Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rich and Strange

Title: Rich and Strange
Year: 1932 (Although the onscreen date is 1931, it was released in 1932)
Studio: British International Pictures Ltd
Screenplay: Alma Reville, Val Valentine & Alfred Hitchcock
Source Material: A book by Dale Collins
Running Time: 80 minutes
A black & white picture.

Sunday 12th September, 8:30am
It's my cat's birthday today! Sweet little Fizzgig is 10 years old today. Bless her heart! I'm beginning to get a bit worried now, because, through word of mouth, more and more people are hearing that I am doing this blog. I don't see much evidence of anyone actually reading it, but I am growing concerned as people may be expecting some high-calibre literary critique of film technique - oh my, they will be sorely disappointed. It's ironic that I enjoy writing these blogs with the notion that no one is actually reading them. It makes one wonder what the point is. However, I enjoy the task in hand and shall continue for as long as it makes me happy. Why not, eh?

The Cast
Henry Kendall - Fred Hill
Joan Barry - Emily Hill
Percy Marmont - Commander Gordon
Betty Amann - The Princess
Elsie Randolph - The Old Maid

Doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange

The Tempest.

Fred and Emily Hill are a nice young couple who have grown weary of their safe little existence. Luckily, Fred comes into some inheritance early and they set off on an adventure, seeing the world.
On the first leg of their journey, Fred discovers he is susceptible to sea-sickness and spends a lot of time in his bed. This pushes Emily towards other guests and she strikes up a friendship with Commander Gordon who does not believe she is treated properly by her husband.
They also meet an old maid who is quite needy and desperate for attention - her persistence is comical but tiring for everyone else.
Later, after being hit in the face by a flying quoit, Fred makes the acquaintance of a supposed Princess with whom he becomes rather enamoured.
These new friendships begin to tear our protagonists apart. By the time they reach Singapore, they are practically separated. It is only when Emily learns from Gordon how the Princess is actually an adventuress who cons people out of their money, that Emily seeks Fred out and tells him the truth. The Princess absconds with one thousand pounds and the two are back together, albeit penniless. They manage to get passage on cheap steamer in an effort to get home. However, one night, the steamer has an accident and the ship begins to sink. They are resigned to their fate as they are trapped in their cabin - however, they awake the following morning to see that they are still afloat. They clamber out of their porthole and scour the decks for fresh clothes and something to eat and drink. They discover the ship's cat still alive. They see a Chinese Junk ship arrive and the crew loot the sinking ship just moments before it disappears beneath the water for ever. Emily and Fred (and the cat) climb aboard the Junk and are taken back home - Fred realises that he can reclaim the money stolen by the Princess along with the clothes lost on the ship all in one insurance claim. The couple of bemused and bamboozled by the Chinese crew in their rather different ways but eventually they are brought home safely.
Upon their return to wet England, it is not long before Fred and Emily are bickering again. This time about moving house to accommodate the baby they plan to have.

Great Lines
Coming out of the Folie Bergere...
Emily: "Somebody just pinched me!"
Fred: "Where?"
Emily: "You know where!"

Arriving at Port Said...
Emily: "To think that that place has been there all these years - all those strange people having babies, dying, cooking their funny meals - strange - been there all these years..."
Fred: "Well you don't think they built it especially for us overnight, do you?"

On the sinking ship...
Emily: "Do you think it matters if I use the Gentlemen's (toilet)?"
Fred: "Yes, go on, there's no sense in being suburban."

This was to be Hitch's last project with British International Pictures and it did not fare too well at the box office.
Rumour has it that not only was it based on Dale Collins' novel, but Hitch, in his adaptation, inserted elements of his own honeymoon with Alma, making it slightly autobiographical.
A few things stand out for me:
The opening sequence where Fred is leaving work highlighting the busy nature of our lives and the perils of peak hour on public transport.
The Old Maid and her quest for purchasing a carpet - especially the way she 'tries it out'.
The sinking of the ship at the end - beautifully realised with the sets and the tank.

Although very black comedy (which I tend to like) I still feel perturbed by the fate of the poor cat - saved from a sinking ship, only top end up as dinner. Yeah, I'm a cat lover...

A couple of other nice touches include when Fred is sea-sick, he cannot focus on the food menu and the words swim off the page toward him.
Also, when Emily is reading the 'Dear John' letter from Gordon, her eyes brim with tears and she is unable to see the note properly before her, so we see it blurred.

My Verdict
This is another film of Hitchcock's which is derided by other critics. I don't think it's that bad. There may be very little plot but I do find the whole thing rather endearing, if slightly bonkers. I'll give it a safe 5/10 for fear of academics mocking me.

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