Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Jane Wyman, Marlene Dietrich, Michael Wilding, Richard Todd, Alistair Sim
Stage Fright is in many ways exactly what you would expect from Alfred Hitchcock. It is a brilliant premise mixed with suspenseful twists and turns.
The story follows a young theater student as she attempts to assist the man she loves in clearing his name after he is suspected of murder. She bends over backwards for him, utilizing her unrefined acting skills to go undercover in hopes to uncover the truth.
Considering the potential for tension built in to the plot of Stage Fright I thought Hitchcock fell somewhat short. For him this ends up being mediocre compared to some of his films. Lucky for viewers, mediocre for Hitchcock is quite good compared to so many other filmmakers that have worked throughout the decades the medium has been in existence.
The middle of the film drags a bit but is somewhat redeemed by a very engaging opening act and a killer ending (no pun intended)!
Hitchcock manages to not only tell a tale of suspense and danger, but also include a bizarre love story and a number of very memorable characters.
This includes Alistair Sim who plays the father of the young actress. He is loving and devoted, yet willing to aid his young daughter in this dangerous quest for truth. One wonders if his lack of hesitance in consenting to and consorting with his daughter’s dangerous antics stems from a vicarious pleasure he receives from the potential danger she faces, not to mention a desire to see his daughter happy and an eagerness to resort to behavior that is frowned upon by established authority. He is a very convincing nonconformist who is enjoyable to watch.
This doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the film but as you watch pay attention to Michael Wilding who plays a young detective involved in the murder case who I think has a stunning resemblance to the actor, Alan Cumming. I can’t help but wonder if I am alone in seeing a similiarity between the two.
Jane Wyman is adorable in this role and plays her role remarkably well. The innocence portrayed by Jane Wyman deserves a lot of credit for the level of suspense this film is able to pull off. The audience can’t help but be especially concerned for her welfare due to her naivety.
I also think Marlene Dietrich deserves some credit for creating a very despise-able yet simultaneously enticing character that adds to the impact of the movie. She personifies the sexiness of a woman that is slowly beginning to advance in years but is still confident in regards to the sensuality her presence exudes. After all she was 49 when this movie was released, not exactly a spring chicken!
One aspect this film utilizes masterfully is the power of character perspective, especially in the use of flashbacks. Those familiar with the film will understand what I am saying, those who are not will have to take the time to watch it!
This is a solid film that is worth seeing, but at the same time it is somewhat forgettable. Hitchcock doesn’t live up to his genius in this film but still creates a very engaging plot with some delightfully engaging characters.
By Greg Dickson