Alfred Hitchcock is arguably the most famous director to have ever made a film. Almost single-handedly he turned the suspense thriller into one of the most popular film genres of all time, while his Psycho updated the horror film and inspired two generations of directors to imitate and adapt this most Hitchcockian of movies. Yet while much scholarly and popular attention has focused on the director's oeuvre, until now there has been no extensive study of how Alfred Hitchcock's films and methods have affected and transformed the history of the film medium.
In this book, thirteen original essays by leading film scholars reveal the richness and variety of Alfred Hitchcock's legacy as they trace his shaping influence on particular films, filmmakers, genres, and even on film criticism. Some essays concentrate on films that imitate Hitchcock in diverse ways, including the movies of Brian de Palma and thrillers such as True Lies, The Silence of the Lambs, and Dead Again. Other essays look at genres that have been influenced by Hitchcock's work, including the 1970s paranoid thriller, the Italian giallo film, and the post-Psycho horror film. The remaining essays investigate developments within film culture and academic film study, including the enthusiasm of French New Wave filmmakers for Hitchcock's work, his influence on the filmic representation of violence in the post-studio Hollywood era, and the ways in which his films have become central texts for film theorists.
Alfred Hitchcock is often held up as the prime example of the one-man filmmaker, conceiving and controlling all aspects of his films’ development—the archetype of genius over collaboration. An exhibition at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, however, put the lie to Hitchcock-as-auteur, presenting more than seventy-five sketches, designs, watercolors, paintings, and storyboards that, together, examine Hitchcock’s very collaborative filmmaking process. The four essays in this collection were written to accompany the exhibition and delve further into Hitchcock’s contributions to the collaborative process of art in film.
Scott Curtis considers the four functions of Hitchcock’s sketches and storyboards and how they undermine the impression of Hitchcock as a lone artist. Tom Gunning examines the visual vocabulary and cultural weight of Hitchcock’s movies. Bill Krohn focuses sharply on the film I Confess, tracking its making over a very cooperative path.
Finally, Jan Olsson draws on the television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, to show the ways that collaboration contributes to the formation of his well known public persona. Anchored by editor Will Schmenner’s introduction, this book represents an important contribution to Hitchcock scholarship and a provocative glimpse at his unsung strength as a collaborative artist.
Welles. Hitchcock. Kubrick. These names appear on nearly every list of the all-time greatest filmmakers. But what makes these directors so great? Despite their very different themes and sensibilities, is there a common genius that unites them and elevates their work into the realm of the sublime?
The Extraordinary Image takes readers on a fascinating journey through the lives and films of these three directors, identifying the qualities that made them cinematic visionaries. Reflecting on a lifetime of teaching and writing on these filmmakers, acclaimed film scholar Robert P. Kolker offers a deeply personal set of insights on three artists who have changed the way he understands movies. Spotlighting the many astonishing images and stories in films by Welles, Hitchcock, Kubrick, he also considers how they induce a state of amazement that transports and transforms the viewer.
Kolker’s accessible prose invites readers to share in his own continued fascination and delight at these directors’ visual inventiveness, even as he lends his expertise to help us appreciate the key distinctions between the unique cinematic universes they each created. More than just a celebration of three cinematic geniuses, The Extraordinary Image is an exploration of how movies work, what they mean, and why they bring us so much pleasure.
An Eye for Hitchcock
Pomerance, Murray Rutgers University Press, 2004 Library of Congress PN1998.3.H58P66 2004 | Dewey Decimal 791.430233092
Film scholar Murray Pomerance presents a series of fascinating meditations on six films directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, a master of the cinema. Two of the films are extraordinarily famous and have been seen––and misunderstood––countless times: North by Northwest and Vertigo. Two others, Marnie and Torn Curtain, have been mostly disregarded by viewers and critics or considered to be colossal mistakes, while two others, Spellbound and I Confess, have received almost no critical attention at all.
In An Eye for Hitchcock, these movies are seen in a striking new way. Pomerance takes us deep into the structure of Hitchcock’s vision and his screen architecture, revealing key elements that have never been written about before. Pomerance also clearly reveals the link between Hitchcock’s work and a wide range of thinkers and artists in other fields, thereby offering viewers of Hitchcock’s films the rare opportunity to see them in an entirely new light.
D. A. Miller University of Chicago Press, 2016 Library of Congress PN1998.3.H58M55 2016 | Dewey Decimal 791.430233092
No filmmaker has more successfully courted mass-audience understanding than Alfred Hitchcock, and none has been studied more intensively by scholars. In Hidden Hitchcock, D. A. Miller does what seems impossible: he discovers what has remained unseen in Hitchcock’s movies, a secret style that imbues his films with a radical duplicity.
Focusing on three films—Strangers on a Train, Rope, and The Wrong Man—Miller shows how Hitchcock anticipates, even demands a “Too-Close Viewer.” Dwelling within us all and vigilant even when everything appears to be in good order, this Too-Close Viewer attempts to see more than the director points out, to expand the space of the film and the duration of the viewing experience. And, thanks to Hidden Hitchcock, that obsessive attention is rewarded. In Hitchcock’s visual puns, his so-called continuity errors, and his hidden appearances (not to be confused with his cameos), Miller finds wellsprings of enigma.
Hidden Hitchcock is a revelatory work that not only shows how little we know this best known of filmmakers, but also how near such too-close viewing comes to cinephilic madness.
From the beginning of his career, Alfred Hitchcock wanted to be considered an artist. Although his thrillers were immensely popular, and Hitchcock himself courted reviewers, he was, for many years, regarded as no more than a master craftsman. By the 1960s, though, critics began calling him an artist of unique vision and gifts. What happened to make Hitchcock's reputation as a true innovator and singular talent?
Through a close examination of Hitchcock's personal papers, scripts, production notes, publicity files, correspondence, and hundreds of British and American reviews, Robert Kapsis here traces Hitchcock's changing critical fortunes. Vertigo, for instance, was considered a flawed film when first released; today it is viewed by many as the signal achievement of a great director. According to Kapsis, this dramatic change occurred because the making of the Hitchcock legend was not solely dependent on the quality of his films. Rather, his elevation to artist was caused by a successful blending of self-promotion, sponsorship by prominent members of the film community, and, most important, changes in critical theory which for the first time allowed for the idea of director as auteur.
Kapsis also examines the careers of several other filmmakers who, like Hitchcock, have managed to cross the line that separates craftsman from artist, and shows how Hitchcock's legacy and reputation shed light on the way contemporary reputations are made. In a chapter about Brian De Palma, the most reknowned thriller director since Hitchcock, Kapsis explores how Hitchcock's legacy has affected contemporary work in—and criticism of—the thriller genre.
Filled with fascinating anecdotes and intriguing excerpts, and augmented by interviews with Hitchcock's associates, this thoroughly documented and engagingly written book will appeal to scholars and film enthusiasts alike.
"Required reading for Hitchcock scholars...scrupulously researched, invaluable material for those who continue to ask: what made the master tick?"—Anthony Perkins
Hitchcock à la Carte
Jan Olsson Duke University Press, 2015 Library of Congress PN1998.3.H58O47 2015
Alfred Hitchcock: cultural icon, master film director, storyteller, television host, foodie. And as Jan Olsson argues in Hitchcock à la Carte, he was also an expert marketer who built his personal brand around his rotund figure and well-documented table indulgencies. Focusing on Hitchcock's television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1962) and the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-1965), Olsson asserts that the success of Hitchcock's media empire depended on his deft manipulation of bodies and the food that sustained them. Hitchcock's strategies included frequently playing up his own girth, hiring body doubles, making numerous cameos, and using food—such as a frozen leg of lamb—to deliver scores of characters to their deaths. Constructing his brand enabled Hitchcock to maintain creative control, blend himself with his genre, and make himself the multi-million-dollar franchise's principal star. Olsson shows how Hitchcock's media brand management was a unique performance model that he used to mark his creative oeuvre as strictly his own.
Michael Walker Amsterdam University Press, 2006 Library of Congress PN1998.3.H58W36 2005 | Dewey Decimal 791.430233092
Alfred Hitchcock’s films are renowned the world over, and a mountain of literature has detailed seemingly every facet of them. Yet remarkably few studies have solely focused on the recurring motifs in Hitchcock’s films. Michael Walker remedies this surprising gap in Hitchcock literature with an innovative and in-depth study of the sustained motifs and themes threaded through Hitchcock’s entire body of work.
Combing through all fifty-two extant feature films and representative episodes from Hitchcock’s television series, Walker traces over forty motifs that emerge in recurring objects, settings, character-types, and events. Whether the loaded meaning of staircases, the symbolic status of keys and handbags, homoeroticism, guilt and confession, or the role of art, Walker analyzes such elements to reveal a complex web of cross-references in Hitchcock’s art. He also gives full attention to the broader social contexts in which the motifs and themes are played out, arguing that these interwoven elements add new and richer depths to Hitchcock’s oeuvre. An invaluable, encyclopedic resource for the scholar and fan, Hitchcock’s Motifs is a fascinating study of one of the best-known and most admired film directors in history.
Hitchcock’s People, Places, and Things argues that Alfred Hitchcock was as much a filmmaker of things and places as he was of people. Drawing on the thought of Bruno Latour, John Bruns traces the complex relations of human and nonhuman agents in Hitchcock’s films with the aim of mapping the Hitchcock landscape cognitively, affectively, and politically. Yet this book does not promise that such a map can or will cohere, for Hitchcock was just as adept at misdirection as he was at direction. Bearing this in mind and true to the Hitchcock spirit, Hitchcock’s People, Places, and Things anticipates that people will stumble into the wrong places at the wrong time, places will be made uncanny by things, and things exchanged between people will act as (not-so) secret agents that make up the perilous landscape of Hitchcock’s work.
This book offers new readings of well-known Hitchcock films, including The Lodger, Shadow of a Doubt, Psycho, The Birds, and Marnie, as well as insights into lesser-discussed films such as I Confess and Family Plot. Additional close readings of the original theatrical trailer for Psycho and a Hitchcock-directed episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents expand the Hitchcock landscape beyond conventional critical borders. In tracing the network of relations in Hitchcock’s work, Bruns brings new Hitchcockian tropes to light. For students, scholars, and serious fans, the author promises a thrilling critical navigation of the Hitchcock landscape, with frequent “mental shake-ups” that Hitchcock promised his audience.
In the Name of National Security exposes the ways in which the films of Alfred Hitchcock, in conjunction with liberal intellectuals and political figures of the 1950s, fostered homophobia so as to politicize issues of gender in the United States. As Corber shows, throughout the 1950s a cast of mind known as the Cold War consensus prevailed in the United States. Promoted by Cold War liberals--that is, liberals who wanted to perserve the legacies of the New Deal but also wished to separate liberalism from a Communist-dominated cultural politics--this consensus was grounded in the perceived threat that Communists, lesbians, and homosexuals posed to national security. Through an analysis of the films of Alfred Hitchcock, combined with new research on the historical context in which these films were produced, Corber shows how Cold War liberals tried to contain the increasing heterogeneity of American society by linking questions of gender and sexual identity directly to issues of national security, a strategic move that the films of Hitchcock both legitimated and at times undermined. Drawing on psychoanalytic and Marxist theory, Corber looks at such films as Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, and Psycho to show how Hitchcock manipulated viewers' attachments and identifications to foster and reinforce the relationship between homophobia and national security issues. A revisionary account of Hitchcock's major works, In the Name of National Security is also of great interest for what it reveals about the construction of political "reality" in American history.
Bridging landmark territory in film studies, Psycho-Sexual is the first book to apply Alfred Hitchcock’s legacy to three key directors of 1970s Hollywood—Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and William Friedkin—whose work suggests the pornographic male gaze that emerged in Hitchcock’s depiction of the voyeuristic, homoerotically inclined American man. Combining queer theory with a psychoanalytic perspective, David Greven begins with a reconsideration of Psycho and the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much to introduce the filmmaker’s evolutionary development of American masculinity.
Psycho-Sexual probes De Palma’s early Vietnam War draft-dodger comedies as well as his film Dressed to Kill, along with Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Friedkin’s Cruising as reactions to and inventive elaborations upon Hitchcock’s gendered themes and aesthetic approaches. Greven demonstrates how the significant political achievement of these films arises from a deeply disturbing, violent, even sorrowful psychological and social context. Engaging with contemporary theories of pornography while establishing pornography’s emergence during the classical Hollywood era, Greven argues that New Hollywood filmmakers seized upon Hitchcock’s radical decentering of heterosexual male dominance. The resulting images of heterosexual male ambivalence allowed for an investment in same-sex desire; an aura of homophobia became informed by a fascination with the homoerotic. Psycho-Sexual also explores the broader gender crisis and disorganization that permeated the Cold War and New Hollywood eras, reimagining the defining premises of Hitchcock criticism.
Scripting Hitchcock explores the collaborative process between Alfred Hitchcock and the screenwriters he hired to write the scripts for three of his greatest films: Psycho, The Birds, and Marnie. Drawing from extensive interviews with the screenwriters and other film technicians who worked for Hitchcock, Walter Raubicheck and Walter Srebnick illustrate how much of the filmmaking process took place not on the set or in front of the camera, but in the adaptation of the sources, the mutual creation of plot and characters by the director and the writers, and the various revisions of the written texts of the films.
Hitchcock allowed his writers a great deal of creative freedom, which resulted in dynamic screenplays that expanded traditional narrative and defied earlier conventions. Critically examining the question of authorship in film, Raubicheck and Srebnick argue that Hitchcock did establish visual and narrative priorities for his writers, but his role in the writing process was that of an editor. While the writers and their contributions have generally been underappreciated, this study reveals that all the dialogue and much of the narrative structure of the films were the work of screenwriters Jay Presson Allen, Joseph Stefano, and Evan Hunter. The writers also shaped American cultural themes into material specifically for actors such as Janet Leigh, Tippi Hedren, and Tony Perkins. This volume gives due credit to those writers who gave narrative form to Hitchcock's filmic vision.
Parting ways with the Freudian and Lacanian readings that have dominated recent scholarly understanding of Hitchcock, David Humbert examines the roots of violence in the director’s narratives and finds them not in human sexuality but in mimesis. Through an analysis of seven key films, he argues that Girard’s model of mimetic desire—desire oriented by imitation of and competition with others—best explains a variety of well-recognized themes, including the MacGuffin, the double, the innocent victim, the wrong man, the transfer of guilt, and the scapegoat. This study will appeal not only to Hitchcock fans and film scholars but also to those interested in Freud and Girard and their competing theories of desire.