Video Picks Archive

March 29, 2000
This Week's Video Picks
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This week my picks are The Birds (1963 - ) and The 39 Steps (1935 - ).

This week, I shall focus on two key films in the career of Alfred Hitchock. The first film is The Birds, which comes to DVD this week. After ending a solid streak of brilliant films with Psycho in 1960, Hitch took three years off, and started the final phase of his career. Still unable to get Grace Kelly out of retirement, he cast Tippi Hedren as a woman who confronts a strange phenomenon in the San Francisco Bay area. Our fine feathered friends gang up against humankind, and not even Rod Taylor and Jessica Tandy are safe. This comeback is strong, with many well-crafted, thrilling scenes, full of the stylistic flair we expect from The Master. It was one of his most successful films, but the earlier genius never fully resurfaced.

To find the point when this genius first made itself well-known, we have to go back nearly thirty years. The 39 Steps stars Robert Donat as a London actor who meets Lucie Mannheim, and takes her back to his apartment, where she is mysteriously murdered. The police suspect Donat, but he flees to Scotland to investigate the spy-ring responsible for her death -- and his framing. This is one of Hitch's best British films, employing a deft combination of dry humor and elaborate set pieces, which was a hallmark of his early career. The dialogue by Ian Hay is probably the best ever spoken in a Hitchcock film, especially the conversation between Donat and Mannheim. A must-see for any Hitchcock fan (hell, everybody should see it), now available on a new Criterion Collection DVD.

For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
The Birds (1963)
The 39 Steps (1935)

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The Birds (1963) -- VHS
The Birds (1963) -- DVD
The 39 Steps (1935) -- VHS
The 39 Steps (1935) -- DVD Home
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