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13 Hitchcock Films That Were Never Made

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Even legendary directors like Alfred Hitchcock don't always get their way. Over the course of his illustrious career, Hitchcock had to abandon quite a few projects due to budgetary concerns, issues with stars, the whims of studio heads or, in some cases, his own instincts that the film wasn't going to turn out the way he had envisioned it.

On what would have been The Master of Suspense's 117th birthday, let's take a look at a few of the legendary auteur's unproduced projects, including the one that studio execs hated so much, they made Hitch sign a contract promising he wouldn't make it.

1. NUMBER 13

This silent 1922 feature for Gainsborough Pictures was set to be Hitchcock's directorial debut. The film was to star Clare Greet and Ernest Thesiger in a script written by "a woman working at the studio who had worked with (Charlie) Chaplin." Hitchcock only filmed a few scenes before the budget fell through, and the script is now lost. The film of the few completed scenes is also lost, possibly because the studio melted it down to recycle the film's silver nitrate. Don't worry too much about missing out on this one, though; Hitchcock later admitted, "It wasn't very good, really."

2. NO BAIL FOR THE JUDGE

Hitchcock spent the early part of 1959 preparing to adapt Henry Cecil's novel of the same name into a film starring Audrey Hepburn. On May 19th of that year, though, Hepburn dropped out of the project, with some sources saying she was reluctant to do a film so soon after delivering a child, and others claiming she refused the part when she found out her character was involved in a rape scene. The project died when Hepburn backed out, and although Hitchcock was privately livid, he regrouped nicely by making Psycho instead.

3. THE BLIND MAN

In 1960 Hitchcock and legendary screenwriter Ernest Lehman began to work on a script called The Blind Man about a blind pianist who regains his sight after receiving an eye transplant from a murder victim. Hitchcock envisioned Jimmy Stewart in the lead role, and one of the film's main scenes was to be set in Disneyland. That's where the trouble started; Walt Disney had seen Psycho and truly hated it. Disney reportedly wouldn't let Hitchcock shoot in his park, so the project died.

4. HAMLET

In the late 1940s, Hitchcock hit on an odd idea: He wanted to produce a modernized version of Hamlet set in England with Cary Grant in the title role. According to Hitchcock, the project "would be presented as a psychological melodrama." The idea hit the rocks after Hitchcock's studio, Transatlantic, announced the project and a professor who had written a modernized version of Shakespeare's tale threatened a lawsuit.

5. FLAMINGO FEATHER

In 1956, Hitchcock bought a story called Flamingo Feather from South African author and diplomat Laurens van der Post. The plot involved a Russian scheme to train South Africans for nefarious Communist purposes. When Hitchcock went to South Africa to scout shooting locations, though, the project quickly fell apart. The director wanted Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly as the leads, which would be pricey, and he felt he needed 50,000 African extras. Hitchcock didn't love the look of the country's terrain, and it became apparent that even in South Africa it would be tough to get together 50,000 extras when most of the country's population worked long hours at farming jobs. Hitchcock later said, "It was all so confusing that I dropped the whole idea."

6. MARY ROSE

Toward the end of his career, Hitchcock frequently mentioned an unproduced 1964 film called Mary Rose whenever he was asked about his professional regrets. In Hitchcock's amazing book-length interview with François Truffaut, he describes the project as "a little like a science fiction story" and details the plot, which involves a woman who hears celestial voices and mysteriously vanishes at odd intervals.

Hitchcock put a lot of thought into this project—he even explained to Truffaut exactly how he would light certain scenes and tried to talk the French director into making the film—but the ghostly supernatural elements of the film were a non-starter for studio execs. Hitchcock revealed in another late-career interview, "Do you know, it's written specifically into my present contract that I cannot do Mary Rose?" Hitch could allegedly make any film he wanted as long as he kept the budget under $3 million—and didn't make Mary Rose.

7. R.R.R.R.

In 1965, Hitchcock hired the Italian writing duo Age and Scarpelli—perhaps best known in America for their screenplay for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly—to pen a script about an Italian immigrant to America who rises in the hotel world, then sends for his Sicilian family. Unbeknownst to the hotelier, his relatives are a pack of thieves. Eventually the sticky-fingered family tries to swipe a valuable coin collection from the hotel; the title comes from numismatic jargon. Hitchcock told Truffaut, "I dropped the project because it seemed to be shapeless. Aside from that, you know that Italians are very slipshod in matters of story construction. They just ramble on."

8. THE THREE HOSTAGES

The Three Hostages is another of the unsuccessful projects at which Hitchcock took a crack after making Marnie. The film was an adaptation of John Buchan's 1924 novel of the same name in which a government plans to crack down on a criminal gang on a certain date. The gang catches wind of the plan and kidnaps three children to regain some leverage against the government.

Hitchcock announced the project, but he ended up eventually abandoning it over difficulties in obtaining the screen rights and concerns over the script's reliance on hypnotism as a plot device. He later said, "I feel you cannot put hypnotism on the screen and expect it to hold water. It is a condition too remote from the audience's own experiences."

9. KALEIDOSCOPE/FRENZY

In 1969, Hitchcock planned to make a triumphant comeback after a string of films that received middling commercial and critical reactions by making Kaleidoscope (also referred to as Frenzy), a grisly tale of a serial rapist and murderer. The film was set to feature a handsome young killer who lured women to their death; Hitchcock considered it a prequel to his 1943 tour de force Shadow of a Doubt. The script included some elements—including necrophilia and the use of acid baths to dispose of bodies—that Hitchcock had pulled from newspaper reports about notorious British criminals.

Hitchcock actually shot an hour or so of silent test footage, but Universal nixed the film as it didn't think audiences would warm to a sex- and murder-filled flick that featured a serial killer as its protagonist. Hitchcock was irritated about having to abandon the project, but he revived a few plot points and one of the working titles when he made 1972's Frenzy, a serial killer tale that may have been the director's last great film in spite of a decidedly mediocre cast.

10. THE SHORT NIGHT

Hitchcock's final project before his death in 1980 was The Short Night, an espionage picture based on a Ronald Kirkbride novel and set in Finland. Hitchcock made it as far as considering Walter Matthau, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Catherine Deneuve, and Liv Ullmann for the lead roles, but Universal squashed the project in 1979 due to the director's failing health.

11. GREENMANTLE

Hitchcock had such great luck with his adaptation of John Buchan's novel The Thirty-Nine Steps that when it came time to direct a follow-up, he decided to go back to the well with an adaptation of Buchan's novel Greenmantle. Hitchcock wanted to pair Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the lead roles, but Buchan's estate wanted too much money for the screen rights. Hitchcock eventually realized his dream pairing of Grant and Bergman with the 1946 classic Notorious.

12. THE BRAMBLE BUSH

Hitchcock spent part of 1951 adapting David Duncan's novel into a screenplay. The story involved a Communist agitator on the run from the authorities who steals another man's passport, only to learn that the man is wanted for murder. Hitchcock eventually decided "it wasn't any good," and he abandoned the idea to work on a project to which Warner Bros. had just purchased the rights: the Broadway hit Dial M for Murder.

13. THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE

Hitchcock always wanted to do a movie with Gary Cooper. He offered Cooper the lead role in Foreign Correspondent only to have the star turn it down because it was a thriller; Joel McCrea ended up memorably playing the part instead. In 1959, though, Hitchcock had another shot when MGM optioned the rights to the novel The Wreck of the Mary Deare for a Hitchcock-Cooper collaboration.

Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman spent weeks working on the script, but they eventually decided that the story really became a snooze of a courtroom drama and shifted their focus to the early planning for North by Northwest instead.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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