11/19/15

D.O.A. FILM FESTIVAL PRESENTS...HITCH? REALLY??


Did you know that Alfred Hitchcock is a member of the D.O.A. Film Festival gang? (Yesterday I wrote about a new festival I'm starting, honoring unfinished/abandoned movies). Yes, Hitch had a dead-on-arrival (how befitting for him) project in the late 60s. Why this information eluded Donald Spoto, Raymond Durgent and other earlier Hitch-ographers baffles me. Above is a six minute selection of footage, with annoying French narration that I can't understand.

It was called "Kaleidoscope" and it pre-figured "Frenzy" in its obsessive story about a serial killer.  It was conceived in the late sixties, after the lousy "Marnie"/"Torn Curtain" double-header. Much as Hitch broke free from his 50s widescreen/technicolor style with "Psycho", here he intended to follow the New Wave and shoot a shaggy, loose and decidedly graphic story of sex and murder in New York City. A script--or a bevy of scripts--were duly prepared and abandoned. Apparently the itch of Hitch at this time was literally to go out and shoot free-style, a la the crazy kids of the period. Several unknown young actors were hired. But apparently Universal, Hitch's home studio, didn't like the idea of the project. Undaunted, Hitch pressed on and some "test footage" was shot--a photographer named Arthur Schatz did stills which the eventual footage was based on. Was it a sales reel to help change the studio's mind? If so, it failed to move them off the dime.

Now here's where things get hazy for me. Did Hitch shoot the test footage? Or did he have somebody else do it so he could get a handle on what it might look like? That might sound strange, but Hitch's art director Robert Boyle once said that the director would make him do a matte painting of a park so Hitch could sit the actors on a park bench in a sound stage, thereby saving him the trip off the studio lot to an actual park. Seriously. So the idea isn't as odd as it might sound.

In due time, the project was abandoned and Universal told Hitch to stop wasting time and make this perfectly good book that they owned. They knew he could get a slam-bang thriller out of it. And so we have "Topaze" instead of "Kaleidoscope". Hard to know if the world is the better or worse for it. Here's a nice, crisp webpage which gives the whole story along with screen grabs and a pleasantly short set of clips from the existing footage. The author of the page makes big claims for how the abandoned film would have changed cinema history. Well...

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