Alfred Hitchcock had a fondness for chatterboxes: In North by Northwest, Cary Grant barely stops quipping long enough to dodge machine-gun fire from a passing crop-duster. Psycho’s Norman Bates, in his fateful first encounter with Marion Crane, rambles incessantly about taxidermy and his family life with such blank-faced solipsism, you wonder if he’s been having the same conversation alone among his stuffed birds for years. Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes, Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt, Frenzy…they’re all filled with loquacious oddballs who can’t seem to keep their mouths shut.
Yet Hitch, apparently, preferred his films to be silent. “The silent pictures were the purest form of cinema,” the master said of his cinematic roots, which stretch all the way back to 1925’s The Pleasure Garden (showing as part of the NW Film Center’s Hitchcock 9 series).
Hitch’s career spanned 50 years and encompassed some of cinema’s most important and entertaining films—and he dabbled in plenty of “impure” gimmickry such as stationing doctors at Psycho screenings and presenting Dial M for Murder in 3-D. Yet, it’s in his silent films that Hitch continues to surprise his true fans. Nearly 90 years after The Pleasure Garden was released, we’re still finding ways to rediscover his brilliance as more early works find their way into cinemas fully restored, many for the first time.
This makes the NW Film Center’s Hitchcock 9 series (Oct. 12-27) perhaps the most exciting cinematic event of the year for old-school film nerds. (Yes, this is where I start imploring you to go watch some silent films. If you didn’t know this, you stopped reading at “Hitchcock” and you’re probably more interested in watching a LaBeouf-ed version like Disturbia.)
Not only do we get to marvel at early glimpses of Hitch’s wonders to come—the upside-down POV shots in 1927’s Downhill that would eventually become the terrifying POV shots of Vertigo, the introduction of the “wrong man” theme that surfaced in 1929’s Blackmail and became trademarks in films from The Man Who Knew Too Much to Frenzy—but we also get to experience live, original music written for and performed live during each screening by groups as diverse as 3 Leg Torso and the 1939 Ensemble.
For any artist with interests in both music and film, it’s a fantasy come true: The musicians in the lineup get to play Bernard Herrmann to a young Hitch, placing their own interpretations on these not-quite classics that predated the crowning of the master of suspense. It’s a pure experience forged from what Hitch called the purest of cinema—music inspired by silence. It will leave people jabbering for quite some time. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. Oct. 12-27. See nwfilm.org for a full schedule.
- Super-hot goth chicks Fairuza Balk and Neve Campbell get all witchy in The Craft, and you get all freaked out by tarot readings in the lobby beforehand. Double win! Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Thursday, Oct. 10.
- Saul Bass—the man behind some of cinema’s most inventive title sequences—gets some love during a screening of shorts, commercials and opening credits. Hollywood Theatre. 9:30 pm Thursday, Oct. 10.
- Before MTV tarnishes its legacy with an ill-advised upcoming TV series, revisit the original Scream. Laurelhurst Theater. Oct. 11-17.
- Tired of 3-D dominating the multiplexes? Blame 1954’s Creature From the Black Lagoon, an early adopter shown here in its original, red-and-blue-spectacled 3-D. Academy Theater. Oct. 11-17.
- Warwick Davis raps about his gold in Leprechaun in the Hood, and Ice-T loses street cred in a Hecklevision throwdown. Hollywood Theatre. 9:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 12.
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in the least-cleverly titled comedy classic of all time. Hollywood Theatre. 2 pm Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 12-13.
- Ran, Akira Kurosawa’s late masterpiece, takes King Lear to feudal Japan…and it’s incredible. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. 2 pm Sunday, Oct 13.
- Check out a series of shorts by activist filmmaker Ken Paul Rosenthal. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Sunday, Oct. 13.
- What the hell is Kolchak: The Nightstalker? It’s the granddaddy of paranormal TV mysteries, and Re-Run Theater shows two episodes of it. Hollywood Theatre, 7:30 pm Monday, Oct 14.
- Author Robert K. Elder presents his book The Best Film You’ve Never Seen—a collection of cult-film recommendations from cult-film directors—during a screening of Dario Argento’s trippy, jazzy Deep Red. Hollywood Theatre, 7:30 pm Tuesday, Oct 15.