Wednesday, October 31, 2018

My Top Ten Alfred Hitchcock Films

I grew up on Alfred Hitchcock. I remember there were many Sunday nights as a teenager when my parents, sister, and myself would stop at the local Hollywood Video and find another Hitchcock film to take home and enjoy with our pizza.

Every October, Josh and I will usually watch several classic thriller films in anticipation of Halloween so I thought it would be fitting to share my top ten Hitchcock favorites with you all.

Since the old days, I've collected several from Hitchcock's collection. There are some films of his that I really enjoy but didn't include on this list...and then there are others I didn't enjoy so much (looking at you Rope).

X: Vertigo

This is the first Hitchcock film I ever saw. This noir psychological thriller takes so many twists and turns that by the end of the movie you will find your head spinning so much that it's no question why the title of the film is what it is. 

Marred by mixed reviews, the $2.5 million Vertigo did comparatively less than Hitchcock’s previous movies, and was widely recognized as a failure. Frustrated with its reception, Hitchcock partly blamed star Jimmy Stewart’s aging appearance.

IX: Notorious

Who doesn't love a good World War II spy film? This is such a good one and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It's a classic cat and mouse game until the very end. 

Two scenes in the film have been widely cited as among Hitchcock's best: in one, Hitchcock starts filming wide and high on a second floor balcony overlooking the great hall of a grand mansion. Slowly he tracks down and zooms in on Ingrid Bergman, finally ending with a tight close-up of a key tucked in her hand. Hitchcock also devised a scene that circumvented the Production Code's ban on kisses longer than three seconds by having his actors disengage every three seconds, murmur and nuzzle each other, then start again.

VIII: To Catch a Thief

Filmed on the French Riviera, this fashionable flick is about a retired jewel thief and his search for a copy-cat thief to be exposed to prove his innocence. Grace Kelly, as always, adds so much charm to this fun film. 

On September 14th, 1982, Grace Kelly was killed in an automobile accident in Monaco, supposedly on the very same road as her famous chase scene in this film and not far from where she had a picnic scene with Cary Grant. 

VII: The Man Who Knew Too Much

This film has got to have one of the creepiest assassins of all time. That smile though. Full of classic Hitchcock camera angles and suspenseful, hold-your-breath scenes, this one is at the top of the list for sure. 

One cool fact is the 12-minute Royal Albert Hall sequence has no dialogue. The only sounds are the orchestra and Doris Day's scream. Cue: cymbals crash. 

VI: The Birds

This was the third Daphne Du Maurier story that Hitchcock adapted. (Another favorite of mine that he directed was Rebecca). 

In an age where digital effects are so prominent, it is quite impressive that hundreds of birds were trained for the making of this film. Some shocking discoveries include that Hitchcock himself ordered the crew men to hurl live birds at Tippi Hedron because he thought it would intensify her performance. One of the results being a torn lower eyelid that sent her into a full-blown nervous breakdown that post-poned filming for a week. 

V: Psycho

In my opinion, the creepiest Hitchcock film ever made. Period. It was also his most successful. 

Some interesting facts include: Psycho was the first American film to show a toilet on screen, and Hitchcock was intent on keeping the film under wraps to the extent that he would not allow late movie-goers to enter the theatre after the film began. 

Psycho was also Hitchcock's fifth and final Oscar nomination for Best Director. Shockingly, Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar for directing. Sad, sad day. 

IV: Strangers on a Train

This film holds special memories for me as it was a family favorite. I love the premise of the movie: two strangers meet while traveling and through gross miscommunication, a perfect murder is devised. 

Hitchcock's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, plays the young Barbara, who sparks flashbacks of the murder to the killer. The book, Strangers on a Train, was also written by the same author who brought us another favorite: The Talented Mr. Ripley

III. Torn Curtain

I didn't happen to see this film until adulthood but it has become one of my very favorites. Julie Andrews and Paul Newman are amazing in this political thriller and I love that the storyline is set during The Cold War. The plot of the movie is an American scientist who pretends to defect behind the Iron Curtain to East Germany as part of a clandestine mission to obtain the solution of a formula and escape back to the United States. It has one of the most thrilling escape scenes in any film ever made (right up there with The Great Escape).

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In Torn Curtain he can be seen early in the film sitting in a hotel lobby holding Julie Andrews' young daughter, Emma Kate.

Steven Spielberg once said that as a young man he sneaked onto the sound stage to observe the filming, and remained for 45 minutes before an assistant producer asked him to leave.

II. Dial M for Murder

What do you do when you plan out your wife's murder and it goes horribly wrong? This classic keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time wondering if and how the guilty husband is going to be found out. 
It was Grace Kelly's first Hitchcock film to star in and the majority of the movie takes place indoors, more specifically, the Wendices' apartment, creating intimacy and tension. Other interesting factors to note are that Hitchcock, being obsessed with detail, chose all the items in the Wendice apartment himself and desiring to experiment with color, Grace Kelly's wardrobe becomes darker as the film goes on to portray the psychological condition of her character.

I. Rear Window

Inspired by two actual murder cases, this Hitchcock favorite never gets old. Rear Window is well-known as one of Hitchcock's best and one of the greatest films ever made.

Recuperating from a broken leg, adventuresome professional photographer Jefferies (Stewart) is confined to a wheelchair in his apartment. His rear window looks out onto a courtyard and several other apartments. During an oppressive heat wave, he observes his neighbors, who keep their windows open to stay cool. One evening, while being a Peeping Tom, he is the witness to a grisly murder.

Each neighbor has a hook: Miss Torso is a dancer, Miss Lonelyhearts is severely single, the Songwriter is, well, a songwriter. Then there’s that random couple sleeping on the fire escape. Actors Sara Berner and Frank Cady played the unnamed pair, who spend most of the movie fidgeting on a mattress outdoors without incident. Until it rains. For this scene, Hitchcock intentionally messed with his actors. He told Berner to pull the mattress one way and Cady to pull it the other. Neither one knew the other had received conflicting directions. So when Hitchcock called "action," the pair struggled with the mattress until Cady accidentally flew into the window. Hitchcock thought it was so funny, he kept it in the movie.

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