Wednesday, September 23, 2015

1949 - UNDER CAPRICORN, a very odd Hitchcock failure

The dream of many of the major Hollywood film directors after World War II was to set up their own production company and film stories they were interested in.  John Ford, Frank Capra, William Wyler, George Stevens and Alfred Hitchcock took the plunge in the late 1940's.  For a number of reasons these companies failed.  Hitchcock is somewhat typical of what happened.

For his company "Transatlantic Pictures," Hitchcock chose two films.  Rope and Under Capricorn.

Rope was hardly going to be an "audience pleaser."  A play about homosexual murders filmed in very long takes, the film was a financial failure.  Hitchcock moved on to Under Capricorn.

Even with one of Hollywood's biggest stars this film is just a dull mess.  For a director who probably spent more time in the office working on his screenplays it's hard to believe Hitchcock even read this one.  There is just lots and lots of talk.  The story is secondary to this chatter.  Joseph Cotton and Ingrid Bergman live in 1800's Australia.  Cotton is an ex-convict who has built a fortune for himself.  Bergman is his wife who has a mysterious past.  Into this mix comes Michael Wilding as some sort of aristocratic fop who stirs things up.  However I'm not sure of the plot since my eyes glazed over about an hour into this thing with the constant gabbing of the main characters.

Probably the only noteworthy aspect of Under Capricorn is Hitchcock's continued use of the long take.  The camera rolls around flying past doors and walls to what seems little purpose other than to call attention to itself.  It may be an interesting experiment for movie nerds but it seems completely pointless for storytelling.  If fact most of the rolling camera shot were cut from the film because they tended to slow the action down.

It can be appreciated that Hitchcock wanted to get out of the suspense genre occasionally and he did do that with Rebecca.  But in this case it would seem that Under Capricorn was just a completely failure to understand what he was getting into.  This film was just a real ordeal to sit through

117 minutes

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