Some weeks back, I was reading AJ Finn’s psychological thriller The Woman in the Window, in which the protagonist is addicted to old cinema—especially noir and suspense films. I ended up not liking the book much, but at least I got one good thing out of my reading of it: some recommendations. Including recommendations for films that seem as if they were made by Alfred Hitchcock (who, I should explain, is one of my favourite directors), but weren’t.
Of those, one that immediately caught my attention was Niagara, directed by Henry Hathaway. I had heard of this film before—most memorably on IMDB, where I’d seen its poster and read a brief synopsis about a honeymoon couple running into another couple with marital problems. The poster, with a sultry Marilyn Monroe in a hot pink dress, coupled with that description of the film, didn’t conjure up an image of a Hitchcockian film.
What with having watched the Fearless Nadia-starrer Baghdad ka Jaadoo (‘Magic of Baghdad’) the other day, I was in the mood for more swashbuckling ladies. This film, starring Jean Peters as a pirate, seemed—at first glance—to fit the bill. It turned, or so it appeared, well-loved pirate film clichés on their heads: the pirate is a woman, and a heartless one at that, who delights in making innocent people walk the plank. And no, she isn’t a female Robin Hood, actually on the side of justice. She even—in a neat twist of the usual pirate film—captures a handsome man.
Not too long back, I got to see the Christopher Plummer starrer The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), an unusual and sensitive take on the European conquest of the Americas. When I heard about this film, also based on the same subject—and starring the delicious Tyrone Power, to boot (how on earth did I leave him out of my eye candy list?!): well, I had to see it.