In September of last year, two short "unknown" films by Alfred Hitchcock were shown at the Utah Film & Video Center, and telephone calls have been coming in ever since, asking when they would go to video.
Hitch fans may now officially rejoice, as the two half-hour French propaganda films, "Bon Voyage" and "Aventure Malgache," have finally been released on a single tape (Milestone Film & Video, $39.95).The two World War II shorts, which are in French with English subtitles, had not been seen in nearly 50 years before their art-house reissue last year.
It seems Hitchcock was approached in 1943 by the British Ministry of Information to contribute to the war effort by directing two simple short stories extolling the bravery of the French Resistance.
But Hitch, being Hitch, made them more, of course. And his notions about the subject were too complex for the British government. While "Bon Voyage" was shown briefly for some French Resistance members, "Aventure Malgache" was immediately banned and locked away without ever being shown.
Watching them today, "Bon Voyage" is the best of the two, containing unmistakable Hitchcockian elements of surprise and suspense. The story has a Scottish Royal Air Force pilot (John Blythe) reporting to a Free French officer in London about his escape from a prison camp and his experiences in Nazi-occupied France. Events initially unfold logically through Blythe's eyes, then the same ground is covered again, revealing unexpected twists.
"Aventure Malgache" (Madagascar Landing) is also told in flashbacks, this time with a stage actor who was formerly a lawyer in Madagascar relating to his fellow thespians in the makeup room an encounter he had with a corrupt policeman during his tenure with the underground. The controversy here surrounded Hitchcock's casual display of infighting between Gaullist Resistance rebels and the Petainist Vichy supporters, an issue that was still controversial in France decades later.
Hitchcock fans will have a great time with both films, but they are also enjoyable on their own terms, and are therefore highly recommended.
The tape can be ordered through your local video store, or you may order directly by sending $39.95, plus $5 shipping, to Milestone Film & Video, 275 West 96th St., Suite 28C, New York, NY 10025; phone 212-865-7449.
Question: I'm considering buying a Super VHS machine the next time I buy a VCR, but I never see any movies for Super VHS. Will that ever change?
Answer: Probably not. Super VHS was conceived as a way to make better home recordings, both from TV and from camcorders. Video hobbyists like it because S-VHS originals produce very good secondary copies, even dubbing down to VHS. Most people, however, use their VCRs as movie-playback machines and see little reason to buy a luxury feature. Hence the studios are not interested in making both VHS and S-VHS cassettes.
- Do you have a question you'd like answered? Send your queries to Andy Wickstrom, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101.
OTHER NEW VIDEOS
HOLOCAUST - Fifteen years before "Schindler's List" riveted filmgoers' attention on the Holocaust, TV viewers tuned in by ratings-busting millions to "Holocaust." The 71/2-hour mini-series first aired in 1978 and earned eight Emmys for director Marvin Chomsky's epic look at Hitler's final and lethal solution for Europe's Jews. Meryl Streep and James Woods co-star as a young Jewish couple trying to survive in Nazi Germany while looking to escape their homeland. Michael Moriarty won an Emmy for his uniformed turn as a failed lawyer who rides the Nazis' coattails to power. Holocaust, unrated, 1987. Worldvision, $99.95 (three tapes).
- Max McQueen (Cox News Service)
SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS - A hotshot FBI agent (Scott Glenn) with considerable help from his precocious computer-whiz son (Jesse Cameron-Gluckenhaus) sets out to nab a deranged religious fanatic who likes to kill kids in this intriguing action-thriller. While authorities pursue one false lead after another, the boy, on his own, identifies and locates the killer through a brilliant bit of investigation, then is trapped and set up as the next victim. Dad, though, uses some high-tech probing of his own to find his son and now, it's a race against time. A bit reminiscent of "Silence Of The Lambs" and while the outcome may be predictable, getting there takes an interestingly different path. Filmed in southern Utah. 1993. 104 minutes. MCA/Universal Home Video. Rated R.
- Jack E. Wilkinson
(United Press International)
IN OLD CHICAGO - One of the latest films in the "Studio Classics" collection from FoxVideo, "In Old Chicago" was the most expensive film of 1937. Revolving around the O'Leary family, the film follows the fortunes of Mrs. O'Leary's two sons - Dion (Tyrone Power) and Jack (Don Ameche) - as they set out to make names for themselves in the burgeoning "Windy City." The scenes depicting the 1871 fire that almost destroyed the entire city won an Oscar for assistant director Robert Webb. Alice Brady, who stars as Mrs. O'Leary, also captured a best supporting actress award. FoxVideo, 96 minutes, not rated.
- Richard T. Ryan
(Newhouse News Service)
RING OF THE MUSKETEERS - Despite having the look of a made-for-TV film, there are some genuinely amusing moments in this comedy-drama. The film focuses on the derring-do of Johnny D'Artagnan, Anne-Marie Athos and Peter Porthos (David Hasselhoff, Alison Doody and Thomas Gottschalk) a trio of modern day adventurers who are descendants of the original Musketeers. The group is also looking for the owner of the fourth ring that has ended up on the finger of small-time thief Burt Aramis (Cheech Marin). If you're in the mood for some light adventure with a few great jokes, this one deserves a look. Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 86 minutes, Rated PG-13.
- Richard T. Ryan
(Newhouse News Service)