Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.
—Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)
Yes, it’s true, I’m finally getting around to my Hitchcock project (you know, the one that I proposed way back in January). In addition to having a bit more time now that I’ve left my crazy office job for the exciting world of freelancing, I figure it’s only appropriate to celebrate the month of October with a look at the Master of Suspense.
If I were to pick one director whose work I would have on a desert island, that director would surely be Hitchcock. For one, his work covers an incredible span of history, cinematic and otherwise. He transitioned from silent films (starting with The Pleasure Garden in 1925) to sound (England’s first talking picture, Blackmail, in 1929), then from black & white to color (with Rope in 1948) and back again.
Known for his thrillers (his first being the silent film pictured above), he often mixed in romantic and comedic elements to great effect, as in The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, and I have a special fondness for these. He even remade his own work, with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956).
He had a sly wit (!), cleverly inserting his trademark cameo into almost all his films. He was always challenging himself technically, from the extended takes of Rope, to the 3-D of Dial M for Murder, to the zoom of Vertigo, to filming Family Plot almost entirely in San Francisco while trying to hide that fact. He used innovative film editing and set direction, and was completely involved in shaping the look of his films, giving him a very distinctive directorial style. Like pornography, you know a Hitchcock film when you see it—icy blondes, fugitives (usually innocent) on the run, and those elusive MacGuffins.
There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.
One reason it has taken me so long to buckle down and take another look at his work is that, shortly after deciding to do it, I discovered an incredible set on Amazon that included almost all of his British films, silent and sound, in one collection. Naturally, my completist tendencies were awakened and I decided I would see everything I could. And then I never got around to it. Until now.
Each week, starting this Wednesday with his early silents and ending on Halloween with Psycho and his later works, I’m going to look at ten or so of Hitchcock’s films: what worked, what didn’t, what’s underrated, what’s overrated (hint: nothing), and top films I’d recommend. Naturally, there will be awards—you know how I love awards!