Hitchcock's most under-rated masterpiece.
darragh o'donoghue | 01/21/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Rich and Strange' begins with one of Hitchcock's most memorable sequences, a silent, Expressionist choreography opening on a mass of ordered, undifferentiable civil servants at their serried desks, just before closing time. As the bell goes, their movements are as mechanical as their oppressively geometrical surroundings: this visual pattern is matched by the automated movements through space, as the men meet the women and streaming occupents of the buildings' other floors. They emerge into the dreary rain and open their umbrellas two-by-two, with Busby Berkeley-like precision. All except the hero, whose physical ineptness marks his relative individuality in this Kafka/Monty Python milieu - his umbrella breaks, he causes slapstick chaos on a crowded Tube. Dwarfed by the humiliating privations of the rat race, he takes it out at home by bullying his wife and cat.One cannot avoid the predictable: 'Rich and Strange' is one of Hitchcock's richest and strangest works, as arguably personal a film as 'Vertigo'. Its central interest is the tragicomedy of marriage - just when Fred is most weighed down by existence, he is given an advance on his uncle's inheritance to travel and experience 'LIFE'. On a world cruise, his wife grows chastely intimate with a batchelor officer who lives in Africa, while he lies seasick; later, he himself becomes involved with a gold-digging phoney princess. As the 'magical' gift of the opportune money suggests, there is a fairy-tale quality to the film, with the voyage a space away from the everyday in which marriage is tested, other possibilities explored and weighed. Fred's misadventures only expose his cowardice and essential boorishness, but Emily's friendship with the Commander is especially poignant, particularly as backed by the snatches of slow dance music which now remind us irresistably of a vanished pre-war age. The film's insights into marriage and relationships between men and women, are brutal, unromantic, disenchanted and unsentimental, but sardonically aware of the restrictive age the characters live in.But the weightiness of the theme is offset by the eccentricity of the handling, deliciously flippant even by the giddy standards of Hitchcock's British films, which are as playful and unpredictable as the Hollywood classics are smooth and controlled. Interspersing the main story with travelogue (Paris, North Africa, Singapore etc.), Hitchcock employs a variety of proto-New Wave devices, which are not 'tricksy' because they connect to the film's themes - strange jump cuts, camera angles and montages; jerky scene construction; mocking intertitles and farcically-orchestrated bits of business (including an elderly spinster, lunging and interfering like Miss Mapp, who is the butt of many cruel jokes, her entrance signalled by comic music); weird plot developments (including a climactic interlude on a Chinese junder - lovers of cats, look away!); a brilliant, Lang-influenced soundtrack, fragmenting music with real and exagerrated sound; a sometimes beautiful, dreamy sense of composition (e.g. moonlit shots of the liner like a ghost ship); the surreal staging of certain scenes; the unrestrained deployment of gags; the racy visual doubles (and singles) entendres; all disorienting the audience as much as this strange new world does the limited English heroes. The film is littered with motifs that would characterise Hitchcock's more famous works. If you're looking for the linear, steadily mounting suspense plot for which Hitchcock is famous, you will be disappointed; if you want to see Hitchcock in more idiosyncratic, 'The Trouble With Harry'-mode, this may just surprise you."
Strange and Stranger
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 01/28/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"(Review note: I am reviewing the Laserlight DVD double feature of RICH AND STRANGE and THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE. It's the one with Alfred Hitchcock on the cover holding a broken down umbrella.)RICH AND STRANGE is one of the more bizarre movies that I've experienced. It has several appealing features to it, yet it never feels coherent. Viewers expecting to see familiar suspense-filled fare here will be disappointed, as there is very little of the usual Hitchcockian death and destruction.The film really is a bit of a mess, albeit a mess that at times is fairly entertaining. It begins as a comedy, using sight gags that have their basis firmly in the silent era. Then the humour starts to fizzle out and we are introduced to the story of a married couple who want to see the world. Amazingly, within the span of a couple of minutes, their dreams come true, and they race aboard a luxury liner intent on a life of travel and idleness.Once onboard the ship the plot cools its boots while a cheesy romance subplot begins. The husband of the couple begins an affair with a vampy single woman who professes to be a Princess (no doubt of some generic European country) and the wife begins hanging around a dull aristocrat. I won't give away any more of the plot, except to say that after the long and fairly boring romantic subplot that's neither entertaining or interesting, pirates show up and do nothing except act strange and do weird things.The story just doesn't know what it wants to be. It starts off as a comedy, then switches to drama, then has an attempt at romance, then becomes an adventure tale. It finally shudders to a halt, but not before it has tried its hand at several more unrelated genres. It has the feel of a movie that was slapped together out of multiple unrelated scripts. The problem is that while none of the segments are especially terrible (although the romances are not awfully engaging), they just don't work together at all. Characters who would seem to be sympathetic in one portion are suddenly acting in a completely different manner only a few scenes later.RICH AND STRANGE has traces of Hitchcock's humour present, but as a whole, it turns out to be much less than the sum of its parts. It never establishes the characters, therefore it is hard to feel much sympathy for all the weirdness that befalls them. Possibly very telling is the fact that in the introduction, Tony Curtis seems much more interested in talking about how great of a film PSYCHO was than in discussing the movie that is actually on the disc.The DVD also contains an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that was never shown as part of its original network airing. The film quality on this isn't terribly great, but the story itself is well up to the standards of that television series. It's a typical suspense filled thriller that will keep you glued to your seat all the way through. It's effective, although nothing terribly special. It's well worth the time spent viewing it, and it makes for an entertaining extra."
Just (a bit) Strange
E. Parsons | 06/28/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"'Rich and Strange' isn't a thriller and there are none of Hitchcock's trademark suspense scenes, in fact I'd describe it as a 'light-hearted adventure'. The saving grace of this early Hitchcock talkie is that it's slightly off the wall. There are just some scenes when you think 'is this guy serious or just taking the Mickey'? Contrary to what I've heard elsewhere, Joan Barry and Henry Kendall make quite good leads and there is enough of a storyline to keep the viewer interested. So, if you're thinking of buying some early Hitchcock material this DVD is worth a look, especially at Laserlight's budget price."
Tony Curtis strikes again!
TheBandit | SEA-TAC | 02/06/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is a weird little movie. Not typical Hitchcock fare by any stretch of the imagination. Not suspense, kind of a drama with a bit of comedy mixed in. Most of it plays kind of like a travelogue-- this couple inherits some money and go on an extended vacation. This Laserlight DVD edition includes a brief, but very entertaining, introduction by Tony Curtis. He hosts many of the old movies Laserlight has released to DVD. He has a very bizarre way of delivering these little intros that provide some background info on the film. This disc also includes the original theatrical trailer for Hitchcock's "Psycho", as well as a half-hour episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. So even though the movie is nothing to write home about, if you have an interest in early Hitchcock you can't beat this one, considering the low cost."