Monday, July 07, 2008

The Derosa Links

This is a continuation of our series on the Unproduced Scripts of Alfred Hitchcock. Steven Derosa, author of the book Writing with Hitchcock, has on his website articles devoted to a few lost projects:


“In the mid-1960’s Alfred Hitchcock had reached a crisis point in his career, trying to bounce back from the failure of Torn Curtain with something different, an original screenplay which was eventually called Frenzy (and later Kaleidoscope). The unproduced project called Frenzy, which was to have been set in and around New York City, should not be confused with the 1972 film Hitchcock made in England. That Frenzy was adapted from Arthur La Bern's novel Goodbye Piccadilli, Farewell Leicester Square. Both stories involved a serial rapist-killer. But the original story Hitchcock developed through much of 1967 and early 1968 was something he had not tried before. From Sabotage onward, Hitchcock's villains had essentially fallen into two camps -- the suave, attractive anti-hero, and the vulnerable, sympathetic "mama's boys". With characters like Uncle Charlie, Bruno Anthony and Norman Bates, Hitchcock had given audiences a glimpse into the world of a psychopath or sociopath by allowing them to share the narrative with the protagonist. In his proposed Frenzy however, the story was to have been told completely from the point of view of a murderer who is both attractive and vulnerable.”

He never sold Hollywood on the idea of the unsympathetic protag. The end result in Frenzy was a sympathetic protag falsely accused of gruesome crimes who wasn’t completely innocent as a man.

When Hitch had his ideas registered with the WGA, he highlighted as source material one particularly gruesome fella:

(1) The case of Haigh, the acid bath murderer, who killed a number of people, including women, for personal gain; and disposed of their remains by immersing the bodies in baths of acid. Haigh, like the character in "SHADOW OF A DOUBT", was a very personable man and somewhat of a charmer which enabled him to gain the confidence of his female victims.

When Hitch shared his idea with a friend, Benn Levy, who worked with Hitch on Blackmail and who had directed Lord Camber’s Ladies, which Hitch produced, sunk his teeth into a story out of that idea:

Dear Hitch,

It's got to be Heath, not Haigh. Told forwards the Heath story is a gift from heaven. You'd start with a "straight" romantic meeting, handsome young man, pretty girl. Maybe he rescues her from the wild molestations of a drunken escort. "I can't stand men who paw every girl they meet". Get us rooting for them both. He perhaps unhappily married and therefore a model of screen-hero restraint. She begins to find him irresistibly "just a little boy who can't cope with life" -- least of all with domestic problems such as he has described. She's sexually maternal with him, she'd give him anything -- and we're delighted. Presently a few of us get tiny stirrings of disquiet at the physical love-scenes but don't quite know why. By the time we see the climax of his love in action and her murder, then even the slowest of us get it! Be we shouldn't know till then.

Next, the disposal of the body sequence. And next -- which should be the most bloodcurdling scene in your entire career -- the mere encounter, preferably not in too dissimilar circumstances, with a second girl. And drag it out forever. Will she? Won't she? At first she seems increasingly drawn to him, then she seems to be backing out, maybe because a former boyfriend appears on the scene. But then they have a row (yes, about the recent murder story in the papers!!) "I bet she asked for it" He disagrees, they fight.) So she phones Heath, who meets her, dries her tears, is infinitely understanding and comforting, takes her off to the scene of the crime (as near as maybe), makes love to her and does her in.

The mechanism of discovery and capture is to be devised but it should still be "told forwards", i.e. more from the angle of the pursued than the pursuers. And at one point, if I know my Hitch, I don't doubt but that Heath with his maximum of charms will accost a police woman!

The ultimate irony of his psychoses of course is that he truly is "just a little boy who can't cope with life". "Little Boy" might be a nice title…



This was Hitch’s Italian Connection comedy:

“It was about a hotel like the Plaza,” explained Hitchcock. “The manager was Italian, his mother lived in the penthouse, and his relatives held different jobs in the hotel. They were all crooks, but he himself didn’t go in for this crookery so he was blackmailed by the rest of the family. When a woman like Sophia Loren arrives with a collection of coins she wanted to sell and took a room, of course all the family have itchy fingers. So he had to fight against his own family about stealing the coins.” The title was to be R.R.R.R., as Hitchcock explained, “Numismatists mark coins by the letter R. R, RR, RRR, RRRR.” No doubt, the title was to have a double-meaning, grading not only the coins to be stolen, but the leading lady as well.


The Three Hostages

“In the summer of 1964, shortly after the disappointing opening of Marnie, Alfred Hitchcock told the press that his next film would be a return to his British roots, with an adaptation of John Buchan’s The Three Hostages. The story concerns a plan of the government to apprehend the leaders of a criminal operation on a certain date. To circumvent this, the criminals kidnap three children, and Richard Hannay is brought in to locate and recover the hostages.

“No doubt, this was pleasing news for Universal Pictures, but Hitchcock’s announcement (as they often were during the mid-to-late 60’s) was premature. A year earlier, Hitchcock’s agents began negotiations to purchase the movie rights to The Three Hostages from Buchan’s estate, but failed to come to an agreement on the purchase price.

“Hitchcock told Truffaut that he ultimately dropped the project because of its reliance on hypnotism, a device he felt does not translate plausibly to the screen. Hitchcock described a scene from the novel where the villain, Medina, has his blind mother hypnotize Hannay. Hitchcock started a search for a suitable writer, and even had Universal’s research department ascertain whether or not it was possible for a blind person to hypnotize someone.”


Kevin Lehane said...

I had an idea for a hypnotism gag in a script was planning to write, but abandoned for the time being.

Basically, a nebbish guy was hynpnotised to respond to a word or sound, and it kept happening at the most inopportune times. Like during a shoot-out, he thinks he's Elvis.

I miss Hitchcock and Truffaut.

Kevin Lehane said...

I sound autistic on these comments boards. Jeez.

Mystery Man said...

Hehehe... You sound just fine, man. It's great having you here.


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