Tippi Hedren stars as the titular dame, a compulsive thief (with a penchant for dying her hair) who freaks out every time there’s a lighting storm or whenever she sees the color red. Sean Connery stars as her boss who catches Marnie with her hand in the cookie jar and blackmails her into marrying him. He tries to figure out what makes the no-good lying and thieving chick tick and eventually falls in love with her.
There are a lot of Alfred Hitchcock’s trademarked themes are at work in Marnie. The scheming blonde, the overbearing mother, the domineering husband, etc. all figure prominently into the plot. While this patchwork of ideas might have made for a classic, the problem is that the story is too thin to sustain its overlong running time. Essentially, the film often feels like a two character play as Connery constantly dogs Tippi into remembering her bleak past.
Marnie’s story maybe one-note, but at least the performances anchor the flick and keep you watching. Hedren is quite good (especially whenever she goes into Freak Out mode) and Connery is excellent at playing a cold-blooded bastard. I also had fun spotting a fresh-faced Bruce Dern (also in The Master’s Family Plot) popping up in a small but pivotal role.
Since the film is basically just a bunch of scenes where Connery forces Marnie to remember a bunch of shit, it leaves little room for Hitchcock to work his cinematic magic. The scenes where the screen turns red whenever Marnie wigs out was cool, although it seemed more like a William Castle gimmick than something you’d expect from Alfred Hitchcock. There was also a decent scene where a frantic Marnie had to shoot her horse, but my favorite part was after she robs a safe. Marnie goes to leave and notices a cleaning lady in the same room, so she takes great pains to sneak around her without being heard. Then afterwards, we learn that the cleaning lady turned out to be deaf! If the flick had more black comic moments like this one, it would’ve rocked. I still like it quite a bit though.
Hitchcock (who makes his usual cameo while walking through a doorway) made Torn Curtain next.