If you don’t start dramatically prancing around your living room before recklessly tossing your body onto the nearest piece of open furniture while crooning in the lustiest, huskiest voice you can muster after watching Marlene Dietrich perform “The Laziest Gal in Town,” smack dab in the middle of Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (video below), then switch the movie off immediately.
Stage Fright clearly has nothing to offer you. Stick with Psycho.
For months now, MG and I have regularly observed a Friday night tradition of homemade pizza and movie-watching at Chez Tv Food and Drink. It’s become such a ritual that I generally start mentally nominating film contenders and potential pizza toppings as early as the Wednesday before. All the necessary ingredients are in-house by Thursday night, and if the selected film can’t be found via DVR search or on the living room shelves, an expedition to local DVD retailers is commissioned until the required title is smoked out and bagged.
And all of that happens before I even get to the cleaning of the house. The living room must be in perfect order. Throw pillows appropriately placed. Stray books, sneakers, and electronic gear stowed away. Aquarium cleaned and filled. Glass tabletops free of all smudges and rings. Curtains opened so the lights from the balcony candles are able to reflect their charm into the window panes. Ipod turned on to the “Cocktail Hour” playlist featuring over 500 of my favorite lounge tunes, exotica, and Bond soundtracks.
And my OCD goes double for the kitchen. Countertops must be scrubbed down and free of any unnecessary appliances. Dirty dishes are washed, dried and put away. Cutting boards set out along with all appropriate knives and the rolling pin for the pizza dough. By the time MG arrives from work, I have the entirety of that night’s pizza built and ready to hit the oven. Then together we count three, hoist up the pie via the slice of parchment paper underneath, and transport it onto the pizza stone, which has been heating in the oven at 500°F for no less than thirty minutes. Once the oven door is kicked closed, I make our drinks and we head to the living room to discuss the day for the next 12-18 minutes until it’s time to slice up our dinner, kill the lights, and start our movie.
Pizza and a Movie night – hardly a new concept, though I don’t know if anyone in the history of Pizza and Movie Nights has taken it as seriously as I do.
There wasn’t more behind the decision to make Greek Pizza this past week beyond a half-full jar of kalamata olives taking up valuable refrigerator door space. I had purchased them specifically to make a Mediterranean burger recipe that most certainly did not result in a resounding “Opa!” from me. And since, aside from the green ones I toss into my martinis, I don’t use olives for anything, the kalamatas had to go! They added a nice salty touch to this pizza, but I wouldn’t recommend more than a 1/4 cup, well-diced and spread evenly over the top. They are a potent force, and too much can completely overrun the flavor of the pie.
Along with the feta cheese, spinach, tomatoes and fresh rosemary, I dressed the pizza up with chopped pancetta because I can’t imagine ever making a pizza that doesn’t include some form of meat product. The sauce was my standard homemade habanero (recipe below), which, if you prefer less heat, can be made without the single pepper inclusion. Most of the sauces I found in what were claiming to be “authentic” Greek pizzas were for some reason, mayonnaise-based, something I had no interest in even giving a shot.
The movie selection had a little more thought behind it. Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright is a mostly-forgotten film, and it’s not entirely undeserved. Neither total thriller nor total mystery, swaying unevenly between light-heartedness and tense character conflicts, and with a performance from Marlene Dietrich that wipes co-stars Jane Wyman, Richard Todd and Michael Wilding immediately from all memory banks, this feels more like a re-charging of Hitchcock’s batteries on his way to helming the brilliant Strangers on a Train, which immediately followed this film.
Wyman plays Eve Gill, an aspiring acting student at England’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art who goes undercover as a maid working for famed actress-singer Charlotte Inwood (Dietrich) in an attempt to unmask her as true culprit in the murder of Inwood’s husband, for which Eve’s boyfriend (Todd) is currently under suspicion.
Despite its unevenness in tone and pacing, there are several memorable elements in Stage Fright. Most notably is the wonderfully-shot flashback that occurs in the first twenty minutes of the film. To say anything more would be giving away a vital plot point, but if you intend to see this movie and want to go in completely unbiased, stay away from any and all reviews, as this flashback is almost always the first thing mentioned, and often, lambasted.
Unfortunately, the debate over the merits of this flashback has overshadowed so many other satisfying “Hitchcockian” moments in the film, including a taut climax in the prop catacombs underneath a vacant theatre house, an innocent young boy scout tricked into taunting Charlotte with a bloodied kewpie doll, and a scene-stealing turn from horse-toothed character actress Joyce Grenfell as a shooting gallery attendant inviting one and all to “come and shoot some lovely ducks!”
And then… there is that musical number.
The Greek pizza definitely surpassed the film in terms of artistic success. There was a nice balance between salty and tangy, crumbly and smooth, and each bite put a different ingredient – pancetta, feta, rosemary, olive – to the forefront. By contrast, the movie we paired it with was repetitive and a little bland in places, while charming and enthralling in others. Much like Dietrich’s musical number, there’s a bit of sleepy indifference that Stage Fright is never quite able to escape.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach
- 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated (or if you’re cutting the cheese into slices, as I did with the pie in these pics, you want just enough for a one-laer canopy over your sauce, spinach and tomatoes. Don’t worry – there’s more cheese to come!!)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, diced (their flavor is potent, so the amount you use is entirely up to you. I went on the low end and found that it was more than enough for me)
- 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled fine
- 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese (this really isn’t necessary, but it adds some terrific color)
- 3/4 cup pancetta, chopped
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
You could also add in 1/2 cup of sliced red onions and 1/2 cut of chopped oil-packed sun dried tomatoes. Some chopped green bell peppers would add some great color as well.
Preheat your oven and pizza stone at 500°F for at least thirty minutes. Spread the olive oil over the edges of your pizza dough to get that nice golden brown hue when it’s fully cooked. Spread your sauce thinly and evenly, and then add your baby spinach and your tomatoes, followed by the mozzarella, cheddar, olives, feta and pancetta. Top with black pepper, red pepper flakes and rosemary. Cook for 11-14 minutes or until edges of the crust are crispy brown and the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned as well.