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Wednesday, Mar 17 1999
Universal Hitchcock
In celebration of the centenary of Alfred Hitchcock's birth, Universal is presenting 13 of his films, though the studio is waiting until Aug. 13, Hitchcock's birthday, to unveil its fully restored version of Rear Window. The erotically charged classics Psycho and Vertigo will be on view, as well as several of his later, less revered films -- Topaz, Torn Curtain, Frenzy, and Family Plot. The retrospective leads off with The Birds, which has been described as a film that "needs to be put on the analyst's couch." Partially shot in Bodega Bay, its queasy mix of clumsy romantic comedy and horror confused audiences when it was first released.

Hitchcock, who reveled in misdirecting the audience and specialized in keeping things hidden, was able to parlay a creepy cocktail of neuroses, sexual repression, and suspense into entertainment. The fully restored version of Vertigo, which two years ago drew the largest crowds in the Castro's history, is a case in point: It features an obsessive Jimmy Stewart as a retired detective who becomes increasingly infatuated with the mysterious woman (Kim Novak) he is hired to shadow. As is often the case with Hitchcock, the protagonist experiences his downfall in the chasm between appearance and reality.

Along with a penchant for sadism and a key to the dirty little secrets of the psyche, Hitchcock also possessed a droll sense of humor that surfaced not only in the cameo appearances he made in his films but also in the movies' trailers. In a rare treat, the Castro will show trailers for The Birds, Marnie, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Psycho, in which Hitch gives a guided tour of Chez Bates.

-- Sura Wood

"Universal Hitchcock" screens March 19 through April 8 at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $6.50; call 621-6120. See Reps Etc., Page 84, for show times of individual movies.

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Sura Wood


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