It’s Called Murder, Hitchy.

[Spoilers Abound - All twists explicitly revealed for purpose of discussing the subtext of the film]

Alfred Hitchcock’s Murder! (1930) is an odd piece of mystery movie-making but fascinating nonetheless, more for its implications than the film itself.   When I started watching it, I was interested in seeing an early Hitchcock I’d not heard much about, one based on a stage play, always a red flag in film watching.  Many stage plays suffer on film as little more than static setups of monologues with little cinematic innovation.  Hitchcock has the same problem but in a different way.  That is to say, he takes shots surrounding the lengthy dialogue scenes and invests them with enough ingenuity and style that the dialogue scenes seem even more lifeless as a result.  Since there are more dialogue scenes than innovative padding, the result is a movie perhaps more uneven than it should be.  Still, Hitchcock makes the movie worth watching and the actors, especially lead Herbert Marshall as Sir John, the actor/producer who solves the mystery, do a fine job.  But by the time the movie was over, I wasn’t thinking of those things so much as social attitudes of the time and how strongly they shaped the plot.

As I said, what interested me going into the film is not what interested me coming out.  What captured my attention instead was the nature of the crime and the murderer himself.  The movie begins with a murder, offscreen, and a gathering of suspects involved.  It seems there is a theatre troupe in town and it appears that one actress, Diana Baring (Norah Baring), has killed another, Edna Druce.  However, Diana remembers nothing and the mystery is underway.  Baring is tried and sentenced to be hanged but one of the jury members, Sir John (Herbert Marshall), takes it upon himself to investigate further after the guilty verdict is handed down.  What he discovers is that Diana was framed by another actor, Handel Fane (Esme Percy), a female-impersonator with a horrible secret.   Fane killed Druce because she was about to reveal the secret.  In the novel and play that the movie was based on, the secret is that he’s gay.  In the movie, the secret is that he’s a half-caste.  That would be someone of mixed race or as Sir John exclaims upon hearing it, “Black blood!”  It was at this point that my fascination abruptly shifted.

Once again, I found myself  interested in how movies  are such superb windows into the morals and attitudes of their time.  It’s one reason, for me, that a work of art (in this case, cinema) exists uniquely of its time.  You can remake Psycho frame for frame, as Gus Van Sant did in 1998, but it’s not the same because the original was made in 1960 and works as a commentary on its characters of that time.  Even if you made Psycho frame for frame and set it in 1960, you still have a commentary on one time from another time.  The original works because of when and how it was done, not simply because of the physical mechanics at work, although they certainly play a large part.

And so, in Murder!, we again have a movie that works for the time and of the time.  To put it in more plot-specific terms, the real murderer, Handel Fane, dresses in drag as his stage specialty and this, combined with the half-caste origins of his birth, make him, for people at the time, an easy-to-believe murderer.  After all, to most people then (and, sadly, to some people now), homosexuals were strange, creepy people, hiding in the shadows.  Throw in what for the time would be the volatile mixture of black blood and for audiences in 1930, it paints a villain easy to understand.

But here’s what really got my attention, and it happens when Hitchcock takes a left turn before the ending:  He and actor Esme Percy make Handel Fane a sympathetic character.   They do so in a spectacular set piece that signals as much about where Hitchcock was going as a director as it does his feelings towards the “villain” of the piece.   First, though, a look at the mechanics of the film.

Hitchcock co-wrote the screenplay with Walter Mycroft and fleshed out the narrative elements of the novel and play with terrific uses of early sound technology in cinema.  At the beginning of the film, a scream is heard, sending a bird fluttering off into the night while a cat skulks away, just as we can presume the murderer did.  Then the camera tracks along the window sills of the village residents, all sticking their head out, one by one, wondering what the noise was.  In another scene, Sir John stands in front of his mirror shaving while listening to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.  As he works through the case in his mind, he doesn’t speak it aloud as would normally be the convention on the stage but rather thinks it as we hear it in voiceover.

There are other scenes that play off as too stylized for their own good but given that it was 1930 and sound was still so very new, it is certainly understandable that Hitchcock would be willing to try anything.  One such scene occurs in the jury deliberation room as Sir John keeps asking questions, like “Who drank the brandy?” (the accused, Diana Baring, doesn’t drink and an empty bottle of brandy was found at the crime scene), the impatient jurors, hoping for a quick guilty verdict, give answers in the cadence of a song.  The first will start a sentence, the second will finish it and a third man says, each time, “That’s right!” at which point all eleven ask in unison, “Any answer for that, Sir John?” until the fourth time when they all repeat, “Any answer – Any answer – Any answer for that, Sir John?”  It’s so musically stylized but so oddball that it seems kind of fun no matter which way you look at it.

The climax, where Fane, knowing he has been found out, plans to kill himself, is setup and played out so meticulously that anyone familiar with Hitchcock (which should be, I assume, anyone coming to this site) will immediately recognize the hand of the master.  Murder! is, in fact, a test run for many of Hitch’s later devices and as such, a fascinating glimpse into the early trials and errors of a cinematic legend.

But back to the plot device itself, that is, the social nature of the crime.   When the secret is revealed by Diana Baring during a jail visit by Sir John, he is taken aback and states, “Black blood!”  At this point, he sets out to catch the conscience of a king by making the play the thing.   He makes up a play scenario based on the murder and invites Handel Fane to audition for it.  Once there, he outlines the murder scene as it really happened, leading up to the revelation that the murderer (in the pseudo play) is a half-caste.   Fane is clearly unsettled by all of this and leaves.  Sir John and his associates follow him to the circus where he is performing a trapeze act and wait for the opportunity to wring a confession out of him.  But something happens.  Fane is overcome by guilt and, after writing a full confession by means of describing the murder scene in the form of a play scene, he climbs the trapeze pole, performs briefly and publicly hangs himself.

This is extraordinary.  The villain of the piece disposes of himself after feeling remorse.  There is no struggle between Fane and Sir John, no guns, no knives, no nothing.  And the look on Fane’s face as he envisions Diana facing execution for something he did clearly indicates how awful he feels.  It’s the angles that Hitchcock uses, focusing right in on his face, the extended takes of Fane trembling and looking away that clearly indicates where Hitch’s sympathy lies.  Does this mean Hitchcock found the idea of shame associated with mixed-race to be absurd and thus sided with Fane?  Who knows for sure.  What I do know is that you can treat the idea of being of mixed-race, or homosexuality, as being that which makes you a murderer as I think many dramatists and playwrights of the time would have, or you can treat it as something that would drive an innocent man to the crime through fear of public persecution.   Hitchcock seems to have made his choice and erred on the side of Fane and fear of public persecution.  In doing so, the plot point becomes a moot point.  His biracial background simply becomes another MacGuffin, something to get things moving along.   The character of Fane is doing something for fear of being publicly ostracized and persecuted.  That means you could make a movie today about someone suffering from the same prejudicial attitudes at the same time and not have to change a thing.  Since the fear of bigoted persecution is, in fact, a very real fear then and now (but especially then), Hitchcock made the right choice.  Had he made Fane a murderer due to his biracial nature instead of fear of persecution, the movie would be dead.  Murdered.

In many ways, Murder! is one of the more curious Hitchcock films.  It shows Hitch getting his feet wet, testing out new ideas with sound and new ideas with editing and music but also, curious for having a villain who’s no real villain at all, despite having killed someone.  Hitchcock would return here again, most famously with Psycho, where the villain of that piece was also presented in the final frames in a sympathetic light, completed subverted by the domineering mother.   Here, Fane is subverted by a prejudiced and bigoted society, only it was at a time when many people couldn’t see the prejudice.   Maybe (probably?) Hitchcock couldn’t either in 1930 but the movie works anyway because he led Fane into the right motivation, if only by dumb luck.

0 Response It’s Called Murder, Hitchy.
Posted By Tom S : April 18, 2012 12:32 pm

Britain’s history with homosexuality is pretty seriously depressing- the case that comes immediately to mind is Alan Turing, without whom the Enigma project would never have happened, and who was chemically castrated for being a homosexual after the war (which so shamed him that he killed himself.) I think making the villain here a sympathetic and at least moderately human character means it’s not exactly Birth of a Nation, but presenting someone who cannot be what he is- and will kill others or himself to avoid that- is not exactly progressive. It’s easy enough to read the ending as him killing himself to keep his secret as because of guilt over the murder.

Posted By Tom S : April 18, 2012 12:32 pm

Britain’s history with homosexuality is pretty seriously depressing- the case that comes immediately to mind is Alan Turing, without whom the Enigma project would never have happened, and who was chemically castrated for being a homosexual after the war (which so shamed him that he killed himself.) I think making the villain here a sympathetic and at least moderately human character means it’s not exactly Birth of a Nation, but presenting someone who cannot be what he is- and will kill others or himself to avoid that- is not exactly progressive. It’s easy enough to read the ending as him killing himself to keep his secret as because of guilt over the murder.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 2:09 pm

Tom, I agree it may not be progressive but one could write a plot now about someone in 1930 Britain so terrified of being outed they commit murder and present it as a sympathetic story. Set in contemporary time it wouldn’t work. The audience would say, “Just come out, what’s the problem?” But if you set it in 1930 then it makes a lot more sense.

Either way, it’s a tough subject to feel comfortable watching in 2012. When Sir John exclaims, “Black blood,” I immediately thought, “Are you kidding me? Why are you saying it so shocked? What’s your problem, jerk?” It’s endlessly fascinating to me when I come upon an older film that has an actual plot point or major character that makes it almost impossible to work for a modern audience. So many classic films have an awkward moment centered around race but when it’s a central theme, it kind of takes you aback.

As for the ending, he writes everything out for Sir John in a letter so he knows his secret is out there.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 2:09 pm

Tom, I agree it may not be progressive but one could write a plot now about someone in 1930 Britain so terrified of being outed they commit murder and present it as a sympathetic story. Set in contemporary time it wouldn’t work. The audience would say, “Just come out, what’s the problem?” But if you set it in 1930 then it makes a lot more sense.

Either way, it’s a tough subject to feel comfortable watching in 2012. When Sir John exclaims, “Black blood,” I immediately thought, “Are you kidding me? Why are you saying it so shocked? What’s your problem, jerk?” It’s endlessly fascinating to me when I come upon an older film that has an actual plot point or major character that makes it almost impossible to work for a modern audience. So many classic films have an awkward moment centered around race but when it’s a central theme, it kind of takes you aback.

As for the ending, he writes everything out for Sir John in a letter so he knows his secret is out there.

Posted By celluloidcouture : April 18, 2012 2:40 pm

A couple of others that deal with race issues – outside of the well-known “Pinky” are 1959′s “Sapphire” (the titled character is passing for white), and 1961′s “Flame In The Streets” (interracial marriage and relations in general). Watching them today, it’s a case of “OK…and…?” but the absolute mayhem in “Flame” is jaw-dropping.

Posted By celluloidcouture : April 18, 2012 2:40 pm

A couple of others that deal with race issues – outside of the well-known “Pinky” are 1959′s “Sapphire” (the titled character is passing for white), and 1961′s “Flame In The Streets” (interracial marriage and relations in general). Watching them today, it’s a case of “OK…and…?” but the absolute mayhem in “Flame” is jaw-dropping.

Posted By Tom S : April 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Sadly, a lot of the classic movies that work really really hard to be progressive race-wise are the biggest klunkers now- Stanley Kramer syndrome, basically.

It’s hard to think of any movies heavily focused on race before Do the Right Thing that don’t feel at least a little jarring now, though obviously that doesn’t mean none of them are worth watching.

Posted By Tom S : April 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Sadly, a lot of the classic movies that work really really hard to be progressive race-wise are the biggest klunkers now- Stanley Kramer syndrome, basically.

It’s hard to think of any movies heavily focused on race before Do the Right Thing that don’t feel at least a little jarring now, though obviously that doesn’t mean none of them are worth watching.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 3:17 pm

Tom, it’s true. I watched a documentary a few years back on PBS that had John Kisch, who edited A Separate Cinema, a great collection of movie posters from black cinema, and he was talking about all the older black folks who’d watched the “sensitive films about race in America” and how they’d all gather at a local movie house playing them and just laugh. While the white people making them thought they were being quite progressive and enlightened, the black people accepted it for what it was, white people making themselves feel better.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 3:17 pm

Tom, it’s true. I watched a documentary a few years back on PBS that had John Kisch, who edited A Separate Cinema, a great collection of movie posters from black cinema, and he was talking about all the older black folks who’d watched the “sensitive films about race in America” and how they’d all gather at a local movie house playing them and just laugh. While the white people making them thought they were being quite progressive and enlightened, the black people accepted it for what it was, white people making themselves feel better.

Posted By DBenson : April 18, 2012 3:23 pm

I remember thinking the whole “half caste” thing was just a tiny fig leaf for “gay”; somehow less offensive by the standards of the day, or at least of the censor’s office. Were there ANY other films that presented mixed blood as a sin to be concealed (and as a probable indicator of evil)?

In American cinema, “half-breeds” were generally villainous renegade Indians (“Him bring disgrace to tribe”) or overheated females lusting after socially superior males (and usually losing, although sometimes allowed to make a noble sacrifice) — the parentage was never a secret, but readily offered as an explanation.

Yes, there were melodramas where a heroic woman is subject to bigotry because she turns out to have mixed ancestry (often interchangeable with poor parents or an immoral past). In those, the audience firmly sides with the “half breed” against her oppressors.

Posted By DBenson : April 18, 2012 3:23 pm

I remember thinking the whole “half caste” thing was just a tiny fig leaf for “gay”; somehow less offensive by the standards of the day, or at least of the censor’s office. Were there ANY other films that presented mixed blood as a sin to be concealed (and as a probable indicator of evil)?

In American cinema, “half-breeds” were generally villainous renegade Indians (“Him bring disgrace to tribe”) or overheated females lusting after socially superior males (and usually losing, although sometimes allowed to make a noble sacrifice) — the parentage was never a secret, but readily offered as an explanation.

Yes, there were melodramas where a heroic woman is subject to bigotry because she turns out to have mixed ancestry (often interchangeable with poor parents or an immoral past). In those, the audience firmly sides with the “half breed” against her oppressors.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 3:35 pm

DBenson, Oscar Micheaux made a career out of dealing with mixed-blood plotlines but the other way around. As a black filmmaker, he made movies about black people so white no one would accept them as true to the race. I’d like to write up a whole piece on the idea some day but for now, I don’t have nearly enough broad knowledge about all the films out there dealing with this.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 3:35 pm

DBenson, Oscar Micheaux made a career out of dealing with mixed-blood plotlines but the other way around. As a black filmmaker, he made movies about black people so white no one would accept them as true to the race. I’d like to write up a whole piece on the idea some day but for now, I don’t have nearly enough broad knowledge about all the films out there dealing with this.

Posted By Emgee : April 18, 2012 4:02 pm

I’d love to know how many people who watched it at the time were clued in to the fact that the murderer was gay. It seems pretty obvious to us now, but apparently Hitchcock felt it necessary to take mixed blood as a motive. (Or is he in fact gay? Are all crossdressers gay?)

Even in a later Hitch from 1948, Rope, James Stewart, according to Farley Granger, not only was not clued in to the fact that the murderers were homosexuals, but that both Granger and co-star John Dall were in real life. The past IS another country, and in this case, thank heavens for that!

Posted By Emgee : April 18, 2012 4:02 pm

I’d love to know how many people who watched it at the time were clued in to the fact that the murderer was gay. It seems pretty obvious to us now, but apparently Hitchcock felt it necessary to take mixed blood as a motive. (Or is he in fact gay? Are all crossdressers gay?)

Even in a later Hitch from 1948, Rope, James Stewart, according to Farley Granger, not only was not clued in to the fact that the murderers were homosexuals, but that both Granger and co-star John Dall were in real life. The past IS another country, and in this case, thank heavens for that!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 4:34 pm

Emgee, I doubt many people at all from 1930 would have read homosexuality into the plot. I was reading a piece recently on how the dying kiss between the two pilot friends in WINGS raised no eyebrows in 1928 whereas today, it does. They don’t kiss on the lips but the way they’re embraced throughout the scene is definitely seen in a different way today. I don’t think many folks had the idea of Fane being gay on their minds but it is curious how they go the extra step of having him, supposedly, be in love with Diana and one of the jurors even exclaims, “He’s so clearly in love with her,” like they absolutely didn’t want you to think he was homosexual.

At the same time, by keeping him a performer who specializes in drag, it’s a sneaky way to plant the idea in the 1930 audience mind that something about him seems wrong, as any effeminate man of the time would likely be greeted with disdain. He wouldn’t necessarily be homosexual in their minds, just too fancified and dandy and that was something for a “real man” to mistrust.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 4:34 pm

Emgee, I doubt many people at all from 1930 would have read homosexuality into the plot. I was reading a piece recently on how the dying kiss between the two pilot friends in WINGS raised no eyebrows in 1928 whereas today, it does. They don’t kiss on the lips but the way they’re embraced throughout the scene is definitely seen in a different way today. I don’t think many folks had the idea of Fane being gay on their minds but it is curious how they go the extra step of having him, supposedly, be in love with Diana and one of the jurors even exclaims, “He’s so clearly in love with her,” like they absolutely didn’t want you to think he was homosexual.

At the same time, by keeping him a performer who specializes in drag, it’s a sneaky way to plant the idea in the 1930 audience mind that something about him seems wrong, as any effeminate man of the time would likely be greeted with disdain. He wouldn’t necessarily be homosexual in their minds, just too fancified and dandy and that was something for a “real man” to mistrust.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 18, 2012 6:18 pm

Greg, I have a question. You wrote that Hitchcock’s movie was based on a novel that had been turned into a stage play. You also wrote that the plot point having the murderer being a secret homosexual was kept in the novel and the play. In your research, did you find out why the publishing industry and stage acting industry were not afraid to have that plot point, while the movie industry felt it needed to be changed? 1930 was also pre-code.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 18, 2012 6:18 pm

Greg, I have a question. You wrote that Hitchcock’s movie was based on a novel that had been turned into a stage play. You also wrote that the plot point having the murderer being a secret homosexual was kept in the novel and the play. In your research, did you find out why the publishing industry and stage acting industry were not afraid to have that plot point, while the movie industry felt it needed to be changed? 1930 was also pre-code.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 6:40 pm

Jenni, I don’t really know why it was different but I do know that literature was able to say many things that the cinema could not for years. From books like An American Tragedy to plays like A Streetcar Named Desire, the literary/stage scene was able to portray things more openly. When A Place in the Sun was made twenty years after An American Tragedy was published, they still couldn’t say or show things as explicitly as the novel. Same for Streetcar. The movie completely excises the explanation that Blanche gives Mitch about finding her husband having sex with another man while he thought she was gone. They leave that part out but leave in the line where she tells Mitch that she confronted her husband with, “I saw you! I know what you did!” but the audience, if they haven’t seen the play, doesn’t know what in the hell she’s talking about.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 6:40 pm

Jenni, I don’t really know why it was different but I do know that literature was able to say many things that the cinema could not for years. From books like An American Tragedy to plays like A Streetcar Named Desire, the literary/stage scene was able to portray things more openly. When A Place in the Sun was made twenty years after An American Tragedy was published, they still couldn’t say or show things as explicitly as the novel. Same for Streetcar. The movie completely excises the explanation that Blanche gives Mitch about finding her husband having sex with another man while he thought she was gone. They leave that part out but leave in the line where she tells Mitch that she confronted her husband with, “I saw you! I know what you did!” but the audience, if they haven’t seen the play, doesn’t know what in the hell she’s talking about.

Posted By Pamela Porter : April 18, 2012 8:56 pm

test (my previous comment about “Sapphire” and “Flame In The Street” seems to have poofed)

Posted By Pamela Porter : April 18, 2012 8:56 pm

test (my previous comment about “Sapphire” and “Flame In The Street” seems to have poofed)

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 11:44 pm

Just found it. It was sitting in the limbo of spam check. So, I’ve never seen Flame in the Streets but now I’m intrigued.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 18, 2012 11:44 pm

Just found it. It was sitting in the limbo of spam check. So, I’ve never seen Flame in the Streets but now I’m intrigued.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 19, 2012 1:35 am

Now I’m intrigued by Murder! Well, not the act, but the movie. And Flame in the Streets as well. I’ve been putting off the really old, 30′s, British Hitchcock films for some time now, but it may be time to check into them.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 19, 2012 1:35 am

Now I’m intrigued by Murder! Well, not the act, but the movie. And Flame in the Streets as well. I’ve been putting off the really old, 30′s, British Hitchcock films for some time now, but it may be time to check into them.

Posted By Pamela Porter : April 19, 2012 10:06 am

I see I also wrote the post about “Flame In The Streets” under another blog name – I’m a dork.

I wanted to clarify that it’s “Flame In the StreetS” (with an “S”) and it’s on NetFlix now for instant viewing. It stars Sir John Mills, Sylvia Syms, Johnny Sekka, Brenda De Banzie and even Wilfrid Brambell. I liked it very much.

Posted By Pamela Porter : April 19, 2012 10:06 am

I see I also wrote the post about “Flame In The Streets” under another blog name – I’m a dork.

I wanted to clarify that it’s “Flame In the StreetS” (with an “S”) and it’s on NetFlix now for instant viewing. It stars Sir John Mills, Sylvia Syms, Johnny Sekka, Brenda De Banzie and even Wilfrid Brambell. I liked it very much.

Posted By Emgee : April 19, 2012 3:41 pm

Greg, totally off-subject, how about doing a blog on good bad movies, also known as guilty pleasures. I don’t mean campy “so awful it’s fun”, but movies you like that you really know you shouldn’t? Maybe you already have, and yes it’s been done before, maybe too often. Still thought i’d pitch it.

Posted By Emgee : April 19, 2012 3:41 pm

Greg, totally off-subject, how about doing a blog on good bad movies, also known as guilty pleasures. I don’t mean campy “so awful it’s fun”, but movies you like that you really know you shouldn’t? Maybe you already have, and yes it’s been done before, maybe too often. Still thought i’d pitch it.

Posted By swac44 : April 20, 2012 7:41 pm

When I saw the notification about this essay I thought I’d better sit down and watch it again before actually reading it. Luckily, I’ve got the Optimum/Canal UK DVD box set Early Hitchcock, which has the best looking copy of Murder that I’ve ever seen (my last viewing experience was a murky public domain VHS copy nearly 20 years ago). I thoroughly enjoyed it, as much for its small pleasures (like one great scene featuring Una O’Connor) as the throughline of the story. Obviously Hitchcock’s sound innovations in Blackmail went over well, and he tries to top himself here, although some moments–like the accusing faces driving Fane to suicide as he performs his trapeze act–are a bit wheezy at best. But it’s a marvel to watch Hitchcock progress, I loved the scene of the policemen trying to interrogate the players backstage while the production goes forward, which is where we first see Fane, dressed up as a woman with rouged cheeks. First impressions are the strongest, I suppose…

I’m not sure if a decent copy of Murder exists on DVD in North American, I’ve read that the DVD out via Lionsgate is incomplete. If you have region-free DVD capabilities, I recommend the UK’s Early Hitchcock Collection, which includes the film with a slightly alternate ending, an expert introduction (which should be avoided before viewing since it reveals who the murderer is), and a documentary on Hitch’s earliest films featuring Truffaut’s interview clips and Claude Chabrol. (The other films included are The Ring, Champagne, The Farmer’s Wife, The Manxman, Blackmail, The Skin Game, Rich and Strange and Number Seventeen.)

Posted By swac44 : April 20, 2012 7:41 pm

When I saw the notification about this essay I thought I’d better sit down and watch it again before actually reading it. Luckily, I’ve got the Optimum/Canal UK DVD box set Early Hitchcock, which has the best looking copy of Murder that I’ve ever seen (my last viewing experience was a murky public domain VHS copy nearly 20 years ago). I thoroughly enjoyed it, as much for its small pleasures (like one great scene featuring Una O’Connor) as the throughline of the story. Obviously Hitchcock’s sound innovations in Blackmail went over well, and he tries to top himself here, although some moments–like the accusing faces driving Fane to suicide as he performs his trapeze act–are a bit wheezy at best. But it’s a marvel to watch Hitchcock progress, I loved the scene of the policemen trying to interrogate the players backstage while the production goes forward, which is where we first see Fane, dressed up as a woman with rouged cheeks. First impressions are the strongest, I suppose…

I’m not sure if a decent copy of Murder exists on DVD in North American, I’ve read that the DVD out via Lionsgate is incomplete. If you have region-free DVD capabilities, I recommend the UK’s Early Hitchcock Collection, which includes the film with a slightly alternate ending, an expert introduction (which should be avoided before viewing since it reveals who the murderer is), and a documentary on Hitch’s earliest films featuring Truffaut’s interview clips and Claude Chabrol. (The other films included are The Ring, Champagne, The Farmer’s Wife, The Manxman, Blackmail, The Skin Game, Rich and Strange and Number Seventeen.)

Posted By swac44 : April 20, 2012 7:41 pm

Oh yeah, it’s a minor thing, but I think those are bats we see being startled by the hubbub over the murder at the start, not birds.

Posted By swac44 : April 20, 2012 7:41 pm

Oh yeah, it’s a minor thing, but I think those are bats we see being startled by the hubbub over the murder at the start, not birds.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 20, 2012 8:04 pm

Duke, what’s funny is this kind of falls under my half-hearted recommendation from last week. The play elements (long dialogue scenes with little camera work) really slow it down but there’s plenty of intriguing early Hitchcock methods at work too. Like SWAC says, there’s a real fascination watching Hitchcock employ elements of design we would all become so familiar with and so, for those parts, it’s a real treat.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 20, 2012 8:04 pm

Duke, what’s funny is this kind of falls under my half-hearted recommendation from last week. The play elements (long dialogue scenes with little camera work) really slow it down but there’s plenty of intriguing early Hitchcock methods at work too. Like SWAC says, there’s a real fascination watching Hitchcock employ elements of design we would all become so familiar with and so, for those parts, it’s a real treat.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 20, 2012 8:07 pm

Emgee, I’m sure I’ll do something along that line eventually but from a different angle because I don’t really have guilty pleasures myself. I think if you like a movie, you like it. Like PLAN 9. I like that movie, a lot. I’ve seen dozens of times. I think it actually has a good pace to it and while I can recognize the low, low standards of many things and how bad many of the effects are and how sub-standard Ed Wood’s dialogue was (that was his big weakness, which I wrote about once in a tribute to him), I still recognize that it genuinely entertains me and I like it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 20, 2012 8:07 pm

Emgee, I’m sure I’ll do something along that line eventually but from a different angle because I don’t really have guilty pleasures myself. I think if you like a movie, you like it. Like PLAN 9. I like that movie, a lot. I’ve seen dozens of times. I think it actually has a good pace to it and while I can recognize the low, low standards of many things and how bad many of the effects are and how sub-standard Ed Wood’s dialogue was (that was his big weakness, which I wrote about once in a tribute to him), I still recognize that it genuinely entertains me and I like it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 20, 2012 8:11 pm

Swac, I like the scene with the policeman too and the players going in and out of performance is entertaining. I tried to pinpoint what play they were doing and thought maybe it was CHARLY’S AUNT because of the cross-dressing but there’s no one tied up in that and eventually figured it was just a fictional construct for the movie. But since you have the deluxe box set, can you confirm one way or the other? Is it a real play or just a setup for the movie?

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 20, 2012 8:11 pm

Swac, I like the scene with the policeman too and the players going in and out of performance is entertaining. I tried to pinpoint what play they were doing and thought maybe it was CHARLY’S AUNT because of the cross-dressing but there’s no one tied up in that and eventually figured it was just a fictional construct for the movie. But since you have the deluxe box set, can you confirm one way or the other? Is it a real play or just a setup for the movie?

Posted By swac44 : April 21, 2012 8:16 am

I suppose one way to figure out the nature of the play would be to check the original literary sources for Murder, which I don’t have access to. No indication is given in the bonus materials for the film, but I suspect it’s a fictional construct based on the staples of regional theatre, popular plays like Charley’s Aunt and The Importance of Being Earnest, with cross-dressing, comic drunks, mistaken identities and so on.

Posted By swac44 : April 21, 2012 8:16 am

I suppose one way to figure out the nature of the play would be to check the original literary sources for Murder, which I don’t have access to. No indication is given in the bonus materials for the film, but I suspect it’s a fictional construct based on the staples of regional theatre, popular plays like Charley’s Aunt and The Importance of Being Earnest, with cross-dressing, comic drunks, mistaken identities and so on.

Posted By swac44 : April 21, 2012 8:25 am

It would also be interesting to see the German language version of Murder that Hitchcock shot, titled Mary, which according to the introduction was shot after filming for the English language version had been completed. Gay themes in German cinema were more prevalent than in British films and I’d be curious to see if Fane is handled any differently.

Posted By swac44 : April 21, 2012 8:25 am

It would also be interesting to see the German language version of Murder that Hitchcock shot, titled Mary, which according to the introduction was shot after filming for the English language version had been completed. Gay themes in German cinema were more prevalent than in British films and I’d be curious to see if Fane is handled any differently.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 24, 2012 10:55 pm

I read about the German version being on a European issue DVD. I’d really like to see it too.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 24, 2012 10:55 pm

I read about the German version being on a European issue DVD. I’d really like to see it too.

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