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  Trouble with Harry, The Dead And Buried
Year: 1955
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe, Shirley MacLaine, Mildred Natwick, Mildred Dunnock, Jerry Mathers, Royal Dano, Parker Fennelly, Barry Macollum, Dwight Marfield
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: Little Arnie (Jerry Mathers) is out playing in the woods one morning when he hears three gunshots ring out, so he dives for cover. When there are no more shots, he gets up and starts to explore, eventually stumbling across the dead body of a man. Not knowing what to do, he rushes home to fetch his mother. While this happens, the Captain (Edmund Gwenn) is out hunting rabbits in the forest, but is not having much luck, having shot a can and a "no hunting" sign... and perhaps he has shot the body too, as he realises with horror when he finds it himself. And the Captain is not the only one who will blame themselves for the man's death today.

Adapted from Jack Trevor Story's novel by John Michael Hayes, The Trouble with Harry was a departure for director Alfred Hitchcock from suspense into more comedic territory. Not that his other films are entirely lacking in humour, but in this film the laughs take centre stage in a peculiarly restrained black comedy. It was one of the so-called "Lost Hitchcocks", five of his films that were kept out of circulation for many years, and perhaps this was the reason the film had a higher reputation than it really deserved because watching it today it all seems oddly disappointing.

It still has appeal, however, and that is mostly down to the beautiful, autumnal scenery and the endearing performances. We are introduced to the characters practically one by one as they all have encounters with the body, who it turns out is called Harry. We know this because that's what Arnie's mother Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine) calls him when she walks up to take a look, then wanders back home with her son, apparently not exactly bothered. The Captain, from his hiding place, wants an opportunity to drag the corpse into the bushes so he can bury it later, but people will keep on arriving and falling over it, as the doctor does, or steal its shoes, as the tramp does.

As all this is going on, artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) has brought another painting to be sold at the local general store. Or not, as the case may be, as his paintings never really sell, and he's reduced to buying half a pack of cigarettes (which he cuts in half with scissors - why didn't he just pick out half of the contents instead?). The stage is set for two romances, unlikely as it sounds, and all due to Harry; after Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick) bumps into the Captain as he is contemplating Harry, a coy attraction develops and she invites him over for tea. And when Sam discovers the body, he sketches it only to be disturbed by the Captain who tells him all.

Which leads Sam to the door of Jennifer, where they have a strange conversation in which she details her history with Harry, her husband as she reveals. This was MacLaine's film debut, and she makes quite an impression, constantly catching you off guard with her pixie-like, off kilter demeanour, almost making you believe the fast moving love affair that emerges between Jennifer and Sam (which comes across like a plot convenience). Over the course of the day, Harry is buried, dug up again, buried... it's the film's running joke but like the other jokes, isn't exactly side-splitting. You kind of wish there was more of the trademark Hitchcock suspense to add a little depth as it's like eating the icing without the cake, and the feeling is that the characters aren't really worried whether they are caught out or not, leaving you not too concerned either. Excellent music by Bernard Herrmann, his first score for Hitchcock.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Alfred Hitchcock  (1899 - 1980)

Hugely influential British director, renowned as "The Master of Suspense" for his way with thrillers. His first recognisably Hitchcockian film was The Lodger, but it was only until Blackmail (the first British sound film) that he found his calling. His other 1930s films included a few classics: Number Seventeen, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Secret Agent, Sabotage, The Lady Vanishes, Young and Innocent and Jamaica Inn.

Producer David O. Selznick gave Hitchcock his break in Hollywood directing Rebecca, and he never looked back. In the forties were Suspicion, thinly veiled propaganda Foreign Correspondent, the single set Lifeboat, Saboteur, Notorious, Spellbound (with the Salvador Dali dream sequence), Shadow of a Doubt (his personal favourite) and technician's nightmare Rope.

In the fifties were darkly amusing Strangers on a Train, I Confess, Dial M for Murder (in 3-D), rare comedy The Trouble with Harry, Rear Window, a remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much, To Catch a Thief, the uncharacteristic in style The Wrong Man, the sickly Vertigo, and his quintessential chase movie, North By Northwest. He also had a successful television series around this time, which he introduced, making his distinctive face and voice as recognisable as his name.

The sixties started strongly with groundbreaking horror Psycho, and The Birds was just as successful, but then Hitchcock went into decline with uninspired thrillers like Marnie, Torn Curtain and Topaz. The seventies saw a return to form with Frenzy, but his last film Family Plot was disappointing. Still, a great career, and his mixture of romance, black comedy, thrills and elaborate set pieces will always entertain. Watch out for his cameo appearances in most of his films.

 
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