Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, Master of Suspense; fifty-four years of psychologically unhinging the world with his passion for the macabre. The weird yet wonderful motif that is synonymous with a ‘Hitchcockian’ production means that Hitch’s collaboration with one of Surrealism’s most instrumental members, Salvador Dalí, in the dream sequence of Spellbound (1945), does not come as a great surprise. Alfred Hitchcock well and truly trampled all over the rose-tinted lenses that cinema was previously shooting through, warping the minds of any who dared to dabble, reducing a Dr Jekyll to a Mr Hyde – he did it to James Stewart, he did it to me and he will do it to you too.
James Stewart playing the voyeuristic lead of L.B. Jefferies in Rear Window (1954), a personal favorite, with the sadistic scopophilia contorting a typical ‘good guy’ into an obsessional peeping Tom. With the ‘mainstream spectator-friendly’ narrative this film is one of Hitchcock’s less controversial productions but having said that, it still showcases a circular plot in which Jefferies end up back where he began (wheelchair-bound) giving no closure or resolve. Another two fingers up in the face of Classic Hollywood.
A Hitchcock profile cannot be written without a mention of which film? Of course, Psycho (1960). Plunging a knife into a watermelon to create the illusion of Marion Crane’s stabbing may seem laughable to a modern audience desensitized by the blood and guts splattered all over our screens today but I, for one, still have to twitch my shower curtain at least twice hoping not to see Norman Bates lurking in my bathroom. Alfred Hitchcock all over – psychologically tormenting his audience without being explicit.
A “fright complex is rooted in everyone” as Hitch once suggested and fear is something that he detected and toyed with in every film. Some people are scared of spiders, for some it’s deep water, some even fear being tickled by feathers (pteronophobia, believe it or not) but for many it’s winged creatures and The Birds (1963) is definitely not one for those of you who cannot stand our feathered friends. Flocks of menacing black crows are metaphorical of the dangers that face humanity every single day, another cynical, Hitchcockian outlook on life and one which I can often agree with.
Vertigo is the most aesthetically vivid of Hitchcock’s films yet this vibrancy represents psychological sickness in the character of Scottie – another corruption of James Stewart’s squeaky clean image – and Kim Novak’s character’s split personalities. In fact, the more colourful the film becomes, the more harrowing it is to watch. A romance with a sinister twist, turning the ordinary into something extraordinary, the reason why Hitchcock will never be forgotten.