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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Video Beaverhausen: Anthony Hopkins Is Hitchcock... Or Is He?

In his fat suit, prosthetics and make-up (the latter oddly received an Oscar nomination earlier this year), Anthony Hopkins doesn't so much resemble (or even sound like) Alfred Hitchcock as he does Sidney Greenstreet. It's as if his character is in the wrong biopic!

Hitchcock, recently released in a Blu-Ray/DVD + digital-copy combo pack, is the new Mommie Dearest. It elaborately does its subject a vast injustice by uncritically borrowing from a book (Stephen Rebello's Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho) meant, like Mommie Dearest, to exploit, negatively conjecture about and demean.

The target audience for this flick would largely have to be fans of the Hitchcock classic, Psycho. It certainly is of interest as to how this film -- cinematically iconic in so many ways -- came to be made and what a gamble it was for Hitch and his wife to make it happen.

As Alma Hitchcock, Helen Mirren seems much too glam in the part. The great woman behind her man certainly has a basis in fact. But, as The New York Times put it: "[the movie] takes extravagant liberties with the dead." This includes the backstreet affair Alma has with an ambitious screenwriter nicely portrayed by Danny Huston.

Surreal images and interactions of Ed Gein (the serial killer who inspired the 1959 novel, Psycho, written by Robert Bloch) and The Birds are added in this cinematic mix, but seem to boggle the film down more than lift it up. The effort often has the feel of a bad HBO movie. Rich in talent but poorly scripted and directed (Sacha Gervasi).

So iconic are Psycho and its cast that good performances by Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles seem alienated from the well-known women they're portraying. Toni Collette, however, is deliciously officious in the role of Hitch's unsung secretary, Peggy, and James D'Arcy makes an excellent Anthony Perkins.

Ironically,  Ed Gein -- the 1950s serial killer -- inspired not only Psycho, but Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs. Starring Anthony Hopkins in his Oscar winning role as cannibal Hannibal Lechter, Silence is an unfortunate reference for Hitchcock as it's one to a better film, a better performance by Hopkins, and far better scripting and directing.

The original trailer follows:

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