A Fistful of Tags

AH uses tags at the end of many of his films–a parting shot to send the audience on its way. These are invariably comic: the wry close-up of Hannay’s handcuffed wrist as he takes Pamela’s hand at the close of The 39 Steps; the “goodbye” kiss at the end of Spellbound; the snubbing of the new stranger–a clergyman–that concludes one version of Strangers on a Train; the mother-in-law gag with which To Catch a Thief finishes.A clergyman snubbed

RW ends with a multitude of tags, as befits a film with so many narrative threads. Miss Torso’s man returns from the army–he’s short and chubby and icebox bound. The newlyweds, who have spent the whole movie with their blinds down, now have them raised and are squabbling: the honeymoon is over. Jeff and Lisa’s story, the main thread, has a triple tag: as Jeff dozes contentedly, the camera reveals he now has two broken legs; Lisa, seeing that her man is out, puts down a book about the Himalayaspresumably¬† a concession to Jeff’s interests–and picks up something more to her liking, Harper’s Bazaar; the song the songwriter has been writing throughout the film, and which is now playing on his phonograph, suddenly increases in volume so that we can make out the lyrics and discover the tune is called “Lisa.” The heroine is being serenaded at her moment of greatest triumph.


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