Fred and Emily Hill are leading a boring life in London. They receive a big inheritance by a rich relative and now they can realize all their dreams. They leave for a cruise behaving as rich people....but this is the beginning of the end? Richness makes they soon forget their love and family.
Henry Kendall ... Fred Hill
Joan Barry ... Emily Hill
Percy Marmont ... Commander Gordon
Betty Amann ... The Princess
Elsie Randolph ... The Old Maid
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Codecs: XVid / MP3
crime or mystery. Even his comedies -- The Trouble With Harry, for example -- revolved around murder and mayhem. But not this movie.
It's old and it's a comedy, but its title really says it all. Rich and very, very strange. Hitchcock's sense of humor is very plain here, and there are several laugh-out-loud scenes (when Fred Hill tries to set his watch, and later when he tries to get into bed, for example). But as the movie goes on, they become less frequent.
The action stops focusing on the comedic aspect of this young couple's acquiring a great sum of money and spending it on a world cruise. Instead it focuses on the serious aspects of their dual extra-marital affairs on the ship, and later their actions when it wrecks and sinks.
And once there, the movie is hardly comedic at all. Hitchcock's darker side comes out when a sailer drowns while his comrades watch on in fascination, and the scene with the rescued black cat is especially disturbing.
So what to say about Rich and Strange? The acting is fine, Hitchcock's directing is up to par (especially with the silent opening scenes), and the plot is engaging. But the movie goes from screwball hilarity to morbid survival, and then ends where it began so abruptly that the viewer is left wondering when he or she dozed off and missed the last half of the movie.
It's not stereotypical Hitchcock at all, but by no means does this make it a bad movie. The film is quite good but hard to stomach on account that it is so bizarre.
An early Hitchcock which shows both glimpses of the genius to come and a man still learning the range of his craft. Although he was becoming comfortable with the technical requirements of sound, Hitchcock here still displayed a reluctance to discard the technique of silents completely, choosing to film some sequences without dialogue (to especially good effect in the superlative opening sequence in which Fred's drab and regimented existence is so adroitly described) and using largely redundant intertitles throughout. Contrasted with this attachment to the art of the silent film are several imaginative uses of sound: the choice of music for the opening sequence, for example, and the way in which Emily and the Commander's kiss is broken by the abrupt, discordant cessation of a tune being played on an accordion by a sailor on the deck below as an argument breaks out. Hitchcock also makes good use of visuals, both subtle and otherwise: lines from a menu jump off the page at a sea-sick Fred; a POV shot of a letter blurs in and out of focus as it is read by the tearful heroine; the cheating couple's movements mirror one another when they run into each other after their respective dalliances, and paradise is viewed through bars at the moment the marriage appears to be doomed.
The film is bizarre in many ways: the structure seems completely haphazard at times and the pace is a quick-quick-slow combination of odd plot twists and sombre ruminations on the nature of a marriage in which the partners appear to have momentarily forgotten that they love each other. The genre, too, swings from comedy to melodrama to drama to suspense. More than any of Hitch's early flicks, this one seems to be an experiment on the part of the director, one in which he is beginning to flex his directorial muscle and play with cinematic conventions.
The acting is pretty good for an early British talkie. Joan Barry as Emily is something of a hottie with appealingly contemporary looks, although her cut-glass accent is veddy-veddy British and tends to grate at times. Leading man Henry Kendall bears more than a passing resemblance to Robert Donat for my money, but his acting isn't on a par with Donat's; the pair work well together, however, and are believable as a married couple. Elsie Randolph also stands out playing, at the grand old age of 28, the part of old maid.
As has been pointed out by others, this isn't classic Hitchcock – but it's still superior to most other British product of the era and, while it lacks the style and sophistication of the master at his peak, it is still worth a look by anyone interested in both the development of Hitchcock and the development of British movies.
This change-of-pace from Hitchcock is quite an interesting film, often pleasantly witty and at other times a bit unsettling in its observations on human nature. It won't appeal to those looking for Hitchcock-style suspense (although there is one such sequence), but it is worth watching for some other reasons.
The story is about Fred and Emily Hill, an average couple living a routine middle class life. The opening sequence, which is very nicely done using many of Hitchcock's silent film skills, immediately makes you feel the boredom and shallowness of Fred's world, while being amusing as well. Suddenly Fred receives word that a rich relative is giving him a large sum of money so that he can see the world, and the Hills are off on an extended trip to several foreign countries. The substance of the movie is in the ways that their new-found wealth and the many unfamiliar environments affect them and their marriage. Their new world is one of a couple of possible meanings of the title "Rich and Strange", in addition to the Shakespeare allusion.
The cast is very small, and consists of actors little known today, but they are generally good and make their characters believable. As the Hills encounter hazards, temptations, and adventure, the question is whether they have really changed or learned anything from their experiences - the amusing last scene gives one possible answer, and along the way there are a lot of other subtle points.
While not at all like Hitchcock's more famous films, in a different sense it is all Hitchcock - a distinctive movie, and carefully crafted. While only a minor effort among his many masterpieces, it is still worth a look for those who enjoy older comedies.
* The title is a quote from Shakespeare's "The Tempest".