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New on Disc: 'The Girl' and more …

8 Apr, 2013 By: Mike Clark

The Girl

Manufactured on demand via Warner Archive
HBO, Drama, $17.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Toby Jones, Sienna Miller, Imelda Staunton.
Tawdry, to be sure, this 90-minute HBO biopic is a kind of lawyer’s brief for the prosecution — one that may or may not be embellished when dramatizing what exactly transpired to Tippi Hedren (played by Sienna Miller) when collaborating with Alfred Hitchcock on The Birds and Marnie in the early 1960s. This was after Hitchcock had moved his production unit over to Universal Pictures at a time when that artistically struggling studio really needed the kind of class and clout he could provide — despite what we realize now was a permanent period of slippage from the astounding 1958-60 “triple” of Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho. Not that anyone can sustain the impossible.
The stigma against Hedren is that she was no Grace Kelly (who was by then long retired) — and that she never amounted to anything on screen after the Hitchcock duo (though the claim is that the director stymied her career by having her under contract, preventing her from blooming under anyone else). Toby Jones’ portrayal of the director is pretty sinister and humorless; you do not get any sense of the shrewdly conceived self-parody that was the mainstay of his weekly CBS appearances on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Hitchcock is presented as sexually desperate, hitting haphazardly on his latest so-called creation in ways that mortify her.
I just don’t know how much to believe here, though on its own terms, the picture has its moments, especially in the making-of portions devoted to The Birds’ massive technical challenges. As wife and collaborator Alma Hitchcock, a superbly cast Imelda Staunton is much more on point than Hitchcock’s Helen Mirren, who is too good-looking for the same role and bogged down in an ill-conceived romantic subplot. As Hedren, Miller does convey the star’s alleged ordeal while coming off, in terms of screen magnetism, as “just another blond” — which kind of goes with the rap on Hedren in the first place.
Extras: The DVD contains a supplemental interview with Hedren — too brief to make much of an impression, though she does concede that the experience wasn’t completely bad.
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5 Against the House

Manufactured on demand via online retailers
Sony Pictures, Drama, $20.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Guy Madison, Kim Novak, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore, Kerwin Mathews.
Not counting her presto show-up in Howard Hughes’ mind-bludgeoning 1955 Son of Sinbad, this was Kim Novak’s third screen appearance after well-positioned “launch” roles at home studio Columbia Pictures in Pushover and the Judy Holliday-Jack Lemmon comedy Phffft. You can practically hear studio chief Harry Cohn ordering more full-body profile shots of Kim from director Phil Karlson. Kiddie-oriented TV cowboy Guy Madison was the lead. House anticipated Ocean’s 11 by five years, even if its casino heist takes place in Reno and not the Rat Pack’s Las Vegas. Combat war vets led by Madison are getting a belated college education at “Midwestern” University, and one of them (Ray Harryhausen’s future Sinbad and Gulliver Kerwin Mathews in his screen debut) has come up with a logistical scheme to knock off a supposedly impenetrable money fortress. Rounding out the title “5” are crew-cutted Alvy Moore (later immortalized on TV’s “Green Acres”) and Novak as a local chanteuse at a townie nightspot. Madison is less lock-jawed than he sometimes was, and he has a scene here and there that might even be called authoritative. With Picnic and The Man With the Golden Arm following later in the year, House was the last movie Novak made before becoming a full-fledged star.
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