Oct. 10--People with even a modest interest in movies are familiar with works by Alfred Hitchcock.
Vertigo was recently named the best movie ever, according to the British magazine Sight & Sound.
Psycho made people uneasy about taking a shower.
And, in the 1960s, The Birds scared the living bejesus out of a very young me.
But fewer people are familiar with his silent movies, the works that were the foundation for later, more famous films by the "Master of Suspense."
Riding a wave of national pride, the British Film Institute restored the nine existing Hitchcock silent movies -- which will be shown beginning tonight in the Wexner Center for the Arts.
"They're beautiful," said Anita Monga, artistic director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the organization that gave the "Hitchcock 9" restored silent films their American premiere. "People are really amazed."
In the years preceding the 2012 Olympics, British cultural groups took advantage of the global spotlight.
"There was a big national push to come up with projects that said something about London," said Bryony Dixon, curator of silent film for the British Film Institute national archive and the lead curator for the project. "For us, that would be Alfred Hitchcock. He was our biggest-name film director."
Hitchcock made 10 silent feature films. The BFI decided to tackle the nine survivors: The Lodger and The Pleasure Garden (1926); Downhill, Easy Virtue and The Ring (1927); Champagne and The Farmer's Wife (1928); and Blackmail and The Manxman (1929).
"They'd never been
restored, rather strangely," Dixon said. "Everybody has seen rather bad versions of them for years and years, but we never had the time or money or this kind of impetus to do it properly, so we grabbed the chance to do all nine movies in one go.
"We normally do one movie a year. It was a rather tall
And so began three years of work on a Hitchcockian-style mystery that involved salvaging prints and negatives, piecing together different versions of the same film and tracking down snippets to fill holes.
The Pleasure Garden, for example, was pieced together from five copies of the film, and a clip of a crucial moment was found in an American university archive.
"Even that one tiny shot in a strange collection at Southern Methodist University was crucial to bringing back the proper sense of the film," Dixon said. "It's very
important that everybody around the world keep everything. You don't know when the tiniest fraction will contribute to a restoration."
Curators working on Champagne found that the British version of the movie they were working on had spliced in footage from a print of the American release, which was slightly different.
"There's no way we ever will be able to re-create the original British-
release version with the proper shots and editing," Dixon said. "When I first looked at it years ago, I thought there was something wrong. It wasn't like any other Hitchcock film."
Monga appreciated the work.
"Some of these required painstaking restoration," she said. " Easy Virtue -- the source material is not the best. The BFI combed the Earth for the best possible material to go into that restoration."
When the movies were screened in June in San Francisco, they were well-received.
"We had huge audiences," Monga said. "As is generally the case, the most well-known things were the best attended, but it's the people who bought whole-event
passes who were really surprised and gratified by . . . (the lesser-known films)."
The one Hitchcock silent film considered to be lost, which was released in 1926 under the titlesThe Mountain Eagle and Fear o' God, is atop the BFI's "most-wanted" list of silent films.
But Dixon fears that the film is lost forever.
"There are so many Hitchcock fans out there that, if there was even a hint of a suggestion, we would have found it," she said. "Every film student would have been out looking for it for a
moment of glory."
(c)2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
Most Popular Stories
- Boehner Lashes Out Against Ted Cruz, Far Right
- TFA Recruiting DACA Recipients
- Bitcoin or Bad Coin? Warnings Mount Against Virtual Currency
- Cheap Gas Drives Down U.S. Wholesale Prices Again
- Expanding Medicaid Creates Jobs: Study
- Robert Levinson Was on CIA Mission
- Producer Price Index Dropped in November
- Beyonce Releases New Album With No Marketing
- Hawaii Official Who Release Obama Certificate Only Victim of Plane Crash
- 'Dreamers' Hope for Permanent Immigration Status