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The Paradine Case
The Paradine Case
Actors: Gregory Peck, Ann Todd, Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn, Ethel Barrymore
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2009     2hr 5min

Studio: Tcfhe/mgm Release Date: 02/10/2009 Run time: 114 minutes Rating: Nr


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Movie Details

Actors: Gregory Peck, Ann Todd, Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn, Ethel Barrymore
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Classics, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 02/10/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/1947
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/1947
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 2hr 5min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

A Selznick Memo Movie
William F. Flanigan Jr. | North Potomac, MD USA | 02/28/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Nominally an Alfred Hitchcock film, it has egomaniac David O. Selznick's paw prints all over it (and his name, literally, all over the opening credits). It's surprising he didn't claim he played all the on-screen parts, did the cinematography, and wrote the film score! Selznick rewrote the script and essentially took full credit as the screenplay writer. The film was a box office disaster, and the last of Hitchcock's films for Selznick (Hitchcock did not review his contract--wonder why?!).

The script plays like a Selznick memo (dull, sappy, and overly wordy) except for the court room scenes which are taught, dramatic, and suspenseful. These were probably written by Alma Reville (Hitchcock's spouse) which seem to have some how escaped the full impact of the "Selznick Touch." The stellar cast includes Gregory Peck (straining to act older with gray streaks of hair), Alida Valli (stunning and "presented" by Selznick), and Ann Todd (who has never looked worse). Score is by Franz Waxman whose lush and haunting music invokes memories of his earlier scores for REBECCA (1940) and SUSPICION (1941), and helps much to counteract Selznick's tedious, repetitious dialog. There is more than a hint of homosexuality between the murder victim, a blind Colonel Paradine (never seen except in a painting), and his valet (played by a very young Louis Jourdan "presented" by Selznick).

Hitchcock appears on-screen leaving a train car (behind Peck) with a cello case. This is the reverse of his forth-coming cameo in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951). (What's with Hitchcock and trains, anyway?)

The restored film presented on this disc is a thing of beauty.

You can see that Hitchcock formula and well done too.
bernie | Arlington, Texas | 05/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The movie is very proud to be a David O. Selznick film and displays it proudly at the beginning.

This is one of those movies where you go "yeah yeah" I saw before. You are probably thinking of Richard Attenborough's " Trial and Error" (1962) or Billy Wilder's "Witness for the Prosecution" (1957). Much of this film is predictable and then again maybe not. Remember this is a 1947 film.

Rich old blind Mr. Paradine, of whom we never met, is found dead; is it suicide or is it murder? Soon Mrs. Maddalena Anna Paradine (Alida Valli) is accused of having motive and opportunity.

Assigned to defend Maddalena is Anthony Keane, Counsel for the Defense (Gregory Peck). Even with Mrs. Paradine's wild past and alluring continence, Anthony, a happily married man, is sure threat the butler (o.k. the valet) did it. We the viewers also want to help him, as it is obvious if it was not the Andre Latour, Paradine's Valet (a very young Louis Jourdan) than you know who will hang. Not only that but we find the valet to be quite devious.

A plus that gives this film added character is Charles Laughton as Judge Lord Thomas Horfield.

Trial and Error (aka The Dock Brief)
Witness For the Prosecution"
Not nearly as bad as its reputation would lead you to believ
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 05/24/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)

"THE PARADINE CASE is widely regarded as the worst of his films made while under contract with David O. Selznick and one of his weakest films during the entire period after leaving England for Hollywood. Certainly the film is dull and unexciting. But it truly is not as terrible as one might be led to expect.

Most critics blame the film's failings less on Hitchcock than on David O. Selznick. Although Selznick was responsible for Hitchcock coming to the U.S., having signed him to a seven year contract, they both quickly learned that they had incompatible working styles. Hitchcock was extremely well-organized, and if the widespread myth that he knew every scene ahead of time is incorrect (Bill Krohn -- who provides with Stephen Rebello the commentary for the film -- dispelled this myth in his superb book HITCHCOCK AT WORK), he did have a very good idea of what he was going to do. He shot his films sequentially, which is a very unusual practice. In REBECCA, Hitchcock very quickly realized that Selznick was an interfering producer, and developed a number of mechanisms to keep him at bay, primarily only filming what he deemed necessary for the final film, leaving Selznick with no film with which to work for recreating the film in the editing process. For the most part after REBECCA, Selznick lent -- at a substantial fee -- Hitchcock out to other studios, so that over the course of their seven-year contract they actually did relatively little work together. But in THE PARADINE CASE, Selznick was at his interfering best. It is pretty well known that this film cost as much as GONE WITH THE WIND, primarily through the astonishing number of scenes that Selznick ordered to be reshot and because of the extensive rewrites he undertook. As a result, Hitchcock rapidly lost interest in the project, except to get it (and his relationship with Selznick) over with as quickly as possible.

When you read about the changes that Selznick made to the film, you can get pretty upset and wonder what the film would have been like had Hitchcock gotten his way. Frankly, the story sounds about the same and I personally doubt that it would have been one of his best films, but from a cinematic standpoint it sounds like it would have been fascinating to look at. Hitchcock had begun more and more to experiment with long tracking shots, pushing the limitations of the heavy cameras of the time to the breaking point. He had numerous shots that would have involved extremely long unbroken shots. Selznick, whose cinematic sensibilities were extremely conservative, killed all the long shots. The most grating amendment by Selznick comes in the first shot in the film. A servant carries a tray with drinks on it towards the back of a very upper class dwelling, he opens a door, and in Hitchcock's original cut would have followed him through additional rooms and passageways to the back. But Selznick jarringly cuts from the servant entering the room to his approaching his mistress, eliminating all the bits in between.

This shows the fundamental contrast between Selznick and Hitchcock. Selznick was obsessed with words; the films that he most fully molded contained endless scenes of dialogue. Hitchcock was a visual artist. He preferred to move the story forward with the camera rather than with characters talking to one another.

The interesting aspects of the film reside in two things: the excellent cast and the astonishing camera work.

Although Charles Laughton had been absolutely dreadful in Hitchcock's final British period film, JAMAICA INN (Hitchcock often sleepwalked through projects that bored him, like JAMAICA INN or STAGE FRIGHT or DIAL M FOR MURDER, and it isn't an accident that these are among his weakest films -- by the way, had Hitchcock had his way, there would have been even more of a JAMAICA INN quality to THE PARADINE CASE, if he had been successful in getting Robert Newton cast in the Louis Jourdan role -- Newton played the heroic lead in JAMAICA INN, though most Americans will know him as the greatest of all Long John Silver's, from the Disney version of TREASURE ISLAND), he is fascinating here in a small role as a lecherous judge. The brilliance of the camera work in the film is shown in one great moment involving Laughton. At a dinner after the men have withdrawn for their cigars, the men enter a room where the women are all sitting. The camera zooms in on a close up on Laughton looking off to the side and then cuts from him to Ann Todd sitting on a couch, with the camera then zooming in on her bare shoulder for an extreme close up. It is a brilliant moment, telling the viewer just about everything one needs to know about Laughton's character. One of my favorite character actors, Charles Coburn, made his only appearance in a Hitchcock film. Two other actors who appeared in a host of Hitchcock projects either on TV on in film are in it as well, Leo G. Carroll and John Williams (whose performance was largely left on the cutting room floor -- he would return for memorable roles in DIAL M FOR MURDER and TO CATCH A THIEF, and made more appearances on the Hitchcock TV show than any other actor, including several episodes directed by Hitchcock).

Despite Selznick's interference and anesthetizing of the entire film, there are some interesting moments in an otherwise exceedingly dull film. For instance, in the scene in which Latour enters the courtroom to testify, the camera describes an arc in following his entry and course along the back of the courtroom to the witness stand, all while keeping a severe close up on Alida Valli's face. Then, after his testimony is finished, the camera describes the same shot from his point of view. There is a great deal of excellent composition in almost every scene. If one wanted a template for interesting things to do with a camera, this film could provide it. Visually, this is one of Hitchcock's most interesting films of the forties. Contentwise, it is one of his dullest. We can only speculate the degree to which the boring aspects of the film were due to Selznick. Clearly, the film, already visually arresting, would have been even more interesting from a cinematography point of view.

The very long, unbroken shots that Hitchcock so desperately wanted to do in THE PARADINE CASE would find fruition in his next film, his first after leaving Selznick, ROPE. It was not a terribly interesting film except from a technical standpoint. Hitchcock would return to long cuts from time to time, most memorably in FRENZY, but never to such an extent. It would also be a few years before Hitchcock fully found his stride. But once he did he turned out a long string of astonishing masterpieces. Here is what I find amazing. If Hitchcock had never made another film after THE PARADINE CASE, he would be remembered as one of the greatest directors of all time. But in 1947, at the time of the release of this film, only about four movies would make the list of his ten greatest films -- THE THIRTY NINE STEPS, THE LADY VANISHES, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, and NOTORIOUS. His best years were still ahead of him."