Hitchcock films return to theater

Festival: The second installment will be shown tonight.

Westminster

October 08, 2004|By Katie Martin | Katie Martin,SUN STAFF

When Alfred Hitchcock's most famous thrillers were originally released in the 1950s and 1960s, an audience would have watched the suspense unfold at the Carroll Theatre on Main Street in Westminster.

This month, classic Hitchcock films will again be shown at the theater, now the renovated Carroll Arts Center, as part of an Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival.

"The series brings back an era of when this theater was hoppin'," said Sandy Oxx, executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council. "It was the place to be."

Built in 1937, the movie theater was where Hitchcock films would have been shown, Oxx said.

"The theater then would have had about 700 seats, and tickets would have been a buck or two," she said. This month, the Hitchcock film series is being shown in the refurbished 263-seat theater.

With tonight's Rear Window (1954), viewers can follow into his neighbor's apartment the spying lens of a photojournalist (Jimmy Stewart) who uses a wheelchair. With the help of his fiancee (Grace Kelly), Stewart tries to solve a murder that he believes occurred in the apartment.

"It has a very interesting story line that tricks you in the end," said Claudia Rogers, office manager of the Carroll Arts Center. "And it has one of my favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart."

Oxx agreed that the film features a high-powered cast, including Raymond Burr and Thelma Ritter.

"You wouldn't see the top four popular actors in a horror film today," she said.

Rear Window is the second of five Hitchcock movies to be shown on Friday nights this month.

"We thought that parents would want to get into the Halloween spirit, too," said Oxx, noting that there are always haunted hayrides and other activities for children this time of year. Even though most of the films are not rated R and children may attend the screenings, Oxx said she thought Hitchcock's intelligence and sophistication as a director would attract mostly adults.

Calling Hitchcock a "master director," she pointed out that he makes a cameo appearance in most of his movies, which number more than 50.

"I do not know where they all are ... but we encourage the audience to point, shout and go `ooh'" when he appears, she said.

The monthlong film festival began last week, when about 170 people attended the showing of Rope (1948), Rogers said.

It is one of Hitchcock's more obscure films and is based on a true story. It features two college students who murder a classmate and then throw a party for his family and other students around a chest that contains the body.

"It's intriguing because it only takes place in one room ... and it's slick how Hitchcock plays the characters off of each other," said Susan Williamson, visual arts coordinator at the arts center. "Whenever one of the characters would get close to the chest, the crowd would go, `Oh, no.'"

She said she heard people not familiar with the film discussing it as they left the theater.

"Many hadn't realized that level of intrigue was part of Hitchcock's repertoire," she said.

James Lightner, a member of the arts council, had not seen Rope until last week.

"It was new for most of us because it was early and not necessarily [Hitchcock's] most famous film," he said. He enjoyed the suspenseful buildup and the way it was filmed, almost like the stage play it originally was. "I am looking forward to Psycho and Rear Window, if I can make it."

Rear Window provides a thought-provoking perspective on a murder that is very "nonviolent compared to today's standards," Oxx said.

In 1997, it was added to the National Film Registry, a list established by the Library of Congress of films deemed culturally or historically important. Four Hitchcock-directed films have been recognized by the National Film Preservation Board - including two others in the series, Vertigo and Psycho.

One of Hitchcock's most well-known films, The Birds (1963), also will be featured.

"It was the first scary movie I ever saw ... and I was terrified," Oxx said.

The series will conclude with Psycho (1960) on Oct. 29, featuring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, who died this week.

"Hitchcock films are twists of fate," Williamson said. "They are quirky and suspenseful. He keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat until the end. And when you think you have it figured out, it's not the end."

Films remaining in the series are "Rear Window" today, "The Birds" on Oct. 15, "Vertigo" on Oct. 22 and "Psycho" on Oct. 29. Tickets are $5 for adults, and $4 for seniors over 60, children under 12 and arts council members. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and all films start at 7 p.m. The Carroll Arts Center is at 91 W. Main St. in Westminster. For more information or to buy tickets in advance, call 410-848-7272.

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