Even if the argument sometimes seems like an endless series of digressions, however, it never makes less than an...

A wide-ranging, though eccentric, tour of Alfred Hitchcock’s agreeably scary cinema.

Conrad (English/Christ Church, Oxford; Modern Times, Modern Places, 1999) will have no truck with the extensive literature already published on the Master of Suspense, which he dismisses as “pseudo-scientific” and “bogus cerebration.” Nor, evidently, does he have much patience with the division of Hitchcock’s work into discrete films from The Pleasure Garden through Family Plot. Instead of considering the films one by one, he has pulverized them all into a puree in which, for example, an excursis about the director’s preoccupation with bathrooms (in which he set scenes in The Lodger, Number Seventeen, Secret Agent, The Lady Vanishes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Spellbound, The Trouble with Harry, and Psycho) can range freely over half a dozen examples before moving on to films mysteriously without bathrooms, from The 39 Steps to Lifeboat. Although his determination to avoid earlier critics leaves Conrad spending a fair amount of time reinventing the wheel, his investigation, organized loosely around the question of how Hitchcock makes fear entertaining, yields some piquant insights, such as Hitchcock’s affinity with Surrealists like André Breton to the self-portraits he left in the fat men who peopled his films. But Conrad’s cavalier annexation of literary sources for the films to provide further examples, as if Hitchcock had created Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Robert Bloch’s Psycho as well as the films he based on them, creates an unhappy confusion of boundaries, as if he could not decide whether Hitchcock was remarkable because his films were so distinctive or because they were so exemplary. In the end, all but the largest contours of Conrad’s analysis become blurred as well, sunk beneath reams of absorbing detail.

Even if the argument sometimes seems like an endless series of digressions, however, it never makes less than an entertaining and illuminating case for the unity of Hitchcock’s half-century of films. (20 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-571-20023-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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