Sunday, March 24, 2019

Rear Window (1954)

L.B. Jeffries is recuperating from a broken leg and passes the time by watching the apartments across the courtyard.  Lars Thornwald catches his binoculars, thinking he may have murdered his bedridden wife.  With the help of his girlfriend Lisa and nurse Stella, L.B. realizes his instincts were true, leading to a confrontation with him and Lars, which would not be the last time Jimmy Stewart would dangle from great heights in a Hitchcock film.

Rear Window was filmed entirely on a Paramount soundstage but it was replicated after an actual courtyard in Greenwich Village.  I unfortunately wasn't able to get a full view of it when I stopped by but I was able to get a glimpse of it from the alley around the corner.  And if you need a conversation starter at your next party - listen closely the audio background in the first few minutes.  You will hear children laughing with one in particular saying "You got it! You got it!"  The same stock audio can be heard in Halloween (1978) when the elementary school lets out and in an episode of The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) when Greg and Marcia run against each other for class president.

Location: Inspiration for L.B.'s Courtyard
Address: 125 Christopher Street, New York, NY

Location Visited: December 2018

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Strangers On A Train (1951)

Psychopath Bruno Antony strikes up a conversation with tennis star Guy Haines during a train ride.  The subject quickly turns to swapping murders - Guy's promiscuous wife for Bruno's bastard father.  Thinking they've agreed, Bruno carries out his end of the bargain and expects Guy to do the same.  When he doesn't, Bruno makes life uncomfortable for Guy, who must stop him from planting his cigarette lighter at the scene of the crime.  They fight to the death on a haywire carousel at the amusement park where Guy is able to clear his name. 

Based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, Strangers On A Train deals with the doppelgänger concept prevalent in several of Hitchcock's films.  Farley Granger and Robert Walker deliver excellent performances.  A spectacular climax aboard an out of control carousel done with miniatures and background projection is Hitchcock camera trickery at its finest.  And thanks to Dramamine, I don't experience any Vertigo (1958) ;-) The movie has inspired several films, most notably Throw Momma from the Train (1987).  A remake would be practically implausible today since everyone wears earphones and stare down at their phones.

Strangers On A Train was filmed in Danbury, CT, Forrest Hills and New York, NY, Washington DC and Chatsworth and Canoga Park, CA

Location: The Metcalf Train Station
Address: 120 White Street, Danbury, CT  Danbury Railway Museum

The sewer scene was actually done on a soundstage with rear-projection screens...

Location: Miller's Music Store
Address: 181 Main Street, Danbury, CT

Location: The Tennis Tournament
Address: 1 Tennis Place, Forrest Hills, NY  Forrest Hills Stadium

B-roll shots were filmed during the 1950 Davis Cup finals...

Locations Visited: December 2018

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Vertigo (1958)

John "Scottie" Ferguson's career as a police detective is cut short after a cop falls to his death trying to rescue him.  Riddled with acrophobia and vertigo, Scottie soon finds his empty days filled tracking Gavin Elster's wife Madeleine, who hasn't quite been herself. ;-)  Scottie rescues "Madeleine" after she jumps into the San Francisco Bay and the two grow closer.  A day trip to the Mission San Juan Bautista turns into a nightmare as Madeleine climbs the bell tower and jumps to her death.  

Scottie later spots a woman who reminds him of Madeleine - Judy Barton from Salina, Kansas.  Debunking Midwestern innocence, it is revealed Judy was impersonating Madeleine as part of a murder plot with Gavin, whom she was shagging. Judy's been blinded by love, perhaps due the bright green Hotel Empire sign right outside her window, and carries on the charade with Scottie.  Once Scottie figures out he's been duped, he and Judy return to the scene of the crime, where she ends up falling from great heights.

Vertigo wasn't well-received upon its release but is now hailed as one of Hitchcock's best works.  It felt like I grew a full beard during my first viewing, but have grown to love the movie upon repeat screenings.  At times it may seem like a San Francisco tourism commercial, but Vertigo is a twisted film addressing themes of control and obsession.  The movie is also noted for using the famous dolly zoom, a technique copied in numerous films such as Jaws (1975) and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988).         

Vertigo was filmed in San Francisco, San Juan Bautista, Santa Cruz and Pebble Beach, CA

Location: Madeleine's Apartment Building 
Address: 1000 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA

Location: Scottie Follows Madeleine
Address: Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA

Location: Mission Dolores
Address: 320 Dolores Street, San Francisco, CA

The gift shop had a few nods to the movie... 

Location: The Art Museum
Address: 100 34th Avenue, San Francisco, CA  Legion of Honor

Location: The Golden Gate Bridge
Address: Marine Drive, San Francisco, CA  Fort Point National Historic Site

Location: Scottie's Apartment
Address: 900 Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA

Scottie's apartment is at the bottom of the famous zig-zagging Lombard Street and just off the in the distance is the Coit Tower...

Location: Mission San Juan Bautista
Address: 406 2nd Street, San Juan Bautista, CA

If you expect to see the iconic tower when visiting the mission, you'll be disappointed.  While there is a small one at the end, the tower where Madeleine and Judy meet their deaths was a matte painting, with the interiors done on a soundstage.  A larger tower was removed back in 1949 due to damage...

Location: The Hospital
Address: 351 Buena Vista Avenue East, San Francisco, CA

Location: The Empire Hotel
Address: 940 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA

Another location taking pride in its history...

Location: The Palace of Fine Arts
Address: 3456 Baker Street, San Francisco, CA

Locations Visited: October 2018