Maintaining a thoroughly creepy demeanor was part of Alfred Hitchcock’s image. It sent the tone for unease and tension whether he was giving a cameo in his own films or introducing the weekly TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”
The full extent of his predatory creepiness, though, was something he kept from the public and wasn’t fully known until biographer Donald Spoto began zeroing in on his obsession with blondes, his penchant to put them in peril in his films, as well as his unwanted advances and sadistic reprisals if there was rejection.
That was the story of Tippi Hedren, whom he plucked from obscurity to star in his follow up to “Psycho,” “The Birds.” In the scenario that unfolds in the movie version of their encounter, “The Girl” (HBO, 9 p.m.), premiering tonight, he spent time to help her acting and introduce her to films before he signed her to a seven-year contract and began on “The Birds.”
When she rejected his vulgar advances, though, he allowed way too many takes of live birds thrown at her in the attic scene in brooding retaliation. It’s a stark tale scarier psychologically than the story in the original film, and “The Girl” does a good job in reenacting detail of the era and the place (though it was shot in South Africa instead of Northern California).
Casting is the key to HBO movies and Sienna Miller is just right as Hedren, the blonde with the steady moral compass. Toby Jones is quite good too as Hitchcock, matching the famous profile thorugh prosthetics, but matching the memorable voice thorugh sheer skill.
The film feels flat because there is little dramatic arc: She took his abuse for a while before she didn’t. And when she left, he made sure she couldn’t work in Hollywood for years. Still, the movie underscores the creepiness and suspense of Hitchcock films and laces it with a twisted psychology. (A longer review I wrote for Salon.com appears here).
If the Hallmark Channel ever did a version of “Hangover,” it would probably be something like “I Married Who?” (Hallmark, 9 p.m.), in which Kellie Martin wakes up from a pre-wedding bachelorette party to Vegas to find herself married to completely different person, a movie star. Now she’s in tabloids and chased by paparazzi even as she strives for the anullment. The actor’s manager tries to keep the union going; the publicity is good for movie ticket sales. Eventually, well you know what happens.
As vaguely entertaining as the trifle would be, it’s undercut by Martin as the ingénue – she’s a little old and plain in the part. Would a vain movie star fall for her? More difficult to believe is that she was “a blast” when they were drunk together; the movie doesn’t let us see any of that though.
There’s some interesting casting deep in here though: Vicki Lewis of “NewsRadio” as a ditzy receptionist; and Timothy Bottoms for just a few seconds as an eccentric dad. The guy was in “The Last Picture Show,” for goodness sake.
Also new on cable is “A Nanny’s Revenge” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.), in which a woman seeks to avenge a contractor responsible for her parents death. How can it be possibily as good as the 2008 “Fab 5: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal” (Lifetime Movie Network, 8 p.m.) with Tatum O’Neal?
Elsewhere, it’s Jodi Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Walz and John C. Reilly in “Carnage” (Starz, 9 p.m.), directed by Roman Polanski, and Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale in “Contraband” (Cinemax, 10 p.m.).
A ghostly bride haunts a wedding on a new “Bedlam” (BBC America, 9 p.m.).
College football takes over prime time again with Kansas State at West Virginia (Fox, 7 p.m.), Florida State at Miami (ABC, 8 p.m.).
Earlier, there is all manner of college football, including, at noon, Virginia Tech at Clemson (ABC), LSU at Texas A&M (ESPN), Purdue at Ohio State (ESPN2, Minnesota at Wisconsin (ESPNU), Iowa State at Oklahoma State (FX) and Pennyslvania at Yale (NBC Sports Network). A little bit later, it’s Wake Forest at Virginia (Fox, 12:30 p.m.).
The games at 3:30 p.m. include Stanford at California (Fox), North Carolina State at Maryland (ESPNU), Indiana at Navy (CBS Sports), BYU at Notre Dame (NBC,), Texas Tech at TCU (ABC), South Carolina at Florida (CBS), Nebraska at Northwestern (ESPN2) and UNLV at Boise State (NBC).
Tonight’s cable games include Alabama at Tennesse (ESPN), Middle Tennessee State at Mississippi State (ESPN2), North Carolina at Duke (ESPNU) and Marshall at Southern Mississippi (CBS Sports), Late night games include Utah at Oregon State (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.) and San Diego State at Nevada (CBS Sports, 10:30 p.m.).
It’s a night of courtesans on Turner Classic Movies with “Camille” (8 p.m.), “Gigi” (10 p.m.), “Madame Du Barry” (midnight), “The Tales of Hoffman” (1:30 a.m.) and “Lola Montes” (3:45 a.m.)
Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples perform on a new “Austin City Limits” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).
Bruno Mars is one of those rare hosts of “Saturday Night Live” (NBC, 11:30 p.m.) who also serves as musical guest.