Hitchcock: adapted by John J. McLaughlin from the book by Stephen Rebello; directed by Sacha Gervasi; starring Anthony Hopkins (Alfred Hitchcock), Helen Mirren (Alma Reville Hitchcock), Scarlett Johansson (Janet Leigh), Danny Huston (Whitfield Cook), Toni Collette (Peggy Robertson), Michael Stuhlbarg (Lew Wasserman), James D’Arcy (Anthony Perkins), Jessica Biel (Vera Miles), and Michael Wincott (Ed Gein) (2012): While it plays somewhat fast and loose with the facts, Hitchcock is an enjoyable look at the making of Psycho. The movie was a gamble at the time, which is why Hitchcock funded it himself. And he would ultimately reap the benefits: adjusted for inflation, Psycho would have a $350 million North American gross in 2015… on an adjusted budget of $10 million.
Anthony Hopkins, fat suit and all, makes for a relatively fun Hitchcock, and Helen Mirren is also good as his wife Alma, who worked on all of his films though often without credit. Scarlett Johansson doesn’t look much like Janet Leigh, but she’s fine in the role. The movie mixes the personal travails of Hitch and Alma with the challenge of adapting Robert Bloch’s Psycho when the film censors will allow neither nudity nor graphic violence. Even showing the toilet in Marion Crane’s hotel room was a scandalous deal at the time because apparently Americans had never seen toilets before. Oh, censorship board!
As with most films about artists, we never really get a particularly good sense of what made Hitchcock great other than Following His Gut and Believing In Himself. We do get a montage of Hitchcock performing montage at the end (which is to say, editing), as he whips Psycho into shape in the editing room. The artistic process is otherwise pretty much glossed over, which is a shame given Hitchcock’s meticulous nature when it came to the technical aspects of great film-making. Virtually all great directors are great technicians. But if you want to know how Hitchcock actually thought, pick up Hitchcock/Truffaut. Recommended.
Night Shift: written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel; directed by Ron Howard; starring Henry Winkler (Chuck), Michael Keaton (Bill), Shelley Long (Belinda), Gina Hecht (Charlotte) and Richard Belzer (Pig) (1982): Ron Howard’s first comedy as a director pretty much introduced both Shelley Long and Michael Keaton to the world. It also gave the Fonz one of his few good lead roles in a film, as the introverted, nebbishy night shift supervisor at a New York morgue who almost inadvertantly ends up running a prostitution ring out the morgue. Cue the montage of money rolling in, women trying on clothes, and Michael Keaton being zany.
Michael Keaton plays the Wacky Spirit of Life and Shelley Long plays the Hooker with a Heart of Gold. It all holds up pretty well. It should be shown whenever someone wants to make a case for legalizing prostitution. That Richard Belzer plays a gangster named Pig is pretty funny. And Kevin Costner wanders through as a frat boy at a party. Howard and his screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel would follow this with their break-out hit Splash. In any case, be prepared for casual nudity. And yes, underground sex clubs were and are a thing in New York. Recommended.