Think you’ve seen it all, Alfred Hitchcock fans? No, you haven’t. Just out on tape are the most obscure entries on the master’s resume: Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache, two half-hour propaganda films made during WWII and intended to glorify the French Resistance. Made in London (Hitch left Hollywood for his homeland to help Britain’s war effort) and employing French casts and crew (all uncredited, since many of them had relatives still active in the underground), the films were apparently meant to be shown in occupied France-although how and to what audiences is unclear. What is clear is that the British Ministry of Information, which commissioned the films, had cold feet upon seeing the final products — which they labeled inflammatory — and barely distributed them. Instead of uncomplicated heroism, the ministry got murky tales of paranoia — in short Hitchcock films.
Overwritten and underproduced, Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache are nothing like the rich toffee Hitch was turning out back in America. Ironically, though, their brief length makes them play as distillations of the director’s lifelong themes of distrust and deception. Bon Voyage tells the same escape story twice: once from the point of view of a naive young Scottish POW who flees Vichy France with a Polish ally, and once from a French intelligence officer who reveals to the POW the skulduggery behind the escape. Aventure Malgache, set in Madagascar’s French colony, shrugs wearily as it reveals how some men naturally choose moral right while others just as naturally choose evil. While bravura camera setups are few — there just wasn’t the time or money — unexpectedly droll touches prove that this most controlling of directors could make movies on the fly. Career footnotes are rarely this compelling. Bon Voyage: B; Aventure Malgache: C+