The Films of Alfred Hitchcock
lfred Hitchcock made some of the most iconic films of all time. Suspenseful, full of intrigue, romance and scandal, he frightened, fascinated, and terrorized audiences over a long and successful career. He also worked with some of Hollywood‟s most glamorous and likable stars, from Grace Kelley and Jimmy Stewart to Cary Grant and Laurence Olivier. He gave us a fear of bathtubs and then of showers. He made solitary walks in the country sinister, transformed birds into villains, and gave us the finest collection of bad guys
the silver screen has ever seen, from the empathetic to the nefarious. His characters were never what they first appeared to be, always more than we thought, and quite often shocked us with their sudden shifts in behavior. He introduced us to lonely boys running remote motels, clever jewel thieves, depressed ex-policemen suffering from vertigo, spies on the run, cases of mistaken identities, crimesolving teenagers, priests protecting someone else‟s secret, and more blonde heroines than you‟d find on a beach in California. Hitchcock is known for taking chances that at times paid off and sometimes didn‟t. His films are all unique but have similar characteristics. He liked using some of the same actors multiple times, and was a master of “the power of suggestion,” often getting around the restrictive “moral movie codes” of the time in unexpected ways. He constantly pushed the envelope but knew when to hold back. Fearing Psycho would be too gruesome in color, he chose instead to film it in black and white. But he also tackled taboo topics such as homosexuality, crossdressing, and psychotic behavior. He shocked us with Marnie, scared us with Psycho, and stunned us with the ending of Vertigo. Hitchcock was a perfectionist, a bit of a madman behind the camera, and employed some interesting tactics to get wonderful performances out of his cast. Some looked back on him with fondness, others with a mixture of anger and bitterness. Some of his films he considered masterpieces, others he dismissed as muddled messes… but each has something to say about society, the director, and humanity. From exotic locations to remote motels, from the macabre to the humorous, once you‟ve seen a Hitchcock film, you‟ll never forget it. ■
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One Spy to Another The 39 Steps
I Dialed M For Murder 4
The Plot is Afoot The Lady Vanishes
6 8 10 12 14
Honor & Priestly Vows I Confess
North by Northwest
The Perfect Crime Strangers on a Train
The Father of All Spy Thrillers
From One End to the Other Rope
A Very Strange Love Affair Notorious
Watching the Neighbors
Shadows & Guilt Rebecca
Psycho / Marnie
Horror in Flight The Birds
era doesn‟t really matter. Hitchcock‟s Hannay visits a London music hall where gunshots are heard and general panic ensues. In the mayhem, Hannay acquires a lovely young woman with a German accent who pleads for his assistance. What else could a gentleman do but take her home? It also helps that she has a gun. To make a long story short and so I don‟t give away all the details, this woman is killed for information she‟s trying to protect about a naval secret. She gives Hannay a name before dying and he heads to Scotland in the hopes of finding some answers and stopping the Germans from their nefarious plot against England.
By Carissa Horton can‟t name the first Hitchcock movie I ever saw. I‟ve loved him for so long it‟s impossible to say where my obsession began. But I can name the last one I watched: The 39 Steps. Being #20 in the holds list at my local library for Psycho sort of bumped it
off my article possibilities list and I haven‟t watched The Birds in so long that I wouldn‟t have been able to do it justice anyway. Plus, it might be too macabre. So the idea was presented to me for a comparison between Hitchcock‟s 39 Steps and the 2008 film starring Rupert PenryJones. Why not? Thus began my examination.
The story of The 39 Steps is of a Londoner, Richard Hannay, who finds himself unexpectedly embroiled in German espionage in England during the 1st world war. Unless we‟re talking Hitchcock, then he‟s a Canadian tourist to London and it‟s a precursor to the 2nd world war. You say po-ta-TOE and I say po-TA-toe. The
The best part about the first 39 Steps is how it‟s so classically Hitchcock before he even was that classic Hitchcock. When distributed in 1935, he was a relative unknown at this juncture. But the movie still has everything that made Hitchcock such a fantastic director. Prone to the innocent man in a world of trouble motif, the character of Richard Hannay was his very first attempt at that theme. Cinematically, the movie is very much in the mid1930s with a semi-decent budget yet he still managed to film some incredible cinematography that is very much in keeping with his style.
Take, for example, the scene on the train. Yes, Hitchcock has always loved trains, from The Lady Vanishes to Strangers on a Train. This is another of his motifs he used more than once. There‟s a scene where Hannay‟s hanging from a train car while desperate and evil men pursue him. While the scene might not be much by today‟s standards, the special effects were stellar then. I‟m not even completely sure how he managed that scene and I watched it more than once. It might have been a mistake to watch Hitchcock‟s movie first. I found myself comparing practically everything in the new film to the way Hitchcock presented it. That‟s never a good idea because I fear the 2008 film fell short of my expectations. I‟m not sure what I was hoping for but I guess it was another Hitchcock. Admittedly, neither Hitchcock‟s version nor the 2008 version are much like the novel by John Buchan. Each deviates in different ways. For example Hannay encountered more than one woman on his journey and never fell in love with any of them so there was no main love interest as in the 2008 version. He also wasn‟t a visitor from Canada and the person that started the ball rolling by getting murdered in his flat was not a woman but a
man named Scudder which the 2008 version does have and Hitchcock‟s did not. If there‟s one thing to be said for the 2008 version, it‟s that the plot is more cohesive. I did struggle a bit with Hitchcock‟s film, which rarely happens to me. The version with Rupert Penry-Jones felt more manageable as plots go. The characterization of Hannay is a likeable guy made even more likeable when he decides to risk life and limb for king and country. He‟s somewhat disillusioned by his government but this adventure reawakens his patriotic feelings towards England. And that‟s very encouraging. The heroine is charming and the ending, while very
different from Hitchcock‟s, seems to make more sense on an intuitive level. The plot can be more easily followed than Hitchcock‟s. The cinematography is good but not spectacular and I was expecting the latter. After I‟d been so impressed with the setting and filming of Hitchcock‟s version this one was a little bit of a disappointment. The question all boils down to this: what type of movie do you want to watch? If you want the cinematic genius of Alfred Hitchcock his 39 Steps fits the bill perfectly. The lead actor Robert Donat delivers snarky lines with dark comedic timing and he‟s just plain fun from the moment he steals a kiss on the train to the entire last half of the movie where he
and the female lead played by Madeleine Carroll are handcuffed together. This is Hitchcock at a very singular moment in his career, perhaps the moment when he started becoming the Hitchcock audiences grew to love and appreciate for generations to come. Don‟t get me wrong. I‟m not denouncing the 2008 39 Steps. I was entertained and enjoyed the movie. If I‟d seen it first I would have loved it, but being such a rabid Hitchcock aficionado the version I‟m salivating to re-watch has Robert Donat slogging through the Scottish countryside with an angry heroine handcuffed to his side. I guess the snark won me over. ■
why, when even this film toward the beginning of his career can be classified with that term. Being labeled a “master” of something must rely on more than just quantity— quality must be there. Screenwriters of today would do well to study the scripts of films like The Lady Vanishes in order to learn what efficiency in pacing and proper attention to developing each aspect of a story can do for a thriller.
By Rachel Sexton ew filmmakers are as parodied and referenced by later generations as Alfred Hitchcock. This is to be expected, considering the length of his career and the quality of his work. Having never seen any Hitchcock, a moviegoer might be
oblivious to these homages until discovering his impressive output and then the original will inevitably assert it‟s dominance. It is a mark of Hitchcock‟s legacy that even his lesser known films are referenced by others. Such is the case with The Lady Vanishes, one of the best of his earlier movies. One of the
main reasons it has achieved such influence has to be the plot. A fastpaced and engaging narrative is its main strength. Due to the fact that his work was concentrated in that specific genre, Hitchcock became known as the “Master of Suspense.” It‟s easy to see
Examples of this can be found from the very beginning. In a tiny, fictional European country, an avalanche has blocked the railroad tracks and temporarily halted a train journey toward England. Until they can resume their travels the next morning, the passengers all bunk down at a nearby hotel. This provides an excellent chance to focus on characters. Socialite Iris Henderson is returning to London to be married. Iris seems to be joining the journey at this stage because she is already firmly ensconced at the hotel, ordering around the harried concierge with ease. She meets a sweet old lady named Miss Froy and charming music scholar Gilbert Redman. The audience also sees the varied cast of characters who make up the group of passengers: two cricketmad Englishmen, a man and his mistress pretending to be married,
an aristocratic Baroness, and an Italian magician. They are all introduced in the opening sequence at the hotel, and even though the three leads are developed the most by necessity, the rest still leave a memorable impression. Popular in the suspense genre is the subplot of a romance between the male and female leads. The couple who bickers to hide their attraction to each other is a classic story element, and Iris and Gilbert definitely qualify. They meet when she complains to the hotel about the noise his music research is making and has him put out of his room. He cheerfully marches into her room and starts to make himself at home, explaining that he‟ll leave her alone when she gets his room back. It‟s clear that Iris is less than enthusiastic about the prospect of marriage looming in front of her and Gilbert has a cheeky way of ingratiating himself. Building on this promising foundation, when the central mystery kicks in, Gilbert is the only one who believes Iris‟ story and helps her to investigate. Their rapport improves and deepens as a result. When the mystery is resolved and they do reach England, Iris hides from her fiancé, and Gilbert takes the opportunity to tease her in his way and a kiss follows. That‟s pretty much it for the romantic scenes in this
film, yet after it‟s over, the viewer has a sense of it being a major part of the plot. This is another mark of the success of the writing. Of course, all this is aside from the suspenseful thriller that is the main plot. It begins subtly, with just a menacing detail during the opening sequence at the hotel. Miss Froy is listening to a strolling musician outside the window in her room, and we see she‟s paying close attention to the notes. As everyone turns in for the night, the musician is strangled by a shadowy figure. Once the train resumes its slow progress toward England, Miss Froy disappears while Iris is napping. For various reasons, the rest of those on board claim not to have
seen her. Iris is sure something happened and is determined to find her. Without spoiling the details of the villains‟ identity and their scheme, neither Miss Froy nor the musical notes are what they pretend to be. A couple of brief action scenes (a fistfight and a shootout) spice up the proceedings and are quite exciting. A nice little coda wraps up the plot in a way that leaves the audience satisfied. And all this is accomplished in just over an hour and a half of running time! The efficient and engaging plot of The Lady Vanishes emerges as its central strength, which is invaluable for a suspense thriller. When something is this good, later works from others will strive to
emulate or directly reference or parody it. This can apply to even the smallest details. In the film Flightplan starring Jodie Foster, the plot is very similar to The Lady Vanishes, though it involves not spies but petty criminals, takes place on a plane and not a train, and the disappearance is that of the child of Foster‟s character and not an old woman. At one point, a mark left by the child in the fog on one of the plane‟s windows proves Foster‟s story, just as Miss Froy‟s name in the condensation of the dining car window proves her existence. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Alfred Hitchcock would be blessed with immeasurable self-esteem today! ■
nameless narrator speaks to it in a voice-over at the beginning of the film, the longing she feels for it is dragged down by a kind of obligation to it. It‟s a place more spirit than substance that follows you wherever you go: “And finally, there was Manderley… secretive and silent. Time could not mar the perfect symmetry of those walls. Moonlight can play odd tricks upon the fancy, and suddenly it seemed to me that light came from the windows. And then a cloud came upon the moon and hovered an instant like a dark hand before a face. The illusion went with it. I looked upon a desolate shell, with no whisper of the past about its staring walls. We can never go back to Manderley again.”
By Rachel McMillan ast night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” So starts the beginning of Alfred Hitchcock‟s first directorial effort for Selznick and his first American picture, Rebecca (1940), a film closely based on the novel of the
same name by Daphne DuMaurier. Many readers and viewers find this chilling story romantic with all its gothic overtones, its mystery, the haunting deceased figure hovering over a developing relationship, possessing a disturbing housekeeper‟s every waking thought. I‟ve always found Rebecca to be more harrowingly bleak
than romantic, a story about a nameless narrator and her circle doomed to be squelched under the weight of memory; forever in a sort of shadow, never able to escape a person who has gone before. The estate of Manderley, as it scales the Cornwall coast in turreted aplomb, is rather more imprisoning than refined. When the
Physically, perhaps, the second wife of Maxim de Winter (as mentioned, she is never given a name) and Maxim de Winter himself can never return to the homestead, but they are a slave to its memory and the strange happenings therein. Moreover, they are also enslaved to the eponymous Rebecca who still holds the fate of her husband, his new wife and the strong opinions of many from beyond the grave. It‟s interesting Hitchcock began his illustrious career here, as the mastermind of the psychological thriller. Rebecca does nothing if not wreak havoc on your brain and your visual and
emotional senses. Since the Hollywood Production Code of the time forbid the killing of a spouse without punishment, Maxim does not shoot Rebecca as in the novel; rather her death is the result of an accident following a heated and passionate argument. This does not remove, however, the plaguing guilt and palpable shadow that hangs over Maxim‟s head. Not unlike a 20th Century Rochester, de Winter‟s relationship with his much more docile second wife seems a welcome reprieve from melodrama. Indeed, the narrator is so docile, so nameless, and such an everywoman that she fails to espouse the bold characterization of other Hitchcock heroines (Alicia Huberman in Notorious is one example). What the narrator fails to offer in characterization, she makes up greatly in how she reflects and often embodies the feelings, moods and natures of those in her closest acquaintance. She is, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, a “conductor of light.” She allows us to see things for how they truly are as they are painted around her rather blank canvas. Certainly, Hitchcock and his band of writers needed to secure her, as DuMaurier does, as an anchor and a focal point for the action taking place in Monte Carlo and beyond; but importantly, to the audience, she is a bystander as she soaks in the dysfunctional and
downright creepy actions and thought processes of her husband, his sinister housekeeper and the other secondary characters. She remains our guide not only through the central action of the film but through the maze of faded memory. As the presence of Rebecca hangs on for dearly departed life (Mrs. Danvers even keeps her furs and unmentionables intact!), so everything that propels de Winter and Manderley are confined to the memory of Rebecca. This isn‟t quite a grudge, per se, but it is certainly begrudging. This facet of the story—being trapped so wholly in the past that even a timely fire cannot erase the hurt and ache and passion—reminds me so much of that awful, plaguing feeling you get when harboring hate, jealousy or pride. As Rebecca remains, for better or worse, as a hallowed, revered and equally despised figure (beyond the circumstances of her death) so are we often prey to the clutches of what has gone before. I think about how I acted in a certain moment or how I feel I was wronged: surely exacerbating the seriousness of a moment to defend my obsession with it. The same can be said of anger and hurt. Christians are taught, by Christ‟s example, to just let go. Certainly on a chilly autumn night it‟s fun to sink into the world of Rebecca: the glorious mansion, the Cornwall
cliffs, the handsome Laurence Olivier and the pale, fair prettiness of Joan Fontaine. But, theirs is a world so shrouded in the past that it‟s hard for them or the audience to move forward. Literally, this is a film that stays with you, much like the source material would have stayed with its creators when they decided to transpose it to the screen. Harboring obsession, guilt and anger over past wrongs and circumstances makes for needed conflict in a well-spun story such
as this… but, in real life? Shouldn‟t we be forgiving and forgetting? Showing immeasurable grace? Excusing ourselves from the plight of our pasts in order to pave a better future, to rise up and try again? Manderley can be a bit of an albatross, I think. A millstone that can pull us down—as Rebecca does Danvers and Sir Maxim and the like—when there is so much love and life waiting, beyond the ashes and horizon, struggling to break free. ■
thinks she‟s just the one to spy on a group of her father‟s former associates in Rio de Janeiro. They send agent T. R. Devlin (“Dev” for short), played by Cary Grant, to recruit Alicia and escort her to Brazil. (Dev‟s agency isn‟t named, but presumably it‟s the CIA.) Grant is at his most inscrutable and brooding here. Dev is contemptuous of Alicia and her playgirl reputation, yet he finds himself falling hard for her. Alicia is attracted to him as well—not just because of his good looks, but because he represents something better than the life she‟s been living. When she and Dev travel to Brazil—especially after she gets the news of her father‟s suicide in prison— Alicia feels as though she could make a clean break with the past and become again the “nice” woman she used to be. But even as they begin a romance, Dev can‟t forget her history, and thus can‟t believe that she could really change. By Gina Dalfonzo hen you think of Alfred Hitchcock, “romance” may not be the first word that comes to mind. But whenever he tried his hand at directing a romantic film, the master director proved he had what it took. Bringing both his trademark
darkness and his sense of mischief to the task, Hitchcock made romantic dramas that packed a powerful emotional punch. Arguably the greatest Hitchcock romance (with the possible exception of Vertigo) is 1946‟s Notorious. This WWII spy film stars Ingrid Bergman in the complex role of
Alicia Huberman, the “notorious” woman of the title. Alicia is the daughter of a Nazi spy in America. Shattered by the discovery of her father‟s loyalties, and then by his very public trial, she tries to lose herself in drinking and promiscuity. Nonetheless, the U.S. government
A scene in a café in Rio sets the tone. Alicia limits her drinking and claims she‟s “practically on the wagon.” But when Dev mocks her, calling her reformation a “nice daydream,” her face hardens and she orders another drink. They‟re locked in a codependent relationship: Alicia desperately wants to change for Dev, but he won‟t give her any
encouragement, and without it, she feels she can‟t change after all. In the midst of this uneasy tug-of-war, Alicia‟s assignment comes like a bolt from the blue: she‟s to seduce Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), an old family friend, become part of his circle and get all the information she can on their criminal activities. The stage is thus set for a tense spy thriller… and a very unconventional love triangle. Hitchcock attacks this potentially unsavory tale with relish. He uses every trick in his extensive book —including creative use of light and shadow, camera angles, and blocking—to heighten the mood and the suspense. His use of symbolism is brilliant: on the plane to Brazil, as Alicia is talking about turning over a new leaf, we see the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer outside her window. He also gives us some pretty daring material for 1946: when Alicia tells Dev after starting her assignment, “You can add Sebastian‟s name to the list of my playmates,” it‟s quite clear what she means even before we see the pain and disgust on Dev‟s face. Above all, Hitchcock uses two of Hollywood‟s most attractive and talented stars (three, if we count Rains) to sell this dark and twisted romance, and they give it everything they‟ve got. And Hitchcock adds
depth and ambiguity by doing all he can to subvert our expectations and ideas. For instance, many of the “good guys” in the CIA insult Alicia behind her back. When she tells them Alex Sebastian wants to marry her, one remarks gleefully, “Gentlemen, it‟s the cream of the jest,” ignoring the anguish on her face. When they‟re the ones who are, essentially, pimping her out, their scorn for her is truly reprehensible. When Alicia‟s not around, Dev defends her against her detractors. To one agent who refers to her as “that sort of woman,” he retorts: “Miss Huberman is first, last, and always not a lady. She may be risking her life, but when it comes to being a lady, she doesn‟t hold a candle to your wife,
sir, sitting in Washington playing bridge with three other ladies of great honor and virtue.” But to Alicia‟s face he‟s harsh and critical, clearly feeling bitter and betrayed that she went ahead with the job. In stark contrast, Alex, the Nazi spy, is all charm and consideration. Hitchcock is playing with our ideas about good and bad, and who‟s really on which side. This state of affairs doesn‟t last: as the tension builds and Alicia draws near to Nazi secrets, Alex‟s bad side and Dev‟s good side finally come to the fore. (And Alex‟s mother, played by Leopoldine Konstantin, reveals herself as one of the great screen villains of all time.) But one important subversion remains: Alicia, the former
party girl, truly comes into her own as a heroine. As she really does end up risking her life for the cause, we see the girl who didn‟t think she could change without support has become a woman who can do the right thing just because it‟s right, and who therefore can finally have a truly healthy relationship. “This is a very strange love affair,” Alicia tells Dev early in the film as they‟re kissing on her balcony. When he asks why, she answers, “Maybe the fact that you don‟t love me.” She‟ll be proven wrong eventually. But as Alfred Hitchcock delighted in reminding us, the course of true love—or true reformation—never did run smooth. ■
Rope is an example of everything Hitchcock found intriguing about cinema, and is one of the most significant films in his development from director to auteur.
By Tasha Brandstatter uring Alfred Hitchcock‟s long career, he often experimented with cinema and stretched the boundaries of the thriller genre, from innovative sets in movies like Lifeboat, to elevating Bmovie production values
in Psycho. Hitchcock tried to do something new with every film he made. No film demonstrates as much experimentation as Rope, one of his lessfamous pictures about two Leopold and Loeb types who kill someone just to see if they can get away with it. From the storyline to the method of filming
and cinematography, Hitchcock took big chances with Rope, a movie that marks a significant shift between his early films and the ones that have come to define his career (The Birds, Vertigo, Marnie, Psycho). Despite the fact that it was not a box office success, I‟d argue that
Rope takes place entirely in the Manhattan apartment of Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan. They are former prep school buddies, current lovers, and 1%-ers who own a fabulous flat full of modern art and a god‟seye view of New York City. This is appropriate, since they‟ve taken on the role of gods, or at the very least of Nietzsche‟s “superbeings,” by killing a friend for the sole purpose of proving they can. The leader of the duo, Brandon, has little doubt they will get away with the crime, and has planned a “going away” party for David to which he‟s invited David‟s fiancé, her lover, David‟s family, and their old school master, Rupert Cadell. Brandon is particularly anxious for Cadell to attend, as his nihilistic philosophy inspired Brandon to kill, and he wants to show off his success. Sounds cynical, no? Yet Rope is very clearly anticynicism, a critique on Nietzsche‟s ideas of superiority with WWII overtones. Although the subject matter is extremely cynical, it‟s not a depressing or disheartening movie because Hitchcock limits the events to the world of
the film, a self-contained and idealized space. Even though this was Hitchcock‟s first color film, he kept the colors deliberately muted, the only brilliant display of color occurring in the backdrop outside the window as the sun sets over the cyclorama city. One might wonder, viewing Rope, if Hitchcock was afraid of color, but I think he was more afraid of the realism color would imply. He did similar things in The Trouble with Harry and Dial M for Murder. The audience can go to sleep after watching Rope, knowing the events that happened in the film are safely contained in fiction. Also, as with many Hitchcock films, there‟s a grim humor to the tale. David‟s party has the distinct feeling of a wake, with all the characters telling us about him and what sort of person he was, while he lies— unbeknownst to them—in a makeshift coffin piled high with food and punch. Since the camera is placed behind the chest/coffin, it‟s usually in the periphery of the frame, constantly reminding us of the irony of hosting a party for a dead man. Rope was based off a play by the same name, which was based on the Leopold and Loeb case, and while not the only film Hitchcock made after a play, it is the one that feels most play-like. The reason
for this is also the thing that makes it interesting: Hitchcock (the man who wrote the book on how to edit a film to tell a story) shot it in real time. Hitchcock had experimented with this technique before in films like The Lady Vanishes, as had other directors, but all those movies had cuts and periods of missing time or sped-up time. Rope takes place entirely in real time, through a series of long takes, basically filming until the reel runs out, between four and ten minutes a take. This is a very long shot. The average shot is five to fifteen seconds; a twohour film can have over a thousand separate takes. Rope has ten. Because of this, the change between reels can feel awkward.
When the camera zooms into someone‟s jacket and then out for no reason, it‟s because they needed a transition scene to change the film reel. In later years, Hitchcock was dismissive of Rope, calling it a “stunt.” But if it was nothing but a stunt, why‟d he also direct his next movie entirely in real time as well? Perhaps Hitchcock saw real-time techniques as an egotistical indulgence that contributed to the films‟ disappointing returns. Yet in Rope at least, the knowledge of the action taking place in real time heightens the suspense. The true weakness of Rope is actually Jimmy Stewart. This is definitely not one of his better performances,
although that‟s not entirely his fault; his just wasn‟t a good fit for the role of Cadell. Meant to play an elitist pedophile, Stewart‟s too much of an aw-shucks boy scout to pull it off convincingly. When he can‟t deflect the doubleentendres hinting at his relationship with Brandon and Phillip at the end, he simply reverts to overacting. Even with that, however, Rope remains one of Alfred Hitchcock‟s most interesting and innovative films. It had big ideas about cynicism and responsibility, interesting characters, and unusual cinematography. It definitely deserves to be rediscovered by audiences and critics alike! ■
getting one. Bruno is a psychopath who wants his father killed. After striking up a casual conversation, Bruno proposes a perfect remedy to their problems. What if they take care of the other‟s problem? Bruno will “take care” of the adulterous wife and Guy will deal with Bruno‟s dad. It‟s just the most cockamamie scheme for it to work, or so Bruno tries to convince his newfound “friend” and “partner in crime.” But it‟s also the stupidest thing to actually have the guts to pull off, so Guy sweeps Bruno‟s comments under the rug. There‟s no way someone would actually act on the murderous thoughts that parade around in one‟s mind. Until, sure enough, Guy‟s wife winds up dead; she‟s found strangled and the police don‟t have any suspects. It‟s as if the perfect crime was really about to unfold.
By Ella G. ‟ll just go ahead and admit it. I sometimes wonder about how I could plot and carry out the perfect crime. TV shows like Law and Order show you what not to do; movies like Ocean’s Eleven give you plenty ideas on how to carry off, say, a bank heist.
You fantasize of actually succeeding with your mission—no matter how ethically wrong it is—and riding off into the sunset with no one stopping you. Come on. We‟ve all done it once in our lifetime. In 1950, a first time author named Patricia Highsmith penned such a tale: the story of a guy who claimed he could pull off the
perfect murder. Or could he? In the novel, Strangers on a Train, the tale begins innocently enough. Charles Anthony Bruno and Guy Haines are just two men with issues plaguing them. Guy, a successful architect, wants to divorce his unfaithful wife Miriam… but he isn‟t
Only here‟s the thing: when someone sees you as being in their debt, they‟ll call to collect. Bruno isn‟t about to commit a murder for Guy and not get one in return. So he begins to harass. It wasn‟t enough to bug a stranger on a train with incessant, seemingly bizarre talk; now Bruno begins calling and sending constant telegrams and letters, reminding him of Guy‟s part of the bargain. It‟s enough to drive one crazy. Before long, Guy gives in, even though it isn‟t a part of his nature,
and kills Bruno‟s father. But the perfect crime also needs to be perfect in the psychological success. It‟s probably best if one does not feel guilt or else the knowledge of your crime will eat you alive. You begin to act strangely, so strangely people notice that something is amiss. This is what transpires for Guy. A private detective begins to put two and two together (including the first meeting on a train between Bruno and Guy). By the end of the novel, Guy has confessed his guilt to many people, even after Bruno dies in an incident and the murder investigations seemingly die with him. He didn‟t want to be in any way, shape, or form associated with a psychopath; he felt like one as it was. It‟s a fascinating tale, isn‟t it? It‟s a story filled with many layers that seemed perfect for the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. In 1951, he secured the film rights for a mere $7,500 and set about to make an intriguing movie. It wasn‟t an easy process from script to screen (a lot of the gems never are) but having seven screenwriters turn it down takes a giant of Hitch‟s caliber to handle. Casting choices for the film were a nightmare (supposedly, Hitchcock wanted William Holden in the role, but many said he wouldn‟t be convincing. Indeed, Holden is a strong
actor and the character of Guy Haines, is, well, not.) And then, there was the matter of handling the entire premise of the plot. There was “The Code” back in 1951. You had to either get justice for the bad guy in some way or you had to have a good character. There was no other way around it. As the novel stood, you had two murderers: one seemingly got away with it; the other didn‟t have any redeeming qualities. The underlying homosexual undertones probably made it even more difficult for people to cope with such a story. But not for Hitchcock. The famed director found a way to create a fantastic tale. He made Guy Haines an all American boy, a tennis player. Bruno became more of a playboy
psychopath, yet was still a very convincing, creepy psychopath. Underlying “sexual tension” was kept to a minimum. A murder still takes place but the other one is more resolved in not committing murder. Even though the viewer has to know the murderers will not get away with their act, you‟re still on the edge of your seat as to see what will happen. I‟ll never forget the first time I saw Strangers on a Train. I was discovering that I was more drawn to thrillers that didn‟t creep me out and indeed, this film doesn‟t. The music and cinematography play into the usual ambiance that one comes to expect from the director. He has a way of making his films appear to be very realistic.
I definitely don‟t look at talkative strangers the same way anymore, even if I do know the chances of them being psychopaths are slim to none. The movie does tie into the book in a very important way. There isn‟t such a thing as the perfect crime. There never is. Sin will find you out. There are always people watching. While it might seem as if you get away with negative behavior, it‟s only for a fleeting moment. Guy Haines and Bruno Anthony discover the hard way that sometimes, it‟s better to just plan the crime in your head than actually act on it. Actions always have consequences, no matter what a stranger on a train might say. ■
t has been my experience that most of the time when people think of Alfred Hitchcock, almost no one thinks of priests and confessionals when the name of the “master of suspense” is mentioned, yet for me, those are the first things which come to mind when I hear his name. I Confess, from 1953, is my all-time favorite Alfred Hitchcock film. Yes, it is definitely one of his lesser known movies, but since I often seem to walk to the beat of my own drum, it‟s not surprising I‟d prefer it. Filmed on location in Quebec, I Confess stars Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter and Karl Malden. Now, “I confess” that I‟m a huge Montgomery Clift fan; he‟s one of the most handsome men I‟ve ever seen. If he wasn‟t the star, perhaps it wouldn‟t be my favorite Hitchcock movie… but he is… and, thus, it is.
By Patti Gardner
Father Michael Logan sees someone entering the church late one night. He quickly discovers it‟s church handyman, Otto Keller, a German refugee who has been with them for about six months. Otto is distraught and needs to confess. Once Father Logan settles into the confessional, Otto reveals
that he has killed someone. He intended to rob Villett, but when he was discovered and threatened with police involvement, he reacted with violence. After confessing, Otto refuses to go to the police. He knows no one will find out his involvement as Father Logan is bound by his priestly oath to keep silent about anything said in the confessional. Otto acts as if all is well, and goes to Villett‟s house the next morning to tend his garden as is his usual habit, thus “discovering” the body and notifying the police. Later that day, Father Logan visits Villett‟s house and after a brief conversation with Inspector Larreau, he speaks outside with a woman with whom it appears he has a former relationship. When the woman, Ruth, learns of Villett‟s death, she is relieved and says to Michael, “We‟re free.” Since Ruth and Father Logan both claim to have had an appointment with Villett that morning, but neither of them will reveal anything about said appointment, the inspector‟s radar is on alert. And when two young girls claim to have seen a man wearing a priest‟s cloak leaving the house the night before, Inspector Larreau is even more suspicious of Father Logan, and… Logan‟s alibi doesn‟t check out.
Yet throughout the suspicion cast on him, Father Logan remains silent. He will not betray his priestly oath, and Otto knows that. He will not confess to the police. He says that since he confessed to the Father, God has forgiven him and he need do nothing more. He continues on that path even after Father Logan has been arrested and is sent to trial. For Logan to exonerate himself, he‟ll have to either betray his vows… or remove himself from the priesthood. Will he do either of those things? Will he defend himself? What about Ruth? Why are they “free” now that Mr. Villett has been murdered? The questions play out in the balance of this lesserknown Hitchcock, which is a great “discussion piece.”
How important is keeping one‟s word? Does self matter more than duty? Is looking out for “number one” the most important thing we can do? Does the end justify the means? I love movies like this which really cause you to think long and hard about deep, important issues. Not only is I Confess a favorite film, Father Logan (a man of honor and integrity) is one of my alltime favorite characters. In reading Mr. Clift‟s biography, I learned that Monty was greatly excited about this role, because his character was “faced with a terrible crisis.” In preparation, he spent a week at a monastery in Quebec, memorizing the entire Latin mass and learning how to say the rosary and
the Stations of the Cross. Karl Malden said of him, “Monty was marvelous. His ability to project mood and a held-back strength is quite extraordinary—it’s a high point in the film.” For me, Mr. Clift‟s commitment to professionalism yielded an authentic portrayal of a man experiencing a crisis of conscience. He brought every emotion of Father Logan vividly to life. Why not seek out this lesser-known Hitchcock production? It‟s every bit as wonderful as his more famous works and it gets me misty-eyed in the final minutes. It‟s not often that happens in a Hitchcock film, I know, but this one really touches me. I think it might touch you as well. ■
s a writer and historian I love playing the name game. One version starts with a movie or shows that I have seen and I try to remember who directed or acted in it. Sometimes this involves movies that few people on the continent of North America have heard of, like Good King Wenceslas. But sometimes it involves a movie where the director is a master craftsman and the actors illustrious, like Dial M for Murder from 1954 by Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock truly was a revolutionary director for all time, with none today being able to achieve the same level of suspense and candor in the genre of mysteries and thrillers. His Dial M for Murder delivers in every sense of the word, from the rush of adrenaline during the action to the fearfulness that the guilty party will â€œget away with it.â€? He knew just how much to add without distracting from the plot and left audiences with something worth talking about, again and again.
By Caitlin Horton
The story begins simply enough, with famous retired tennis star Tony Wendice and his exceedingly wealthy and beautiful wife, Margot, played by Ray Milland and Grace Kelly. They appear to
be a happily married English couple living in a simple flat but beneath the surface lurks deception, anger, and jealousy. Margot is secretly carrying on an affair with American crimefiction author Mark Halliday, while Tony, who knows of this affair and covets his wife‟s wealth, plots her murder. He will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, even blackmailing his wife anonymously about her affair, then showing the letter to an old colleague who is also a petty criminal, a Mr. C. A. Swann. Swann touches the letter, leaving his prints on it. Tony then threatens that if he doesn‟t murder Margot, he‟ll hand the letter over to the police, who will believe Swann was the blackmailer. He has it all planned out for the evening of the murder, leaving the latch-key hiding under the carpet on the stairs in the outside hall and taking Mark out with him to a Gentleman‟s Club. Swann will let himself in the apartment, hide behind the curtain, and wait for Tony to call Margot. When she comes out to answer the phone, he‟ll attack and strangle her, making it seem like a burglary gone wrong. What Tony can‟t anticipate is during the ensuing struggle Margot will grab the scissors on the desk and stab the assailant, killing him in self-defense. The tables have turned and now Tony must figure out a new plan to get his wife‟s money. He moves items about before the police arrive at the crime scene in
an attempt to frame Margot for killing her blackmailer. Will he succeed and have his wife sentenced to death or will Mark and Inspector Hubbard figure out that something is amiss? It‟d be horrible of me to give away the ending, since it‟s so delightful and well worth any wait from the library. After all, the ending is the best thing about a mystery story, isn‟t it? Hitchcock uses dramatic lighting and Dimitri Tiomkin‟s dramatic score to compliment the mood perfectly. Grace Kelly is as beautiful as always, though to see her in a not-soinnocent role is startling, if not a tad refreshing from her usual sweet self. Ray Milland is a marvelous lead, playing a calm, murderous husband to perfection. My personal favorite is Bob
Cummings, usually known for his humorous nature and gets to play a more serious and well-developed role. The supporting cast, including thirteen appearances by Alfred Hitchcock, is splendid, adding dimension to a story that takes place primarily in one spot, the apartment. One thing not well known about Dial M for Murder is that it was filmed in 3D, something modern audiences are now well acquainted with, but was released in 1954 just as the craze died down. It was primarily shown in 2D and was a success for Hitchcock and his stars, adding to their already illustrious careers. In an age when the flashy hundred million dollar movie filled with CGI is average fare, it‟s amazingly
refreshing to take a trip back in time and watch well thought out older films. Hitchcock managed to tell his stories without green screen or computers and still captivated his audiences with cunning plot twists and turns. It is a high mark that people still love his films, even over modern remakes, and will gather together in front of the TV for a movie mystery night, sharing popcorn and jumping in fright at pivotal scenes. He was a master of his craft, but also liked to entertain people, giving them film that could be reminisced about even 60 or 70 years later. And that is just what I‟ve been doing, hoping to inspire many more movie mystery nights with friend, family, popcorn, and a good Hitchcock thriller like Dial M for Murder! ■
rom the very beginning of Rear Window, you are drawn in, unable to look away. L. B. Jefferies “Jeff” (played by Jimmy Stewart) sleeps in his wheelchair, the result of getting “the perfect shot.” His camera lays on a table near him, broken and twisted, and his leg is in a full cast. He‟s been in this cast in a noisy apartment for four weeks with nothing to do but watch his neighbors and bake in the 90°+ heat wave. He has many neighbors that he watches (and nicknames): a pretty ballerina who likes to dance while scantily clad, a composer who fills his life with noise and crowds but is far from happy, a lonely spinster, and three couples … one newlyweds, one married for a long time with a dog, and the Thorwalds, a bed-ridden wife and an impatient husband. Through watching them live out their daily lives, Jeff has gotten to know his neighbors over these past few weeks, and takes an almost unhealthy interest in them. But it‟s not until he sees the husband of the invalid yelling at his wife, then taking trips out of his apartment late at night By Carol Starkey
that Jeff begins to suspect something more sinister may be going on. The next day, he voices his opinion to his physical therapist, Stella (played by Thelma Ritter), then to his girlfriend, Lisa (the lovely Grace Kelly), and though he has to convince them, it‟s not long before they believe him. He watches the apartment of Thorwald every day, who acts more and more suspiciously. In addition to his three trips in the middle of the night in the rain with his sales case, he quickly boxes up his wife‟s things and cleanses the apartment of her presence. At this point, Jeff calls his friend, Detective James Doyle (Wendell Corey). Doyle listens to Jeff and Lisa, but dismisses them quickly. Eventually, they manage to convince him that something is going on over there, though Doyle only investigates halfheartedly. Determined to catch Thorwald, Lisa eventually sneaks to his apartment for evidence. She finds what she„s looking for, and in so doing, gives away Jeff‟s identity. The last few minutes are masterful, full of suspense and drama. But in the end, all is put right with the world and the ending is satisfactory, even a bit ironic.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and the suspense leading up to catching Thorwald before he found out who was watching him but what I really loved was its character development. With suspenseful films, so often the goal of the movie is to solve the riddle and character development, at least for all but the main characters, is cast aside. But I was rooting for Miss Lonely Hearts to find love, for the musician to find meaning in his life, and when you finally find out who the ballerina loves, you cannot help but smile. Each person, from Stella
to the couple who sleep on their balcony then run inside when it rains, is fleshed out. When Miss Lonely Hearts goes out in search of love and brings back a scoundrel, Jeff and Stella watch with a sick feeling in their stomachs, helpless. And when she tries to commit suicide, he actually calls for emergency help. While the ballerina entertains many men, she refuses to commit, and when you finally meet her true love, you are thrilled for her. She has settled for love, not looks.
The couple who like to sleep on the balcony have a dog (later killed by Thorwald), but they get a new one in the end, and she especially loves that dog and cares for it as though it were her child. These stories and others are woven seamlessly into the movie, spied through Jeff‟s binoculars and his camera with its extended lens. And while the primary story is of Thorwald and his wife, that story would be dull without all the supporting characters. It‟s no wonder this film has lasted through the years! ■
a hand to help him but ends up falling to his death. This incident forever scars Scottie and he ends up retiring from his job due to the emotional and psychological damage he suffered from watching his partner die. As a result, he develops a fear of heights and vertigo, as well as bouts of depression and anxiety. His ex-fiancée and best friend, Midge, keeps telling him the officer‟s death was not his fault, something Scottie refuses to accept.
By Shannon H. or those who have endured painstaking heartache at the loss of a spouse, fiancée, or romantic interest, the grief is indescribable. The emotional pain increases when the loved one commits suicide and the
grieving lover feels responsible for not preventing it despite the circumstances. Sometimes the pain goes away after time or with therapy, and at other times the pain will continue to grow within a person, festering inside until something terrible happens. It‟s a great story that definitely has the
Alfred Hitchcock touch. San Francisco detective John “Scottie” Ferguson and a fellow officer find themselves chasing a criminal on a couple of rooftops. Scottie falls between two buildings and hangs by a drainage pipe. The officer helping him quits the chase and offers
Meanwhile, Scottie‟s college friend, Gavin Elster has something for him to do. Gavin‟s wife, Madeleine, has been acting strange lately. He has reason to believe she is possessed by one of her ancestors, a woman named Carlotta, as she frequents the art gallery where Carlotta‟s portrait is hung. Gavin tells Scottie to follow Madeleine to check on her. Scottie is skeptical of these claims at first, but continues to follow Madeleine around from place to place. He notices a trend in her routine; she goes to a flower shop, heads for the art gallery, and goes to a cemetery to place flowers on Carlotta‟s grave. Then, one day, out of the blue, she goes to the San Francisco Bay and jumps, in a suicide attempt. She is saved by Scottie. Some time later as the two of them finally talk to one another, she admits that she can‟t remember the suicide attempt. As the
two of them spend more time with each other, Scottie is drawn to Madeleine despite her emotionally instability. The closer they come, the more she becomes mentally detached. When Madeleine succeeds in killing herself, Scottie is depressed and feels guilty that he couldn‟t save her, despite it being impossible for him to do. Things take a turn for the worse when Scottie meets a woman who looks exactly like Madeleine and the line between love and obsession become blurred as he is desperate to turn his new girlfriend into someone else. He also learns that things he knows aren‟t necessarily always what they seem to be. Vertigo is well done for its time, including the use of contrasting light and dark. Alfred Hitchcock didn‟t make a horror film but a suspense drama with unpredictable turns in every direction. It is mesmerizing and at the same time, shocking. In previous films James Stewart either played the token nice guy or a protective family man. In Vertigo, he portrays a lovelorn, emotionally devastated man who crosses the line between love and obsession. His fascination with Madeleine takes a dark and evil turn that not even his friend Midge can help him out of. Seeing James Stewart portraying a madman is shocking and disturbing
compared with his earlier works, which is probably why when it was released, Vertigo was considered a cinematic disaster. In the years since, however, fans and critics alike consider it one of the greatest films of all time. Vertigo is classic Hitchcock, on par with many of Hitchcock‟s more famous and successful works. It‟s more than just a film; it‟s a study in obsession and the human mind. In a way, Scottie and Madeleine share common ground. Both of them have personal, emotional demons that should be dealt with by a mental health professional. According to her husband, Madeleine feels she‟s possessed by the spirit of Carlotta, an ancestor, to the point of copying Carlotta‟s Victorian hairstyle and being obsessed with the woman‟s looks as if she were mourning the woman‟s death. When Scottie loses Madeleine for good, he becomes obsessed with her, even going as far as forcing his new girlfriend to
dress and act like her to the point of smothering her emotionally. One could argue that love makes people do strange things but for those dealing with mental issues, it might cross the line between reality and fiction when they turn a blind eye to good judgment. Based on the novel, D’entre les Morts by Boileau-Narcejac, Vertigo is a disturbing thriller, but in a good way. Its characters are complex in
nature and their development is well done, especially in the case of Scottie who goes from nice guy to psycho boyfriend in pursuit of the woman who took her own life. Alfred Hitchcock didn‟t overdo himself but he did just fine in creating a story with characters driven by their emotions rather than reality. It‟s a great film, especially for students of psychology. ■
have a long-held affinity for glossy, suspenseful, romantic caper/ spy-themed films. As a fan of Hitchcock, I gravitate toward his 1950sera works, all color, gloss, romance and shadowy intrigue. It‟s hard to pick a favorite, but North by Northwest comes close. With the cast, script, direction and production team, Hitchcock caught lightning in a bottle in 1959, which gives this film its longevity and a certain timelessness that still resonates today. It is the culmination of Hitchcock‟s spy films and “wrong man” stories, wherein the plot hinges on a mistaken identity that propels the main character into peril. Hitchcock employed the use of his trademark “MacGuffin,” the random, often meaningless object that serves as a plot device to engage the character in an adventure. In North by Northwest: Inside the Script, the editors posit that these elements paved the way for the popularity of the James Bond films and subsequent “secret agent” themed entertainment. It‟s a compelling argument as the movie-going public has yet to tire of Bond or the countless similarly-themed spin-offs he inspired.
By Ruth Anderson
In his fourth and final Hitchcock film, Cary Grant
is a successful Manhattan advertising executive, Roger Thornhill, whose life is built on artifice. When he‟s mistaken for super-spy George Kaplan, Thornhill is plunged into a dangerous world of international espionage and government secrets. His attempt to clear his name results in being framed for murder, chased across the country, and attacked by a crop-duster, forcing him to take on a job he never sought to outwit and outlive his enemies. Nothing in his world is as it seems, starting with his job in advertising; it requires him to make the public believe a product is what it isn‟t and that they can‟t live without it. Thornhill is thrust into an artificial world beyond his control, full of typical Hitchcock villains… not overtly evil, at least not at first, which creates a delicate dance the protagonist must learn to navigate in order to survive. But survival alone isn‟t enough for Thornhill in the hands of the Master of Suspense; the story sends him on a cross-country adventure that systematically deconstructs and rebuilds his life, revealing the fallacy of artifice and letting him form a committed romantic relationship. The woman in question is Eve Kendall, one of Hitchcock‟s favorite archetypes—the cool blonde of questionable purpose but always irresistibly desirable. By 1950s standards, Eve‟s relationships with the
leading man and the main villain are quite risqué. Their first meeting aboard the train to Chicago is an exercise in artifice, as Eve is tasked with seducing the supposed spy and keeping her boss aware of his every movement. Their flirtation in the dining car is truly fascinating to watch unfold; first underscored by Andre Previn‟s “Fashion Show,” it slowly transforms into the promise of a genuine romantic connection with the introduction of composer Bernard Hermann‟s love theme for the film. The passionate kissing in Eve‟s train car that follows illustrates the director‟s gift for implying passion in endlessly inventive ways without risking running afoul of the production code.
Roger and Eve fall hard for each other on the train but lasting love is impossible as Roger is still consumed with clearing his name and Eve has a secret critical to her survival. It‟s only when the last vestiges of his fine Manhattan life left is nearly in tatters that Roger discovers the extent of what he first views as Eve‟s unforgiveable betrayal. But when the true extent of her role is later revealed, he realizes what is at stake. Only then is he able to transform into a true hero, fighting for a future with the woman he loves (and serving his country in the bargain). Cary Grant is at his most debonair, positively oozing class and flashes of unexpected humor and charm in dire situations. And under Hitchcock‟s
legendary control, Eva Marie Saint‟s performance as Eve Kendall reveals previously unimagined depths of icy cool, leading lady class, a femme fatale for the ages. The mixture of real location shoots and set constructs underscores the dangerous dance Thornhill must navigate as he wades through subterfuge in order to live life to the fullest. In my view, North by Northwest is the gold standard for the filmic ideal blend of suspense, action, humor, and romance. The hero‟s journey from advertising executive (where he‟s the king of fakes and sleight-of-hand) to a life-or-death struggle for survival where he must shed the shackles of selfabsorption and learn to sacrifice for others is both memorable and timeless. ■
hough Hitchcock delved into psychology in all his films, two of his most notable forays into Freudian ideas are Psycho (1960) and Marnie (1964). Psycho is a fully-worked exploration of the Oedipus complex (a boy‟s jealousy of his mother and her lover); Marnie deals with a form of the Electra complex (a girl‟s envy of men and her dislike for them). The characters of Marion and Marnie have certain things in common: both are blonde, a thief, are terrified of discovery, and fall under the power of a man. But where Marion‟s psychological makeup is devoid of overt mother influences, it‟s the very foundation of Marnie‟s serious problems.
By Charity Bishop
Marion‟s escape from the law takes her to the Bates Motel, where she meets the solitary, lonely, creepy Norman Bates. From that moment on, her fate alters dramatically, because she has unwittingly strayed into his psychological problems. It‟s Norman‟s trapped life of stuffing birds and living under the oppressive influence of his mother that inspires Marion to return home and confess to her sin.
Marnie is also trapped when her identity becomes known and exploited by her boss. Mark is intrigued by her pathological need to steal and her terror of the color red. Her dislike for and fear of men makes him determined to win her over, which places her in a marriage she doesn‟t want; her death is emotional while Marion‟s is physical. Mothers tie heavily into both films from the start; early on in Psycho, while lamenting that their affair must remain a secret, Marion reveals her desire to have her boyfriend over to the house where her mother‟s portrait sits on the mantle. Her boyfriend asks if they should turn the portrait to the wall after dinner, suggesting she would not approve of their sexual activities. This “shameful” reaction to a mother‟s observance of their child‟s sexuality is fully explored in Norman, who can‟t escape his mother‟s influence even after her death. Rather than accept that he and his mother are two separate entities, when Mrs. Bates finds a new lover, Norman kills the lover for coming between them. When this doesn‟t give him what he wants (his mother), he becomes his mother. Marnie‟s mother is also the catalyst of her child‟s psychosis, beginning with her inability to love her child. Though she went to prison for her daughter, she can‟t seem to overlook the shame of her own past
and responsibility, which leaves Marnie craving her love without being able to obtain it… like Norman, whose violence toward Marion and others shows his mother‟s disapproval in his choices. Marnie‟s mother‟s affairs leave her sexually repressed; she associates any physical intimacy with violence due to a childhood incident involving a man‟s death. Like Norman, her loyalty to (and possessiveness of) her mother leads her to an act of violence. As “Mother,” Norman does self-inflicted punishments for his attraction to the opposite sex; “Mother” is a bodily manifestation of his psychotic tendencies. His attraction to Marion is to his alter ego a betrayal of the asexual mother/son relationship; he punishes it by killing Marion and reacting with horror to “Mother‟s” actions. Where psychologically he actually is his mother, Marnie does all she can to avoid being like her mother. She hates her mother‟s past, making her determined to have nothing to do with men, while also, like Norman, coveting desperately the approval of her mother. Neither can achieve it fully, which leads to the emotional breakdown of both. Norman transforms into his mother completely while Marnie must come to grips with the reason her mother can‟t love her— because of her own guilt. Each film was chosen by Hitchcock for its daring
themes, which dealt with taboo topics of sexuality. Neither is overt but the underlining sexual themes are vital to the underlining focus. Psycho asks us to be fearful for and protective of Norman, and Marnie wants us to forgive Mark his sexual manipulations, while having empathy for her plight. Since we don‟t know for a time who is the murderer, Norman‟s fear of discovery becomes our own fear; his horror, our horror; we feel sorry for an oppressed, seemingly nice man in an impossible situation. Similarly, we share Mark‟s frustration when dealing with Marnie, not knowing what causes her psychotic breakdowns.
Psycho is the most famous of Hitchcock‟s works, and Marnie one of his more understated masterpieces, but their controversial nature is what makes them so remarkable. They are both stories of a girl whose choices take her down a path from which there is no return, into the house of a dangerous man. Both are filmed in suspensebuilding storytelling style rather than horror, and have a shocking scene of implied violence in which our mind tells us we saw more than we did. Nothing is overt, everything is just implied, and we walk away fascinated… the true essence of Hitchcock. ■
made one of his most famous films, Psycho, which is considered one of the earliest predecessors to the popular slasher films. The Birds is about the character of Melanie who goes to the town of Bodega Bay in California to visit a potential love interest, Mitch, whose family lives in the area. After Melanie arrives, flocks of birds begin attacking the townspeople and invading the small town. It‟s never explained why the birds suddenly invade nor is there any knowledge as to how to stop them. With this film, Alfred Hitchcock created a suspenseful horror movie that uses some of the classic fundamentals that appear in the genre. For example, the leads being chased by the villain (in this case the birds), characters trapped in a small-enclosed environment that at first appears to be safe but soon becomes dangerous, and the violence that permeates the storyline. By Tiffany Seiter t‟s the time of year when fall weather brings a chill, and many film lovers start a marathon of horror movie viewing. There are many films for a viewer to choose from, but what if you‟re not a fan of watching scary movies yet still want to experience the
thrills of Halloween? Maybe you‟re looking for an alternative to the usual selection of blood, shock, and gore. Well, then, it‟s time to add Hitchcock‟s The Birds to your essential Halloween viewing. Known as the master of cinema suspense, Alfred Hitchcock is perfect for this time of the year.
Before creating The Birds, he was known for making thrillers and mysteries throughout his directing career. In the early 1940s he made Rebecca, a psychological film noir with elements of a gothic ghost story (interestingly, The Birds like Rebecca is based on a Daphne du Maurier story). Also, in the early 1960s Hitchcock
In classic horror films there‟s usually a scene where the characters run away from the villain or creatures. This is the case with one of the famous chase sequences in The Birds when Melanie is waiting outside the town‟s school. Before the chase happens, Hitchcock uses editing to create the suspense of the birds slowly preparing for an attack. In this scene,
Melanie is sitting on a bench in front of the school playground waiting for school to end. As she sits quietly, Hitchcock cuts to the playground as one by one a flock of crows cover the area. Terrified of what she‟s seeing, Melanie along with the schoolteacher evacuates the school children only to have the birds chase them as they run away. Another similarity is when the plot has characters locking themselves in an enclosed sanctuary for safety. Briefly it seems as if they‟ll be safe from the terror haunting them, but soon the surroundings become claustrophobic and dangerous as the villain surrounds the area. In a famous scene Melanie is trapped inside a glass telephone booth. From the confines of booth, Melanie watches in horror as the birds attack the citizens of Bodega Bay. For Hitchcock metaphorically, Melanie is now in her own version of a birdcage. Another scene similar to this concept is near the end. Melanie and Mitch‟s family barricade the house from the bird invasion. After locking and boarding up the windows, Melanie and the family wait to see what happens. Soon the birds attack the compound by trying to break through barriers—windows, doors and the fireplace. As the scene progresses the family is successfully kept safe from the invasion but we know it can‟t last.
Thirdly, horror films are known for their use of violence and often gore. Hitchcock is no exception to this rule as he shows the ugly side of nature with its violent tendencies and the injuries inflicted on the characters. One intense rather gruesome scene is when a main character played by Jessica Tandy discovers a family friend killed by the birds. The viewer witnesses through Tandy‟s eyes how the corpse was brutally mangled by the creatures. Another brutal scene is when the birds attack Melanie. After a swarm of birds try
to infiltrate the house, she hears a noise in one of the upstairs bedrooms. When she opens the bedroom door she sees a hole in the ceiling and the flocks of birds that have entered the perimeter. Once the birds see her they assault Melanie horrendously— poking, biting, and scratching as she helplessly tries to defend herself and cries for someone to open the shut door. Even after today‟s modern violent movies, this scene is still terrifying to watch as you see how helpless and powerless Melanie is from the birds.
This is just a small example of how Alfred Hitchcock‟s The Birds is an essential part of the horror movie experience. Just recently the film celebrated its 50th anniversary and was shown in select theaters across the nation. The Birds can, after all these years, still excite a movie audience and is considered Hitchcock‟s last great masterpiece. Maybe it‟s time to take a chance this
Halloween by watching The Birds as part of your horror movie marathon. The next time you see a flock of birds it may not seem so beautiful. Author’s Note: For another side of the story, HBO has created a film about the intense working relationship between The Birds star Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock entitled The Girl. ■
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The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Rebecca, Notorious, Rope, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, Dial M For Murder, Rear Window, Vertigo, North b...