Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Trouble With Harry (1955) - Review

Cropped screenshot of Jerry Mathers from the t...

Next on my list of Hitchcock to watch was The Trouble With Harry, first released in 1955; here are my thoughts.

Strange. Very strange. This seems to be a film unlike anything Hitch has ever done. Like so many of his movies, it pivots around a murder except that this time it has already taken place. The Trouble With Harry opens to a beautiful New England setting where we watch four people find a dead body, Harry, and each think that they are responsible. The four are: Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), Jennifer Rodgers (Shirley MacLaine) and Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick). And so the trouble with Harry is that no one actually knows the truth about him.

This, however, is not what makes TTWH strange. Instead its the lightness of the tone. It reminded me very much of - and this may sound strange as it came long after but, you know, I'm young - the 1980s TV series Murder She Wrote. Same location, same breezy feel to it. Time passes and yet night takes ages to come, while the colour palette remains autumn rich throughout. There is a certain timelessness to it, you get the feeling that we are capturing these people at a very specific time in all of their lives. 

Hitchcock's direction is also more static than in many of his other movies, perhaps due to the fact that the deed has already been done and we need only watch as things take their natural course, but it still feels very different to the manipulative style he adopts later on in Psycho. Of course, Hitch being Hitch, there's still plenty of room for perversity (he develops a penchant here for focusing on feet as they become an important plot point later on). 

Now, I've read plenty of reviews that suggest this film contains themes of resurrection and faith. For me, I didn't pick up on any of those meanings first time around and so will simply suggest what I got out of it. It seemed to me that The Trouble With Harry was about the uncomfortable silences and foolish things we say when we finally meet the people we love. This, from Hitchcock, seemed strange.

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