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  • Documentaries - The Trouble With Marnie


Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 125 mins . M . PAL


Good eeeeeeeeeeeeeevening…

Meet Marion Holland, or should that be Margaret Taylor? Well, actually her name is Marnie Edgar - don’t worry, all shall become evident. Having just robbed her employer, the rather pervy Mr Strutt, of $9967, and after a quick spot of hair dyeing, 'Marion' is off to visit the one true love of her life - her horse, Fiorio. Then it's a quick stop at her mother's place - her bible lovin', man hatin', and all 'round somewhat bitter and twisted mother. Whilst happy to dote on a young neighbourhood girl, she remains distant to her very own daughter, something that Marnie just doesn’t understand, after all, she's committing these robberies to give her disabled Mom money to live on.

And so to another town, and another alias. Marnie gets secretarial work at the Rutland firm, after family member Mark Rutland, who seems more interested in zoology and the instinctive behaviour of predators than actual business, recognises her from a chance meeting at Strutt's some time prior. Whilst he pursues his attraction to the curious Marnie, she is after only one thing, and after robbing the Rutland safe is off once again to her horse, where she is suddenly confronted by Mark.

Rather than turning her in, Rutland's attraction to this curiously neurotic woman seems all the stronger, and after replacing the stolen money so as nobody will notice, he virtually forces Marnie to marry him, regardless of suspicion and jealousy from his sister-in-law, and the unanswered questions of why his new wife suffers such horrible nightmares, freaks out during storms, and has serious problems with the colour red. As mentioned earlier, all shall become evident.

"You don't love me, I'm just something you caught. You think I'm some kind of animal you've trapped."

Based on a novel of the same name by Winston Graham, after a couple of aborted attempts by other writers Jay Presson Allen created the final script for Marnie. Differing quite substantially from the book in the end, the film was not particularly well received after the more gimmicky and horror-based The Birds, and actually became quite the sleeper hit, with Hitchcock fans now rightfully giving it a place in the list of better works from the great director.

It's a curious affair, with Hitchcock delving much more into the psychological side of things than possibly ever before, although it could be argued this is in a similar vein to the much earlier Spellbound. There are the many issues Marnie has - just why the stealing, the utter loathing of men, and this steely resolve battling against an at times almost childlike innocence? Similarly there are questions raised about Mark Rutland - he knows Marnie is a thief, yet he seems attracted almost in some fetishist way to her kleptomaniac tendencies. After mentioning his 'hobby' previously, I don’t think I need go into a huge analytical discourse, either - there's enough Freudian stuff going on this film for all of us. Marnie was flogged to audiences as a "sex mystery", which is more the power of marketing over actual fact, as whilst there are allusions to such things, it's hardly the main crux of the story.

Tippi Hedren stars as Marnie, and her ice-queen persona melts a tad after her starchy performance in The Birds. She could still never be pronounced a great actress by any stretch of the imagination, but does handle the many personas called for in this role with reasonable aplomb. Fresh from his Dr No success, Sean Connery as Mark Rutland is - well - Sean Connery as Mark Rutland. He may be somewhat unbelievable here as a member of the Philadelphian gentry, however he does have that certain curious sparkle about him which keeps him eminently watchable. Or maybe that's just the hormones typing… There aren’t many other roles of note here, Diane Baker is serviceable as mark's sneaky sister-in-law Lil, and Louise Latham does quite a good job as Marnie's mother in what must have been a difficult dual role, playing her character as she is in the time the film is set, and also twenty-plus years younger.

What many of us really desire from a Hitchcock film is his special way with suspense, and whilst not an all out thriller in the vein of say Vertigo or Psycho, and certainly not another horror story, after a rather slow start he draws us into his aforementioned stab at going for the psychological angle in his inimitable, sneaky style. Once more he uses so many of his trademark tricks to suck us into his vortex, and again his brilliant sense of when to use silence rather than dramatic score and his often meticulously planned shots are two of the more powerful bows in his quiver.

With the age of the film some of the effects look really naff by today's standards, notably some third-rate backdrops, some dodgy rear-projection and the red flashes used when Marnie is troubled. However as I daresay most others would do, on viewing such a film you take into account its vintage and let things carry on from there. If you are prepared to do that here you are in for another reasonably engaging Hitchcockian treat that has an almost twisted Pygmalion vibe to it.


Oh dear. In the same manner as the local release of The Birds that preceded this, we get a pan and scan atrocity rather than an anamorphically enhanced release in the original cinematic ratio of 1.85:1 - which region 1 has been graced with. The belief that it is pan and scan rather than full frame comes from comparing a number of scenes from the film with those presented in the accompanying documentary, as the edges in the main feature are definitely severed. Needless to say the rating for video has been markedly affected by this weak effort.

Other than that, well, things aren’t a lot better. This is quite a schizophrenic transfer, whilst often times delightfully sharp (so much so that some of the phenomenally dodgy painted backdrops jump out and scream "FAKE!" at the tops of their lungs - a ship being a particularly laughable example), at other points it becomes remarkably murky. Grain suffers the same fate, being often particularly noticeable, whilst taking a back seat at other times. It all has that familiar Technicolor look which many of us are quite fond of, with a generally rather muted colour palette that's shaken out of its apathy on occasion with the use of, in particular here, extremely bright reds. Spicks and specks abound throughout, and there are occasional examples of shimmering for which the usual culprits are responsible, in particular in this case Venetian blinds.

There is one good thing to be said for this transfer, and that is to do with the layer change. Anybody who has viewed a few of these recent Universal Hitchcock releases may still be reeling from some of the worst examples of layer transitions ever committed to disc. The fabulous news here is that this is essentially perfect, occurring in a fade to black and essentially unnoticeable unless really looked for. They had to get it right one day I guess...


There's only so much that can be said for yet another bog standard mono transfer. It's naturally quite congested, however dialogue is clear and easy to catch at all times. It should be mentioned that there are a couple of minor instances of sound "wowr". Yes this is annoying, yet they are very brief.

The soundtrack is from famed Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann, and was in fact the last successful collaboration between the two gentlemen. Another slightly out there Herrmann score, it has quite the grandiose romantic aura to it at most times, but as was the composer's habit it easily slips into almost over the top drama at a mere pin's drop. In collaboration with some long instances of dead silence this adds no end to a tremendously successful effect the director utilised so often, and always masterfully. Even a hunt scene has a suitable "we're hunting wascally wabbits" vibe to it, so there's no denying that old Bernie knew his stuff. Intriguingly in an attempt to recreate the glory days of having a hit record from a Hitch film (think Doris Day and The Man Who Knew Too Much), lyrics were added to the Marnie theme, then recorded and released by Nat King Cole. However it sank like a concrete Volvo...


Surely most readers will know the score by now? Yes, static menus with a still from the film, accompanied by the same music as all previous Universal releases. Akin with this the film starts playing of its own volition after the completion of the theme, which to be frank is extremely annoying. Anyway, features-wise we get…

Documentary - The Trouble With Marnie: Even when the main presentation is a brutal savaging and inferior in every way to what region 1 gets, we can at least be thankful for documentaries such as this - even if they do rub our noses in it completely by featuring the movie in its correct ratio. Another of Laurent Bouzereau's fabulous insights into the world of Hitchcock, this one features a rather large line-up of interviews with many who worked on the film, including actors Hedren, Baker and Latham. More troubled than many of Hitch's other works, Marnie was originally set to follow Psycho, however numerous problems with scripting plus Grace Kelly's acceptance of the Marnie role then later unacceptance (a princess has many things to consider) left things floundering, so The Birds came to be, which subsequently led to Tippi Hedren's involvement here. Other factors are delved into, Hitchcock's obsessive use of storyboarding, the many changes made to the original story, and even Sean Connery's passion for golf. Whilst never stunning, quality is okay throughout, however the value of the content cannot be questioned. It's all subtitled too, which is appreciated.

Production photographs: A collection of 134 piccies, this is different to most other Hitch releases in that rather than you having any control it plays through for nine minutes accompanied by Bernard Herrmann's score. A nice collection is included - the usual production photos, promo and behind the scenes shots, coupled with a very thorough set of stills of the promotional campaign featuring bromides from newspaper adverts as well as the usual gamut of international posters.

Trailer: Yet another instalment in the fine tradition of Hitch-starring trailers. This one runs in at just under five minutes, and whilst in a ratio of 1.85:1 it isn’t anamorphically enhanced. A fabulous example of how marketers at the time suddenly twigged they could sell more of pretty much anything by adding the word "sex", Marnie is even described by the director himself as a "sex mystery", which is a bit dodgy. Still, this is essential viewing for any fan, and if only the main feature was more of a quality such as this…

4-page booklet with production notes: Humph! Searching low and searching high, it seems this extra passed us by...


Another decidedly weak effort from Universal in not releasing the film here in its correct ratio - especially as it was done right overseas - this disc can really only be recommended to the Hitchcock diehards, as regardless of the visual butchery there is a fantastic documentary included. Mind you if you are a fan of Marnie and your player is multi-regioned, I can’t see any reason for not hopping on the Internet and…

As a film, if you don’t come in expecting one of Hitchcock's over-the-top big budget affairs then you may be most pleasantly surprised, with a psychological thriller that tends to slowly constrict about you to the point where you are undoubtedly hooked. If nothing else you will discover the lengths some people will go to for the chance to get their hands on a basketball sweater...

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      And I quote...
    "A psychological thriller that tends to slowly constrict about you to the point where you are undoubtedly hooked. What a shame it's another botched visual presentation..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
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    • Speakers:
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    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
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    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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