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Rebecca

Year: 1940
Studio: Selznick International Pictures
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producer: Daphne du Maurier
Writer: David O Selznick
Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine
I always think of Hitchcock's earlier movies as somewhat lesser than his holy trinity of The Birds, Vertigo and Rear Window (except there's four of them, including Psycho ).

I know there are purists who'll foam at the mouth, but it was in those couple of films that he reached the heights of his own modus operandi – the Macguffin, the mood, the long stretches that keep you guessing and the seemingly innocuous quiet.

Rebecca is more like a bog standard romance thriller, and without his name on it I (and I imagine most other film fans who aren't Hitchcock devotees) wouldn't have bothered. Indeed, what else could a movie directed by Hitch and written by Daphne Du Maurier be?

An innocent girl falls for a handsome bachelor and goes to the south of England to live in his gigantic, Xanadu-like mansion Manderlay.

Once there she finds things increasingly taut, with both him and his small army of servants all hinting at the hold his psychotic – now dead – first wife seems to hold on them all. There's a terrible story of hatred and murder underneath it all, and when he reveals his part in it, the movie loses any of the Hitchcockian lustre it started to generate.

Also of note is the dodgy sexual politics of the time, the woman (Fontaine) referred to many times over as a mere child, often treated as such ('be a good girl') to the extent you start to think de Winter (Olivier) seems almost like a child molester.

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