Thursday, August 06, 2015

Elstree Calling (1930)

Certainly one of the most obscure films in Alfred Hitchcock's filmography, this musical revue extravaganza was British International Pictures' response to such Hollywood productions as MGM's THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929, Warner Bros.' SHOW OF SHOWS, and PARAMOUNT ON PARADE, which showcased the respective studios' leading stars as they demonstrated their acting chops in the new medium of sound film through elaborate music numbers, songs and sketches. The variety of acts presented here include some of the top names in British vaudeville and music hall of the time, emceed by comedian Tommy Handley, with the individual performances structured around the framing gimmick of an early television broadcast. The film is a lavishly-produced affair, with obvious expense invested in the production, including four color sequences, but it suffers from pacing issues and static photography and staging.

As a Hitchcock completest, I sought this film out solely because of his involvement with it, though it is certainly an atypical and impersonal project. Adrian Brunel is the official credited director, while Hitchcock is credited with "sketches and other interpolated items". Reportedly, Hitchcock's segments include the framing sequences involving the television broadcast, as well as a scene that is more characteristic of his style, about a young man and woman involved in an illicit affair with a darkly comic twist ending.

Although his work on this project was little more than a obligatory studio assignment, made early on in his directorial career in England, Hitchcock's involvement was met with excitement by the New York Times, reviewing the film at the time of its release, saying "Alfred Hitchcock is responsible for the general direction, which is tantamount to saying that the British producing company has sought out the most expert guidance available in this country." Seen today, it's an historical curio strictly of interest to Hitchcock completests.

No comments: