While John Ford would go on to direct several more pictures after this one, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance represents a sort of exclamation point of one of most celebrated directorial careers in American film. His previous high-water mark, The Searchers, was a film torn between the conventions of a previous era and emerging modern sensibilities. Liberty Valance is thoroughly modern by 1962 standards and virtually timeless by any other.
The Flight of the Phoenix
Back when I was a kid, this movie used to play on the Saturday afternoon movie about every third week and, being a boy with a jones for all things aviation, I ate it up. Of course, back then I simply got off on the idea of turning a crashed airplane into a new smaller airplane. As I got older, I came to appreciate the movie for what it was: a deeply insightful drama about men under crisis, couched in the format of an action adventure.
Call Northside 777
This fact-based account of a crusading journalist trying to exonerate a man falsely imprisoned for murder has been released under Fox’s “Film Noir” line of DVDs, even though it might not belong under that umbrella. Superficially, I guess you could say that bears some resemblance to the noir classics, namely its time period and the plot centering on urban violence and corruption, but it lacks some key elements of the genre. Its hero, city reporter P.J. McNeal (Jimmy Stewart) and the subject of his quest, Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) are a little too pure and noble to fit under the strict definition of noir, but as a film genre, noir has proven to be most flexible. It matters little, since regardless of its classification, Call Northside 777 is a taut and involving movie.
Vertigo is the archetype for the later Hitchcock films through the mid-60s. The cool, aloof blonde at the center of the story is as dangerous as she is alluring. It is simultaneously Hitchcock’s most romantic film while being primarily concerned with self-destructive obsession. I don’t think any film more accurately summed up the director’s cynical attitude toward male-female relationships. Hitchcock did not believe in happily-ever-after, at least not as this stage of his career.
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Man Who Knew Too Much was the movie Alfred Hitchcock liked so much he made it twice. Well, not quite. Hitchcock had never been happy with the 1934 version, so it was the only one among his films that he had any desire to remake. Twenty years later, with one more project left on a contract with Paramount Pictures, it seemed like as good a time as any.
Three of Alfred Hitchcock‘s most famous films, Rope, Lifeboat and Rear Window, work around a very restricted geography, two New York apartments and a lifeboat. Of the three, Rear Window is the most successful as a film. It takes place almost entirely with the Greenwich apartment of globetrotting photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries (James Stewart), marooned for the last six weeks with a broken leg suffered on his last assignment.
Rope is Alfred Hitchcock’s purest exercise in stylistic experimentation. In adapting the play “Rope’s End” to the screen, Hitchcock wanted the action to seem unbroken and continuous. The problem was, of course, that film magazines could only hold eight minutes of film. That meant that every eight minutes, the director would have to find some way of masking the transition to the next reel. Usually that meant having a character momentarily block the camera with their back. The experiment was only partially successful because, quite frankly, each cut only managed to draw undue attention to itself.