Just to change things up a bit, this year’s Halloween set does not have a horror theme, but rather, more of a thriller vibe.
My Dad had been the one to introduce me to Alfred Hitchcock movies at an early age, that and John Wayne. Suffice to say I’d rather a good old fashioned thriller than a western. We sometimes compromised on war movies and James Bond films, but if it were up to me, I would always pick a Hitchcock on movie night.
I’ve been toying with the idea of painting the leading ladies from some of my favourite Hitchcock movies for a very very long time and I’m glad I finally got around to painting them this year…and just in time for Halloween too!
Let’s talk first about The Birds. It had not been my introduction to Hitchcock, which I found a bit surprising. I don’t think I even saw it until I was in my late teens. A few years ago, I did something boneheaded at the Sydney Airport (nothing illegal, mind you), and it required me to go into one of those “side rooms” to sort things out. I saw a girl sitting glumly near the service counter and figured she did the same boneheaded thing as me (she did) and chatted her up. Us lunkheads need to stick together, you know? We ended up flying back to the Gold Coast together and bonded over our love of seriously bad movies and she introduced me to “Birdemic: Shock and Terror.” It’s a film made by James Nguyen who modeled three of his films after his idol, Alfred Hitchcock and even managed to get Tippi Hedren to be in one. “Birdemic” was a 90’s take on “The Birds” but with far far less competence. The only thing shocking about it was the numerous scenes where the audience were treated to sensible driving and parking and the “special effects” involving bird attacks. I ended up watching the original version of “The Birds” as a palate cleanser and found that it had not lost its magic after all these years. Tip for Mr. Nguyen: Maybe don’t use paper birds that flaps in place and then call it a homage to Hitchcock? It’s kind of insulting if you ask me.
I found some plastic birds meant for models and painted it black with the now discontinued Liquitex “Glossies” paint (please bring it back!). There are so many Halloween costumes where people would fashion birds onto their green dresses like in the schoolhouse bird attack scene. The problem with doing that with the nesting doll version is that you need to be able to grip the doll with both hands in order to open it and you don’t want to disturb the birds in any way. It’ll definitely fall off if I were to just glue it on. I was also obsessed with the idea of having them hover over the doll instead of them just sitting on it and looked for the sort of wiring that will withstand the weight of the birds as well as the force it will have to endure during opening and closing of the doll. I also didn’t want the wires to show (much). Finally, I found the answer in a really thick gauge clear jewelry wire. When you shake the doll a bit, the birds will actually wiggle.
“Rear Window” was my first foray into Hitchcockverse. I loved everything about this movie. In ’83 when my family immigrated to the US, our first stop was the California and we spent a day at Universal Studios and I was fascinated by the Rear Window apartment display. It could’ve been the catalyst to my lifelong obsession to miniatures and dollhouses. I got to paint Grace Kelly for the first time and enjoyed every minute of it. What an absolute beauty she was!
“Vertigo” was one of those movies that went over my head when I was little but meant a lot more when viewed it as an adult. It was also the basis of another James Nguyen disaster called “Replica.” If you want to see one of the funniest death scenes in cinema, this movie is it.
“North By Northwest” is my second favourite Hitchcock movie. If it weren’t for my Dad showing me this movie I wouldn’t have been able to show off my cinematic prowess in my screenwriting class when the instructor showed the crop duster scene and asked us to guess which movie it was. I was shocked that no one in my class knew it. Often times I have trouble capturing the faces of some actors but not Eve Marie Saint. Nailed it on the first go.
I decided to paint “Notorious” in colour and photograph it with a filter. I’ve only ever seen two Ingrid Bergman movies and this was the one I liked most (sorry, not “Casablanca”). I’ve been painting her daughter Isabella Rossellini for years now and was not surprised by the similarities, but I don’t think I nailed this one. My excuse is that it’s rather tiny to paint.
Oh, we need to talk about “Psycho.” What an absolutely wonderful movie. The heroine was by no means an angel but of course she didn’t deserve to get slaughtered in the shower. I also liked the Gus Van Sant remake and being the purist that I am, I really liked the fact that he had copied the original shot for shot. Most may disagree with me on that front, but I stand by it because I myself do a lot of reproductions and I know how much effort it takes. If James Nguyen tries that technique with “The Birds,” he will most likely F it up royally. But of course I will pay a lot of money to see that too.