Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).
For the past four weeks, Jess has turned her attention to the works of Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe you’ve heard of him? This entry marks the final instalment of the Hitch-a-thon!
It seems disappointing to end our Alfred Hitchcock month on one of the Master’s lesser films, and while 1964’s Marnie is now regarded more favourably than on its release, it pales in comparison to Hitchcock’s hits. Prepare less for chills and thrills and settle in for a psychological journey as Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) attempts to uncover the cause of Marnie Edgar’s (Tippi Hedren) fear of men, as well as her tendencies to steal and lie. Marnie moves from job to job, earning the trust of those around her before breaking into the safe and making off with thousands of dollars.
Marnie makes a drastic mistake when she applies for a job at Mark’s publishing company. He is aware of her thieving ways, yet quickly falls for her and blackmails her into marrying him. He is fascinated by the way her mind works, by her fear of thunderstorms and the colour red, and piece by piece uncovers an event in Marnie’s past that explains her fractured personality in the present.
Perhaps trying to follow the success of the previous year’s The Birds with this subdued thriller that touched on prostitution and sexual abuse wasn’t a wise move on Hitchcock’s part. Tippi Hedren returned to work back-to-back with the director, though her range is limited and her performance of the wholly unlikeable lead is weak. When the film focuses on Marnie as the thief it excels and even excites, yet as we are subjected to her decline in mental health, and as Connery’s Mark Rutland steps in to play the brute who threatens physical violence, the movie seems to lose its way.
Some argue that Marnie was Hitchcock’s last great feature; while others profess it was ahead of its time. Perhaps this is a picture that deserves an audience’s attention to detail and repeat viewings, but at 130 minutes it may prove too long for some. Despite the questionable faux backgrounds, Bernard Herrmann’s soap-opera score, and some poorly written, though hilarious, dialogue, one thing is undeniable: that young Sean Connery is a pleasure to watch and is quite easy on the eyes.
Marnie is available on DVD, and can be streamed via Quickflix’s WatchNow service.