Skip to main content

I knew this woman was concealing some vile secret!

Easy Virtue
(1927)

(SPOILERS) Not one of Hitchcock’s most memorable affairs, except perhaps for its salacious title. Easy Virtue derives from Noel Coward’s play of the same name, adapted by Eliot Stannard (who worked on most of the director’s early silents). Hitchcock opined that “it contained the worst title I’ve ever written” in the form of heroine Larita Filton’s final address to the press outside the divorce court (her second bout): “Shoot! There’s nothing left to kill”. I don’t know about that, though. At least it ensures Easy Virtue can boast somethingnoteworthy.

Because this is all a bit of a slog, really. Larita (Isabel Jeans) is disgraced after her portrait artist (Eric Bransby Williams) takes a fancy to her; her “habitual drunkard” husband (Franklin Dyall) walks in on them as she is spurning his advances. This results in hubby being shot, then beating the painter (who has left Larita his fortune) to death and dragging Larita through the divorce court.

If all this sounds quite racy, it isn’t. Not especially. And anyway, it’s told in flashback during the hearing. Hitchcock, ever wary of the rule of law, emphasises how prurient and unsympathetic the jury is (“The evidence looks conclusive to me”). Larita escapes to “the tolerant shores of the Mediterranean” and meets nice fellow John (Robin Irvine), who doesn’t want to hear about her past. However, he changes his tune after they have married and he has introduced her to the family pile (“It’s funny, I thought you’d be dark and foreign looking” she is told). There, Ma Whittaker (Violet Farebrother, also of Downhill and packing a weightlifter’s shoulders) roots around for reasons not dislike her.

This section of Easy Virtue seems to go on and on, and I suppose there’s a certain sadistic cachet to Mrs Whittaker being so beastly. Mostly, however, it highlights how much difficulty the picture has in sustaining itself (rather than leaving, “Larita remained – and suffered” we are told). Mrs Whittaker can’t believe her luck when she discovers Larita’s background. It’s a small mercy, then, that Larita doesn’t act the complete doormat. Told “In our world we do not understand this code of easy virtue” she replies “In your world, you understand very little of anything, Mrs Whittaker”.

Larita duly puts on her party frock and makes a showing at Ma Whittaker’s dance, the one she has been sworn off. She also tells John’s secret admirer (Enid Stamp Taylor) that she should have married her hubby, before agreeing to an uncontested divorce.

Easy Virtue’s signature moment is actually a relatively innocuous one; Benita Hume’s switchboard operator puts through the call from Larita to John to give her answer. Hitch stays on the operator’s face as she listens in on the conversation, so we read the response through her. It’s a rare light-hearted moment in a doomy cautionary tale, where common Hitchcock themes of injustices of the law and the horror show of marriage are present in nascent form.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Are you, by any chance, in a trance now, Mr Morrison?

The Doors (1991) (SPOILERS) Oliver Stone’s mammoth, mythologising paean to Jim Morrison is as much about seeing himself in the self-styled, self-destructive rebel figurehead, and I suspect it’s this lack of distance that rather quickly leads to The Doors becoming a turgid bore. It’s strange – people are , you know, films equally so – but I’d hitherto considered the epic opus patchy but worthwhile, a take that disintegrated on this viewing. The picture’s populated with all the stars it could possibly wish for, tremendous visuals (courtesy of DP Robert Richardson) and its director operating at the height of his powers, but his vision, or the incoherence thereof, is the movie’s undoing. The Doors is an indulgent, sprawling mess, with no internal glue to hold it together dramatically. “Jim gets fat and dies” isn’t really a riveting narrative through line.

I think I’m Pablo Picasso!

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) (SPOILERS) I get the impression that, whatever it is stalwart Venom fans want from a Venom movie, this iteration isn’t it. The highlight here for me is absolutely the wacky, love-hate, buddy-movie antics of Tom Hardy and his symbiote alter. That was the best part of the original, before it locked into plot “progression” and teetered towards a climax where one CGI monster with gnarly teeth had at another CGI monster with gnarly teeth. And so it is for Venom: Let There Be Carnage . But cutting quicker to the chase.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Fifty medications didn’t work because I’m really a reincarnated Russian blacksmith?

Infinite (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s as if Mark Wahlberg, his lined visage increasingly resembling a perplexed potato, learned nothing from the blank ignominy of his “performances” in previous big-budget sci-fi spectacles Planet of the Apes and, er, Max Payne . And maybe include The Happening in that too ( Transformers doesn’t count, since even all-round reprobate Shia La Boeuf made no visible dent on their appeal either way). As such, pairing him with the blandest of journeyman action directors on Infinite was never going to seem like a sterling idea, particularly with a concept so far removed from of either’s wheelhouse.

I can do in two weeks what you can only wish to do in twenty years.

Wrath of Man (2021) (SPOILERS) Guy Ritchie’s stripped-down remake of Le Convoyeur (or Cash Truck , also the working title for this movie) feels like an intentional acceleration in the opposite direction to 2019’s return-to-form The Gentleman , his best movie in years. Ritchie seems to want to prove he can make a straight thriller, devoid of his characteristic winks, nods, playfulness and outright broad (read: often extremely crude) sense of humour. Even King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has its fair share of laughs. Wrath of Man is determinedly grim, though, almost Jacobean in its doom-laden trajectory, and Ritchie casts his movie accordingly, opting for more restrained performers, less likely to summon more flamboyant reflexes.

Five people make a conspiracy, right?

Snake Eyes (1998) (SPOILERS) The best De Palma movies offer a synthesis of plot and aesthetic, such that the director’s meticulously crafted shots and set pieces are underpinned by a solid foundation. That isn’t to say, however, that there isn’t a sheer pleasure to be had from the simple act of observing, from De Palma movies where there isn’t really a whole lot more than the seduction of sound, image and movement. Snake Eyes has the intention to be both scrupulously written and beautifully composed, coming after a decade when the director was – mostly – exploring his oeuvre more commercially than before, which most often meant working from others’ material. If it ultimately collapses in upon itself, then, it nevertheless delivers a ream of positives in both departments along the way.

I’ll look in Bostock’s pocket.

Doctor Who Revelation of the Daleks Lovely, lovely, lovely. I can quite see why Revelation of the Daleks doesn’t receive the same acclaim as the absurdly – absurdly, because it’s terrible – overrated Remembrance of the Daleks . It is, after all, grim, grisly and exemplifies most of the virtues for which the Saward era is commonly decried. I’d suggest it’s an all-time classic, however, one of the few times 1980s Who gets everything, or nearly everything, right. If it has a fault, besides Eric’s self-prescribed “Kill everyone” remit, it’s that it tries too much. It’s rich, layered and very funny. It has enough material and ideas to go off in about a dozen different directions, which may be why it always felt to me like it was waiting for a trilogy capper.

Beer is for breakfast around here. Drink or begone.

Cocktail (1988) (SPOILERS) When Tarantino claims the 1980s (and 1950s) as the worst movie decade, I’m inclined to invite him to shut his butt down. But should he then flourish Cocktail as Exhibit A, I’d be forced to admit he has a point. Cocktail is a horrifying, malignant piece of dreck, a testament to the efficacy of persuasive star power on a blithely rapt and undiscerning audience. Not only is it morally vacuous, it’s dramatically inert. And it relies on Tom’s toothy charms to a degree that would have any sensitive soul rushed to the A&E suffering from toxic shock (Tom’s most recently displayed toothy charms will likely have even his staunchest devotees less than sure of themselves, however, as he metamorphoses into your favourite grandma). And it was a huge box office hit.

Did you not just hand over a chicken to someone?

The Father (2020) (SPOILERS) I was in no great rush to see The Father , expecting it to be it to be something of an ordeal in the manner of that lavishly overpraised euthanasia-fest Amour. As with the previous Oscars, though, the Best Picture nominee I saw last turned out to be the best of the bunch. In that case, Parasite , its very title beckoning the psychic global warfare sprouting shoots around it, would win the top prize. The Father , in a year of disappointing nominees, had to settle for Best Actor. Ant’s good, naturally, but I was most impressed with the unpandering manner in which Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton approached material that might easily render one highly unstuck.