Hitchcock fans, flock here

Critic's Choice: Television

June 11, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach

It's all-Hitchcock all weekend beginning Friday, as the eighth annual AMC Film Preservation Festival showcases one of cinema's most brilliant -- and most popular -- filmmakers.

Four days of Alfred Hitchcock films may not have the same appeal for cineastes as some of the previous festivals, which have spotlighted artists whose work is seen less frequently. But if AMC is looking to attract lots of mainstream viewers, they probably couldn't have found a better centerpiece.

The 32-film festival, which helps raise badly needed money for film preservation, kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday with a letterbox presentation (that's big-screen format on the small screen) of "The Birds," perhaps Hitchcock's most unsettling film. Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette star in this story of a California town targeted for attack by massive flocks of angry birds. Watch for the scene where an oblivious Hedren sits outside a schoolhouse unaware of the dozens of birds gathering on a nearby jungle gym -- a classic bit of mounting suspense.

A second film starring Hedren, 1964's "Marnie" (also letterboxed), follows at 10:15 p.m. Although not one of Hitchcock's most popular efforts, the film, which co-stars Sean Connery, has gained a cult following. And Hedren's performance, as a kleptomaniac blackmailed into marriage, is a wonder.

Day 1 of the festival winds down with a first-rate oddity, 1948's "Rope" (12:35 a.m.), which Hitchcock filmed in what appears as one continuous take; 1969's "Topaz" (2:05 a.m.), starring John Forsythe; and 1941's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (4:30 a.m.), with Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery.

Other weekend highlights include letterbox presentations of "Torn Curtain" (5:15 p.m. Saturday), "Vertigo" (8 p.m. Saturday), "Psycho" (10:30 p.m. Saturday) and "Frenzy" (2 a.m. Sunday evening); a beautifully restored version of "Rear Window" (8 p.m. Sunday); the wry "The Trouble With Harry," Shirley MacLaine's first film (noon Sunday); the British version of "Strangers On a Train" (4:05 a.m. Monday morning); the silent "The Lodger" (6 a.m. Monday) and Cary Grant and Grace Kelly sizzling in 1955's "To Catch a Thief" (8:30 p.m. Monday).

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