Random Film of the Week: The Trouble With Harry

 

Even though the film did poorly when it was initially released in 1955, Alfred Hitchcock’s droll black comedy is still the best “What do we do with the body?” move I’ve ever seen. Forget junk like those Weekend at Bernie’s films (which are definitely stealing from this classic) – this one is the real deal and if you’re in the right mood, about as good as it gets. The tale of a bunch of offbeat residents in a tiny, quirky Vermont village who all think they’re responsible for the titular character is consistently amusing, well acted and never grim (considering its subject matter). The casting is prefect all around, but I’d say it’s Shirley MacLaine and a young Jerry Mathers who steal the show, playing a mother and son who are closest to poor Harry, but his demise doesn’t affect them like you think it would.

Even though his corpse is on display in assorted places and states throughout the film, In actuality, Harry is a classic Hitchcock “McGuffin” in that he’s merely a device used to kick the plot along in such a way that the viewer considers him more important than he actually is. Of course, the big fun here is trying to figure out who or what killed the poor guy, but the movie offers up some nice distractions between Harry’s body managing to get around the village in some interesting was. There’s the starving artist (John Forsythe) who’s quite interested in Maclaine’s box of buttons-cute Jennifer Rogers and her son, Artie (Mathers), the lovestruck Miss Gravely, a not so old maid type (Mildred Natwick) who’s not so secretly pining away for Edmund Gwenn’s creaky but jovial Captain Wiles and a handful of other characters that pop in and out to keep things rolling.

Everything moves at a decent enough clip and Bernard Herrmann’s jaunty score skips along, fitting things quite flawlessly. By the time the film wraps itself up neatly, there’s a happy ending for nearly everyone but poor Harry, who’s still as dead as a doornail. Then again, without his demise and the deft direction of Sir Alfred, this would actually be a pretty darn dull trip up north. Check this one out if you’ve never seen it, break out the popcorn and a smile and enjoy the absolutely gorgeous VistaVision color and cinematography.  Just  don’t get any ideas about actual body disposal from this flick and you’ll stay out of trouble yourself…

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