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The Washington Post (20/Apr/1988) - There's Just One Hitch



There's Just One Hitch

As an idea, it ranks somewhere between lame-brained and hare-brained: a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Suspicion," with two dull actors in the lead roles. Perhaps only public television could come up with a thudder like that, and it has; "Suspicion" airs tonight at 9 on Channel 26.

Offered as part of the dubiously precious "American Playhouse" series, the remake was directed by Andrew Grieve and mimics closely the 1941 Hitchcock original, the story of a shy, plain bookworm who marries a worldly bon vivant and then worries she may not be vivant herself much longer. She thinks he wants to murder her.

Not one of Hitchcock's better films, the romantic thriller overcame a flawed premise, mainly because of the casting.

If the woman were such a ninny that she stayed with a husband she suspected of murdering his best friend and intending to murder her, one could hardly root for her. The catch was that the husband was played by Cary Grant, and you could believe his charm was so disarming the woman would throw caution as well as good sense to the winds. And winds there were, whipping over the conveniently located cliffs nearby.

Joan Fontaine played the wary wife well. In the. new version, the part goes to the prosaic Jane Curtin, so attuned to sketch and sitcom rhythms that she keeps giving the impression this is all a spoof. More injuriously, her rascally husband John is played by twittish Anthony Andrews, whose appeal has dissipated to nil in the years since he played Sebastian in "Brideshead Revisited."

He is charmless, and lacks dash. When he calls his bride "monkey face," what's meant to be a term of endearment sounds decidedly anthropological.

Nothing done to "Suspicion" has improved it. A serious depiction of the sexual spell John casts over his wife might have helped make her plight more understandable, but the two barely touch. Naturally, the new version can't compare as a piece of craftsmanship with Hitchcock's show. The cinematography isn't as good, nor the settings, nor the acting, nor the musical score. Franz Waxman did the alluringly Gothic original; Larry Grossman's new version lacks even the vague implication of foreboding.

Perhaps this "Suspicion" was meant as Hitchcock homage. In an early scene, Andrews peruses a book about Hitchcock and the great director makes a cameo via a still photo. In Hitch's "Suspicion," the climax was anticlimactic; wife Lina realizes that John is not, after all, homicidal. He's just an elegant rat. Hitchcock said later he wanted the husband to bump the wife off but the studio wouldn't allow such tarnish on Cary Grant's image.

Advance word indicated that this new edition would grant Hitchcock's wish posthumously. It isn't spoiling anything to say that it doesn't. The thing just sort of sputters over a hill and drops dead.

Barry Levinson, who produced the film, wrote the adaptation with Jonathan Lynn. Levinson made the baldly delightful films "Diner" and "Tin Men." The new "Suspicion" appears to have been a kind of extracurricular activity — the kind that should be discouraged at every opportunity. Even colorizing the old "Suspicion" would be less insulting than this.

In short, it may be possible to prepare coq an vin in a microwave oven, but the question is, why should one try?