As far as I can see “Marnie” is the last Alfred Hitchcock movie on the list. A recurrent theme on this blog has therefore reached its last chapter. Hitchcock is the single most prevalent director on the List and I have lost count on the number of times I have reviewed a Hitch movie. Usually they are good, even very good. This time… it is okay, but not great.
The Hitchcock catalogue is so large and so glorious that it is a tall order to find a place in that collection and “Marnie” barely makes it. In my opinion at least. Undoubtedly there are big fans of this movie as well.
“Marnie” is the story about a woman, Marnie (Tippi Hedren), who has a scheme going. She will work in a company for a few months under an assumed identity and then rob the place and leave town. In between heists she will visit her mother, Bernice (Louise Latham), give her some money and spin her some tale of what she is doing. As we are entering the story Marnie has just done a tax consultant office and is moving on to the Rutland company.
The Rutland company is headed by James Bond… eh… Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). He was a client at the tax consultancy and recognized Marnie. This makes him insist on hiring her and he takes her under his wing. Exactly why is never quite clear, but the more messed up Marnie turns out to be, the more insistent he is. Marnie is afraid of the color red, she is afraid of thunder and she abhors men. She also eventually robs the Rutland company and tries to walk away with a fortune. Caught between Mark and a crime charge Marnie is forced to marry Mark and go on a lengthy honeymoon with him, all for him to play psychiatrist on her.
It is a strange couple. Marnie is seriously messed up and Mark is obsessive, even sadistic, in his insistence on getting her “solved”. No wonder Marks former sister-in-law Lil (Diane Baker) finds it weird and suspicious and tries to stop this charade.
It does of course come to a climax where the psycho analysis goes full throttle.
“Marnie” seems like a composite of previous Hitchcock movies. There is a lot of “Spellbound” in it. The man frantically trying to solve a woman mystery from “Vertigo” and the lead as a thief from “Psycho”. It all feels like we have been here before and those elements were not the best from those movies. Sure, Hitch is a genius at building up suspense and editing his movies, but it feels old here. Not just because we have seen it before, but in 1964 cinema has moved on and a Hitch movie still looks like something from the fifties.
There is a lot hanging on Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. Their chemistry is quite decisive. Fortunately they are up to the task, but only barely. Sean Connery is James Bond and that air of uber-man he also brings into his role as Mark. Super confident, strong, assertive and resourceful. But also manic in his insistence of fixing Marnie. His character is not the gentle hero but something darker and we never learn why. I had hoped that something would explode in the climactic scenes due to his flaws, but instead he steps down and becomes a more ordinary gentleman hero. Disappointing. Tippi Hedren has to be this seriously troubled girl. A thief and a liar, she is not the person you would normally root for and in clashing with the dark insistence of Mark Rutland she is like a wild animal caught in the headlights. She does that well. That she as a character is quite a bit out there in unbelievable territory is not her fault.
Beside the nice editing what I really liked about the movie was the score. As usual it is Bernard Herrmann and this time it is very haunting, but also the kind of music that buries itself in your skull. It is still there and I am humming the Marnie theme while I am writing.
“Marine” is okay. It is not a bad movie, merely a tired movie. It marks a natural end to the big Hitchcock productions. He did continue to make a few more movies but as I understand it they are considered lesser movies in his filmography. Ultimately “Marnie” was a bit disappointing, but I think that is mostly when comparing it to his great movies.
For the record, you've got one more: 1972's Frenzy. It's very different from a 'normal' Hitchcock, though, since it's late in his career (his second-last film, actually), so it's got that going for it if you're getting weary of Hitchcock at all.ReplyDelete
Ups, I had missed Frenzy. So this was not the last Hitchcock after all. well I do not mind another round of Hitch.Delete
Yeah, Frenzy is still to come. It's not my favorite Hitch, but it's better than Marnie, which I really dislike. This is a bunch of psychobabble to me.ReplyDelete
Psycobabble is the right word. It borrowed a lot from Spellbound and not the best parts. With two flawed characters I had expected a resolution that would be more destructive and unpredictable. Instead we went straight Hollywood, all things resolved, nice and tidy. Uff.Delete
As you say, some really good elements that don't add up to a great or even good whole. The rape scene was really uncomfortable (and I hope it was meant to be so). And as you say, it feels like a Hitchcock film from 1954, not 1964. Bit of a step backwards after Psycho.ReplyDelete
Yes, it actually felt weird watching it, knowing it is from 64. Usually Hitchcock movies are ahead of the curve, but this was like watching a Douglas Sirk movie. It felt so retro.Delete