YES, THAT IS Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder playing in old-school, 35mm 3D at Cinema 21 this week. No, it's not a post-millennial up-convert. Red-and-blue glasses were all the rage in 1954 when Hitch made Murder, and ever the master showman, he embraced the trend. The director was always a huckster whose gimmicks and thrills gave even schlockmeister William Castle (The Tingler) a run for his money. Between his infamous walk-on cameos in his movies and hosting Alfred Hitchcock Presents, no filmmaker was ever in front of the camera as much as Hitchcock. He even showed up in his trailers—you ever see the seven-minute Psycho (1960) promo where he gives a tour of the Bates Motel?
If not, it's on the DVD, and as with many of Hitch's previews, is almost as fun as the movie itself—and a keen way to choose what to rent. Sometimes the approach is more direct. The trailer for Foreign Correspondent (1940) mimics a serious investigative report, while the teaser for Spellbound (1945) treats Hitchcock as a wanted man responsible for the film's crimes against Ingrid Bergman. Surprisingly, there's no mention of Spellbound's central gimmick: an elaborate dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali. Why all the Freudian suppression, man?
Hitchcock wouldn't be so coy promoting Marnie (1964). He would call a cigar a cigar, drolly dubbing Marnie a "sex mystery" as if the very notion of bumping uglies creeped him out a little. It was a smart way to let the youngsters know he was hip to changing social mores while assuring the fuddy-duddies he was still one of them. Whether posing as an ornithologist to sell The Birds (1963) as a scientific lecture or as a gravedigger for his final film, Family Plot (1976), Hitchcock dismantles any barriers between nervous laughter and macabre glee. The message: everyone's gotta go. Might as well go smiling.