Following ‘The Birds’, which was regarded as a success, Alfred Hitchcock could go in a number of directions. Instead of continuing his momentum, he decided to make a low-key psychological drama filled with manipulation. That project came to be known as ‘Marnie’.
Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is a thief who affords her comfortable lifestyle by going from job to job, robbing her employers blind. This hits a snag when she begins work at a Philadelphia publishing company owned by Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). He is intrigued and attracted to her though immediately after she steals a large some from the company safe, he catches her.
Instead of going to the authorities, he forces her to marry him or else he will turn her in. Marnie has no choice, but how long can she stand the captivity? Why does she go into a fit every time she sees the color red and hear a thunderstorm? How can she function as an adult with these debilitating conditions?
This story mainly deals with a lot of dimestore psychology. Marnie’s fears of the color red and thunderstorms are easily explained at the end though it’s a bit of a stretch. The ending is also rather rushed, by the way. Marnie’s mother is over the top. This isn’t a spoiler, but from the first scene, you can tell that their relationship is toxic and has some bad history which may or may not factor into what is going on.
Outside of a few somewhat suspenseful and well-staged moments, this isn’t particularly unsettling. It’s more of a parallel about two compulsive individuals on opposite ends of the social spectrum. Mark is equally sick with his desire to imprison Marnie. Neither character is particularly likable so a certain detachment will likely result between the viewer and the characters’ plights. It would also help if the stakes were a little higher as we know Mark doesn’t actually want to turn Marnie in, he likes this game of control. Perhaps another outside factor (a detective who is onto Marnie?) could have amped things up a bit.
By this point, Hedren was a favorite of Hitchcock. Given the fact that Connery was in the middle of his classic run as James Bond, his presence must have really confused audiences.
Special features include: a discussion about how audiences rejected the film, a trailer, production notes, photos and the cast.
It shouldn’t be as ignored in his canon as it is, but ‘Marnie’ is solidly second-tier Hitchcock. More than anything, it is the exact moment where the master seemed to lose the powerful grip he had on audiences, never to fully regain it again.
Add an extra half star to this review.
Not Rated 130 Minutes 1964