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HITCHCOCK WANNABES ABOUND

    

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 2, 2013

As outlined elsewhere on this page (and in a more complete form in my Deseret News column last week), the Broadway Centre Cinemas in downtown Salt Lake City is dedicating one of its four screens for the entire month to films by Alfred Hitchcock, 15 in all, three each week.

But there are also a number of Hitchcock-like, Hitchcock-ish movies ("Hitchcockiosity," perhaps?) by other filmmakers that are well worth tracking down, pictures that have the innocent-man-on-the-run motif, a cheeky sense of humor amid the suspense, and some even star actors that worked with Hitchcock, most notably Cary Grant and Paul Newman.

The best of these is unquestionably "Charade," a suspenseful, twisty thriller with a hilarious sense of humor about a young widow (Audrey Hepburn) in Paris who discovers her late husband was involved in nefarious activities. Along comes assistance in the form of Cary Grant as some kind of government official who wants to help, although it is quickly revealed that, like her husband, Grant is also not exactly what he seems to be. Then there's Walter Matthau and James Coburn and George Kennedy, each with some kind of shady agenda, all putting Hepburn on edge and causing her to doubt herself and everyone else. Great fun from start to finish.

Next I would cite "The Prize," written by Ernest Lehman, who also wrote Hitchcock's "North By Northwest." Lehman is obviously happy to lift both plot points and dialogue from his earlier work and "The Prize" follows the "North By Northwest" template in many ways. I hadn't really made the connection until I watched both films fairly close together and kept spotting similarities —all the more surprising since "The Prize" is based on a popular, best-selling novel by Irving Wallace.

Paul Newman stars as one of several Nobel Prize winners gathering in Stockholm when he becomes involved in espionage involving a fellow laureate (Edward G. Robinson). Thrilling and also very funny with Newman at the top of his game. Co-stars include Elke Sommer, Diane Baker, Kevin McCarthy and Hitchcock regular Leo G. Carroll (whose opening and closing dialogue are lifted from the classic 1932 film "Grand Hotel").

Also worth noting are Jonathan Demme's "Last Embrace," starring Roy Scheider and significant for its harrowing climax at Niagra Falls, and especially the 2008 British-TV remake of "The 39 Steps," which is much more faithful to the book and every bit as exciting and charming as the Hitchcock original, with a chase sequence that replicates the famous crop-dusting plane diving at Cary Grant in Hitchcock's "North By Northwest"!