More mastery from the master
, 14 Dec 2004
Alfred Hitchcock's more assured telling of a film he made twenty-one years earlier is infinitely superior to the original. Hitchcock said himself that his first version was the work of an amateur, and although it certainly isn't a bad film, he does appear to be right. That being said, this remake, although definitely better, still isn't among Hitchcock's best work. That's certainly not to say that it isn't good, it's just more than a little overindulgent, and that drags it down. Hitchcock seems all too keen to drag certain elements out, and these are parts of the film that aren't entirely relevant to the plot, which can become annoying. Some of these dragged out sequences, such as the one that sees James Stewart and Doris Day eating in a Moroccan restaurant are good because it helps establish the different culture that our American protagonists have found themselves in, but for every restaurant scene, there's an opera sequence and it's the latter that make the film worse.
The plot follows a middle-aged doctor and his wife that go to Morocco for a holiday with their young son. While there, they meet a French man on the bus and another middle-aged couple in a restaurant. However, things go awry when the French man dies from a knife in the back, shortly after whispering something to the doctor. The holiday then turns into a full blown nightmare when the couple's son is kidnapped, which causes them to cut it short and go to London in order to try and find him. The film has a very potent degree of paranoia about it, and it manages to hold this all the way through. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that this is the most paranoid film that Hitchcock ever made. Like most of Hitchcock's films, this one is very thrilling and keeps you on the edge of your seat for almost the entire duration, with only the aforementioned opera sequence standing out as a moment in which the tension is diffused. There is also more than a little humour in the movie, which gives lighthearted relief to the morbid goings on, and actually works quite well.
The original version of this story was lent excellent support by the fantastic Peter Lorre. This film doesn't benefit from his presence, unfortunately, but that is made up for by performances from the amazing James Stewart, and Doris Day. James Stewart is a man that is always going to be a contender for the 'greatest actor of all time' crown. His collaborations with Hitchcock all feature mesmerising performances from him, and this one is no different. (Although his best performance remains the one in Mr Smith Goes to Washington). Stewart conveys all the courage, conviction and heartbreak of a man that has lost his child and would do anything to get him back brilliantly. In fact, that's one of the best things about this film; you are really able to feel for the couple's loss throughout and that serves in making it all the more thrilling. Doris Day, on the other hand, is a rather strange casting choice for this movie. She's definitely a good actress, but she's more associated with musicals and seeing her in a thriller is rather odd (even if she does get to flex her vocal chords a little).
As I've mentioned; this is not Hitchcock's best film, but there's much to enjoy about it and although I'd recommend many Hitchcock films before recommending this one, I'll definitely give it two thumbs up as well.
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