Film review: Hitchcock

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IN THE past Anthony ­Hopkins has given brilliant impressions of Tommy Cooper, Richard Burton and Woody Allen; and in a reissued version of Spartacus, he successfully duplicates the late Laurence Olivier for a missing scene.

Hitchcock (12A)

Director: Sacha Gervasi

Running time: 98 minutes


So why is it that when he takes on The Master of Suspense in Hitchcock, the real tension is Whose Voice Is That? Sometimes it sounds a little like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but at other times the effect is more like Terence Stamp with latex jowls.

Like a lot of elements in Sacha Gervasi’s superficial biopic, it’s a bit rubbish, but enjoyable none the less. The main focus here is the making of Psycho, with Hitch feeling a bit insecure because he is no longer the star director he once was, while his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) is being distracted by an ambitious, flirtatious scriptwriter (Danny Huston, who plays heels so often now that Timpsons should keep him in stock next to the shoe polish). On set, Hitch is exercising his fascination with movie blondes by charming Scarlett Johansson, who is supposed to be essaying Janet Leigh, but is much more reminiscent of Demi Moore, an actress who confused breathy sexuality with “I am unable to close my mouth”.

Along the way there are nuggets of interesting information – everyone from his agent to the studio tells Hitch that Psycho is just a cheap horror story. “Is this still a picture about a queer in his mother’s dress murdering people?” complains Paramount president Barney Balaban (Richard Portnow), who refuses to fund his moneymaking auteur’s latest project. However Hitch remains determined to shower audiences with scares, and opts to finance the picture himself, ordering staff to source and collect every copy of Robert Bloch’s Psycho from bookstores and libraries so audiences won’t know the ending. Unfortunately, like Hitchcock’s Spellbound, this film can’t resist the allure of some dubious hallucinatory devices. In Spellbound, at least we had Gregory Peck being chased by a giant moustache. In Hitchcock, the director has some rather on-the-nose imaginary conversations about our fascination with violence, where the chatterbox in the other corner is Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the serial killer who inspired Bloch’s book.

Gervasi wrote the screenplay of Spielberg’s hokiest film, Terminal, and later had a lot more fun when he directed an affectionate on the road documentary with metal rockers in Anvil! The Story Of Anvil. His Hitchcock feels like the kind of TV movie you’d find on Channel 5 in the afternoon, but at least it isn’t as dour or self-satisfied as BBC 2’s The Girl, which presented an obedient account of Tippi Hedren’s allegations of a much darker, more sexually manipulative Hitch (Toby Jones). Somewhere between the abuser of The Girl and the cutely impish Michelin Man of Hitchcock, there’s still a fascinating, entertaining portrait of a dirty old megalomaniac waiting to be made.

On general release from Friday