG, and runs created but not by his previously impressive measures.  He was only brought in to pinch hit eleven times.

Boston did not make the World Series, finishing far behind the White Sox in the American League.  Their pitching continued to be the best in the league, but their hitting was amongst the weakest.  Management was sitting on a offensive gold mine, something they would begin to exploit in 1918, but only after switching managers and losing a considerable chunk of the lineup to the WWI draft.  But in 1917, the team struggled.  Ruth grew increasingly moody, picking fights in the clubhouse and on the field.  This culminated in a famous/infamous game on June 23rd.

Ruth walked the first batter on four pitches, arguing each call by umpire Brick Owens.  As the batter walked to first, Ruth cussed Owens out from the mound.  Owens threatened to toss Ruth from the game.  G.H. Ruth then declared that if he were to be tossed, he'd punch Owens in the face.  Owens made good on his threat.  The Big Bam made good on his.  He charged Owens, knocked over his catcher, and punched the umpire in the head.  Ruth was suspended and fined for his actions.  Meanwhile, Ernie Shore came in to replace Ruth.  The runner on first was caught stealing and Shore retired every single batter that came to the plate.  A perfect game.  With an asterisk.

1918 was to be much different, as mentioned above.  A new lineup.  A new manager.  No umpire punching.  A restless Ruth was going to get to bat, but first he had to prove his worth, next in Chapter 4: The 39 Steps.

Creamer, Robert. Babe: The Legend Comes to Life. Simon & Schuster, New York. 1974.
Jenkinson, Bill. Baseball's Ultimate Power: Ranking the All-Time Greatest Distance Home Run Hitters. Lyons Press. 2010.
Jenkinson, Bill. The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs: Recrowning Baseball's Greatest Slugger. Carrol & Graf. 2007.
Montville, Leigh. The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth. Broadway Books, New York. 2006.

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