A Lakewood-Friendly Director? A Lakewood-Friendly Movie? The "Hitchcock" Story...

Hitchcock DVD cover, image courtesy of Robert Swanson.

As a child of the 1950's, I remember seeing all kinds of movies. You had your mainstream films at the local cinema, and then, there were those offbeat, unusual, or sometimes, just plain strange low-budget films that, as teenagers, we usually watched on those late evening TV shows; hosted by local luminaries like Ghoulardi, the Ghoul, or Big Chuck and Hoolihan (later, with Little John).

Movies were an absolutely essential part of 20th Century culture. Socially, they were generally enjoyed together, and were part of workplace water cooler discussions on the following day, much as sports always has been. It was the same thing with those off-beat black and white movies shown on late-night TV. Some of those were arguably so bad that they were actually good, or at least as they were remembered by many of us.

Believe it or not, there are those who not only still appreciate the power of those late night-type low budget films, but actually seek to perpetuate an art-form known as "cinéma vérité," that is, creating a credible-looking movie, focusing more on the story and the action, rather than on the lighting, pin-perfect sound, or by using the particularly expensive and sophisticated backgrounds and multi-camera scene work available to the major movie production people. Cinéma vérité -type people will sometimes even go to great lengths to even artificially "age" a film, or perhaps, produce it in a timeless black and white format; anything to lose the "pretense" of a camera to more directly involve the audience in the action in an effort to achieve ever-greater truth and an illusion of reality in the film itself.. Indeed, this form of movie still thrives in limited-run theaters. The words "cult following" could well apply for those who continue to enjoy this special art form.

I have a friend from church, Bob Swanson, who has produced a number of low-budget pulp cinema-type indie films that he refers to as being "psychotronic", a term used by Michael J. Weldon in his Psychotronic Video magazine. These sorts of films (sometimes called "cult films") could be action-oriented, horror-themed, sometimes historical, sometimes hysterical, or even science-fiction themed.

In Bob's case, he actually has a website (www.milroypictures.com) where he offers his creations to the public.

Anyway, Bob's been after me to do a movie review for his film "Hitchcock," and I've been seriously trying to avoid doing so. See, for one thing, I am generally no longer much of a TV or movie guy. For another, I'm certainly NOT a movie lover, much less a critic. I sit on my can entirely too much with this doggone computer, let alone spending a couple of hours of my life that I'll never get back again, watching another person's conception of how others are living their lives. Nonetheless, Bob finally cornered me at church the other day and shoved a copy of "Hitchcock" into my hands. Bob did get my attention however, when he said that the movie had been filmed in Lakewood and the Cleveland area, and that the actors were 80% from Lakewood; even having a number of our aspiring thespian church members in the cast! Reluctantly, and with a sad smile, I agreed to at least watch the movie. Bob told me that he made the movie for a "handful of change, compared to Hollywood," and with a single camera, (although with scenes re-shot from different angles) so I was certainly not expecting too much more than a bad home movie.

I was wrong.

After watching the 87 minute movie, both Dad and I agreed that it was a very good one indeed. There is an abundance of talent here in a well-produced, locally-made film that is difficult to categorize. Bob informed me that the film's title "Hitchcock" was "my homage to (Alfred) Hitchcock, with a twist ending." The film indeed reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's films, as well as a couple of episodes from "The Twilight Zone." A "single camera movie" can sometimes be a real drag to watch, but not this one. It moved along rapidly, and the scene-to-scene action was readily understandable, fluid, and focused, thanks to some fantastic editing by Bob's Executive Producer and Editor, Manny Sclimenti. This was one good scary film, and particularly appropriate around this Halloween time of year. The fact that I happened to know many of the film's actors and actresses was a pleasant surprise too. There is apparently a lot of talent in Lakewood, and this is not the first film that Bob shot in this town either. Fact is, Bob tells me at that ALL of his six films have used settings in Lakewood and the Cleveland area, including, I was told, his and Manny's just-completed movie, "Funeral Arrangements."

The story of "Hitchcock" begins as a couple (a Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock, portrayed expertly by locals, William Obbagy and Suzy Milano) comes into some inheritance money and decides to purchase a beautiful home that is being sold, complete with furnishings, for a giveaway price. At the signing, they are informed that the home's previous occupants had come to a tragic end in a love triangle killing; when the former owner-husband, Alan DePalma, (very well-played by local, James Boyle) allegedly killed the wife and her lover in the home's master bedroom, and then drove off a cliff, killing himself. Immediately, Mr. Hitchcock begins to see an apparent ghost of DePalma, looking at him through the window of the house. He then starts to see the guy all over town. Over the next few months, Hitchcock degenerates into a haze of drugs, booze, tobacco, and even more DePalma sightings. He seeks help through his wife's psychologist brother (with an outstanding performance in that role by another local, Jim Smith) Surprise and suspense both begin to build into a totally shocking climax.

As I said, this really is a very good (and perhaps, even an educational message) movie, and yet, Bob told me that he did not want it to have profanity, blood, or gore, and it does not. While perhaps not a film for the whole family, this as-yet unrated film is available on Bob's pulp cinema website, www.milroypictures.com. for only $9.95. Bob hopes to see it being played at local libraries and in area theaters before long.

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Volume 9, Issue 22, Posted 4:09 PM, 10.29.2013