Festival puts a Hitch in your plans 

If we didn't know better, we'd swear he planned it this way. Alfred Hitchcock, the beloved, bejowled maestro of the macabre, would have turned 100 years old this Friday -- that's the 13th, for those not keeping as watchful an eye on their calendars as their cutlery drawers.

The mischievous Hitch would likely be amused that he's become even more of an icon of fright after his death than he was in life. He's something of a spiritual godfather at Universal Studios Escape, which celebrates this weekend's spooky centennial by unspooling 13 (that number again!) of the director's works at its Loews Universal Cineplex 20 theaters.

The selections showcased in "Hitchcock 100: The Master of Suspense Film Festival" range from refurbishings of pedigreed classics to exhumations of lesser entries. The three-day marathon begins with a Friday-afternoon screening of 1956's "The Man Who Knew Too Much," Hitchcock's own remake of the kidnap drama he lensed before coming to America in the early 1940s. Before the weekend is over, audiences will have viewed a restored print of 1958's dizzying "Vertigo" and thrilled to midnight showings of the immortal "Psycho" (the one without Vince Vaughn) and "Family Plot."

"Family Plot?" The 1976 comedy chiller that's widely recognized as an ignominious capper to the master's career? Apparently, being universally derided isn't the same thing as being derided by Universal.

The recently opened Cineplex will be decked out in Hitchcockian regalia for the occasion, including a wall of historical memorabilia provided by Universal Pictures. Outside the theater, a statue will be erected that depicts the director in one of his most famous poses: acting as an involuntary roost for the avian stars of "The Birds." Dead or alive, he can't turn down a good cameo.

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