Hitchy Hilarity

Not long after being introduced to Psycho around the age of 12, I decided I had to start educating myself in the gospel of Alfred Hitchcock. I started where most probably would: the holy trinity of Vertigo, Rear Window and North By Northwest, graduating eventually to the likes of Notorious and Rebecca. Here and there, of course, some of the lesser known of Hitchcock's CV slipped past me in my youthful zeal (I had a lot of other directors to catch up with, you know), and it wasn't until an afternoon during college that I stumbled across perhaps the most underrated film of his career, 1955's The Trouble With Harry.

A bomb upon its initial release, Harry is a droll, sweetly morbid black comedy that starts with a corpse in the woods near a small New England village. This is Harry, whose death more than one of the townsfolk believes is their fault—among them a spinster (Mildred Natwick), an old sea captain (Edmund Gwenn), and Harry's young wife (Shirley MacLaine). A local artist (John Forsythe) takes command of the situation, and the foursome decide to cover up the crime, only Harry's body somehow manages to see the light of day a few more times before the mystery is solved. Wisely choosing not to play the cadaver conundrum for too many laughs, Hitch involves his audience in the minutiae of his witty dialogue and the characters' relationships to expert effect; a long-suppressed romance between Gwenn and Natwick's elder couple mirrors the blossoming one between Forsyth and MacLaine (who, in her screen debut, is a riveting and rare Hitchcock non-blonde; look for a button-cute Jerry “The Beaver” Mathers as her son). Anyone looking for the usual jarring thrills from the master might be disappointed, but for those with a taste for the eccentric, The Trouble With Harry is itching to be discovered. This week's rerelease includes the featurette “The Trouble With Harry Isn't Over,” a trailer and art gallery.

Also recommended this week: Boom Town; Equinox (Criterion); Frenzy; I Love You, Alice B. Toklas; Justice League: Season 2; NewsRadio: Season 4; The Omen (1976): Collector's Edition; Rope; Saboteur; Syriana; What's Eating Gilbert Grape?: Collector's Edition.

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