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The Hitchcock Touch
on January 8, 2007
This is a terrific little suspense thriller that's just waiting for rediscovery on DVD. Director Robert Benton, fresh from his triumph with KRAMER VS. KRAMER, turned his attention to that most popular pastime of modern directors--paying homage to the giants of the past. He directed this 1982 film as his tribute to Alfred Hitchcock.
STILL OF THE NIGHT has all the classic elements of Hitchcock--the murder investigation, the innocent bystander (Roy Scheider) who must solve the puzzle to clear his own name (and save his own life), the icy blond beauty (Meryl Streep) who may or may not be the killer, the creepy Long Island mansion where the clifftop climax takes place. Most of all, we have several examples of Hitch's most distinctive contribution to cinema--the suspense sequence that builds slowly to a payoff. The symbolic dream, the adventure in the creepy basement laundry room, the eerie midnight excursion into Central Park, the long section at the swanky auction house with the hero desperately trying to deflect the authorities who are closing in--these are pure Hitchcock, and Benton is better than most at making these classic ideas seem fresh and immediate.
What strikes me most strongly about SOTN is the loving care and dedication of everyone involved in the project, not just the direction and writing (Benton and David Newman) but the cinematography (Nestor Almendros), music (Broadway composer John Kander), and even the costumes (Albert Wolsky). And that cast can't be beat, from the glamorous stars right down to the extras. If you love Hitch as much as I do, give this film a look. And Fox Home Video really, really should put it on DVD (they own the MGM/UA library now, and the rights to this movie). Join me in letting Fox know that.