Aug. 13, 2009 -- Today may be the 110th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock's birth, but the fruits of his five-decade long career in film are as fresh as a daisy laid on a newly dug grave.
Across the country celebrations of Hitchcock, who died in 1980, started early and often:
This month, you can see "The 39 Steps" (1935) in New York City, "Dial 'M' For Murder" (1954) in San Francisco, "Rear Window" (1954) in St. Petersburg, Florida or "Psycho" (1960) in Chicago.
You can write a letter to the editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazine and mail it with a specialAlfred Hitchcock stamp.
Or you can watch whole episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" on Hulu.
Other directors would kill to be so relevant.
Nearly 50 years after Hitchcock terrified a generation of future ornithologists with "The Birds", there are reports that a remake is in the works with Naomi Watts signing on to play the role made famous by Tippi Hedren.
Will it top the original?
While some Hitchcock remakes have stood up, both critically and at the box office, others have not. "Disturbia" (2007) directed by DJ Caruso proved to be a "clever" take on the psychosexual classic "Rear Window," others do not fare nearly as well.
Judging by past examples of Hitchcock remakes and homages, filmmakers should consider leaving suspense to the master.
Hitchcock: Redux and Redux
Alfred Hitchcock's films managed to run the gamut of psychological ailments including psychosis, paranoia, deadly obsession and narcissism, not to mention "Vertigo." Pretty modern stuff for a filmmaker who started off making silent films.
In 1927, Hitchcock made a scary splash with "The Lodger", a tale of a mysterious stranger wrongly accused of being a serial killer. The plot proved so effective that it was remade successfully in 1932 and 1944.
In 2009, Hollywood dusted off this chestnut with a new-but-not-so improved version, according to critics. Despite having been made by acclaimed director David Ondaatje and starring a first-rate cast, this remake was deemed "plodding," "clodding" and 'ninety minutes of my life I'll never get back" by critics.
"Dial 'M' for Murder" starring Grace Kelly was such a smash, it was even showcased in 3-D. Attempts to recreate its stylish intrigue were not as thrilling.
While a 1981 made-for-TV version starring Angie Dickinson was actually nominated for an Emmy, it was the 1998 remake "A Perfect Murder" starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Douglas that really attempted to snag some Hitchcockian suspense.
The movie was a financial success, earning over $65 million at the box office but received lukewarm reviews such as, "more competent than it is pleasurable" and "stylish... but emotionally vapid."
The Most Wretched Remake?
"Psycho," the intensely creepy tale of a secretary on the run who makes the unfortunate decision to shower at the Bates Motel is considered one of Hitchcock's best and certainly one of his most influential. Homages to this horror classic can be found from "Scream" to "The Simpsons".
In 1998, director Gus Van Sant directed a shot-for-shot remake of the 1960 film, starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche. This experimental take was eagerly anticipated and then almost universally panned. Critics called it "unintentionally bizarre" and "awful".
Film critic Roger Ebert seemed to sum up the attempt to recapture Hitchcock's skin-crawling atmosphere by merely reproducing it frame-by-frame thusly, ""The movie is an invaluable experiment in the theory of cinema, because it demonstrates that a shot-by-shot remake is pointless; genius apparently resides between or beneath the shots, or in chemistry that cannot be timed or counted."
So do yourself a favor and watch the originals at home or better yet, on the big screen.
It's what Mother would want you to do.