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Marnie

review by Anthony D.

 

Running Time: 131 Minutes

Studio: Universal

Starring Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, Louise Latham, Diane Baker

Directed by Alferd Hitchcock

 

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: "The Trouble With Marnie" Documentary, Production Notes, Theatrical Trailers, The Marnie Archives

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Frame, Dolby Digital English 2.0, Dolby Digital French 2.0, English Captions, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search

Hitchcock devotees know the story: As filming of Hitchcock's follow-up film to "The Birds," Grace Kelly was to make a welcome return to the screen, but unfortunately was detained by her royal duties as Princess Grace. Had grace graced the screen, the scenario would have still been a near-faithful adaptation of Winston Graham's first-person narrative tale "Marnie."

Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is a compulsive thief with deep rooted psychological problems. The money she takes, Marnie spends on her distant mother (Louise Latham) as well as her only ally, her horse, Florio. Marnie's mother, for unknown reasons, cannot express any love towards her successful daughter, whereas Florio gives Marnie nothing but unconditional love.

While robbing her new employer, Marnie is caught in the act. Mark Rutland (Sean Connery, fresh from "Dr. NO") replaces the money on the conditional term that Marnie will become the second Mrs. Rutland. Wedded life, though, is not at all what Mark thought it would be. After having his own awkward way with his new wife, Marnie attempts suicide.

Why does Marnie reject male advances? What causes her to lead a life of criminal activity? Why should Marnie cower in corners when thunder roars? What is it about the colors of red upon white that cause Marnie to become physically ill? What is the secret of Marnie? These questions form the plot of this thoroughly thought-provoking exercise in sexual mystery crafted by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

"The colors! Stop the colors!" Marnie screams out in a key scene (Chapter 6; Instinctual Behaviour). And all of the colors in "Marnie" are quite deliberate, and shown to great advantage in the 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation here. The reds are shocking, but never bleeding; verdant greens abound, night scenes are natural and the shimmering whites rarely result in moiring. Rarely do aritifacts appear, and grain is kept at a minimum. Fleshtones never veer towards orange and the film retains the glossy look associated with Universal films of the 1960's. Hitchcock's use of process shots to symbolize a character's mental state have always been problematic, but if the viewer is keen enough to understand what Hitchcock was accomplishing with those shots (Chapters 15 - 16) they will accept one of the most basic conceits of the film.

Although I am pleased with the quality of "Marnie," in my final ratings, I will be taking the rating down one point because from my viewpoint, the transfer used for the film and the film used for "The Trouble with 'Marnie'" are quite different. The source for the documentary material seems richer, fuller and with a slightly better definition than the film's transfer.

Although presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, "Marnie" has a wide soundstage and is very pleasing - -ADR-produced dialogue is not noticeable and Bernard Hermann's orchestral score sounds lush and lively.

True to form, Universal has loaded "Marnie" with a multitude of special features. The Hitchcock-narrated trailer is great fun, with Hitchcock putting a droll spin on the word s-e-x. The trailer shows the schizophrenia the studio encountered when trying to sell "Marnie."

The usual Cast & Film Makers Screens are here, along with text only Production Notes. The featured made-for-video "The Trouble with Marnie" (LOVE that play on another Hicthcock title!) is a necessity for all film buffs. The documentary features THREE screenwriters associated with "Marnie:" Joseph Stefano, Evan Hunter and credited screenplay author, Jay Presson Allen. Both of the male writers express their ,major problems with adapting Winston Graham's bold novel to Hitchcock's personal vision - Hitchcock didn't want an analyst as a character and insisted on keeping a marital scene which could be read, improperly, as "a rape scene." It's fascinating to find that Jay Presson Allen, a female writer, would have the final screen credit, and not think that the so-called "rape" scene was not problematic to her. Jay Presson Allen delivers the most intelligent statement regarding the audience reaction to the implication of the scene with the quip, "You have to count on [the actor's] charisma to redeem the character. They aren't STARS for nothing!"

Other interesting factoids are delivered by Patricia Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren, Diane ("The Silence of the Lambs") Baker and the brilliant character actress, Louise Latham. Consicuosly absent is Sean Connery, whose thoughts on "Marnie" would seem to be invaluable.

"The 'Marnie' Archives," running nearly ten minutes, contains various pre- and post- production stills played out against Bernard Hermann's "Marnie Theme," a pieace of music that we learned in the documentary was actually given words, became a song and was recorded by Nat "King" Cole! I'm still waiting for some brilliant record maker to come up with an album of "The Songs of Alfred Hitchcock," as long as they credit me with the concept.

The most fascinating film that Hitchcock ever made, and definitely the most "Cinematic," "Marnie" has its devout gallery of fans, to which I proudly belong. "Marnie" belongs to a sub-genre of Hitchcock films that includes "Vertigo" and "Notorious," films that have at their center a character whose actions we cannot as audience members condone: Scottie's makeover of Judy, Devlin's forced marriage and finally in "Marnie," thievery. As in "Rear Window," we are forced to identify with a peeping tom, the behavior of the two major characters in "Marnie" is not really the point, the point being what DRIVES these characters.

Hitchcock through film techniques, forces the audience into the world of "Marnie's" mind. The whole film is an experiment in developing a character through action, deed, memory and emotion. Tippi Hedren is more than up to the role, possibly the most difficult role ever written for a woman. Rarely offscreen, Hedren charges through the film taking the viewer on an unforgettable journey of Marnie's past, present, and in the final shot, her future.

Because it is so experimental, "Marnie" never really reached its audience. Years of repertory showings as well as late-night television garnered many new fans of "Marnie." Audiences expecting the droll humor of "The Trouble with Harry" or "North by Northwest" will not find any laughs here. No brutal slayings ala "Psycho," nor no Nature on a rampage as in "The Birds." "Marnie" stands alone in the Hitchcock canon, it may have ties to previous Hitchcock films, and expand upon previous Hitchcock themes, but "Marnie" is a unique entity.

As portrayed by Tippi Hedren, Marnie is not a character that we would like to have as a friend; although we are wrapped up in the mystery as to WHY Marnie is the way she is. Hedren is in nearly every frame of this film finding nuances in each and every moment of screen-time. She is equally challenged by two very worthy opponents in the acting of Sean Connery - - sexy, dignified and utterly charismatic, and the sheer brilliance of stage actress Louise Latham. Latham is so good in her roles as Marnie's mother at very different ages that one forgets that at the time, Latham was a very young actress adept at playing "old."

When the final thunderstorm strikes, and all loose ends seem to be tied up, Hitchcock takes the players out into the light of a new day, yet still leaves an arresting ambiguity about the future for these people. "Marnie" is definitely not for viewers who like their pablum spoon-fed. The journey to that new day is never easy, but with skilled actors in the hands of the one and only Alfred Hitchcock, and photography unlike any seen in the majority of American made films, that journey is worth taking. Universal has made it easier for us to follow that journey as often as we wish with it's Collector's Edition of "Marnie," a film that will now delight, confound, incite and bring to new generations, the mystery that is "Marnie."

 

(5/5, NOT included in final score)

(3/5)

(4/5)

(3/5)

(4/5, NOT an average)

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