'Rich and Strange' - Movie Review

This showed up at the library - an early Hitchcock movie before he moved to the U.S. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 75% based on 12 reviews, so what the hell, let's have a look at it - I'm a fan of Hitchcock. I should have paid attention to the "audience score," which was much lower: it feels like the reviewers were grading Hitchcock's body of work rather than this particular film.

Our protagonists are Emily and Fred Hill (Joan Barry and Harry Kendall), who immediately abandon their middle-class life in London the instant they come into money from an uncle. They set off on a cruise around the world (that's how you travelled in 1931), and find themselves embroiled in shipboard romance. As Fred lies stricken with seasickness (for several days), Emily meets the slightly older and charming Commander Gordon (Percy Marmont). When Fred gets back on his feet, he spends more and more of his time in the company of "The Princess" (Betty Amann).

This is a pre-Code movie (the Hays Code / "Motion Picture Production Code" is an American thing, but its effects were felt around the world and I think the U.K. had a similar set of restrictions). This is very clear from a couple things that happen: married people having sex with others is clearly (although somewhat tangentially) referenced several times. And a woman's bare breasts are seen for a couple seconds in the Folies Bergère. Yeah, I've seen that in other movies - but never one prior to about 1960!

This doesn't feel like a Hitchcock movie: there's almost nothing of the dread and grace and excellent writing that made his later work so memorable. This is a not terribly well written movie about an unhappy couple. There's some point in their being forced to face the problems with their marriage, but no sense of resolution or movement at the end. I found it mildly interesting to see that (of course, but sometimes we forget these things) Hitchcock was once a mediocre journeyman director. And it was interesting to see how Hitchcock was a little stuck in the silent film era, making heavy use of unnecessary inter-titles, having a couple of extended silent scenes, and having somewhat exaggerated acting. But setting aside the lessons in film history, I wouldn't even recommend this to Hitchcock fans.