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Reviews — March 14

Mar 17, 2014


DVD

The question that comes to mind during the panoramic tracking shot that opens Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 comic thriller “The Lady Vanishes” was, “How did he do that?” It occurred to me afterward that the same question might easily be asked about the entire film; Hitchcock here is a magician, tricking you into not looking at or listening to clues that might reveal what’s really going on.

As the film opens, a European hotel fills with customers. Some are unimportant; others are essential; you won’t know at first. That’s the point. They board a train, and an elderly woman traveling with a younger one vanishes, and even though she was seen by virtually everyone aboard, they all deny she even existed. What would you do?

When Americans think of Hitchcock, they tend to recall his Hollywood blockbusters – “Psycho,” “The Birds,” “North by Northwest,” etc. But remember, before Hitchcock came to the U.S. in 1939, he made nearly two dozen films, and “The Lady Vanishes” is one of the best. The hotel sequence is a bit of a drag, but once that train leaves the station, hang on. They didn’t call him “Master of Suspense” for nothing.

“The Lady Vanishes” (1938) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa, Lynn and Corin, all actors), Paul Lukas, and Dame May Whitty. 97 minutes. Unrated.

­— David Bates/News-Register

BOOK

Alois Podhajsky, who won a bronze medal in dressage at the 1936 Olympics and went on to head the program that trains the famous Lipizzaner stallions, is a wealth of knowledge about all things equestrian. Such a wealth, in fact, that his instructional, entertaining memoirs fill several volumes — “The Complete Training of Horse and Rider,” “My Dancing White Horses” and “The White Stallions of Vienna,” among them.

In the classic “My Horses, My Teachers” — translated from German, in which it was titled “My Teachers, the Horses” — he reminisces about some of the many, many partners he had in his never-ending quest to learn to be a better rider and riding instructor.

Throughout the book, he stresses the critical importance of teamwork and mutual respect. “If the rider tries to see in his horse more than some sort of equipment for sport, if he tries to understand his nature and study his character, then the animals will reward his master with willing cooperation and an absolute devotion,” he writes. “The horse in close association with man will develop his mental abilities and grow in personality.”

A well-trained horse also will develop a stronger physique and better control of its muscles and movement, he said.
He tells of Nora, for instance, a “big and rather coarse” mare whom other trainers had rejected. Noticing her “lovely, expressive paces” and her walk, which was “smooth and of great impulsion,” Podhajsky took her on. After 18 months of training, judges were calling her “exquisite.” Together, they won honors such as placing in the top three at the 1934 Concours de Dressage, a meet that attracted the best horses from all over Europe.

Podhajsky tells how Nora and other horses taught him what no human instructor could: How to sit correctly in order to aid the horse with its movements and tell it what to do next; how to use the reins as a guide only, not a lifeline; how to treat a partner to get the best results.

Sometimes horses tried to throw him; sometimes they refused to move forward; one pressed him against the railing of a rickety bridge to get its message across. With every gesture, without needing words, he says, they taught him lessons that made him a better rider and better man.

“My Horses, My Teachers,” by Alois Podhajsky, 1967, published by Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung.

­— Starla Pointer/News-Register

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