Sunday, April 22, 2012

March Macabre

The tweets, blogs and sites that deal with the gossip around films were awash this past week with the first photos of Anthony Hopkins as that master of implied horror Alfred Hitchcock. I have to be honest and say I didn't find he look all that much like Hitchcock and he looked even less like Sir Anthony.  Apparently this is all in aid of a movie that's currently being made about making a movie - not just any movie mind you but that 1960s classic of subversive terror Psycho.   This was the film that had an entire generation avoiding taking a shower like..   well death.

It wasn't until I read the entry on Wikipedia that I realized the behind the scenes drama involved in making the film.  The studio bosses felt that the material was just too strong for the sensibilities of the American public and Hitch had to fight to get it made.  Even then he had to finance it himself and in order to cut costs filmed in black and white and utilized the studio team he had working with him on his weekly TV series.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents was part of a legendary Sunday night line-up on CBS in the 1950s - it began with Lassie saving people and ended with Hitchcock bumping them off!  Though he seldom was involved with directing the show, for over ten years he served as a slightly sardonic host for a half-hour - later expanded to an hour - of murder and suspense.  And for ten years we were treated to  introductions that became as classic as many of his films.  As the lumbering first cords of Charles Gounod's March funèbre d'une marionette sounded the camera faded in on a simple eight line caricature - drawn by Hitchcock - of that unmistakable profile followed by Hitchcock himself in silhouette lumbering, like the music, on to the screen and eclipsing the drawing.  Then he'd turn and in that purse-lipped, plummy almost lisping voice wish us a "good evening".  What followed were satirical or mocking jabs at the sponsors, network and general state of the Union as lead-ins to the commercial breaks.  There were times when Hitchcock's brief appearances were more memorable than the episodes themselves.

It was during a discussion on the upcoming film with my colleague Lara that the topic of Gounod's little piano piece - part of a larger unrealized suite - came up and as often happens with our discussions it led to a Google search.  As well as quite a few of those Hitchcock introductions we came across this fun piece of animation.  Created by Eric Fonseca - he scripted it, created the puppets and decor and filmed it - back in 2006, its almost like something out of Edward Gorey as directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  The perfect combination for a March Macabre!

This remarkable piece of animation was the first effort of Eric Fonseca and took him a year to make. He followed it up with The Fall of the House of Usher - a full length stop-animation feature that he completed in 2010.  A preview of what looks like an fascinating take on Poe's tale of terror can be found here.

22 April - 1970:  The first Earth Day is celebrated.

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David said...

Do you know, I don't think I'd twigged that the jaunty little number - which was almost plagiarised for a similar Hitchkockian walking tune by I know not whom - was by Gounod. The little film is charming-weird.

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