Stage Fright DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Warner Bros
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Writing by Whitfield Cook (screenplay), Selwyn Jepson (novel)
1950, Region 1 (NTSC), 110 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on September 7th, 2004
Jane Wyman as Eve Gill
Marlene Dietrich as Charlotte Inwood
Michael Wilding as Det. Insp. Wilfred 'Ordinary' Smith
Richard Todd as Jonathan Cooper
Alastair Sim as Commodore Gill
Sybil Thorndike as Mrs. Gill
Kay Walsh as Nellie Goode
Eve Gill's (Jane Wyman) dearest friend Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) comes to her on the run from the police. A married woman Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich) whom Jonathan had been having a affair with, accidentally killed her husband and had come to Jonathan for assistance. Going back to the scene of the crime to retrieve a clean dress for Charlotte, Jonathan is spotted by the maid Nelly who immediately calls the police. With the police now after him for the crime, Jonathan asks that Eve put him up at her father's house until the heat goes down.
Eve suspecting that Charlotte has set Jonathan up to take the fall decides to investigate the crime herself and bribes the maid Nelly into playing sick and putting Eve up as her cousin to fill in for the duration of the illness. Eve soon finds herself knee deep in the plot and the object of attention for the investigating officer 'Ordinary' Smith (Michael Wilding). Having started this caper infatuated with Jonathan, Eve soon finds her affection turning to the handsome detective. Eve finds that Charlotte is playing Jonathan while she cavorts with her boyfriend Freddie and enlists her dad in the investigation and a confrontation soon ensues between Eve and Charlotte.
In the normal Hitchcock style, all is not as it seems and Stage Fright will get you dizzy in the circles this plotline takes you!
Before I even get into my thoughts on the film, I just want to let you know the Marlene Dietrich's Charlotte Inwood character is Mel Brook's inspiration for Madeline Kahn's Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles. When Dietrich starts singing "The Laziest Gal in Town", the only thing you'll be able to think of is "I'm Tired". Kahn nailed Dietrich in that role and Dietrich does a damn good job of playing Dietrich in this film. Marlene absolutely steals the show in this role. Cold, calculated, sensual, it's no wonder that Jonathan fell prey to her evil influences. At close to fifty when this movie was filmed Dietrich still had it.
Stage Fright has been called the last of the "old" Hitchcock films. Hitch employs his usual camera styles and plot twists, however Hollywood was changing and box office wise Stage Fright was a bit of a disappointment. The relationship between Eve's estranged parents is typical Hitch, Alastair Sim is charming as Eve's devoted father. Jane Wyman had just won a academy award prior to this film and delivers a top rate performance as the Nancy Drew-ish character Eve. Michael Wilding had not quite yet married Elizabeth Taylor, but acting wise was at the height of his career. The interactions between Wyman and Wilding are so charming, I'm surprised it didn't lead to a real life romance.
Stage Fright is a good example of late 40's early 50's filmmaking. Solid performances, well written plot and great direction. Although not Hitch's best work, it's well worth seeing just for Marlene Dietrich's performance! My overall rating 3.5/5
Video and Audio:
Presented in original aspect 1.37:1 full frame, Stage Fright has suffered some damage from the ravages of time. Unfortunately there is a line running down the last minutes of the film. Other than that it is in fairly decent shape, but nowhere near the condition of some others in the Hitchcock Signature Collection. My rating 3.5/5
There's a Dolby Digital mono track that's in excellent shape. Cole Porter's song "The Laziest Gal in Town" is the highlight of the musical numbers in the film. If you're a fan of Blazing Saddles, you'll quickly start giggling. My rating 3.5/5
There's a theatrical trailer and a documentary on the film that runs about twenty minutes. The trailer is in real good shape and plays like Walter Winchell commentary on the TV series "The Untouchables". The documentary is top notch, can't reveal exactly what it is but Hitchcock thought he had made one of his two biggest career mistakes in Stage Fright. Personally I agree with others that it may be one of his greatest strokes of genius! My rating 3.5/5