Hitchcock Sundays at QFT

To coincide with the current biopic starring Anthony Hopkins, Queen's Film Theatre celebrate the master of suspense this February with four classic titles

To coincide with the release of Hitchcock, Sacha Gervasi's biopic starring Anthony Hopkins in the lead role, Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast is bringing four of Alfred Hitchcock's best films to its screens – with one being shown each Sunday throughout February.

Classic suspense thrillers Rear Window and North by Northwest, along with wartime romantic espionage picture Notorious and the rarely screened 1927 silent feature The Ring, make up the retrospective.

For fans of the great wrtiter/director/producer and master of self-promotion, Hitchcock Sundays provides the perfect opportunity to relish seeing four of his films on the big screen, while newcomers to Hitchcock can experience what all the fuss is about.

'We wanted to show a selection of films that were not the usual suspects but were much-loved classics,' says Susan Picken, QFT manager. 'It was also important to represent the full extent of Alfred Hitchcock's career and reflect the huge range of themes that he touched on, from silent movies to the big Hollywood productions.'

Kicking off with the only film to feature an original screenplay written by Hitchcock himself – and made when the Londonder was only 28 – The Ring is a silent melodrama telling the story of professional boxer, Jack 'One Round' Sander, his lover Mabel, and the developing love triangle she enjoys with rival boxer, Bob Corby.

The Ring was considered a commercial failure on release but, as with most Hitchcock pictures, it was, nevertheless, critically lauded. This screening, on Sunday, February 3, is a unique opportunity to see one of Hitchcock’s lesser shown pictures and to celebrate the director’s early silent vision.

Arguably Hitchcock’s most romantic film, Notorious follows on February 10. Shot just after the end of the Second World War, it stars Hitchcock favourite Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in a story of espionage and developing love in an uncertain post-war world.

Grant plays a US government agent who attempts to coerce the daughter of a Nazi (Bergman) to infiltrate a gang of Nazi war criminals who have fled to Brazil. In the process, however, he falls in love with her.

Notorious is perhaps not the kind of story that many will associate with the 'master of suspense', but it is, nonetheless, filled with intrigue and heightened drama, and is certainly a film worth watching in order to fully appreciate Hitchcock's broad skill as a storyteller.

What follows in the Hitchcock Sunday programme, on February 17 and 24 respectively, are two of Hitchcock's most celebrated films. Both feature male actors who were, at the time of filming, in the twilight of their careers, but whose collaborations with Hitchcock produced some of their most lasting work.

Perhaps best known for playing the role of down-and-out family man George Bailey in the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, James Stewart worked with Hitchcock on a number of films, but none were more successful than Rear Window.

Rear Window, and the 1958 film Vertigo, which isn’t, unfortunately, part of this QFT retrospective, were to change the public perception of Stewart and a bumbling comic performer and cement his reputation as a more serious dramatic actor.

With its fairly simple premise featuring a temporarily wheelchair-bound photographer (Stewart) becoming increasingly paranoid about the goings-on in the apartment opposite his during a hot New York summer, Hitchcock creates a sense of tension with Rear Window that, even by his standards, is palpable.

'The combination of Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart and Hitchcock's obsession with voyeurism create a true classic,' adds Picken, who admits that Rear Window is her favourite film of the Hitchcock Sundays season.

The final Sunday of the month sees a screening of the all-time classic thriller, North by Northwest, which is not only an amazing feat of filmmaking and storytelling, but a template for any 'chase' film that has been produced since.

Cary Grant (him again) plays a man who is mistakenly identified as a spy and pursued across north America by the sinister Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) and his terrifying right-hand man, played by Martin Landau.

North by Northwest features one of the most alluring of Hitchcock's typically blonde female leads in Eve Marie Saint, and includes many memorable scenes – from Grant being pursued mercilessly by a crop duster across a field, to the classic, climatic confrontation on Mount Rushmore.

So, lovers of great cinema should find lots to appreciate in this forthcoming season of Alfred Hitchcock films, and should not pass up the opportunity witness a master of the medium at work.

'Hitchcock has inspired an entire generation of filmmakers working today,' concludes Picken. 'His films are saturated with suspense, strong story lines, great characters and visual style, and are simply not to be missed.'

Hitchcock Sundays runs in Queen's Film Theatre from February 3 - 24.