One of my favorite film makers is Alfred Hitchcock. My love for his films probably comes from the fact that I love suspenseful stories, and he was great at telling tales that would make you feel fearful with anticipation as you watched something atrocious happen to a character you loved. Some of my recommendations would be Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, The Man Who Knew Too Much with Stewart and Doris Day, Notorious with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, and Shadow of a Doubt with Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright. Hitchcock’s career in the film industry spanned over fifty years, and he is credited as being “The Master of Suspense.” His physiological thrillers were immensely popular, and he knew how to pick his leading characters well. Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant acted in several of his films, and Hitchcock was very particular in who would play his leading roles. Amazingly, he always picked the perfect people to act out each of the parts within the various scenes and stories of his movies.
Hitchcock’ style of shooting pictures is specific to him in that he wanted the audience to be completely engaged in what they were seeing. So he began using camera shots that were similar to a person’s typical gaze of the world around them. Some of these shots are from very far away, which helps the audience see the overall situation and landscape, while also understanding how difficult it will be for the characters to get to safety. Even though their setting might be expansive, such as Mt. Rushmore, there is nowhere for them to hide. He would also zoom in and focus the camera on a particular moment or object, such as a man being stabbed or a gun about to go off, and then play through that scene very slowly—making the audience endure the tension as they anxiously waited for the turmoil of this climax to be over. The use of the camera in this manner made the telling of the storyline all the more chilling.
I took a film class while I was in graduate school at Liberty University, and we studied a couple of Hitchcock’s films including Psycho. I myself had not seen this particular film before, but I was shocked to find out that none of my classmates had ever seen a film by Hitchcock! Where had they been? Didn’t they realize how much they had missed? As an English major, it was their duty to learn from one of the greatest film producers of all time. Naturally, I ended up watching Psycho for the very first time at home by myself…in the dark! And this was one of the scariest films I have ever seen, because Hitchcock delves into the erratic nature and behavior of Norman Bates in order to explain why he acts the way he does, which is simply terrifying. Janet Leigh, who played the leading lady, Marion Crane, is quoted with saying she was honored to simply take part in a motion picture that Hitchcock directed—even if she was murdered in the film.
As most know, mystery stories are my favorite genre when it comes to books and movies. Any spare moment I have is spent either reading one of the latest cozy mystery novels or watching a British show that highlights this particular theme—Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Sherlock, and Death in Paradise are just a few that come to mind. Even growing up, I watched Murder She Wrote and Matlock reruns consistently. And if you have never read Agatha Christie, I highly recommend checking out her books and short stories. Outside of the Bible, her books have sold more copies than any another published book to date.
So please, don’t be like one of my classmates—take a moment to enjoy one of the many brilliant films made by Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, start with one of the ones I recommended and let me know what you think in the comments below. See if you can spot Alfred Hitchcock too–he always appears once in each of his films during a random scene. And of course, this month, Halloween month, is the perfect time to delve into these frightening tales. Happy viewing!