Alfred Hitchcock decided to torture Tippi Hedren again soon after The Birds with this little psychological thriller from 1964 also starring Sean Connery.
The film sees Hedren play Marnie, a thief who changes her identity for every heist. When she is finally caught by Connery's suave publishing company owner, the film takes a weird turn as he decides to tackle her deeply rooted psychological problems himself and help her resolve them. Armed with a brilliantly erratic score by maestro Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock puts these two characters, who could not be more different, together and lets us sit there uncomfortably as both of them reveal darker, somewhat unsettling sides to themselves. Hedren is at her best here, displaying a nervous bitterness which comes out in short, yet significant bursts. Meanwhile, Connery oozes with charisma but, throughout the film, his character reveals something of a controlling, fetishist side to him as he literally forces Marnie into marrying him. He even goes as far as believing he can help cure her of her intimacy issues and her repulsion of men by making love to her, which turns out to not be such a grand and morally sound idea, shockingly! I mean, in a way the guy means well by trying to help a sick person not go to jail for the rest of her life but you do sense that he is also getting off on all of this somehow, enjoying the power he has over her and abusing it using blackmail. So the more you think about it, the more twisted this character seems. Someone should be helping him with his psychological discrepancies! This 007's not well, not well at all...
Like Psycho, Marnie opens as a thief movie but develops into something completely different and increasingly unsettling. That said, the tension of Marnie's early crimes remains for most of the film as her victims could show up at any moment and get her sent to prison. Also, Mark's (Connery) former sister-in-law always looks enamoured with him so you always expect her to sabotage his random plan any second. These two's quietly flirtatious relationship suggesting a past affair and forming something of a cooky love triangle. The film builds up to a pretty tense, pretty insane climax in which we finally see what drove Marnie nuts all these years as she finally has something of a breakdown. This is one of those Hitchcock films that's actually far better than you remember it if you've only seen it once. In fact, it's quite probably one of The Master's best: taking the psychological spirals of Vertigo, splicing in some of Psycho's sexual repression and adding in a dash of The Birds' subdued mystery, Marnie is every bit as odd and dramatic as you'd expect but it's the film's decidedly dark undertones which elevate it to a more modern, unnerving thriller. Plus it's beautifully made and acted, as ever.
While not always lumped in with some of Hitchcock's more popular films, Marnie remains a gem that's well worth revisiting. The dynamics between a sexy and kinda creepy Connery and a frigid, nutty Hedren are worth it alone. This is an odd, fascinating, nail-biting little movie by a director at the top of his game who's clearly having a ball making you squirm in your seat, putting sick thoughts into your head.