Overheard While Just Passing Thru

alligator - marshamallowBy Judy Berman

As a tourist, you get only a quick glimpse of what life might be like in the places you visit.

What I’ve found is sometimes you’re in on the joke that the tour guides tell. Other times, you’re the butt of the joke.

Still others, it’s like you walked in the middle of a movie and leave before it ends. You’re left wondering how it turned out.

It took only a few minutes on a bus tour in Seattle, Washington, to realize there was a real culture clash between the logging industry and environmentalists who were trying to stop trees from being cut down because of its effect on the wildlife.

The bus driver, over the speaker, told his passengers: “We’ll be stopping for lunch. You can have the condor or the spotted owl.”

Many passengers erupted in laughter at the inside joke. Both are endangered species – and will not be found on any menu.

On a swamp tour in New Orleans, we saw nutria (a large rodent that is not a native of Louisiana), great blue herons and alligators.

To make sure we saw more than the bulging, beady eyes and snout that were just slightly above the water line, our guide threw marshmallows over board.

A gator scooted over to the boat and scooped up the bobbing treats from the water.

A woman, with a Boston accent, piped up, “Don’t you ever feed the gators anything but junk food?”

Clearly irritated, the guide retorted, “Sometimes we feed them Yankees. But I guess that’s junk food, too.”

Now, I’m from New York (Syracuse). Maybe I should have been offended, but I burst out laughing at the guide’s joke. Or, at least, I hope he was joking.

dog sled - Alaska

Mealtime can also provide a few laughs. At a restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska, we chuckled over a meal offered on the kids’ menu: liver and onions.

Well, the little wrangler will be delighted to know that, even if he is real ornery, it’s unlikely his Mom and Dad will order the yuckiest thing on the kids’ menu. The reason? It cost $28,212.99.

Now, that’s something to cheer about. That and the folks in Fairbanks obviously have a wonderfully warped sense of humor.

What a long, strange trip it was when we hit the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, California. There, apparently, were still some folks there that looked like they were trapped in a time warp – leftovers from the Sixties when Flower Power ruled the area.

Haight Ashbury, San Francisco

As we walked along Haight Street, a guy ahead of us is trying to get the guy he’s walking with to change shirts with him. No dice.

“We got to get into a bar before the cops come,” he said.

As if on cue, a cop car pulls up. A cop steps up and politely says, “Can we talk for a second?”

“Sure,” the guys says, acting nonchalantly.

Ten minutes later, as we walk by on the other side of the street, the “talk” continues. Now, four cops are on the scene.

This is where I’d thought we’d stumbled into one of Alfred Hitchcock’s pranks.

Ever the Master of Suspense, he’d appear to be in the midst of a gruesome story when new passengers stepped into the elevator he was on. Naturally, they were all ears. But, as luck would have it, they reached the main floor before he wrapped it up. Which was Hitchcock’s mischievous scheme all along.

No telling what you’ll see and hear on your travels. But I sure wish I knew the rest of the story about that “talk.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Elevator Story as told by Peter Bogdanovich http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXFtWSBBd4  

Photo: alligator – marshmallow – http://www.wwtid.com/2012/11/20/the-alligator-and-the-marshmallow/  

Photo – dog sled – Alaska – A musher departs Slaven’s Roadhouse in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve during the 2005 Yukon Quest sled dog race. Taken Feb. 5, 2005 by the U. S. National Park Service http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/69/Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg/640px-Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg

Photo: Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, California – Piedmont Boutique on Haight   Street. Taken by Bernard Gagnon, Sept. 3, 2008  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5d/Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg/640px-Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg

North by Northwest

North by Northwest - Cary Grant - plane - 1959By Judy Berman

Mistaken identify, darkness, light and double cross play significant roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s (1959) movie, “North by Northwest.”

In diabolical plot twists that even Cary Grant found difficult to follow, he is confused by the rapid-fire events that happen to his character.

He plays advertising executive, Roger O. Thornhill. Yet he winds up in a labyrinth of mystery and murder when an enemy espionage group mistakes him for George Kaplan, an undercover agent who really doesn’t exist. Or, does he?

“Cary Grant came up to me and said, ‘It’s a terrible script. We’ve already done a third of the picture, and I still can’t make head or tail of it,’ ” Hitchcock confides in Francois Truffaut’s book, “Hitchcock.”

Without realizing it, Hitchcock said Grant was using a line of his own dialogue from the movie.

It’s not the only deception going on in the film.

The spies believe that Thornhill is Kaplan. They kidnap him and take him to a Long Island country estate owned by Lester Townsend. He meets who he believes is Townsend, Philip Vandamm (James Mason), and his personal secretary, Leonard (Martin Landau).

His captors keep peppering “Kaplan” with questions. When they fail to get any information from him, Vandamm’s goons force whiskey down Thornhill’s throat.

They put an extremely intoxicated Thornhill in a car. Their scheme is to have the ride and Thornhill’s life end after the car goes over a cliff. But, as drunk as Thornhill is, he manages to escape. A police car pulls up, and the bad guys quickly drive off.

No one, not even his mother, believes his story.

North by Northwest - Eva Marie Saint shooting Cary Grant

Thornhill attempts to unravel the lies. He learns that Townsend is at the United Nations. At the U.N., Thornhill discovers that Townsend is not the man who held him captive. Enemy spies kill Townsend and frame Thornhill for his murder.

On the run again, Thornhill hops aboard the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago. There, he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who helps him hide from the authorities.

When they arrive in Chicago, Eve tells Thornhill she’ll call Kaplan for him. Then, she gives Thornhill instructions to meet Kaplan at Prairie Stop, which turns out to be in the middle of nowhere. He waits in the harsh, hot daylight. Another man waiting for a bus at the same stop notes that a crop-duster plane is dusting where there aren’t any crops.

After the man boards his bus, Thornhill realizes that the crop-duster is flying his way and zeroing in on him. Again, the bad guys fail to eliminate him.

Thornhill returns to the hotel. He finds out that Eve works with the spies and is Vandamm’s mistress.  When he discovers later that Eve is an undercover agent, he realizes his actions have put her life in jeopardy.

He warns Eve and helps her escape certain death. The spies are hot on their trail as Thornhill and Eve scale the shadowy heights of the Mount Rushmore monument in an effort to elude them.

As the pair scramble back down the face of the stone carvings, Thornhill tells Eve that if they get out of this alive they should get back on the train together. He’s talking marriage.

North by Northwest - movie trailer screenshot - climbing Mt. Rushmore

As they hang from Mount Rushmore, Eve asks why his two previous wives divorced him. “I think they said I led too dull a life,” (Grant) Thornhill says.

“The genius of Hitchcock lies in how he gets the audience as well as Thornhill (Grant) to believe in the existence of George Kaplan, until by the end of the film, it is Kaplan who survives, while Roger Thornhill simply ceases to exist …,” says Marc Eliot, author of “Cary Grant.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie (trailer): North by Northwest (1959) with Alfred Hitchcock  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRfmTpmIUwo  

Main Photo: North by Northwest – Cary Grant – plane (1959) http://cdn.hitfix.com/photos/2500715/North-by-Northwest-1959_gallery_primary.jpg

Photo: North by Northwest – Eva Marie Saint shooting Carl Grant  – movie trailer screenshot http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/07/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2831%29.jpg/640px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2831%29.jpg

Photo: North by Northwest – movie trailer screenshot – Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint climbing Mount Rushmore  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2828%29.jpg/640px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2828%29.jpg

MacGuffins and Red Herrings

The Bates Motel

The Bates Motel

By Judy Berman

As you sit on the edge of your movie seat, you might be feeling smug because you know what’s coming up next. The director, however, has a few plot devices up his sleeve that you hadn’t counted on.

Some deliberately toy with us by using MacGuffins, red herrings and music to control our thoughts.

MacGuffins drive the story. It might be the theft of documents, or the discovery of a secret, or it could be as simple as a little tune (director Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes). This plot device was popularized by Hitchcock, and earlier used in classic films such as The Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane.

“The only thing that matters is they must seem of vital importance,” Hitchcock said. As the action intensifies, the MacGuffin “will pretty much be forgotten.”

A red herring is a false clue intended to throw you off track so you do not suspect the real villain, or it leads you to a false conclusion.

As a fan of Agatha Christie mystery novels, my unscientific method to determine who the bad guy was: “who do I least suspect?” That worked perfectly until I read And Then There Were None. In the 2010 movie, Shutter Island, director Martin Scorsese opened with a red herring when Leonardo DiCaprio travels to the island in search of a missing inmate from an insane asylum.

Martin Scorsese, director of "Shutter Island"

Martin Scorsese, director of “Shutter Island”

Music can manipulate us as well. No doubt the menacing theme from Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie, Jaws: “dun-dun! dun’dun! dun’dun, dun-dun, dun-dun” had you wishing for a bigger boat.

It also can lull you into a false sense of security, such as Hitchcock used in Psycho by a change in music:

In Psycho, Janet Leigh is on the run with $40,000 she stole from her boss. (The theft is the MacGuffin.)

Leigh is driving in a downpour. Irritating music plays while the wipers work furiously to clear the windshield. When she spots what she thinks is a safe haven for the night, the jarring music stops and she pulls into the Bates Motel.

In the motel, as Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh exchange views, it seems as if she’s decided to return the money. Hitchcock said the viewer is thinking, “this young man is influencing her to change her mind.”

“You turn the viewer in one direction and then in another; you keep him as far as possible from what’s actually going to happen,” Hitchcock said. (This is the red herring.)

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Space in "The Maltese Falcon"

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon”

In The Maltese Falcon (1941), it’s a game of who do you trust. Private detective, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, was in that situation as the body count mounted and the double-crosses accelerated. Desperate men are searching for a jewel-encrusted black statuette. Then, they discover the statuette is not the one believed to be given to Spanish King Charles V in the 1500s.

When asked what the black statuette is, Bogart concludes that it is “the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane in "Citizen Kane"

Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane in “Citizen Kane”

Some MacGuffins are ordinary. Throughout Citizen Kane (1941), the question is what drove newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane? Money? Women? Power? Apparently, it was none of those. As he lay dying, Kane’s last words were: “Rosebud.” “The Top Ten Movie MacGuffins” says “the revelation that this MacGuffin was a symbol of Kane’s lost childhood still packs a wallop.”

What films would you add to the MacGuffin list? What would you include in a list of red herring movies?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-13. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original
content.

Video movie trailer: Psycho  

What is a MacGuffin? http://www.elementsofcinema.com/screenwriting/macguffin.html

The Top Ten Movie MacGuffins http://www.ign.com/articles/2008/05/20/top-10-movie-macguffins?page=1

Photo: Psycho – movie set at Universal Studios Hollywood, taken Dec. 2008 by Superchilum http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6b/Psycho_set.JPG/640px-Psycho_set.JPG

Photo: Martin Scorsese at premiere of the film Shutter Island. Taken Feb. 13, 2010. Author: Siebbi http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/32/Martin_Scorsese_Berlinale_2010.jpg/640px-Martin_Scorsese_Berlinale_2010.jpg

Photo: Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/85/Sam_Spade.png

Photo: Orson Welles in Citizen Kane  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Orson_Welles-Citizen_Kane1.jpg

Rear Window

James Stewart as L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries and Grace Kelly as Lisa Freemont, "Rear Window" (1954)

James Stewart as L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries and Grace Kelly as Lisa Freemont, “Rear Window” (1954)

By Judy Berman

Just how quickly can you size up a person and a situation?

“Rear Window” opens with sweat rolling down James Stewart’s forehead as he sleeps. The thermostat in his apartment window reads 94 degrees. In the Greenwich Village courtyard outside, an ad blares on a neighbor’s radio, a clock’s jarring alarm awakens another couple who is sleeping on the fire escape, and a woman across the way is exercising in her tiny apartment.

The camera slowly pans around inside the apartment. Director Alfred Hitchcock reveals how Stewart wound up in a wheelchair, what he does for a living, and what his neighbors are like.

On his cast: “Here lie the broken bones of L. B. Jefferies.”

L.B. Jeffries' camera broken while he was shooting photos of a car crash at a race track.

L.B. Jeffries’ camera broken while he was shooting photos of a car crash at a race track.

The focus shifts to a broken camera atop a table near photos of a car crash at a racetrack. It looks like the cars are about to topple onto the photographer. Among the photos, a negative of a woman. Then her finished print is on a cover of a stack of magazines.

Within 2½ minutes, without saying one word, Hitchcock shows you plenty about his main character, L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries, played by Stewart.

Stewart is a top photographer for a magazine. He was injured six weeks earlier, taking that dramatic shot of the race car. He’s itching to get out of his plaster cocoon and back into action.

Meanwhile, in his boredom, he admits he has nothing to do but watch his neighbors. We become unwitting partners in his rear-window ethics as he moves from “people watching” to “peeping Tom.”  We never avert our eyes when what we see is the very personal stories of people’s private lives.

“All of the stories have a common denominator in that they involve some aspect of love. James Stewart’s problem is that he doesn’t want to marry Grace Kelly. Everything he sees across the way has a bearing on love and marriage,” said Francois Truffaut in an interview with Hitchcock about his films.

James Stewart and Grace Kelly

James Stewart and Grace Kelly

Stewart’s voyeurism narrows in on one couple in particular – Lars Thorwald (played by Raymond Burr) and his invalid wife. They bicker constantly.

One night, Stewart hears a loud crash and a scream. The next morning, the wife is missing and Burr is acting suspiciously. He’s rolling up his wife’s bedcovers and wrapping a knife and saw in newspaper.

Then, late at night, Stewart sees the salesman carrying his sample suitcase to and from his apartment. Stewart suspects Burr murdered his wife.

At first, Kelly, who plays a high-society fashion consultant, dismisses Stewart’s hunches.

Jeff (Stewart): Why would a man leave his apartment three times on a rainy night with a suitcase and come back three times?

Lisa (Kelly): He likes the way his wife welcomes him home.

Stewart’s physical therapist, Stella, (played by Thelma Ritter), also downplays his fears.

Thelma Ritter (as Stella), Grace Kelly and James Stewart focus in on Raymond Burr (as Lars Thorwald)

Thelma Ritter (as Stella), Grace Kelly and James Stewart focus in on Raymond Burr (as Lars Thorwald)

Soon, however, all three suspect foul play and watch Thorwald’s every move. At Stewart’s request, his old Army buddy investigates. The buddy, now a police detective, Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey), tells Stewart that there was no murder. He says the missing wife moved to the country.

They’re disappointed and feel a little foolish … until, one evening when Stewart and Kelly hear a piercing scream cut thru the courtyard. A neighbor’s dog is dead, killed. All the neighbors rush to their windows to see what happened. All of them … but, one.

Only the burning ember of the suspected killer’s cigarette is visible as he sits in his darkened apartment.

The motive? The dog was digging in Thorwald’s garden shortly after something was buried there. Kelly decides to break into Thorwald’s apartment to search for evidence that would prove his wife was dead. First, Stewart calls Thorwald to arrange a meeting at a bar down the street as a pretext to get Thorwald out of the apartment. Stewart hints at blackmail.

Kelly gains entry to Thorwald’s apartment and finds the evidence she needs. But Thorwald returns before she can escape.

Here, Hitchcock, the Master of Supsense, builds tension in that encounter and in another inside Stewart’s apartment.

Hitchcock made no apologies for the 1954 film’s hero spending all his time peeping out of the window.

“Sure, he’s a snooper, but aren’t we all?”

Alfred Hitchcock suspects that when we view someone across a courtyard that most of us will stay and look. No one says "It's none of my business."

Alfred Hitchcock suspects that when we view someone across a courtyard that most of us will stay and look. No one says “It’s none of my business.”

Video: movie trailer, “Rear Window,” (1954) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m01YktiEZCw

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-13. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or
earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original
content.

Photos: all of the photos from “Rear Window” are from the website fanpop.com

Photo: Alfred Hitchcock http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/94/Hitchcock%2C_Alfred_02.jpg/541px-Hitchcock%2C_Alfred_02.jpg

Strangers on a Train

The Alaska Railroad bound for Whittier, Alaska.

The Alaska Railroad bringing a load of tourists into Whittier, Alaska.

By Judy Berman

Like the back lot of a run-down movie set, small towns appear and then vanish as our Montreal-bound train rumbles thru.

Unable to concentrate on my book, I turn my attention to the chatty, little man who sits in front of us. He peppers the conductor with questions about how close we are to the border and what papers he’ll need to cross it.

This train ride happened years ago. Fragments of that trip tumble over and over in my head. I recall that “Chatty” grew quiet as our train pulled into the last stop in northern New York before the Canadian border.

A woman, drenched from the rain, clambers aboard as she juggles several pieces of luggage.

“Where can I get a soda?” she asks.

“Chatty” leaps to his feet and eagerly gives her directions. She drops her duffel bag in an empty seat across the aisle from him.

Odd. The club car is the next one up. Something the conductor barks out when passengers board the train.

About 15 minutes later, she returns. The woman’s formerly tousled hair is now pulled back into a tidy French twist. Her rumpled, drenched duds have been replaced.

When U.S. Customs officials board, they quiz the woman about her change of clothing, and where she is headed. She explains that her clothes were sopping wet from the rain, and that she is on her way to visit a friend in Montreal.

“What is her name?”

Now her memory is sketchy. She can’t recall. Nor does she know her friend’s address or phone number. Customs officials quickly lose their patience with her ever-changing story. “Chatty” appears nervous and looks the other way as she’s escorted off the train.

Intriguing. What happens when strangers meet on a train? When their lives intersect? Hitchcock played on that dynamic in his movies, “Strangers on a Train” (1951) and “The Lady Vanishes” (1938).

Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" (1951)

Guy Haines (played by Farley Granger) and Bruno Anthony (played by Robert Walker) in the dining car in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 “Strangers on a Train.”

Take “Strangers on a Train.” That’s where Robert Walker (as Bruno Anthony) first meets Farley Granger (as Guy Haines). Walker, a psychopath, learns that Granger wants to divorce his cheating wife and marry his girlfriend. Walker, who wants his father killed, suggests swapping murders. Granger thinks Walker is joking until Granger’s wife turns up dead.

Events are even more sinister in “The Lady Vanishes.”  An elderly lady, Miss Froy (played by Dame May Whitty), turns up missing on a train. She’d worked abroad for years as a governess. Now she’s gone and everyone denies that she even boarded the train. Margaret Lockwood (as Iris Henderson), a young socialite, aims to get to the bottom of the lies. She and Michael Redgrave (as Gilbert) rescue Miss Froy, who turns out to be an undercover agent.

As a Hitchcock fan, my suspicions grow about this drama that’s unfolding before us. Officials continue to weave their way down the narrow aisle, mechanically checking papers.

After they pass, I pretend to be engrossed in my book. But I see “Chatty’s” eyes dart around the compartment before he scoops up the bag she left behind on the empty seat. He places it next to him and smiles as the train pulls out of the station.

Curious. Was she a decoy?

Was there something sinister going on? Or had this long train ride kicked our imaginations into overdrive?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main Photo: The Alaska Railroad bringing a load of tourists into Whittier, Alaska. Taken July 2008 by Frank Kovalchek. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Alaska_Railroad_bringing_a_load_of_tourists_into_Whittier,_Alaska.jpg

Photo: from the movie “Strangers on a Train,” Guy Haines (played by Farley Granger) and Bruno Anthony (played by Robert Walker) in the dining car in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 “Strangers on a Train” (trailer). http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/Strangers_on_a_Train_-_In_the_dining_car.png

Video clip: “Strangers on a Train” (1951)   

Video clip: “The Lady Vanishes” (1938)  

“You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat.”

By Judy Berman

Danger lurks on a moonlit beach as a girl romps in the water.

The teen ventures in while another partygoer lies drunk on the beach. Moments later, she screams when she’s attacked in the water. An unseen force drags her under, and she is gone. Later, her remains wash ashore.

The villain: a great white shark. Sharks have had a lot of bad PR ever since “Jaws” first hit the movie theaters in 1975.

Note to spring-breakers, tourists and snowbirds: You’re more likely to be struck by lightning in Florida than become shark bait while surfing or swimming.

Some statistics to consider:

  • Florida was known as “Lightning Capital of the World.” NASA has recently given that distinction to Rwanda, Africa. “With more deaths and injuries than all other states combined, Florida ranks as the #1 target for public safety and lightning awareness campaigns,” states weather.about.com website.
  • “Florida led the nation again last year with 11 of 29 shark attacks. None were fatal. Worldwide, there were 75 shark attacks; 12 of them were fatal, the most since 1993,” according to TCPalm’s web site on Feb. 25th.

Still, I’m not reassured. There have been three shark attacks in Florida this month – one at Playalinda Beach on March 4th and two at New Smyrna Beach on March 14th. All three teen surf riders were injured, but are OK after the sharks’ bites.

The only shark adventure I’m after would be on celluloid or digitally. In this case, “Bruce,” the name given to the mechanical shark in “Jaws,” is the only kind I’d care to meet up with.

We don’t see “Bruce” for most of the movie. That’s because they had trouble getting the mechanical beast to function as it should. If I were to compare this movie to an Alfred Hitchcock film, it would be “Psycho.”

We know something bad is about to happen to Janet Leigh in the shower scene. We can see some sort of menace beyond the shower curtain and know she can’t hear us scream that she’s in danger.

It’s much the same in “Jaws,” when the theme music plays … “dun-dun! dun-dun! “dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun.” Something awful is about to happen, and we’re powerless to warn those in the water.

We’re scared wondering when it will strike again.

This film has captured our family like few others have. We’ve had Jaws-themed birthday cakes, Jaws movie marathons and Shark Week extravaganzas. This, at the request of our youngest daughter, Jenn, who’s had a lifelong love affair with sharks.

It began with this movie. Director Steven Spielberg nailed this when he deviated from the novel, and added the right touch of terror and humor.

The scene that captures that best is when Amity Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) got an up-close look at “Bruce.” He’s on a boat with fisherman, Sam Quint (played by Robert Shaw), who is determined to kill the shark, and oceanographer Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss).

As Brody backs away from the shark and into the boat, he tells Quint, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

At one point, Scheider tells Dreyfuss: “I used to hate the water.” Dreyfuss: “I can’t imagine why.”

Even though I live near the ocean, I rarely venture near the frothy waves. In my mind, I hear … dun-dun! dun-dun! That’s all I need. I quickly dive back onto my blanket and grab a book – anything but “Jaws.”

——–

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Main photo of shark silhouette in the Maldives, taken Oct. 29, 2003 by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shark_Silhouette.jpg

* Family photo of Jenn’s Jaws’ themed birthday cake in 2011 which was designed by her sister, Danielle. Yup, Ernie’s gonna need a bigger boat.

* video clip of Amity Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) backing away and telling fisherman, Sam Quint (Robert Shaw): “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat,” from “Jaws” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gciFoEbOA8

* Jaws’ theme song: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=jaws+theme+song&view=detail&mid=BFF2316080871FFC7F93BFF2316080871FFC7F93&first=0&FORM=LKVR7

** MSNBC story about a shark attack: http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/15/10701089-like-jaws-girl-pulled-under-by-shark-twice

** updated MSNBC story about shark attacks: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/46774631#46774631

Hitchcock’s Take on Reality

By Judy Berman

It seemed so innocent. Feeding pigeons in a park. The next I knew, a flock of birds converged on my baguette. I dropped the bread, fearing that if I didn’t, all that would be left of me was my trench coat and glasses.

I also feel uneasy around the ominous stares from birds gathered on the power lines. Birds swooping down on the beach near our home also make me edgy.

What accounts for this irrational fear? Blame Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds. Just what was the Master of Suspense’s inspiration for swarms of birds that ganged up on the public and attacked them?

The genesis for that plotline was ripped from the headlines. It was not the first time that Hitchcock chose to weave fact with fiction to keep audiences riveted in their movie seats.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Imagine Hitchcock scouring the news stories and breathing new life into ancient yarns. He did this with Rear Window (1954), by using details from two different crimes to develop characters and the story. With The Lady Vanishes, he also rewove elements in an old tale to create his suspenseful 1938 spy movie.

In 1961, Hitchcock was shooting a movie in Bodega Bay when he heard about crows attacking some young lambs “in the same locality where we were working,” according to “Hitchcock,” by Francois Truffaut, a noted film critic and filmmaker. The movie director met with the farmer whose lambs had been attacked and got the idea for some of the scenes in the 1963 suspense thriller.

Hitchcock said “these things do happen from time to time, and they’re generally due to a bird disease, a form of rabies.”

The birds are now believed to have ingested toxic algae.

“The cause of the outbreak in 1961 was not identified. Then, 30 years later, disorientation and death struck brown pelicans in the same area,” according to a recent story by LiveSciences senior writer Wynne Perry.

“It was found that the birds had eaten a toxin, domoic acid … which are diatoms, a type of algae.” This can “cause confusion, disorientation, scratching, seizures and death in birds that eat the stuff,” Perry wrote.

For Rear Window, death also occurred by an unnatural cause: murder. Here, Hitchcock took “two news stories from the British press. One was the Patrick Mahon case and the other was the case of Dr. Crippen.”

After Raymond Burr’s character, Lars Thorwald, kills his wife in Rear Window, Thorwald has the same problem as Dr. Crippen. How is he going to dispose of the body? Then, the added dilemma of how to explain her absence. Justice quickly caught up with both. (The movie also starred James Stewart, picture at left, and Grace Kelly.)

The Lady Vanishes was based on a film called So Long at the Fair. “It’s supposed to be a true story, and the key to the whole puzzle is that it took place during the great Paris exposition, in the year the Eiffel Tower was completed,” Hithcock told Truffaut.

In this film, mother and daughter are visiting Paris when the mother becomes ill. She has bubonic plague, and officials were concerned that this would scare away crowds who were coming to Paris for the exposition. This yarn fits the story line of The Lady Vanishes, where a great scheme is devised to deny the existence of Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), who turns up missing aboard a moving train. As it turns out, Miss Froy was key in unraveling a spy mystery.

Hitchcock always did have the knack to leave me Spellbound. That the plots were strange … and often based on reality … I Confess that’s even spookier.

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Still of Alfred Hitchcock from The Birds trailer

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred_Hitchcock%27s_The_Birds_trailer_01.png

Flock of gulls

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flock_of_gulls_-_various_species.jpg

Article: “Blame Hitchcock’s crazed birds on toxic algae”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45862619

Still of James Stewart in Rear Window

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_Stewart_in_Rear_Window_trailer.jpg