“Everything seems a fine acting role when you’re stage-struck… A plot, interesting cast, even a costume…”
This was one of the very few later Hitchcock movies that I hadn’t yet seen until this procedural run-through of his filmography, and I really had no idea what to expect. The almost cheeky sense of the theatrical here is evident from the off, with a wonderful credits sequence featuring a safety curtain opening onto a wide shot of London.
The story (and this will be a spoiler, so be warned) is essentially a total fabrication with the narrator explaining in flashback what amounts to what I guess is Hitchcock’s largest mcguffin being as the flashback is a lie that dominates most of the movie’s runtime. I don’t mind saying that when this is revealed at the end of the movie, I was more than a little overawed… I really knew nothing of where the movie was going. Thinking back on it now, I already see that it’s really just a gimmick that will never have the same effect on me in future viewings… but nevertheless, it sure worked the first time.
There’s plenty more to enjoy here, however – it’s an unusual cast, I felt, for Hitchcock, with Jane Wyman, Marlene Dietrich, and Alastair Sim in particular rather hamming it up for the cameras, something I personally loved in this instance. I liked the symmetrical use of that safety curtain seen at the beginning returning at the film’s climax. And just as I noticed Hitchcock’s superb continued use of POV shots in The Paradine Case, here I noticed he still made careful use of sound, my favourite instance being when a character walks into a building, the camera following him from behind and the door only being heard closing behind him/us. There’s humour too, of course with almost every minute Alastair Sim is on screen, but also in one of Hitchcock’s cameos, and perhaps my favourite moment in the movie as Richard Todd flees the scene of the crime and a policeman tries to break the window of his car only to have Todd point to an insert of a “safety glass” sticker. I may just be overenthusiastic because it’s so rare for me now to see a “new” (to me) Hitchcock (well – impossible now, I guess, unless they find The Mountain Eagle lol!) … but what else can I say? I enjoyed it.