Somehow this became Hitchcock month in Humboldt. In mid-October, Ferndale Repertory Theatre opens The 39 Steps, a fast-paced farce based on a film Hitchcock made twice (details on that elsewhere in this paper). And all month long the Eureka branch of the Humboldt County Library presents Master of Suspense: The Films of Alfred Hitchcock as October's Based on the Book series.
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock is indeed a master, much imitated, never surpassed, and the films selected are among his best. The (mostly) Tuesday night series launches Oct. 4, with his action-packed 1959 spy movie North by Northwest. The droll Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, a Mad Men-style NYC ad exec, mistaken for a secret agent by real spies (led by a dastardly James Mason) and thus plunged into a complex series of events that hooks him up with a beautiful Hitchcockian blonde (Eva Marie Saint) and takes him from New York to a Midwestern corn field to Mount Rushmore for a literally cliff-hanging climax. The screenplay, not "based on a book," was written by Ernest Lehman, who said he wanted to write "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures." Your host for the evening is yours truly.
The feature for Tuesday, Oct. 11 is the 1958 psychological thriller Vertigo, based on the French novel D'entre les morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. James Stewart stars as a retired policeman who suffers from acrophobia, fear of heights. Hired as a private investigator, he tails a Bay Area woman (Kim Novak), who has her own set of fears and seems suicidal. Michael Logan, who coordinates the library's film series, takes on host duties.
Oct. 18, it's Hitchcock's first American film, Rebecca, a semi-Gothic thriller based on Daphne du Maurier's novel of the same name. Laurence Olivier stars as the rich widower Maxim de Winter, who takes a second wife (Joan Fontaine) and brings her home to his Cornwall mansion. The place seems to be haunted by the memory of his first wife, Rebecca, who apparently committed suicide. This one took the Academy Award for Best Picture. (Ironically, Hitch never won a "Best Director" Oscar.)
The series concludes on a Thursday, Oct. 27 (the screening room will be in use that Tuesday for the annual Children's Author Festival). Philip Wright, creative services director for KIEM introduces another classic, Shadow of a Doubt. The story, written for the screen by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson and Alma Reville, is set in sleepy Santa Rosa, home of bored teen Charlotte, aka "Charlie" (Teresa Wright). She is thrilled to learn that her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) is coming to stay with the family. But when she learns that her uncle is under investigation as a serial killer known as the "Merry Widow Murderer," well, let's just say things get kind of weird, in that twisted Hitchcock fashion.
All Based on the Book screenings take place at the Humboldt County Library, 1313 3rd St., Eureka, starting at 6:30 p.m. Hosts introduce the films, then lead an optional discussion after the showing. For further details go to co.humboldt.ca.us/library.