Here, the BFI’s label, ‘Dead Funny’, fits perfectly: this is a comedy about a corpse found in the autumnal countryside, and the responses of the locals who encounter it. After the money earned for them by his recent films, Paramount wisely allowed Hitchcock the modest budget required for this pet project, in contrast to Universal’s later sad refusal to let him film Barrie’s Mary Rose.
Biographer Taylor calls the film “frankly, a self-indulgence.” Pushing the comedy of ironic understatement to an extreme, Hitchcock saw it as “the most English of his American films;” the corpse is played by English veteran Edmund Gwenn, 25 years after he starred in The Skin Game.
Two extra reasons to revisit this film: the early role for Shirley Maclaine, and the score by Bernard Herrmann, first in a sublime series.
This film is screening as part of The Genius of Hitchcock: Part Three (February 2nd – 27th), which is part of a complete retrospective of the filmmaker’s work running until March 2013.