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Alfred Hitchcock (1899 - 1980)

Related: film - Bernard Herrmann - thriller

Titles: Rear Window (1954) - Psycho (1960)

Hitchcock often dealt with matters that he felt were sexually perverse or kinky, and many of his films aimed to subvert the restrictive Hollywood Production Code that prohibited any mention of homosexuality. [May 2006]

Psycho (1960) - Alfred Hitchcock [Amazon.com]


Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was a British film director closely associated with the thriller genre. Influenced by expressionism in Germany, he began directing in England, and worked in the United States from 1939. With more than fifty feature films to his credit, in a career spanning six decades, he remains one of the best known and most popular directors of all time. His innovations and vision have influenced a great number of filmmakers, producers, and actors. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock [Dec 2004]


Hitchcock's films draw heavily on both fear and fantasy, and are known for their droll humour. They often portray innocent people caught up in circumstances beyond their control or understanding. This often involves a transference of guilt in which the "innocent" character's failings are transferred to another character and magnified. Another common theme is the exploration of the compatibility of men and women; Hitchcock's films often take a cynical view of traditional romantic relationships. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock [Dec 2004]

Hitchcock loved to eat. One unrealized film idea was to show twenty-four hours in the life of a city, with the frame being the food: how it was imported and prepared and eaten and then at the end of the day thrown away into the sewers. Hitchcock did set his film Frenzy in the part of London where food arrived, was processed and distributed. The killer found himself and one of his corpses in a truck with sacks of potatoes.

Once, toward the end of a small private dinner party with meager portions, Hitchcock heard his hostess say, "I do hope you'll dine again with us soon." Hitchcock replied, "By all means. Let's start now."--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock [Sept 2004]

Sex and Death
Hitchcock would repeatedly return in his films to the notion that sex and death are linked. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock [Aug 2004]

Erotic horror
Erotic death has been an art theme long before movies were invented. An example of what we would call erotic death is the dramatic theme made popular by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho. Millions of people paid to watch a naked woman being stabbed to death and her nude body handled and manipulated. That theme has been repeated thousands of times, before and since, in film, literature and art. Hitchcock went on to produce Frenzy, another movie featuring the nude bodies of strangled female victims. More modern movies showing nude female bodies would include Sudden Impact, Silence of the Lambs, and even a recent episode of NYPD Blue --Hank and JohnM


Although Hitchcock was an enormous star during his lifetime, he did not rank highly with film critics of his own day. He never received an Academy Award, despite being granted the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in 1967. The French new wave critics, especially François Truffaut, were the first to promote his films as having artistic merit beyond entertainment. Hitchcock was one of the first directors to which they applied their auteur theory, which stresses the centrality of the director in the movie-making process. Indeed, through his fame, public persona, and degree of creative control, Hitchcock transformed the role of the director, which had previously been eclipsed by that of the producer. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock [Dec 2004]


Hitchcock preferred the use of suspense over surprise in his films. In surprise, the director assaults the viewer with frightening things. In suspense, the director tells or shows things to the audience which the characters in the film do not know, and then artfully builds tension around what will happen when the characters finally learn the truth.

Vertigo explores more frankly and at greater length his interest in the relation between sex and death. Kim Novak's character is most attractive as a blonde, and though Jimmy Stewart's character believes she is suicidal (he later discovers the real truth about her), he falls in love with her and she with him. Stewart's character feels an angry need to control his lover, to dress her, to fetishize her clothes, her shoes, her hair.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock [Aug 2004]

The aberrant woman

Alice, in Blackmail, is regarded as the first of Hitchcock's aberrant women, an idea more famously explored in later films such as Psycho(1960), Under Capricorn(1949) and The Birds(1963). Sylvia in Sabotage also fits into this mould.

Alice is a fickle character. She becomes involved with Crewe, the artist, after having a trivial argument with her boyfriend Frank and then flirting with Crewe as a form of revenge or rebellion. David Sterritt, author of The Films of Alfred Hitchcock implies in his book that Alice's trivial and fickle character is a product of Hitchcock's misogyny. Certainly it is implied that Alice's sexuality is the catalytic element that disturbs the status quo, both Frank and Crewe are motivated in the film by the influence of Alice's sexuality. Robin Wood describes it in his book Hitchcock's Films Revisited, 'Frank wants to control and contain it, Crewe to exploit it'.

But in Hitchcock's films where there's sex, violence will inevitably follow. Sexuality and violence are intrinsically linked, a woman's sexuality, and the effect it has on the male, usually leads unavoidably to a violent denouement. This is the case in both Sabotage and Blackmail, as it is in practically all of Hitchcock's films. --Matt Pearson in http://www.britishfilm.org.uk/XQ/asp/art.hitchcock/page.4/QX/page.htm

Brian De Palma [...]

Brian De Palma has been called everything from a rip-off merchant to the most visually interesting director working in films today. I tend towards the latter viewpoint myself, but there is no denying his plagiarism of Hitchcock's masterworks. Sisters (often called Blood Sisters), more than any of De Palma's films, proves how talented the man is, and it's my own favourite Brian De Plasma flick. Utilising a Bernard Herrmann score (remember that it was Herrmann who provided Psycho's chilling musical accompaniment), and some astounding use of split-screen techniques, the director adds his own spin on Hitchcock's Rear Window (with a couple of nods in the direction of both Psycho and Vertigo for good measure). Both Carrie and Dressed to Kill were well-received by the critics, but Body Double and Raising Cain had the critics frowning upon the director's visual ventriloquism once again (Cain does have a cult following though). Snake Eyes (1998) reveals that De Palma hasn't lost his mastery of the camera, but his directorial flourishes aren't enough to sustain a whole movie these days. --Noel O'Shea

Rear Window (1954) - Alfred Hitchcock

Rear Window (1954) - Alfred Hitchcock [Amazon.com]

Rear Window (1954) is a motion picture directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on Cornell Woolrich's short story "It Had to Be Murder" (1942). It is considered by many filmgoers, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best and most thrilling pictures. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rear_Window#Analysis [Dec 2005]

Film theorist Mary Ann Doane has made the argument that Jeff, representing the audience, becomes obsessed with the 'screen', where a collection of storylines are played out. This line of analysis has often followed a feminist approach to interpreting the film. It is Doane who, using Freudian analysis to claim women spectators of a film become 'masculinized', pays close attention to Jeff's rather passive attitude to romance with the elegant Lisa, that is, until she crosses over from the spectator side to the screen, seeking out the wedding ring of Thorwald's murdered wife. It is only then that Jeff shows real passion for Lisa. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rear_Window#Analysis [Dec 2005]

Voyeurism is something of a clichéd plot device in cinematic fiction, for instance in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyeurism#Voyeurism_in_fiction [Dec 2005]

Since its birth, but most explicitly since the 1950s, the cinema has played with surveillance, voyeurism, and the power of the gaze, often in cautionary tales that conjure up the specter of totalitarianism, and also through meta-references to the movie camera's own complicity with institutional voyeurism. --Andrew Hultkrans via Surveillance in the Cinema via http://www.stim.com/Stim-x/7.1/SurvFilms/SurvFilms.html [Dec 2005]

Voyeurism, by definition, is the obsessive observation of sordid or sensational subjects, often sexual in nature. Renowned director Alfred Hitchcock further popularized voyeurism in what is considered by many to be his greatest film, Rear Window (Paramount, 1954). --Joe Winters via http://www.horror-wood.com/peep.htm [Dec 2005]

Psycho (1960) - Alfred Hitchcock

  1. Psycho (1960) - Alfred Hitchcock [Amazon.com]

    At last--a great American movie available on video for the first time in its original aspect ratio. For all the slasher pictures that have ripped off Psycho (and particularly its classic set piece, the "shower scene"), nothing has ever matched the impact of the real thing. More than just a first-rate shocker full of thrills and suspense, Psycho is also an engrossing character study in which director Alfred Hitchcock skillfully seduces you into identifying with the main characters--then pulls the rug (or the bathmat) out from under you. Anthony Perkins is unforgettable as Norman Bates, the mama's boy proprietor of the Bates Motel; and so is Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, who makes an impulsive decision and becomes a fugitive from the law, hiding out at Norman's roadside inn for one fateful night. Psycho gets the masterpiece treatment it deserves on DVD, with extras including newsreel footage surrounding the making and release of the movie; an archive of production stills; the special trailer in which Hitchcock (acting as one of the original Universal Studio tour guides) himself leads viewers around the Bates place; credit designer Saul Bass's original "shower scene" story boards; posters and advertising materials for the movie's William Castle-like publicity campaign (No One Will Be Seated After the Feature Begins!); and a 90-minute documentary on the making of the film! What more could any movie fan possibly want? --Jim Emerson for amazon.com

    Noel O'Shea review
    From the opening shots of Alfred Hitchcock's seminal masterpiece Psycho, it is clear that the director sought to suck the viewer into the world of Marion Crane and Norman Bates; the aerial tracking shot seems to pause momentarily, and pick a window at random, suggesting that the room's occupants could be just about anybody - even you or I - and their identities are not really that important in the film. These are ordinary people getting on with their lives, but Psycho holds a reflective mirror up to the dark side of their/our souls (there are many scenes with mirrors in the film). It is a film about universal guilt - everybody harbours guilt of one kind or another in the film - and how two seemingly very different personalities can be drawn together because of this guilt (Marion and Norman, because of their 'secrets' based on sex - Marion's affair with a married man, Norman's murder of his mother and her lover after finding them in bed - are two sides of the one coin). The graphic shower murder itself led to a plethora of inferior 'splatter' horror films, from which the genre has yet to recover (I'm not sure how many Fridays fall on the thirteenth over the next hundred years, but rest assured, Jason Voorhees will be on hand to celebrate every last one of them!). Hitchcock's film also introduced the serial killer to modern cinema, and who can measure the extent of that influence?! No filmmaker has ever matched the power of Hitchcock's masterpiece, they've just piled on the gore in the service of scare tactics; there is nothing in modern cinema to match the untimely demise - and in such a shocking fashion! - of Psycho's lead character one third of the way through the film (this is what scared audiences the most: after spending 30 minutes identifying with Marion, egging her on when she steals the money from the boorish fat cat, agreeing with her when she resolves to give it back, and then to be slaughtered right after her decision! The most telling shot is the close-up of the money left on the drawer - the $40,000 means absolutely nothing now, it has no value, and will be thrown away). The true brilliance of Psycho lies in its distillation of extremely complex ideas within a wholly commercial framework. --Noel O'Shea

    Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - Alfred Hitchcock

    1. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - Alfred Hitchcock [Amazon.com]
      Alfred Hitchcock considered this 1943 thriller to be his personal favorite among his own films, and although it's not as popular as some of Hitchcock's later work, it's certainly worthy of the master's admiration. Scripted by playwright Thornton Wilder and inspired by the actual case of a 1920's serial killer known as "The Merry Widow Murderer," the movie sets a tone of menace and fear by introducing a psychotic killer into the small-town comforts of Santa Rosa, California. That's where young Charlie (Teresa Wright) lives with her parents and two younger siblings, and where murder is little more than a topic of morbid conversation for their mystery-buff neighbor (Hume Cronyn). Charlie was named after her favorite uncle, who has just arrived for an extended visit, and at first Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) gets along famously with his admiring niece. But the film's chilling prologue has already revealed Uncle Charlie's true identity as the notorious Merry Widow Murderer, and the suspense grows almost unbearable when young Charlie's trust gives way to gradual dread and suspicion. Through narrow escapes and a climactic scene aboard a speeding train, this witty thriller strips away the façade of small-town tranquility to reveal evil where it's least expected. And, of course, it's all done in pure Hitchcockian style. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

    Hitchcock Spoofs

    1. High Anxiety (1978) - Mel Brooks [Amazon US]
      An affectionate homage more than a spoof of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Mel Brooks's hilarious movie is one of the funniest modern comedies around. Brooks plays a psychiatrist with a severe fear of heights who moves to the Bay Area to take over a psychiatric hospital after its former head mysteriously disappears. He must contend with the resident psychiatrist (Harvey Korman) and the twisted resident nurse (Cloris Leachman) as they plot against him, eventually framing him for murder. While on the run, Brooks teams up with the alluring daughter (Madeline Kahn) of the missing doctor to solve the mystery and confront his own fears. Containing some classic sequences and cowritten by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog), who appears briefly as a too-touchy bellhop in a Psycho-shower-scene takeoff, High Anxiety is a thoroughly enjoyable romp from one of the masters of comedy today. --Robert Lane, Amazon.com

    Frenzy (1972) - Alfred Hitchcock

    Frenzy (1972) - Alfred Hitchcock [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Alfred Hitchcock's penultimate film, written by Anthony Shaffer (who also wrote Sleuth), this delightfully grisly little tale features an all-British cast minus star wattage, which may have accounted for its relatively slim showing in the States. Jon Finch plays a down-on-his-luck Londoner who is offered some help by an old pal (Barry Foster). In fact, Foster is a serial killer the police have been chasing--and he's framing Finch. Which leads to a classic Hitchcock situation: a guiltless man is forced to prove his innocence while eluding Scotland Yard at the same time. Spiked with Hitchcock's trademark dark humor, Frenzy also features a very funny subplot about the Scotland Yard investigator (Alec McCowen) in charge of the case, who must endure meals by a wife (Vivien Merchant) who is taking a gourmet-cooking class. --Marshall Fine for Amazon.com

    Spellbound (1945) - Alfred Hitchcock

    Salvador Dali, Backdrop for Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound, 1945.

    Spellbound (1945), a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, tells the story of the new head of a mental asylum who turns out not to be what he claims to be. It stars Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov and Leo G. Carroll.

    Hitchcock also brought in artist Salvador Dalí to conceive certain scenes of mental delusion, which Selznick hated.

    Although much of Dalí's work was used, one dream sequence depicting Bergman turning into a statue of the Greek goddess Diana was cut. There has been a lot of fan interest in restoring this material, but the footage apparently no longer exists (there are, however, some production stills of the sequence). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spellbound_%281945_film%29 [Jul 2005]

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