Archive for July, 2010

Week 30: ‘Spellbound’ – 1945

July 29, 2010

Even typing the name of this film gives me a tremor of pleasure – it’s marvellous, inventive and ambitious and succeeds on just about every level. Personally, I think James Stewart is the ultimate Hitchcock star, followed of course by Cary Grant – but Gregory Peck in ‘Spellbound’ gives them both a good innocent-man-on-the-run for their money.

The film opens with two sets of captions, the first from ‘Julius Caesar’:

‘The fault – is not in the stars but in ourselves’ – Shakespeare, seeming to express that people’s mental disabilities are their own responsibility and can therefore be solved by themselves. The second (scrolling) caption moves up the screen (the first instance of this I believe in a Hitchcock movie) and explains various psychoanalytical terms and the intention of the story.

Peck plays ‘Dr. Anthony Edwardes’, who ostensibly is the next boss at Green Manors asylum run by Leo G. Carroll (playing Dr. Murchison – I love Leo G. Carroll). Ingrid Bergman plays Dr. Constance Petersen, whose cold-fishedness is thawed by the incoming head doc. But (who would have thought it) not all is as it seems – ‘Dr. Edwardes’ is actually an amnesiac patient himself and is then suspected of murdering the real Dr. Edwardes by shoving him off a snowbound cliff (shades of ‘Secret Agent’ here). ‘Edwardes’ – now known as ‘John Brown’ and later by his real name John Ballantine, goes on the run, aided by the loved up Dr. Petersen. Together they unravel that the real villain is Murchison himself who finally twists the (big, false-handed and a little unconvincing/mechanical) gun on himself.

The photography in the film is luminously beautiful, strong blacks and bright whites giving the whole production a feel of sophistication and great style – it’s a complete pleasure to watch just as a visual experience.* Graceful camera moves abound – a lovely one where the nympho patient (played by Rhonda Fleming) of Petersen lies on the couch and the camera glides around them or later when Ballantine realises he has third degree burns on his wrist. Hitchcock uses many seemingly effortless camera moves to tell his tale – even later pulling off a camera move that prefigures the transitions in ‘Rope’, Ballantine moving past the camera in the guest room scene, but in this case without a transition cut, very elegant**. There are also a fair amount of longish takes in ‘Spellbound’ that also feel like the director is pushing these boundaries.

Petersen’s first sighting of Edwardes/Ballantine is backed by a sweeping theme, the first real music since the credits, and Hitchcock uses Miklos Rosza’s music as a key storytelling technique: the romantic theme ruptured by the more discordant as Ballantine sees the pattern on Petersen’s dressing gown/later, when he realizes later that he is not who he thinks he is, there is an even more clashing refrain.

Bergman is great at evoking the slow awakening of a woman whose sexuality has remained buried in books for so long. Hitchcock opens the film up by having them go off to the country for an excursion – showing the fusty docs back at the Hospital seated at their usual table – but the two chairs that the new couple had occupied so closely remain tellingly empty. When they kiss, Hitchcock illustrates her awakening in a way that only he would and could do: a shot of a series of four doors opening into the distance – absolutely brilliant. By the time Petersen realizes the new man in her life is an imposter it’s too late, she already loves him.

The repeated Ballantine-losing-it scenes are well handled and intriguing – he seeing something in the lines of the tines of a fork on a tablecloth and the pattern of a bedcover which remain a mystery until the dream-scene payoff/reveal.

This is all great, confounding the audience as well as the characters in a really puzzling and fascinating manner. And, ultimately, it all adds up and makes sense – although I am slightly confused about why Ballantine turns up at the asylum in the guise of Edwardes in the first place. The scene where he is about to have a shave but is then tripped off by the sheer amount of whiteness in the bathroom is pure Hitchcock – Ballantine descending the staircase clutching a straight razor, the good Dr. Alex Brulof (Michael Chekhov) offering him milk as the razor looms large – the milk consumed as a p.o.v. shot through the glass.

This stuff beggers belief, the matching of narrative to style to ingenious ideas is staggering. The director is at his peak, the apotheosis of the director/storyteller. Plus, the milk’s full of bromide to knock out the razor-clutching mentalist Ballantine.

The skiing scenes are quite clearly false and offer up some very creaky back projection, and combined with Rosza’s racey music it comes across as quite funny from a modern perspective – but I have to say it’s forgivable in the grand scheme of the film. The pace of the narrative by this point is pretty relentless and so these pass by at some speed – it’s all so revealing and exciting that it doesn’t seem to really matter (the whole reveal of him accidently killing his little brother is thrown into this section superbly also).  As they scream towards the snowy precipice it seems impossible for them to stop – but stop they do. Petersen looks genuinely scared of what Ballantine may do, he more manically staring across at her as they ski towards their destiny.

Bergman’s wardrobe throughout the film becomes more and more relaxed – from the opening scenes of starchy buttoned up primness, through to the casual pullover in the snow lodge scenes, it’s a lovely subtle way of thawing her out with her newfound love. The fairly abstract (but not that extreme in comparison to other sections of the film) dissolving montage as she pleads his case is good – the previous opening doors becoming prison bars shadowing her ever more desperate face.

As the slow dawning realization that Murchison is the bad guy occurs to her, Hitchcock pulls out classic profile shots of Bergman for emphasis.

Of course, one unparalleled set piece in the picture is the central Salvador Dali-created dream sequence that is absolutely wonderful. Ballantine relates his dream and the camera slickly, and repeatedly, zooms to his temple and we enter into this fantastic image-laden sequence of distorted perspective, bent wheels, scissors, eyes, extreme slopes and running figures. It’s something to behold and is very Dalinian  – and also evokes Georgio de Chirico in its playful perspectives. Hitchcock deliberately shoots in a sharp, focused manner, eschewing the usual fuzzy soft focus dream sequences so commonly presented. (The little aside mentioning another of Petersen’s patients who dreamt of her as ‘an eggbeater’ is cheeky – it’s just dropped in casually and the most likely explanation is as some kind of testicle pounding man-hater. Nice).

Aside from the Dali dream sequence, Hitchcock executes another marvelous teeny tiny detail. As Murchison pulls the trigger on himself (that big false model hand – which actually is pretty great as it tracks across the room following Petersen) there is a two frame flash frame explosion – in red!!

This has to be the shortest colour sequence ever in a black and white movie and would have been most probably been hand tinted in the original prints. This is exactly the kind of precise detail that makes you wonder and marvel at the director’s skill and ingenuity. I am running out of superlatives…

The film does have elements of being just another variation on the innocent man on the run aided and abetted by a beautiful woman, but what a great variation – it’s dressed up in such stylish ways and has a great main theme of amnesia and murder and psychoanalysis that it works extremely well on so many different levels. It’s a smashing success, beautifully crafted and executed with universally strong performances and admirable imagination.

Miscellaneous notes

*The version I watched was on the UK Fremantle label and is very clean and sparkle/scratch free – they also released the very fine version of ‘Rebecca’. There is also a version available on the always dependable and impressive Criterion Collection. Anyone who includes colour bars on their releases gets my vote.

Some good staircase action in the sanitorium – Bergman going upstairs at nighttime reminiscent of Cary Grant as Johnnie in ‘Suspicion’, but without the murderous milk.

Mr. Hitchcock appears at the Empire State Hotel, emerging from a lift carrying a violin case and smoking a cigarette in a curiously effete manner – 38 minutes in.

**It looks like there are a couple of frames missing @ 1 hour 2 mins and 38 secs – the picture kicks slightly as they chat, curious…


Week 29: ‘Lifeboat’ – 1944

July 25, 2010

This is a wonderful film – a high concept drama taking place entirely in a lifeboat and it succeeds on many levels. Within the lifeboat we experience intrigue, suicide, racism, scheming, insanity, deception and murder – and a clever Hitchcock personal appearance to boot. You don’t get the drama of a baby being born, but there is an already dead baby thrown in (to the water) for good measure.

The director holds his nerve from the start and resists showing the ‘ship going down’ scene – instead an ever growing close-up of the ship’s funnel sinks slowly, the camera moving across the wreakage and debris left from the vessel and establishing a U Boat sailor floating dead in the water.

We first see Constance ‘Connie’ Porter (the great Tallulah Bankhead) floating nonchalantly in the lifeboat, ciggie in hand, a bored expression of resignation on her face. At this stage she’s alone, but not for long. A sailor (Kovak, played by John Hodiak) swims towards her and she immediately picks up her film camera (looks like a 16mm) and we see the camera’s p.o.v. – an interesting technique and unusual, but the kind of thing the director throws in all over the place throughout the film to lift it out of what could be a restricted set.

Kovak pretty instantly manages to knock the camera into the ocean, much to Connie’s extreme consternation, given the amount of great footage she says she has captured.

As more and more survivors climb on the lifeboat relationships are established fast and characters introduced – the sailors, the passengers…and finally the enemy. ‘Hey look – another customer’ as Willie the German (Walter Slezak) clambers aboard., his ‘danker shern’ preceding a fade to black to emphasise the significance of this ‘rattlesnake’ (their words) coming aboard. I don’t quite buy that the whole lot of them wouldn’t search the German from the outset – especially once they realise he is the skipper of the U-Boat.

The film throws up a load of social and class and race issues – it feels at times like Sidney Lumet’s ‘Twelve Angry Men’ (1957), different arguments coming at you from each of them, starting with the conjecture about bunging the jerry overboard*. The black guy, Joe (Canada Lee), is surprised when he gets a vote in the matter, the others expressing surprise that he thinks he would not. It’s all wonderful, provocative stuff partly courtesy of the mighty John Steinbeck, who co-wrote the picture with Jo Swerling (and an uncredited Ben Hecht).

The at-sea burial of the baby is very moving, Joe reciting the full Bible quote of ‘yea though I walk through the valley of death’, the photography adding to the drama as he comes into frame with strong dramatic lighting.

The deranged, spaced-out berieved mother Mrs. Higley (Heather Angel) is clearly not long for this small world either, accusing Willie of killing her baby before being actually tied down to protect herself. To add insult to death, the German callously yawns before lying down for a kip. She won’t last the night and slips overboard, leaving only an empty chair as evidence.

The film is photographed beautifully by Glen MacWilliams (and the uncredited Arthur C. Miller), the rear projection some of the finest in Hitchcock to date – a gentle breeze blowing for added effectiveness, buckets of water tossed in when it all kicks off. It’s very convincing and believable and has wonderful looking black and whiteness.

Alice MacKenzie (played by Mary Anderson) is in charge of the sick bay on board. She has to face up to an at sea leg amputation as the battle-wounded Gus (William Bendix, who’s great in the picture) faces creeping gangrene. Gus is a marathon dancer and knows those days are over. It’s a great scene, a real human drama as they all gang together for the inevitable. Gus does seem to get hammered very fast, as he chugs down the brandy as a makeshift anaesthetic. He’s literally slurring and defocused and flirty and singing within a couple of minutes (he’d be cheap on a night out). He asks Connie for a kiss and she moves in on him without hesitation, the tough world-wise dame that she is. They all help with the heating of the fateful knife as Gus readies himself by punching Kovak in the chops, as you do. The poignant shot of Gus’s spare empty boot on the deck is all that is needed to summarise the trauma he has undergone.

Romance starts to bloom between Alice and Sparks (the great Hume Cronyn, so different here from the nerdy Herbie in ‘Shadow of a Doubt’), he a caring shoulder to cry to about her unrequited love for a married doctor. Sparks is visibly pained as she relates her story of love-woe and there’s a couple of great profile shots here as they talk and look past each other towards the endless ocean.

It slowly dawns on Sparks that Willie has been fibbing in regards to their direction, and as the picture dissolves to later that night, he subtly pushes the tiller to redirect them to Bermuda.

The lifeboaters also realise that Willie may have a compass and they enlist Joe to pickpocket him, the latter saying he made a solemn vow that all that was behind him – until they practically order him to do so. Joe is slick and falls on the half asleep German, pocketing his compass as he does so.

It’s all really good, and well acted – and gives a very real sense that this is how these people would behave, operating under the dwindling restraints of civilisation and trying to be fair whilst growing steadily more desperate. The lifeboat becomes a microcosm of society with all the normal desires and wants and emotions and temptations. As the rising squall reaches a climax, Gus falls overboard and the German grasps control of the tiller – effectively saving him! The water crashes in and there’s NO MUSIC, a bold move on Hitchcock’s part which serves to ground the film even more in reality. It’s very convincing, again, that they are at sea and potentially could at any moment drown or die in some heat stroke lack of water related way. Wonderful stuff.  The only respite to the no music rule (apart from the opening and closing of the picture) is Willie’s singing to the millionaire industrialist Rittenhouse (Henry Hull) on the penny whistle.

Willie takes control as the storm really kicks off and pretty much all their possessions get swept away – a brief shot of Connie despondently looking at her comb and lipstick as everything else has been stripped away from her (save her bracelet which will come to the fore in a later scene). In the height of the storm, Connie and Kovac launch on each other in abandonment and later, as the sun shines, they lie together like a post coital couple, and shortly after they’re playing a gentle game of footsie with each other.

Willie has taken control and rows like a Viking as the others loll around knackered, he beaming with pride at being a member of the ‘master race’.

When Kovac reads the paper, Connie playfully pushes her finger through it and there is a brief but effective shot as she passes through the frame left to right before quizzing him on his tattoos – adding her own initials onto his swarthy chest. It’s interesting to note that Kovac is the only topless male on board in the film – set up as a 1940’s paradigm of the masculine torso – nowadays you’d have the buffed and 6 packed warrior look of ‘300’ to contend with. Kovac shuns Connie and wards her off ‘slumming’ it with him – she riles and stares at him in barely suppressed fury.

I love the way it all boils down to water, evoking Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’:

‘Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink’.

An incendiary fight between Kovak and Rittenhouse is averted when they realize it is raining, but the downpour is all too brief. Poor amputee Gus’s lot gets worse when he starts glugging down the seawater and begins to descend into mania. The whole thing feels like all of ‘society’ is just a couple of day’s starvation and thirst away from turning into animals, the impassive ever rowing Willie holding it together. Hitchcock’s compositions on Willie err on the side of balanced – he, centre frame, coolly just keeping going and awaiting whatever chance he may get to take ultimate control and steer them towards his own safe haven. As he sings with great vim and vigour, his huge hands move to close up right in our faces.

Willie is a great character – he’s got all he needs (water, food tablets, the compass) and sees them as weak (all right, he’s a rather clichéd German villain type, but this was 1944). He has a gleam in his eye as the camera shoots him closeup, visible sweat on his forehead as they notice and realize that to sweat he must have water.

They turn on him and attack him as he talks to them like they’re kids, and you can’t blame them but simultaneously you have to admire him for his reserves and preparedness. Eventually they pitch him overboard and he’s finished off by savage blows from Rittenhouse. They have been brought as low as they can go – it’s murder on this ocean.

‘To my dying day, I’ll never understand Willie and what he did’ so says millionaire Rittenhouse, amazingly, straight after pummeling the enemy to death. He slowly realizes that, even with all his wealth, ultimately he has joined ‘the mob’.

Talllulah Bankhead (for all the titillating stories of her on set underwear-free shenanigans) is very good and strong, if a little sub-Marlene Dietrich. She has a great gutteral voice – right up there with Dietrich and Joan Greenwood, the husky voiced British character actress. Connie has a great balance of determination, cynicism with hooded eyes and a steely reporter’s determination. In fact, the whole cast shine through what was apparently a tough shoot of bobbing around in water tanks for months on end. Connie’s manic laugh as her final possession, the Cartier bracelet, is washed away after on the verge of a fish-baiting triumph, is great as they all ditch any such survivalist thoughts in favour of the eventually approaching supply ship. There’s a great track/dolly to Joe as he spots the supply ship, no mean feat through the group of people the camera has to pass through (probably executed with the camera on a dolly from above to avoid any contact with the wavey ground).

The climactic battle with the German supply ship attacked by the Allies vessel is gripping, cross cutting between them desperately rowing to get out of the way and the oncoming hull of destruction. Their eventual salvation seems well earned, murderers in a time of war that they are. The final debate on the fate of a young German seaman who has come aboard keeps going past the end of the picture, a really nice way of leaving the ending open and the audience to consider what they would do at such a time.

‘Lifeboat’ gives you an in depth study of the drama that plays out between all different sections of society – suddenly all in the same boat and facing an uncertain life or death. It is exciting and taut and slow moving at times – yes – but for the same reason as James Stewart tailing Kim Novak in ‘Vertigo’ – to put the audience through the same feelings of boredom that the protagonists are experiencing. It’s top notch stuff and one of the most successful experimental movies Hitchcock made (I prefer it, I have to say, to 1948’s ‘Rope’, but more on that in August). The photography is great and, even given the one set bound feel of the whole thing, never feels hampered or constrained. It’s really well acted and thought out and all in all a fantastically exciting, endlessly inventive and thought-provoking entertainment.

Miscellaneous notes

*in the Lumet film, to increase tension, the director made the jury room smaller as the film progressed. I don’t think Hitchcock does the same here, but it may have been an interesting notion.

@ 24’00 Hitchcock works in his personal appearance skillfully as the ‘before’ picture in a newspaper weight-loss advertisement.

I watched this on the 20th Century Fox ‘Cinema Reserve’ label – a very stylish edition in a metal case with two discs – including a 20 minute ‘making of’ documentary and various other special features. Well worth checking out.

Week 28: ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ – 1943

July 17, 2010

This is a really dark movie, and at the heart of it is the menacingly charming figure of Joseph Cotton as Uncle Charlie – a creepy, sinister character with a mysterious past of murder and darkness. Uncle Charlie is on the run as a suspect in a series of ‘merry widow’ murders and he seeks refuge in his sister and her family’s small town – but the cops turn up here too…

The movie opens fantastically and keeps the pace up admirably throughout. Establishing shots show Uncle Charlie lying on a bed in a low rent neighbourhood, the camera angled on his boarding house and his window to suggest something slightly off balance.

This kind of opening, the camera creeping closer and closer to the subject, is just the kind of thing Hitchcock uses at the opening of ‘Psycho’, and works a treat there also. On the surface he’s a laid back character but has moments of great anger, smashing a glass in his room as his landlady leaves. The house is number 13, as you may expect, and he is already under scrutiny from the cops. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is stabby, dramatic and great – over the top with Charlie and hitting the footsteps of the two flatfeet who tail him, reaching a climax as he gives them the slip and coolly puffs a cigar.

‘A kiss to Charlie from her Uncle Charlie’
is the telegram he sends to his niece, played by Teresa Wright (who interestingly gets top billing in the movie), and his repeated ‘Santa Rosa’ dialogue transports us to this far more civilised zipcode. Tiomkin’s theme is pastoral and refined, another matching series of dissolves establish niece Charlie lying in the same relaxed repose as her uncle, but without the jagged angles and dramatic dread – this is really fantastic stuff and well thought out from the get-go. Young Charlie is bemoaning the repetitiveness of her day to day suburban existence, desiring excitement – and my, is she going to get it…

When Uncle comes close to Santa Rosa he chugs in on a jet black warhorse of a train, steaming like the devil into this innocent sugarplum town, where if you cross the road out of step you get berated by the local fuzz.

On the train, he’s holed up out of view and prying eyes, claiming some mythical severe illness. Some card players enquire about him and there’s an odd shot showing one of the card player’s dealt hand – all the spades in order from the two to the ace, the ace at the front, it being traditionally called the ‘death card’, an omen of evil and foreboding (when I say ‘one of the card player’s’, it’s actually Hitchcock himself – he’s the director and he’s holding all the cards, of course). Uncle’s feigned illness is slickly shrugged off as soon as he sees his relatives and he’s straight away sleek charm personified.

There’s a clear lasciviousness when Uncle eyes up Niece as she strides along in all her youthful innocence, a really bold suggestion of lust for the 1940’s. He is symbolically given his niece’s room and he will sleep in her bed. His gift to her, a ring which he slips on her finger when they’re alone – the ring, of course, taken from one of the widow’s he has steadily been bumping off…

Uncle Charlie sweeps into their lives like a breath of foul air – full of verve and excitement and spilling gifts to one and all. Mother (Patricia Collinge) gets a fur (Young Charlie: ‘it’s what you should have’), demeaning poor old reliable dad (Henry Travers) for not supplying what his woman needs. Little sis (Edna May Wonacott) is the cynical member of the family, giving a disappointed and dismissive glance at her teddy present, obviously feeling it is beneath her years. Of course, in a classic ‘all that glitters is not gold’ kind of way, the mood starts to turn dark.

Benign old dad says he ‘doesn’t believe in inviting trouble’ and tells Uncle Charlie to take his hat off Young Charlie’s bed (another bad luck omen), but as soon as he’s left alone Uncle spots a couple of ripe old dears out the window and casually tosses same hat defiantly onto the bedspread. Uncle Charlie’s whole demeanour screams trouble – he’s the evil snake in this Edenesque picket fenced paradise.

The recurring visual motif of the lavishly dressed ballroom dancers opens behind the titles and pops up throughout the picture. They dance to the tune of the merry widow, a tune Charlie can’t help humming to himself in a self gratified manner, his niece then picking up on this and he having to cover his tracks with a knocked over glass at the dinner table.

This is classic stuff, sound-symbolic hummed tunes, abstract images that confuse then enlighten you, Uncle Charlie seated at the head of the family table, in control.

Dad has a great side relationship with his mate Herbie Hawkins, the two of them pouring over detective stories and murder mysteries in much the same way as Cary Grant’s Johnnie did in ‘Suspicion’. Herb is played by the great Hume Cronyn (you know, from ‘Cocoon’) and he’s an awkward square fellow who comes in at dinner time (much to the consternation of mother) and has a side chat with dad about murderous mushrooms. It’s little touches like these that lift the film from ordinary (which it’s never really in danger of becoming) into something superb.

Uncle’s charm offensive starts to turn just plain offensive when Young Charlie realizes he has nicked a part of dad’s newspaper (that will transpire to contain reports on the hunting of the widow murderer). Uncle stalks towards her and grasps her arm painfully.  This scene is preceded by Young Charlie climbing the stairs, the camera slightly tilted and the shadows angling crazily. Touches like this centre the film very much in a gothic style and harken back to Hitchcock’s earlier movies, all expressionistically overwrought and amped up hidden lunacy:

Uncle Charlie: ‘What’s the use of looking backward?  What’s the use of looking forward?  Today’s the thing. Today.’ ‘It’s a joke to me – the whole world’s a joke to me’

Uncle Charlie is so out of whack with the small town he gets stared at wherever he goes. You have to wonder if he’s trying to lay low why he would come somewhere where he is so well known and then acts really brassily – his clothes, his volume level of speech, his outlandish phrases all bring attention upon him. It’s like he’s hiding so far out in the open he hopes people won’t notice him, or is resigned to his ultimate demise and is taunting destiny to come get him.

By the by, his meeting of the two middle/late aged ladies in the bank is great – he visibly eyeing them up as potential victims, virtually licking his lips in anticipation.

The two flatfoot cops come sniffing around in the guise of representing magazine reporters interviewing the ideal American family, and it takes all of Charlie’s ingenuity to avoid them. There’s a lovely backlit shot at 46’53” as he stares downstairs and ducks away.

The detectives inveigle their way into the Charlies’ room and the photographer gets to stay in there, so trusting is she and smooth are they. They get a snap of Uncle Charlie who demands the film but is the victim of a photo swap and they get what they wanted – as well as the younger cop arranging a time to pick up Young Charlie to show him around the town that evening…fast work if you can get it.

Their evening turns sour very suddenly, in about the only false note in the film. She is out with Jack Graham (Macdonald Carey) and suddenly, from a pleasant evening of dinner and chat, the scene and mood changes where she realizes he’s a detective. This is a bit odd and comes from nowhere and sets the second half of the film in motion as Young Charlie starts to investigate her Uncle, whilst simultaneously getting more romantic with the very guy who could put him away (who to me seems about ten years older than her, her parents not at all phased by this).

Tiomkin’s music is fantastically over the top at times. As niece Charlie rushes to the library to check the destroyed newspaper evidence the orchestra goes increasingly nutzoid – finally stabbing violently as she discovers the headline WHERE IS THE MERRY WIDOW MURDERER? in massive full screen close-up. When she then realizes that the initials in her ring/gift are a match for the most recent victim Hitchcock pulls out one of his signature small-to-large shots and cranes up from the ring to a high shot of her dazedly leaving the library, then a dissolve to the whirling dervish dancers in their hypnotic waltz. This is simply marvelous, well thought out and planned direction.

Hitch then goes on to totally top himself with Uncle Charlie’s dinner table speech, over a slow zoom to Cotton:

Uncle Charlie: ‘You see them in the hotels, the best hotels, every day by the thousands, drinking the money, eating the money, losing the money at bridge, playing all day and all night, smelling of money, proud of their jewelry but of nothing else, horrible, faded, fat, greedy women…’

Niece Charlie (or is it mother offscreen?): ‘But they’re alive – they’re human beings!’

And then he turns slowly to camera, full face frame and asks us coldly:

‘Are they?’

This is genuinely chilling and beautifully acted and reveals Charlie for the cold-hearted, hatred-filled, sadistic sexist strangling murderous…oooh, he make yer blood boil.

His dialogue to her in the late night drinking emporium is also savagely great:

‘Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you rip off the fronts of houses, you’d find swine? The world’s a hell. What does it matter what happens in it? Wake up, Charlie. Use your wits. Learn something.’

Uncle intimates to niece that he was about to top himself prior to coming to Santa Rosa, and she agrees begrudgingly to give him a few days before he gets out of their lives. It’s the first sign of real weakness in him and the desperation at the cops closing in starts to show as he cracks under the pressure (like the necks of the widows he strangled, oh yes). When dad and Herb pass by saying the Merry Widow murderer has been caught, Uncle fairly skips up the stairs…but stops and looks back and sees Young Charlie looking at him, he knowing that even if the game isn’t up then his family is history. The following steep angled shot of Uncle Charlie in his room is dramatic and we see the ceiling of the bedroom – maybe Hitchcock had been watching Orson Welles’ ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941) with its fabled use of low angles and real ceilings and, of course, Joseph Cotton. The close-up of his hands, cigar dropping, then clenching as he looks out the window at his niece is great – he thinking of an easy solution to his pressing problem.

Hitch plants his plot points adeptly, mother proclaiming early on with a pant ‘those back stairs are steep’, a line that will come back with a vengeance as Uncle Charlie saws through one step in his first attempt to bump off his niece. Later, a romantic interlude in the family garage will haunt the two lovers as murder closes in on Young Charlie, the director making clear that the garage door is wont to slam shut randomly. The attempted murder of Young Charlie is superbly handled and violent, shutting her in the garage with the car engine revving.

Uncle Charlie’s eventual demise, squished to death on the rail tracks is also exciting and hair-raising, Uncle and Niece fighting for life and limb until one of them gives up their ghost.

Hitchcock actually has some kind of coda to the picture – quite unusually given his penchant for getting to The End so rapidly in many cases. Outside the church where the respectful service is being intoned, Young Charlie and her police beau discuss the truth about Uncle Charlie – he never liked people or life, was bitter, cold and murderous. Only they know the truth and this short scene overlays the audio from inside the church as the real valediction to this charming man.

This is a film with a black heart, lifting the lid on small town naivete and an innocent’s reaction to a devil thrown amongst them. It’s a variation on the plot of 1927’s ‘The Lodger’ and, as a multi-layered depiction of maggot-ridden American life, I do think it’s my favourite Hitchcock to date.

Miscellaneous notes

As Young Charlie picks up telegram from Uncle at 14 30” there is a weird echo on the dialogue between her and Mrs. Henderson (the lovely named Minerva Urecal playing the telegram/post office lady). It seems out of place with the setting, as if they’re in a massive room – it’s strange and maybe suggestive of the scene being post synched, which would be odd. The limited view of the room they’re in doesn’t suggest it should be echoing quite so much, hmmm. Small point but noticeable.

Week 27: ‘Saboteur’ -1942

July 11, 2010

This is not a bad little film – it flits between drama and intrigue with good, solid performances but occasionally doesn’t help itself by lurching into the territory of evoking the propaganda pictures that were prevalent in the Second World War. It has some fantastic set pieces and inventive sequences and has a dark noirish look at times which is really appealing.

The plot involves a wrongly accused guy on the run – in this case Barry Kane (Robert Cummings), who is accused of sabotaging a wartime factory and then goes on the run to prove his innocence. He knows that the real suspect is a guy called Frank Fry (Norman Lloyd) who has disappeared without a trace, aside from some letters addressed to Fry that Barry has seen. His odyssey takes him across America and various encounters: the romantic, the profound and the plain oddball.

The opening titles are interesting – over a corrugated sheet metal massive door, a shadow silhouette figure slowly advances.

Hitchcock grew to love a title sequence (his feted work with Saul Bass later in the director’s career is amongst the best of all movie title sequences) and it’s interesting to see him starting to think of these parts of the movie as another place to apply his inventiveness. Traditionally, the title sequence would be a fairly throwaway item to communicate a few nuggets of star and technician information, but things would change going forwards into the 1950’s and beyond*.

The act of sabotage at the start is really nicely understated. Black smoke curls into shot from the edges of frame – prefiguring Kubrick’s blood bath around the lift doors of the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’.

Being fearless types, the factory workers all steam in there to try to save their workplace (today everyone would just leg it out the door screaming ‘health and safety’).  The director holds his nerve and has our hero’s work mate (Ken Mason played by the uncredited Virgil Summers) burnt alive. The sabotage sequence is pretty short, but it’s strong and effectively shocking.

Barry is a fairly innocuous hero – Cummings is kind of John Garfield-lite and has the swarthy unshaven look of someone who’s trying a bit too hard to look like some kind of desperate tough guy (whereas Garfield had a very genuine menace to him).

His cross country escape odyssey puts him immediately into a neat conflict with the smooth talking old villain Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger) in his lavish country farm/estate – the old geezer surprisingly trusting as he wanders off and leaves Barry in charge of Suzy the toddler near a swimming pool (Suzy promptly exposes the old guy as a liar by handing Cummings the Fry letters the old guy denied all knowledge of). There’s good acting from the toddler here, a tough scene to not seem contrived and awkward and Cummings handles it well. Tobin is genuinely nasty, smoothly coming back to say he has already rung the cops. Barry must get back on the road again, and employs a piggy back to Suzy (can’t seem to find a credit for the young actress who plays her – what is it with kids’ credits?) to make a western style horseback ride for it before being lassooed and handcuffed. The final image of the creepy Addams style villainous family is pretty spooky, and not a little kooky.

The movie is an episodic tale that allows the director to string together a series of disparate set pieces and gives him license to do pretty much whatever he, and his screenwriters, want. Our hero can turn up wherever the filmmaking whim takes him – the western style scene mentioned, a dramatic bridge jump and river escape (with an interesting p.o.v. shot as Barry hides underwater), heavy rainy scenes and the help of a benign blind old fella (Phillip Martin, played by Vaughan Glazer) who honks out a piano tune (fairly randomly), the help and eventual love of a good woman and the introduction to a melange of circus freaks. It must have been very freeing to create a film where anything in particular can happen – and it’s all the more entertaining for it.

There’s always room for a benevolent blind guy in a road movie like this and Philip Martin twigs Barry’s handcuffs before his niece does (this is Priscilla Lane playing Patricia – Pat – Martin) and he is likeable and anti-establishment. This kind of character is a staple in many movies (see Michael Caine in ‘Children of Men’/ John Cleese in the Keanu Reeves 2008 cheesefest ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ to name but two bad examples) and is put in place as some kind of soothsaying talisman in the hero’s journey to redemption, offering wise words and good council – and, in this case, an apple. ‘Go ahead, Barry, and do the things I wish I could do’ – bit sickmaking by that point…

As they drive off, Pat is ready to shop him to the law but again he manages to get out of it – using her car’s engine to grind through his handcuffs as they speed off in front of an elderly couple, Pat yelling for the cops. ‘My – they must be terribly in love’ says the old girl to her husband – it’s a lovely little scene, full of tension and ingenuity, and foreseen wisdom from ye olde wife.

Barry and Pat then rather randomly hitch up with a vehicle load of circus freaks, a skinny guy called Bones and a sex obsessed bearded lady:

Bones: ‘Esmerelda everywhere you search for sex –  get your eyes out of the mud and look up at the stars’.**

There’s also a midget and a pair of Siamese twins for good measure. The dialogue here is freed up from the usual thriller constraints and the writers (including Dorothy Parker, slumming it from her day job) take full advantage. The two bickering Siamese twins are fun and an easy entertainment win as one complains to the other that she has been tossing and turning all night.

This is all fine and pretty funny but you can’t help feeling empathy with Barry and Pat – rather bewildered that they have suddenly found themselves amongst all these strange characters. The bearded lady’s long speech about the good people in the world, the camera slow dollying to Pat as she realises she must stick with and help Barry, is impassioned but does again feel a little manipulative in the plot (ie. ‘let’s have someone tell us what the lead lady is feeling just to hammer it home’).

When Barry blags his way into the villain’s car at his next port of call, Soda City, we see their journey – the genuinely creepy, and vaguely pervy, glasses wearing Alan Baxter as Freeman (talking about his kids and how he lets his two year old son’s hair grow long as he always actually wanted a girl…hmmm), and the two weirdfellas in the front who sing a mournful tune as they drive. He is slowly unravelling the terrorist plot to blow up a dam that supplies much of the power for various defence factories in the Los Angle-ease area (the city repeatedly pronounced with a hard ‘g’, a little oddly but pretty cool). By the way, Barry suddenly is all smart and clean shaven, a little unclear how he is so suddenly spruced up (it’s mentioned that he needs a change of clothes but quite how he comes by a barber and a tailor in the middle of bud-fudge nowhere is anyone’s guess).

The imposing tough theme music as they approach the city is striking and over the top , but good. Freeman is protective of their missions and general doings, clearly an undercurrent of weird sadism with this fellow. The scenes where they enter the large mansion by the kitchens is smoothly handled – it has that undercurrent of the rich meddling in terrorist matters, the wealthy Mrs. Sutton (Alma Kruger) fussing about – half guest-obsessed, half plotting against civilisation. She is simultaneously throwing a party in her posh, moneyed way whilst trying to destroy the very civilisation she represents.

I like all the conspiracy and the evil gang mentality as Pat appears, much to Barry’s surprise. There’s a bit of business with Barry pointing at a book spine called ESCAPE, smooth old Tobin popping up and pointing at a book called DEATH OF A NOBODY. It’s a typical Hitchcock moment, odd but effective. This whole sequence in the large mansion house reminded me a little of Kubrick’s  ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (Pat: ‘it’s like a bad dream’), all the posh guests in it together and he trying to justify himself and seeking understanding. He’s not dressed appropriately and he gets nowhere but rejected when he tries to seek help.

Every time he gets near to people they trap him – how to escape from this civilised trap? There’s a really long take of Barry and Pat dancing here, the only safe place for them as they kiss and discuss the impossibility of escape.

Barry’s big speech to the vast room is a masterstroke, he eventually using Mrs. Sutton as a shield to get them out of there (there’s a big old staircase here in this grand and corrupted mansion).

Henchman Robert (Ian Wolfe) then clonks Barry unconscious and the latter’s escape from the mansion is clearly clumsy – yes, he comes up with the ‘lighter under the sprinkler’ idea which gets everyone running about but then he is inexplicably out on the street in a wtf? kind of way. This is clearly random and feels like a cheat to get him out of an impossible situation – and overall a bit lazy.

There’s a classic Hitchshot @ 1 hour 25 minutes where Pat – herself locked up – looks out of her high window and we see her POV. It anticipates the Cary-Grant-as-Roger-Thornhill running from the United Nations in ‘North by Northwest’. Another lovely little bit of Hitchcockery is the note she writes in lippie and bungs out of her locked up room window, it floating down to rest upon a window ledge and then further down onto a taxi roof before the cabbies spot it, she flashing the lightswitch as a signal – really good.

Of course, the whole film is famed for its closing set piece: the Statue of Liberty scene. Barry and Fry battling it out and Barry eventually clinging onto Fry’s jacket sleeve as the stitching comes loose. Fry is genuinely creepy and has a strong flavour of violence to him. The scene is beautifully done and justifiably famed – the back projection and process shots are great and suffer only from a little generation loss, but it’s perfect all round. Lady Liberty stands impassive as Fry plunges to his death, unmoved by the puny human drama enfolding upon her.  This scene is obviously a set piece style the director will return to again and again (see the British Museum sequence from ‘Blackmail’ or Mount Rushmore from ‘NxNW’), but is still great entertainment.

The closing of the film, as so often in Hitchcock, is astonishingly quick. From Fry’s death fall to The End (curiously French-ified as ‘FINIS’) is literally forty seconds.

There is much to recommend in ‘Saboteur’ – good set pieces, fun encounters, creepy villains and pretty good performances (Cummings is not a classic Hitchhero but is perfectly fine in the movie). It feels very much like an American remake of the director’s own ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ though not quite as good or classic, but this does in no way mean that it should be overlooked.

Miscellaneous notes

*I love a title sequence that really goes for it and does things in a new and interesting way, sometimes giving clues to the story and the characters.

**This is a paraphrase of the Oscar Wilde epigram ‘we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’.

I can’t seem to find any relation between Otto Kruger and Alma Kruger, the two big baddies in the movie. Neither can I see any family links between them and Hardy or Diane. Bit annoying. What’s the matter with these Krugers?

Appearing at a few points in the film is the newspaper/reel company American Newsreel. My theory is that if you put pretty much any word following the word ‘American’ you come up with a pretty good title for something (Beauty, History X, Pie, Psycho, Slang, Gangster, Graffiti, Idol, Gigolo etc.)

Week 26: ‘Suspicion’ – 1941

July 3, 2010

Keeping up the pace of his Hollywood output, Hitchcock directs his fourth film within two years (imagine that happening today, unless you’re Michael Winterbottom). ‘Suspicion’ starts off as a domestic flick of a dashing gent and his new shy and naïve wife and then twists itself into pretty much a humdinger of a thriller. It’s also really the first time he has worked with a really big name star and used this star’s professional perception to work against the plot. Yes, we’ve seen Charles Laughton, Carole Lombard, Peter Lorre, Ivor Novello and Laurence Olivier but…Cary Grant

Grant plays Johnnie Aysgarth , the impoverished social climber playing on his classic good looks and inate charm to win himself an innocent young wife – Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine, seeming to corner the market on meek and mild wives in Hitchcock movies*).

Post nuptials, Johnnie starts to show his true self – working his way steadily through gambling debts and reams of bills (reminiscent of Ivor Novello’s girlfriend in ‘Downhill’, portrayed by Isabel Jeans – she pops up here also in a small role as Mrs. Newsham), and then starts to send out sinister signals of being a potential murderer. His best chum Beaky Thwaite (Nigel Bruce – you can’t murder cuddly old Nigel Bruce!) dies under suspicious circumstances and the police come a calling…

Grant is suave and elegant from the start, his usual dapper and smooth self – it’s easy to see how Lina would fall for his winning (or losing) ways. Right from the off he’s sponging off her, cadging a few pennies to boost his rail fare up to First Class. The camerawork in the movie is some of the best of Hitchcock to date – as fluid, sleek and seamless as Johnnie’s hair (I love Cary Grant’s hair by the by, very jealous of a man who seems to wander around being perfectly styled all day and night. I guess this is because he would have been perfectly styled all day and night).

Johnnie’s questioning ‘What did you think I was trying to do – kill you?’ as they grapple on the hill after skipping church is a foreboding moment. The score becomes discordant for the first time in the film (music courtesy of regular Hitch composer Franz Waxman). It’s an odd moment that throws you a little bit as it’s so out of whack with the film to this point, but it certainly drops the thought that all might not be as it seems. There’s some lovely innuendo in this scene, all horse references and snapped shut handbags as she cuts his passion off at the pass.

Her overhearing her parents saying she is not ‘the marrying kind’ throws her into Johnnie’s arms and the chase is on – she eagerly awaiting his call, he blowing her out in a fear-of-loss kind of way, guaranteed to raise her feminine shackles and get her to chase him back. This is sophisticated stuff and they both perform it well, Fontaine in particular trying to assert herself in the face of dubious parents and a flaky lover-to-be. Finally, after a well shot and performed montage of feminine listlessness and desperation, he sends a telegram and, of course, she leaps at the chance to see him – starved as she has been of his presence.

DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR UCIPITAL MAPILARY – JOHNNY – says his telegram to her regarding the upcoming ball**. Waxman’s music sweeps in and she swoons around her room in utter joy and excitement, selecting her most dynamic black and white party frock. It’s very over the top but an immediate relief to the dowdy scenes we have just experienced.

Johnnie sweeps into the ball uninvited, much to the consternation of Lina’s father,  General McLaidlaw (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). He is immediately flocked to by a host of girls, the proverbial flies round a dung heap. In a series of dizzying dance steps he swoops Lina out of there so they can be alone – bizarre, he literally seems to have been at the ball for about 5 minutes before they leave (seems a lot of trouble as he looks toned immaculate in his white tie). You have to admire Johnnie when he’s asked about his previous conquests – he’s very open and says one night when having difficulty sleeping he tried to count them and ‘passed out on number 73’. He’s the Bill Wyman of his day, the cad/Lothario. His charm is that he is so blatant about it and doesn’t attempt to hide both the truth or his reputation, which makes him attractive to the female audience and someone to admire/be jealous of for the guys. Johnnie also looks just like Cary Grant, which always helps.

This driving back to her place scene is that classic ‘we’re-sitting-in-a-studio-car-being-bumped-around-by-prop-men’ shot, a token bit of back projected road slipped in all too unconvincingly (there’s another screaming back projection bit later, in the daytime so even more glaring, after her father’s will is read).

Johnnie’s sweep-you-off-your-feet seduction continues. He mixes the charm with little levels of aggression and moodiness, all irresistible. There’s a lovely tracking move around them as he gives her another long old kiss (not in the same league as the epic Grant and Eva Marie Saint kiss from ‘North by Northwest’ but getting there). Hitchcock loves a bit of kissing and especially likes to showcase these moments of intimacy with pay attention camera moves. Lina seems too doe eyed and innocent to me – ‘are you courting me?’ she asks, after the big old swooping kiss. Does she really have to ask? He’s all over her like a fake fur.

Ill advised, Lina lets herself be eloped off and they’re married. Immediately the alarm bells should be ringing, he totting up bills galore. They honeymoon all over the place (a rather hackneyed travel poster montage here – a bit of an obvious way of showing this cheaply, with a few screaming stock shots thrown in for bad measure), and then come back to a house he has bought – because that happens, the husband buying a house without so much as consulting his wife. She just seems to accept it all and, again, it seems a bit too broad in her roll over and take it-ness. She is shocked when he openly tells her he has ‘been broke all his life’ and plans on paying off everything once her inheritance comes through. You have to admire his front…

There are elements of light comedy in these early marital scenes, Lina telling him he has to go to work and he looking at her with a humorous punctuation sound effect. When the crusty antiquated chairs from her parents’ place are delivered, Johnnie hides his dislike of them by positioning himself in a forced relaxed posture, clearly extracting the Michael out of these rather monstrous out of place seats. He promptly flogs these heirlooms and still has the front to defend his actions. Flanked by Johnnie and Beaky, they depart the room, her face worried at what she has let herself in for.

Lina desperately wants to believe, and believe in, her husband but my word does he test her. Gambling, lavish present buying, vague excuses and BS abound – she clinging to wanting him and her love, it being eroded by his more and more outlandish behaviour. Grant of course is the perfect actor for all this – anyone less suave and cool and you’d just end up hating him for being a total richard and abusing his marriage and his optimistic Mrs.

The film hits a tone that is kind of cringy. Johnnie’s outrageous shenanigans spur Lina into more and more desperate ways of trying to control him, she addled by love and shock at what he gets up to. By halfway through the film Johnnie is coming over as a real dark force – the near asphyxiation of the brandy swilling Beaky  emits nothing but an unsympathetic dismissiveness from Johnnie as his friend lays in his choking chair. Hitchcock piles on the finger pointing as we struggle to maintain respect or admiration for this despicable cretin, this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Lina slowly unravels the extent of Johnnie’s fibbery – the pretence of going to work (hello there Leo G. Carroll as his boss, Captain Melbeck…well, not really his boss as he doesn’t actually work there), the further horse racing visits, the pilfering of two grand from his ex-work (Melbeck is also his cousin and says he won’t prosecute as long as the cash comes back)…it all beggers belief.

The camera is pretty mobile throughout, the director cannot resist the occasional long take and roving camera flourish (see 58’50”, a good long take with crane shot and the inevitable grandish staircase). There’s an astonishing bit of Hitchcockery as they play a game of anagrams – she spelling out DOUBT, then MURDER as we see her imagining Beaky being shoved off a cliff.

This scene screams Hitchcockian style. It’s a tad out of whack with the rest of the picture but expresses her increasing irrationality and conflicted feelings perfectly as she falls to the floor in a faint. Lina’s dark mood as she approaches their house, thinking Beaky has been bumped, is depicted by dim lighting and a foreboding camera track. When she sees Beaky all too well, the lighting lifts, the music swells and all is – albeit temporarily – right with the world again. However, when Beaky eventually dies she reads the paper the cops give her – her father’s portrait gazing over her shoulder in an ‘I told you so’ way. At this point, if she hadn’t before, she truly does have cause for suspicion***.

There’s a whole subplot that is quite fun also – Lina is friendly with a local crime novelist (Isobel Sedbusk, played by Auriol Lee), and Johnnie has been chatting to her about poisoning and general murderous details. It’s a little abstract but does add another layer of suspiciousnes at his door. The death of Beaky through brandy excess is mirrored in the plot of a book Johnnie had borrowed – all seems a bit convenient to me, but I suppose quite intriguing and fun.

The two leads are great, giving lovely subtle nuanced performances. Fontaine in particular – although playing a kind of similar role to the one she had in ‘Rebecca’ (although in this case she actually gets a name) has a really good way of being meek and then steely and determined. Grant is always top notch and his allowing himself a tiny smile after she confesses ‘I couldn’t stop loving you if I tried’ is a typically ambiguous expression. I like them both enormously and they really do make the – sometimes pretty ridiculous – film work.

The famed ‘walking up the staircase (there it is again) with the glowing glass of possibly poisoned milk’ (a light inside the glass for maximum neon style action) is very good and a clear highpoint of the movie. The groundwork regarding untraceable poisons has been laid by this point and the tension is great. In one shadowy and superb shot Johnnie appears and carefully carries the glowing beverage up the staircase to her room. Magnificent. It’s lovely that all the suspicion and all the intrigue and question marks leads up to something as innocent as a glass of milk.

I can’t help thinking by the end that if this what the rest of her life with Johnnie is going to be like, the poor woman will be a wreck within the first year. She’s already a bundle of suspicious nerves and, even with the rather far-fetched redemption of Johnnie, it all seems very questionable.

The whole enterprise is potentially great – and enjoys a good reputation – but it does seem a bit fumbled. The finger of suspicion points so definitely at Johnnie and the evidence stacks up so convincingly that it’s like the director has set himself one of his challenges to try and then magic himself out of it all. It’s entertaining all the way through and both the stars are top notch but the rather rushed ending in particular feels all a bit ta-dah! It’s been discussed that this was not Hitchcock’s choice and the ending was forced upon him (see notes below) and the film suffers for it. It’s a good watch and has much to recommend it, though.

Miscellaneous notes

*doing it in style here and picking up the Best Actress Academy Award at 1942’s Oscar ceremony.

**The term ‘unipital mapillary’ (the tiny indentation between the clavicles) is a non existant biological term that one of the screenwriters Samson Raphaelson invented:

Johnnie: ‘Don’t do that’.
Lina: ‘Why not?’
Johnnie: ‘Because your ucipital mapillary is quite beautiful’.

Hitchcock pops up at about 45 mins in, wearing a sporty little hat and posting a letter –  apparently the film was meant to end with Lina dying from the poisoned milk but then Johnnie posts a letter she had written to her mother containing all the details of his evil nature. Perhaps Hitchcock wanted to get the letter posting in there somehow.

*** a good old profile shot of Lina at this point also.

The version I watched was on the Universal label – interestingly they include a complete colourised version of the movie , which is well worth a look. Colourisation was a bit faddy back in the 80’s and 90’s and is undoubtedly a ludicrous and just-so-wrong idea. But I have to say that even though it literally shouts disrespect it’s such a curious thing to do that it’s kind of gripping. The images resemble old photos that have been hand tinted but in motion, it’s really pretty amazing to watch and technically fascinating how they managed to do this before the more recent leaps in CGI. It’s silly and pointless and totally wrong from a purest point of view but is also a fascinating curiosity in the history of cinema. I suppose in some ways it resembles the latest penchant for 3D-ising 2D movies, a stupid idea if done badly and a short term financial gratification of a process that when done properly (ie. ‘Avatar’) is pretty astonishing. Hey – why not 3D-ise the colourised version of ‘Suspicion’ and remix it in 7.1 for Blu-ray?! And while we’re at it, swap Cary Grant for Brad Pitt, that’ll put some bums on seats…