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The Secret History of Hollywood Podcast

A while back for my previous job I had to drive from the office near Manchester, down to London, and then back again after a couple of days.  Rather than sitting through the same songs on my iPod during the journey, I thought I would search for a decent podcast to listen to.  The previous time I had made a similar journey I had listened to an audiobook of Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' and although it was a great listen I was up for something for cinema themed this time round.  Having searched through iTunes, I came across 'The Secret History of Hollywood.'  The 'Universe of Horrors' episode in particular caught my eye, and although the 7 hour run time would put many off, it was exactly what I was after.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the podcast's examination of the role of the monster movie in the rise of Universal studios really caught my imagination and led me to buy and watch the first two Frankenstein films (1931 and 1935) as well as their loving comedy spoof, Young Frankenstein (1974).  I wasn't disappointed, and would recommend you picking up a copy of either, as well as either of the many other Universal horror films examined during the podcast.  It was a great listen, and really got me through the bum-numbing journey there and back.  Harking back to Hollywood's golden era, and the films and stars that built a studio, the episode was brilliantly engaging and excellently presented.  Rather than jumping from one film to the next, it does so by telling a story.  From the birth of Universal studios and the lives of those involved, I couldn't help but be fascinated by it all.  So much so in fact that I spent my Halloween this year at a special screening of the Spanish version of Universal's Dracula, 1931.  Filmed overnight on the same sets as the US version for a Spanish audience, the crew would watch the dailies from their American counterparts and attempt to better it.  Subsequently, their slicker turnaround time and innovative camera shots resulted in a version that is widely considered superior to the more famous version of the same year.
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A few weeks later when I had another long journeys to make, I immediately went straight back to the same podcast and downloaded the follow up: The Adventures of Alfred Hitchcock.  The three episodes clocked in at around 15 hours, but it was worth every minute again.  I was already a big fan of the director going in to the podcast.  My mum had sat us down to watch Dial M for Murder (1954), and I was always interested in the idea of having to spot him in each of his films when I was younger.  Eventually I saw 1960's Psycho and have always thought of that as one of the best horror films ever made.  Vertigo (1958), The Birds (1963), Rear Window (1954), Strangers On a Train (1951), North By Northwest (1959) and the technical audacity of Rope (1948) each blew me away , and Hitchcock immediately became one of my favourite directors.  His revolutionary way of shooting films, and his technical tricks were fascinating to listen about (and if the idea of that alone interests you, I recommend you watch the man talk at length about it himself in the 2015 documentary: Hitchcock/Truffout).  The genius of his direction is certainly explored in The Secret History's of Hollwood's podcast, but equally so was the dissection of the complex personality behind them all.  Hitchcock was a notoriously strange man to work with, particularly if you were an attractive blonde female named Tippi Hedren.  Some films have tried to delve in that side of the man (The Girl, 2012, and Hitchcock, 2012), but neither with any real success.  Across its very long run time though, The Adventures of Alfred Hitchcock had the time to start from the very beginning and leave no stone unturned in painting a thorough picture of the man, as well as the director.  As much of a genius as Hitchcock was, and as entertaining a personality as he could be, there was certainly a dark side to him that made very interesting listening.
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Unfortunately the Universal horrors and Hitchcock episode have now been removed from iTunes, but I will be keeping an eye on their twitter for updates on whether they're to be released again.  In the meantime, you can join me in listening to the Bullets and Blood episodes.  They are still currently available to download free on iTunes, or listen to on the website.  I'm half way through the first episode and am really enjoying it.  The series tells the story of the Warner Brothers film studio, and one immigrant family's journey from poverty to major players in the movie industry.  The second episode looks like it will focus more on the company's reliance of the gangster movie genre (much as the Universal episodes detail that studio's birth of the monster movie), but for now the family's rags to riches tail has been fascinating.  As ever, the voiceover work is excellent (he sounds strangely like Tom Hiddleston, so I can't help but picture that the whole time!) and really bring the people and tales to life.  I appreciate the length of the episode can be daunting at times, but if you have a long car journey to take, a boring commute, or you can get away with it at work, then a very strongly recommend you give it a listen.


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