(Review originally written at 24 October 2008)

Not that this movie is horrible but it just also doesn't exactly lives up to its reputation. This is not the only Hitchcock movie with this problem and even though I absolute love most of Hitchcock's movies and he was an absolutely brilliant and a one of a kind director, he doesn't get a critical free pass from me. Needless to say this movie disappointed me even though it had plenty of redeeming qualities, which in the long run still makes this a perfectly good movie.

Problem to me is the movie its story and then especially the pace its being told in. Mostly the middle part of the movie is just a complete bore. Nothing interesting or mysterious enough is happening in it. From an Hitchcock movie you would at least expect some suspense but there is actually very little of that present here. You can say that this movie is not really being enough 'Hitchcock' like. Perhaps this was because this was Hitchcock's very first Hollywood movie and he was kept more on a short leach by the studio's and the movie its producers?

A redeeming quality is the movie its last halve hour or so, when your whole view of the movie its main character suddenly changes when you learn about the truth. You really don't like sympathize for the man at first but once you know what really happened this suddenly all changes for you and he becomes actually a tragic character you start to care for.

The movie is also being innovative by using some real dynamic and experimental camera-work at times, as you basically always can expect from an Hitchock movie. It also makes good use of miniature and while watching this movie I couldn't help wondering if this movie didn't somewhat inspired "Citizen Kane". Some of the effects and camera handling seems to be the same and of course the Manderlay estate can also be seen as Xanadu, you don't need a lot of imagination for that.

The movie tries to create a good dark and mysterious atmosphere but when there is not an awful lot happening in the movie, atmosphere is not really enough to make a movie with. It suits the movie that its being shot in black & white and all but the atmosphere is just not as good, moody and horror Gothic like as everyone tries to make you believe it is. The story just simply doesn't allow this.

The movie has a typical solid '40's cast, with popular actors such as Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and popular supporting actors such as George Sanders, Nigel Bruce and Gladys Cooper involved. It was especially nice to see Laurence Olivier in an Hitchcock movie, two Hollywood legends working together. The acting is overall good in this movie though it tends to become a bit overly melodramatic at times.

Give credit where credit is due. This is a good movie but no way a classic, or among Hitchcock's best work. Oh well, seems that just not a lot of people agree with me on this, also considering that this movie won an Oscar for best picture in 1941. It won as well for its cinematography by George Barnes and was nominated in 9 more categories.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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