Sunday, February 17, 2013

Secret Agent (1936)

WHO: Alfred Hitchcock directing.

WHAT: It's not one of Hitchcock's absolute masterpieces, but this adaptation of a Somerset Maugham novel is still an essential film for anyone interested in the Master of Suspense, or, indeed, in cinema itself. Peter Lorre's performance in the film is over-the-top even for him.

WHERE/WHEN: Today is its final day playing at the Stanford Theatre, where it has two showtimes: 5:55 and 9:05.

WHY: I've never seen an Alfred Hitchcock film that wasn't worth seeing, although I do still have quite a few gaps in my viewing history. For instance I've yet to see Young and Innocent which plays with this tonight as part of the Stanford's double-bill. And I've never seen The Paradine Case or Rich and Strange or even Foreign Correspondent, which is why I'm excited they're being brought to the Pacific Film Archive over the next couple months. One day I may break down and find DVD copies of the Hitchcock films I've never seen (which also include Topaz and Jamaica Inn and a good portion of his pre-1935 work). But I certainly don't want to do that with his silent films, which absolutely deserve to be seen in cinemas with top-class musical accompaniment, and not in the video copies with terrible image quality that circulate in DVD bargain bins and online. With new restorations of Hitchcock silent films recently made available to international festivals, I had a feeling that the San Francisco Silent Film Festival might bring one or two of them as part of its July film festival. What a pleasant surprise to learn at yesterday's Silent Winter extravaganza that they'll be bringing all nine of the restorations to the Castro Theatre June 14-16! I couldn't be happier with this news. Having seen films like Blackmail and Downhill in cinemas with live accompaniment I know that this is going to be quite a treat for all silent film lovers and Hitchcock fans.

HOW: Secret Agent and Young and Innocent screen in 35mm prints tonight.

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