Happiness can be found from the most unexpected things. Case in point: in Paris I found two Hitchcock movies. I grabbed one, wasn’t sure about the other one and started looking for other candidate DVDs (“buy 3 DVDs? get 30% off”).
By the time I’d walked round the shop the other Hitchcock was gone. Turns out the customer in front of me had bought it.
Not that it mattered as I found out today, when I was giving Waltzes From Vienna an IMDb score: it turns out I’ve now seen ALL the British talkies by Hitchcock. (Well, either I’ve seeen them or I own them.)
So why is Waltzes From Vienna the odd one out? Why is that movie not as available as the others?
Maybe because Waltzes is – you’re sitting down, right? – a romantic musical. Not the sort of film people expect from old Hitch (well, young Hitch at the time).
And it shows that the director isn’t on familiar grounds. Some of the comedy elements just don’t work.
But do not despair: talent can always help a water-absorbing ship from drowning.
Talent n°1: Hitchcock. While this isn’t a thriller, the climax of the movie does use thriller elements and you find yourself really being pulled into the film. Sure enough, Hitchcock had an eye for where to put his actors/actresses and the movie looks great. Throw in the occasional experiment: just look at how Rasi is running towards the camera after Strauss Sr refuses to play her song. (Yeah, you see a cut, but it’s an experiment, right? And the idea was good.)
Talent n°2: Rasi (short for Therese) is played by Jessie Matthews. Though we’ve forgotten about her (which we shouldn’t have), she was a good actress in the 30s and 40s. She had a nice voice and she was the first actress to play Victor/Victoria.
Waltzes From Vienna is a movie about Johann Strauss Jr, who isn’t loved by his father (no talent, that boy) and in love with Rasi, the baker’s daughter. He composes his works for her and one of those compostions is heard by a countess, who thinks he’s a good choice to put her poem to music. That poem: “Die blaue Danube”.
The count had father Strauss in mind, but old Strauss is too stubborn. A complete scheme is put into work to make old Strauss arrive late at a concert and young Strauss (who by now had given up music due to supposed lack of talent and had gone to work in the bakery) to conduct his composition in front of an audience.
Much to the dismay of Rasi, who believes the countess wants her lover mainly for romantic interest.
Definitely not a bad movie, but certainly not one of the Hitchcocks you must see.
Unless you want to see how the master can cope when he’s directing a genre that isn’t familiar territory, if you like to see how the young Hitchcock still tried to sneak in the odd experiment to learn the trade and/or if you don’t want to miss an opportunity to see a movie starring Jessie Matthews.