Classic Movie Showcase Friday!

If you’ve been to the Lounge, you know we love our classic TV shows – they’re up and running on the Lounge TV daily.

But what about those Cinematic Darlings Of Yesteryear?

Never Fear, Starlite Lounge Is Here!

Every Friday evening from 4:30 – 6:30pm we turn the Starlite into your own semi-private Movie Lounge!

Complete with house-made tapas treats from our “snack bar,” along with our weekly specials and regular menu items.

And of course, our wonderful Central Coast Wines, Craft Beers, and Sodas to add to your viewing experience.

So come on down, set a spell, nosh, drink and enjoy and…

We’ll see YOU At The Movies!

Our Friday Movie Night is also the perfect time to come and do the Classic Dinner & A Movie with your sweetie. You are welcome to skip the movie and come for your romantically-lit dinner from 6:30pm on, and if you’d like to view our Classic Movie Showcase first, come at 4:30pm and watch the show before getting your grub on!  In that case, you could say it’s a Classic Movie and A Dinner, but let’s not quibble.

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In OCTOBER, we pay homage to the King of Classic Suspense – Alfred Hitchcock!

“Hitchcock is the most-daring avant-garde film-maker in America today.” -Andrew Sarris, Village Voice

October 5 – “Vertigo” (1978)

“Did he train you? Did he rehearse you? Did he tell you what to do and what to say?”

This cry from a wounded heart comes at the end of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” and by the time it comes we are completely in sympathy. A man has fallen in love with a woman who does not exist, and now he cries out harshly against the real woman who impersonated her. But there is so much more to it than that. The real woman has fallen in love with him. In tricking him, she tricked herself. And the man, by preferring his dream to the woman standing before him, has lost both.

Then there is another level, beneath all of the others. Alfred Hitchcock was known as the most controlling of directors, particularly when it came to women. The female characters in his films reflected the same qualities over and over again: They were blond. They were icy and remote. They were imprisoned in costumes that subtly combined fashion with fetishism. They mesmerized the men, who often had physical or psychological handicaps. Sooner or later, every Hitchcock woman was humiliated.

“Vertigo” (1958), which is one of the two or three best films Hitchcock ever made, is the most confessional, dealing directly with the themes that controlled his art. It is *about* how Hitchcock used, feared and tried to control women. He is represented by Scottie (James Stewart), a man with physical and mental weaknesses (back problems, fear of heights), who falls obsessively in love with the image of a woman–and not any woman, but the quintessential Hitchcock woman. When he cannot have her, he finds another woman and tries to mold her, dress her, train her, change her makeup and her hair, until she looks like the woman he desires. He cares nothing about the clay he is shaping; he will gladly sacrifice her on the altar of his dreams.

But of course the woman he is shaping and the woman he desires are the same person. Her name is Judy (Kim Novak), and she was hired to play the dream woman, “Madeleine,” as part of a murder plot that Scottie does not even begin to suspect. When he finds out he was tricked, his rage is uncontrollable. He screams out the words: “Did he train you? . . .” Each syllable is a knife in his heart, as he spells out that another man shaped the woman that Scottie thought to shape for himself. The other man has taken not merely Scottie’s woman, but Scottie’s dream.

That creates a moral paradox at the center of “Vertigo.” The other man (Gavin, played by Tom Helmore) has after all only done to this woman what Scottie also wanted to do. And while the process was happening, the real woman, Judy, transferred her allegiance from Gavin to Scottie, and by the end was not playing her role for money, but as a sacrifice for love.

All of these emotional threads come together in the greatest single shot in all of Hitchcock. Scottie, a former San Francisco police detective hired by Gavin to follow “Madeleine,” has become obsessed with her. Then it appears Madeleine has died. By chance, Scottie encounters Judy, who looks uncannily like Madeleine, but appears to be a more carnal, less polished version. Of course he does not realize she is exactly the same woman. He asks her out and Judy unwisely accepts. During their strange, stilted courtship, she begins to pity and care for him, so that when he asks her to remake herself into Madeleine, she agrees, playing the same role the second time.

The great scene takes place in a hotel room, lit by a neon sign. Judy has arrived, not looking enough like Madeleine to satisfy Scottie, who wants her in the *same* dress, with the *same* hair. His eyes burn with zealous fixation. Judy realizes that Scottie is indifferent to her as a person and sees her as an object. Because she loves him, she accepts this. She locks herself into the bathroom, does the makeover, opens the door and walks toward Scottie out of a haunting green fog that is apparently explained by the neon sign, but is in fact a dreamlike effect.

As Hitchcock cuts back and forth between Novak’s face (showing such pain, such sorrow, such a will to please) and Stewart’s (in a rapture of lust and gratified control), we feel hearts being torn apart: They are both slaves of an image fabricated by a man who is not even in the room–Gavin, who created “Madeleine” as a device to allow himself to get away with the murder of his wife.

As Scottie embraces “Madeleine,” even the background changes to reflect his subjective memories instead of the real room he’s in. Bernard Herrmann’s score creates a haunting, unsettled yearning. And the camera circles them hopelessly, like the pinwheel images in Scottie’s nightmares, until the shot is about the dizzying futility of our human desires, the impossibility of forcing life to make us happy. This shot, in its psychological, artistic and technical complexity, may be the one time in his entire career that Alfred Hitchcock completely revealed himself, in all of his passion and sadness. (Is it a coincidence that the woman is named Madeleine–the word for the French biscuit, which, in Proust, brings childhood memories of loss and longing flooding back?)

Alfred Hitchcock took universal emotions, like fear, guilt and lust, placed them in ordinary characters, and developed them in images more than in words. His most frequent character, an innocent man wrongly accused, inspired much deeper identification than the superficial supermen in today’s action movies.

He was a great visual stylist in two ways: He used obvious images and surrounded them with a subtle context. Consider the obvious ways he suggests James Stewart’s vertigo. An opening shot shows him teetering on a ladder, looking down at a street below. Flashbacks show why he left the police force. A bell tower at a mission terrifies him, and Hitchcock creates a famous shot to show his point of view: Using a model of the inside of the tower, and zooming the lens in while at the same time physically pulling the camera back, Hitchcock shows the walls approaching and receding at the same time; the space has the logic of a nightmare. But then notice less obvious ways that the movie sneaks in the concept of falling, as when Scottie drives down San Francisco’s hills, but never up. And note how truly he “falls” in love.

There is another element, rarely commented on, that makes “Vertigo” a great film. From the moment we are let in on the secret, the movie is equally about Judy: her pain, her loss, the trap she’s in. Hitchcock so cleverly manipulates the story that when the two characters climb up that mission tower, we identify with both of them, and fear for both of them, and in a way Judy is less guilty than Scottie.

The danger is to see Judy, played by Novak, as an object in the same way that Scottie sees her. She is in fact one of the most sympathetic female characters in all of Hitchcock.

Over and over in his films, Hitchcock took delight in literally and figuratively dragging his women through the mud–humiliating them, spoiling their hair and clothes as if lashing at his own fetishes. Judy, in “Vertigo,” is the closest he came to sympathizing with the female victims of his plots. And Novak, criticized at the time for playing the character too stiffly, has made the correct acting choices: Ask yourself how you would move and speak if you were in unbearable pain, and then look again at Judy.

-Roger Ebert, October, 1996

 

October 12 – “The Birds”

On March 28, 1963, Alfred Hitchcock premiered his Psycho feature follow-up, The Birds, in New York. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review, headlined “A Horror Classic With Thrills and Comedy,” is below: 

Alfred Hitchcock has concocted an elaborate tease in The Birds, as if to prove that suspense and thrills can be induced as much by the expectation of horror as by horror itself. What audiences are expecting and shiveringly hoping for — after Psycho — is more of the same.

Deliberately, Hitchcock prolongs his prelude to horror for more than half the film, playing with audience suspense with comedy and romance while he sets his stage. The horror, when it comes, is a hair-raiser, and audiences should take to the Universal release with satisfying response.

Based on a story by Daphne du Maurier, the Evan Hunter screenplay has for its premise an assault on the human race — or an isolated segment of it — by the birds, our feathered friends. The film starts with a sophisticated flirtation between Rod Taylor and “Tippi” Hedren in the glamor of San Francisco, then shifts to Taylor’s Northern California seaside home, a setting of quiet, pastoral beauty, for family complications.

Characters and background are laid in with detail. The Birds up to the halfway mark might easily be a romantic comedy drama. The change comes when birds of all descriptions — principally, it seems, crows and sea gulls — begin to attack in flocks, the humans of the town. In the end the birds rout the humans and Hitchcock’s long, last shot (which exhibitors will probably compress) is of the birds in possession.

Hitchcock and Hunter make no symbolism of their story. Like most good horror stories it is based on a simple “what [if]” premise, with the abnormal substituted for the normal. The revolt of the birds, acting contrary to nature and their established habits, is convincingly presented. The fact that birds are the last element of nature one expects to turn on man only underlines the horror. If you can’t trust birds, who can you trust? There is only one chink in the premise. That is the unanswered and unposed question of why nobody ever gets a gun and blasts away at the winged assault.

Rod Taylor and a newcomer, Miss Hedren, play the romantic leads. Taylor is strong and convincing. Miss Hedren, a cool, blond beauty in the Hitchcock tradition, handles herself with finesse and is promising. Jessica Tandy gives an outstanding performance as Taylor’s neurotic mother. Suzanne Pleshette is strong as Taylor’s former girlfriend. Veronica Cartwright is good as Taylor’s young sister. Ethel Griffies is specially memorable as a bird authority. Doreen Lang has a good cameo she handles with force. Others helpful include Charles McGraw, Ruth McDevitt, Joe Mantell, Karl Swenson, Malcolm Atterbury, Elizabeth Wilson, Lonny Chapman, John McGovern and Richard Deacon.

Robert Burks’ Technicolor photography is fine, catching the serenity soon to be shattered of the Northern California locale. His menacing shots of crows thickly clustered on a children’s playground bristle with terror. The “musical” score, an electronic composition by Remi Gassmann and Oskar Sala, gives aural life to the visual compositions.

Sets chosen or designed by Robert Boyle, with set decoration by George Milo, are greatly helpful. Sound, by Waldon O. Watson and William Russell, is good, and George Tomasini’s editing insures the cumulative tempo. Edith Head, with the problem of designing a single costume for Miss Hedren to wear throughout, has surmounted the potential monotony neatly. — James Powers, originally published on March 28, 1963.

 

October 19 – “North by Northwest” (1959)

 On July 17, 1959, Alfred Hitchcock unveiled his latest suspense thriller, North by Northwest, in theaters in Los Angeles. The film, starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, was nominated for three Oscars at the 32nd Academy Awards. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.

A packed audience at the preview loved every cliff-hanging moment of this Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Basically, it’s another cloak-and-dagger chase and, for the most part, it is done with tongue-in-cheek. But Hitchcock is such a master of suspense that not many frames have passed before the audience has achieved complete identification with the characters and is knowing the thrill of vicarious fear and the shared pleasures of love and passion. The story may not be real but Hitchcock makes it seem real.

Of course, Hitchcock doesn’t achieve this triumph entirely by himself. Cary Grant, as a glib Madison Avenue huckster, mistaken for a Central Intelligence agent by a group of Iron Curtain spies, is simply great. He delivers a marvelous series of close-ups when the heavies, after forcing a bottle of bourbon down his throat, place him in a Mercedes convertible and head him for a cliff. Struggling with double vision and drunkenness — with eyes now bugged out with horror and now drooping and glazed, he gets a laugh and a shriek out of every grimace.

Later, while standing alone and forlorn on a bleak, and seemingly limitless Indiana prairie, he keeps you enthralled by doing nothing at all. Still later, while endeavoring to dodge an airplane that is dusting crops with a poisonous spray, he arouses more fear than a dozen movie Joan of Arcs being burned at the stake.

The women will be attracted to him every minute, particularly in a hospital scene when he strides about clad only in a bath towel. Patricia Cutts gets the biggest of the many laughs in the film with a two-word part. She’s a hospital patient. When Grant sneaks through her room, she yells “Stop!” (in a voice that means “Stop!”). Then she puts on her glasses, takes a good look at him and says, “Stop?” (in a voice that means “Don’t stop”).

Hitchcock takes Eva Marie Saint (hitherto mostly cast as a waif type) and turns her into an ice-covered volcano in the love passages. By endowing her with a beckoning almost unattainable glamour, he’s done for her what he did for Grace Kelly in Rear Window and Dial M for Murder. “It’s much better than flying,” Grant murmurs on one occasion when coming out of her arms. Throughout the script, Ernest Lehman has supplied the stars with a series of scintillating and unstrained-for bright lines.

The plot evolves from the efforts of C.I.A. chief (Leo G. Carroll) to force the hand of a group of enemy agents by placing a mythical “Mr. Caplan” on their trail. Hotel rooms are booked for “Mr. Caplan” wherever the spies are known to be active and luggage is placed in them. The espionage chief (James Mason) rises to the bait by having “Mr. Caplan” paged at New York’s Plaza Hotel (all settings in the picture are authentic locations). By coincidence, Grant speaks to the paging bellboy and is caught up and involved in a fight for life with shadowy forces. At times everyone thinks he is crazy but, like Hamlet, he is “but mad north-north-west”; when the wind is southerly he knows “a hawk from a handsaw.”

The chase takes him to the UN where a man (Philip Ober) is murdered. A fugitive aboard the Twentieth Century Limited, Grant explains his ducking of the cops to the suspiciously sympathetic Miss Saint by saying “Seven parking tickets.” There’s more turning and twisting at Chicago’s La Salle Street station where Grant astounds the men’s room by shaving with Miss Saint’s tiny feminine razor. The final showdown occurs on Mt. Rushmore with good guys and bad guys pursuing each other over Borglum’s gigantic sculptured features of four presidents.

Hitchcock’s storytelling supplies a number of devices that could be studied with advantage by students of screen literature. He lets the audience in on the fact that there is no “Mr. Caplan” at the precise moment when it is getting tired of being bewildered. Stressing human values rather than gimmicks, he doesn’t introduce the “weenie” (a ceramic figure containing microfilm) until the latter part of the picture. By letting us see a minor heavy (Adam Williams) drawing on a pair of black gloves, he alerts us to the fact a crime is contemplated without disclosing its nature. Only after Ober has done a terrific laugh-getting takeum in the midst of a normal conversation does the camera pull back to reveal that a knife has been thrown into his back. Another offbeat note is struck by giving the hero a bird-brained gold-digging mother (portrayed with fine superficiality by Jessie Royce Landis).

The photography by Robert Burks and the special effects by A. Arnold Gillespie and Lee LeBlanc are outstanding, especially in the prairie sequences. George Tomasini’s editing of the chase on Mt. Rushmore also is tops. So is Bernard Herrmann’s score. This film is pure entertainment. — Jack Moffitt, originally published on June 30, 1959

October 26 – “Psycho” (1960)

On June 16, 1960, Alfred Hitchcock premiered his iconic mystery thriller Psycho in New York, with secrecy as the theme when it came to the plot. The Hollywood Reporter‘s original review is below:

New York — The great filmic talents of Alfred Hitchcock, his superb artistry, technical mastery, skill and planning are very much in evidence in Psycho, his new Paramount release which opened here yesterday in a special engagement prior to its general release in August. This is a first-rate mystery thriller, full of visual shocks and surprises which are heightened by the melodramatic realism of the production. It is certain to be one of the big grossers of the summer.

Hitchcock’s insistence on secrecy concerning the plot during production and in the “blind selling” and exploitation campaign is completely justified by the surprise macabre ending. And, because of the nature of the film, with a key character being murdered in the first 20 minutes, the exhibition policy banning admissions after the start of the picture is appropriate to a complete understanding and enjoyment of the film. Paramount has used these factors to very good advantage in its merchandising.

The film opens with a typical Hitchcock touch, a long slow pan shot, over the town of Phoenix, Arizona, swinging down to a hotel window to reveal a torrid love scene typical of the French “new wave” school. The main story is laid against the background of an isolated motel and an adjoining eerie mansion. As in all Hitchcock films, the camera effects and explorations here are a vital and exciting element, establishing a weird realistic quality, sharpening the terror, building the suspense.

There are two murders on camera and innumerable others referred to including a matricide. One of the murders, that of Janet Leigh, takes place while she is taking a shower and there is enough blood on screen to satisfy the most bloodthirsty movie fans. The other murder takes place at the top of a staircase and the camera follows the headlong fall of the blood covered murder victim all the way down the stairs.

Anthony Perkins gives by far the best performance of his career in the title role. As the young, sensitive and amiable proprietor of the motel he maintains an appearance of innocence even while disposing of the remains of the murder victims purportedly killed by his mother. Miss Leigh is excellent as the young woman who steals $40,000 to buy off her unhappiness and solve her boyfriend’s money problems, only to be murdered at the hotel. John Gavin is very good as the boyfriend and Vera Miles is splendid as the devoted sister, both instrumental in solving the murders. Martin Balsam as a private investigator, John McIntire as a small town sheriff, and Simon Oakland as a psychiatrist contribute sharp and effective characterizations.

Maybe it’s not cricket to give away the ending, but since hardly anyone plays cricket and since the picture’s playing here you might as well know that Perkins’ psychotic split has him assuming the dual roles of himself and his mother. And, as Hitchcock says, the mother is a homicidal maniac.

Joseph Stefano’s screenplay from the novel by Robert Block gives Hitchcock an opportunity to use all his considerable talents in the building of a shocker which makes brilliant use of John L. Russell’s outstanding photography, Bernard Herrmann’s highly effective musical score, the wonderfully atmospheric settings of George Milo and the fine art direction of Joseph Burly and Robert Clatworthy.

Paramount won’t let anyone enter theatres where Psycho is playing after the picture starts. No one will want to leave before it is over. — Jack Harrison, originally published on June 17, 1960.

See you in November!

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