Riccardo Freda (1909-1999) does a slow burn as Dr. Hichcock [below] prepares his drugged wife for the evening's entertainment. Freda also directed under the names Robert Hampton, Willy Pareto and George Lincoln.
I'm still waiting for the R1 SE DVD of Riccardo Freda's 1962 L'ORRIBLE SEGRETO DEL DR HICHCOCK, the ne plus ultra of Italian gothic cinema, also released in the English language variants, THE TERROR OF DR. HICHCOCK (UK version) and THE HORRIBLE DR HICHCOCK (US version). I would prefer the presentation include the Italian version (with English subtitles), the reworked shorter US version and the longer UK version, in original aspect ratio. It would be a seminar on the variations between the three key versions of my favorite Italian horror film. I have numerous versions of this on tape and DVD R, including an Australian TV print of the Italian which is the best looking of the bunch. I also remember an odd US TV print seen on cable in the 1980s which repeated one brief scene between Harriet White and Robert Flemyng. The look of this film is everything, since it's really about conflicting layers of reality and how appearances condition what we believe and how we think, act and react to other people and situations. It's also pure cinema which works in any language and the best scenes (the evocative funeral in the rain; Steele's nocturnal explorations of the villa's complex of corridors) bring to mind the classics of Silent Cinema where emotion was creating through camera position, tinting, pacing, movement, gesture and music. Freda's masterwork achieves its optimal performance without dialogue.
I have had an irregular correspondence with the film's writer, the prolific Ernesto Gastaldi, for the last decade and recently once again shared my appreciation with him for what Freda did with his script. Given that Freda cut the script Ernesto still admires the director and film and agreed Freda remains an underrated figure. Freda's feature film directing career (1942-1980) brackets Mario Bava's and is barely represented on R 1 DVD outside of I VAMPIRI, THE GHOST, various poor fullscreen versions of THE WHITE WARRIOR, unsatisfactory discs of his ultra stylish, imaginative pepla THE GIANTS OF THESSALY, SAMSON AND THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD, MACISTE IN HELL, and no R1 presentations of his excellent gialli DOUBLE FACE (1969), THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE (1971), or his final horror epic film, the hallucinatory MURDER OBSESSION/FEAR (1980). And that's not even factoring in dozens of 40s and 50s historical epics and his mid 60s Eurospy films, all of which, despite various flaws in script, production and acting, reveal an extraordinary visual artist capable of an almost Wagnerian aesthetic synthesis. I know there are European DVDS of some of the titles listed above, and if anyone can report on them please do so. I'm also aware of the complicated rights issues. I understand CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959) is coming, but that is pretty much a Mario Bava film in its end product.
HICHCOCK, though rushed through production, is rich in visual allusions to 19th Century Gothic literature and art, post Freudian psychosexual theory, the ouevre of Alfred Hitchcock (and not just in terms of the title), classical sculpture (Freda was a sculptor and art critic before becoming a director) and Romantic opera. And it has the iconic Barbara Steele in her ultimate victim role. The lighting and camerawork of Raffaele Masciocchi enables a threadbare production to look lavish, detailed with gorgeous pools of colored lighted illuminating the period sets while expressing the main character's fetishistic mindset. L'ORRIBLE SEGRETO DEL DR. HICHCOCK is still strikingly daring in its unblinking detailing of the dynamics of necrophilia. I don't think any presentation has yet given the film's flamboyant mise en scene its due. Some reference sources cite a scope OAR, but it was more likely shot in a nonanamorphic widescreen ratio. Try watching this on a double bill with Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT and witness its obvious influence on another great cinema virtuoso. THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK played on a popular double bill in US theatrical venues with Jess Franco's equally subversive and influential surgical horror, THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF (GRITOS EN LA NOCHE).
(c) Robert Monell, 2007