Alfred Hitchcock was a director who seemed to constantly reinvent himself. Psycho
was unlike anything he had done before and became his masterpiece. After The Birds
, he was looking for something different and again, shocked his audience with a stylish and sexy psychological thriller from 1964 called Marnie
, which has gained a reputation as a cult classic but might deserve a little more respect than that.
This eye-opener revolves around one Marnie Edgar, a psychologically scarred woman who has become a thief and habitual liar. She has issues with thunderstorms, the color red, and wont let a man touch her. As the story opens, she has just finished stealing $10,000 from a businessman named Strutt and has died her hair, changed her identification, and gotten a job at Rutland and Co., where she works just a few feet away from the safe and plans to do the same thing, but Mark Rutland, the company's heir apparent, is on to her and instead of turning her in, wants to help her and finds himself falling in love with her in the process.
Once again, Hitchcock's skill as a cinematic storyteller trumps the problems with this film. Like he did with Vertigo
, it was his unique vision as a filmmaker that made this story much richer than it appears on the surface. Hitchcock makes us care about a character who is not very sympathetic by quickly introducing us to her roots without giving away everything that is about revealed. We don't understand why Rutland falls for a woman who tries to rob his company blind, but we also see that Rutland sees that this woman is damaged and wants to help her.
Jay Presson Allen's screenplay, based on a novel by Winston Graham, doesn't play all its cards right away and it is Hitchcock's service to this story that makes this film worth the viewers time, despite some problematic performances and lapses into melodrama that test the viewer's patience, which is eventually rewarded.
Anyone who saw the 2013 film Grace of Monaco
, knows that Hitchcock wanted Grace Kelly to play the lead in this film and went to her with the script even though she had already married Prince Rainer and retired from films. The Princess eventually turned the film down and Hitchcock turned to his leading lady from The Birds
, Tippi Hedren, Hitch's # 2 obsession, to take the role. Anyone who has seen The Birds
knows that Hedren's acting skills were, to be kind, limited, but she works very hard to be believable in this extremely complex role, aided by a director who adored her. Hitchcock did score with her leading man though...Sean Connery made a sexy and dynamic Mark Rutland and brought much more to this role than the screenplay provided. Martin Gabel is solid as Strutt and Diane Baker is lovely as Mark's sister Lil. Alan Napier, who would earn his 15 minutes playing Alfred on the ABC series BATMAN, plays Mark's dad and there are brief glimpses of future stars Bruce Dern and Mariette Hartley. It's no Psycho
or even To Catch a Thief
, but the Masters hand is all over this one and Hitch delivers.