Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eight days of favorite films IV: Mystery/Suspense

Continuing my eight day look at my favorite films by genre we arrive at mystery/suspense. This is one of my favorite genres!

  1. The Third Man (1949)
  2. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  3. North by Northwest (1959)
  4. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
  5. Vertigo (1958)
  6. Rope (1948)
  7. Rear Window (1954)
  8. Lifeboat (1944)
  9. Notorious (1946)
  10. The Killers (1946)

Once again, we see an obvious trend. No, not that six were filmed in black and's a hint: seven were directed by the master of suspense.

That's right: Michael Bay!

I think I'm atypical so far as Hitchcock fans go in that I rank Rope among his greatest films. Rope is not generally considered to be one of the master's best but I really enjoy the camera tricks he employed to try and shoot the entire film in as few takes as possible, assembling it so deftly that you can mistakenly think it was shot in a single take. To me at least, a body lying in a chest during a dinner party while the murderers gamble with fate to see if they'll get caught is a fine piece of suspense.

My love of old films in general - and with it, old time radio and classic literature - all goes to back to Hitch and his movies, starting with a fascination I had for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television program; a few late night cable mini-marathons of films such as Psycho, Saboteur, Vertigo, the Wrong Man and Dial 'M' for Murder placed me firmly in the master's fanbase.

However, the top spot goes to the Third Man, not a Hitchcock film at all. In fact, the Third Man is my all-time favorite movie. I first learned of it while diggint through a pile of videos at a Canadian Superstore. I noticed on the back blurb that it the film "rivals any Hitchcock thriller as being the ultimate masterpiece of film suspense." I scoffed at that. Yeah, sure - better than Hitchcock. Who wouldn't want to claim that? I threw it back in the pile.

And yet...the memory of that blurb stuck with me. At home, I dug out my family's film guide books. Maltin gave it 4 out of 4. Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 and listed it among the greatest films ever made. The Video Movie Guide gave it 5 out of 5. Huh. Maybe there was something to it?

Long story short, I did buy the Third Man and I did eventually admit that it was better than Hitchcock. But I'll give Hitch due honours for making more memorable pictures than Carol Reed; Reed will just have to settle for making the best suspense film of them all (oh, and Oliver!, one of the top Oscar winners of all time).

Here's a clip of one of the most popular scenes from the Third Man:

Tomorrow: the not-particularly-helpful "Drama" genre

No comments: