Alfred Hitchcock's "Suspicion"


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Ark and I decided to watch another movie... yeah, I know, "stop the presses!" We don't usually have the time and it often takes us two or three sittings to see a whole movie since we can't stay awake...

I picked out Suspicion thinking that it wouldn't be too long but it wouldn't have mattered because pretty quickly I realized that Cary Grant, playing Johnnie Aylesgarth - a "charming but irresponsible" man - was actually giving a great performance as a true psychopath a la Hervey Cleckley.

Joan Fontaine was equally good as the psychopath's victim, constantly shoving things under the rug, thinking she could fix things no matter how awful they were, and so on.

The movie starts out very light and sunny, though clues about Johnnie are given right at the beginning. An early scene, at the top of a hill, is an early "chill," though the revelations proceed so gradually that you almost don't notice it until it is too late. It all seems like a story about a common ne'er-do-well.

Grant "plays at" being charismatic and ambiguous, but for a person familiar with the signs of psychopathy, it is not difficult to see through him. What is difficult is to realize how many people would view such behavior as harmless. But all the main characteristics of the socially adept psychopath come out little by little and I can't help but think that Hitchcock knew exactly what he was doing but had to be very subtle about it. After all, when "The Bad Seed" was produced, based directly on the work of Cleckley, in 1956, the subject was considered so shocking that all kinds of weird effects were utilized to let everyone know it was "just a play." In "Suspicion," Johnnie Aylesgarth is just Rhoda Penmark all grown up.

The ending of Suspicion was something of a surprise to me at first because it seems as though it is suggesting that Joan (as Lena McLaidlaw, heiress), has suddenly realised that the terror she has come to feel regarding her husband was just fabricated in her imagination. But, knowing the true nature of the psychopath, you know that isn't the case.

When Johnnie gives his explanation - undoubtedly another lie as has been everything he has said throughout the movie - she buys it just like she has bought every other lie. I then realized that the so-called happy ending wasn't. For anyone who had been really paying attention to all the clues that the movie presented, who had noticed that Johnnie couldn't do anything but lie, and lie repeatedly and creatively, the ending could only mean one thing: Lena had fallen for the lies again and when the car turned around, she was choosing lies over truth and death over life.

In a way, it was like the ending of the play version of "The Bad Seed." In the play, Mommy dies and Rhoda survives to kill another day. "What will you give me for a basket of kisses," Daddy asks. "I'll give you a basket of hugs!" Curtain.
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