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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Saturday, April 13, 2013
6:30 p.m. Rich and Strange
Alfred Hitchcock (U.K., 1931)

New imported 35mm print!

A little stranger than it is rich, being neither fish nor fowl—neither suspense nor outright comedy—this is a film that, early on, lends irony to many of Hitchcock’s own tropes, even as it plays with those of the silent era just passed. An inveterately bored couple, up to here with steak-and-kidney pie and umbrellas that won't open, use an unexpected inheritance to “suffer a sea change,” in Shakespeare’s words, and suffer they do. On a cruise, between bouts of nausea, he courts a gold-digging “princess” and she, a gentleman, and the marriage looks to be over until they are reunited by what appears to be a mutual desire for death, as shown in their shared complacency in the face of the abyss. Our heroes are Mr. and Mrs. Smith in early form: offered a way out of the “grey blanket” of marriage, they burrow in deeper. Raymond Durgnat wrote, “English entertainment shows an early awareness of the absurd, and it isn't difficult to moralize over Rich and Strange . . . in a Sartrean way. . . . Each will die without having ‘suspected what the other is.’ ”

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Alma Reville, Val Valentine, based on a story by Dale Collins. Photographed by Jack Cox. With Henry Kendall, Joan Barry, Betty Amann, Percy Marmont. (81 mins, B&W, 35mm, from BFI/NFTVA)