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Views on Vertigo

Once a decade, the British Film Institute conducts a poll of critics, distributors, programmers, and scholars to determine the “50 Greatest Films of All Time.” This poll was conducted in the fall of 2012 and after Citizen Kane had enjoyed a fifty-year reign at the top spot, the Welles masterpiece was replaced by that of Hitchcock.

While such rankings may not reflect opinions of a rising generation of film fans, how would you support such a ranking or argue for alternative choices. You may support your opinions on the impact of the film, or details of the film itself. You are encouraged to reference opinion (at the time of the film’s initial release or any time since) of a critic, director, or scholar that you feel supports your observations.

Comments (with images if you choose) should be posted under the “Views on Vertigo” category and are due by 5:00 on Friday, November 7th.

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Happy Families?
After having viewed Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound, and Strangers on a Train, consider one or more of the films and comment on Hitchcock’s depiction of family dynamics or his use of Freudian theory as you analyze a theme associated with the director’s interests in an individual’s motivation for behavior or their relationships with others. You should include a citation–properly formatted–from one of the assigned readings in support of your observations or an opinion that you wish to refute. You may also choose to illustrate your ideas with images from the film/s.

Post your contribution under the category of “Hitchcock Themes.” Your posts are due by 5:00 on 24 October.

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Blog Assignment #1

Now that you have viewed the Lodger and Blackmail, identify one theme or visual motif in Hitchcock’s early work that you think begins to define a Hitchcock style. You are encouraged to add an image/images to your post that would help explain your observation about one/both films. Be sure to post under the “Silent to Sound” category of posts.

Posts are due by 5 p.m. on Monday, 22 September, 2014.

Hitchcock in Mad Men

The popular television series Mad Men is a period drama  set in the 60’s about the corrupt executives of an advertising agency and their personal lives. It has won many awards and received critical acclaim for its intelligent writing and themes of identity, corruption and gender roles. The creator of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, stated that Hitchcock’s films were a significant influence on the show’s visual style. This is perhaps most noticeable in the opening sequence, which is animated very similarly to Saul Bass’s artwork.

The silhouette of a businessman, presumably the main character Don Draper, falling to his death is highly reminiscent of the dream sequence in Vertigo. The skyscrapers the silhouette falls past also resemble the skyscrapers from the opening of North by Northwest.

Birdemic: a “Tribute” to Hitchcock

There are some terrible movies that can only be described as an experience. You might sit and laugh at the horrible acting and effects, or maybe sit with your head in your hands wondering how humanity created such a bad film. These were the reactions when my friends and I watched Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010). Inspired by Hitchcock’s The BirdsBirdemic features the best acting, graphics, and audio that a $10,000 budget can apparently buy (which isn’t much, evidently). The film focuses on environmentalism and the dangers of global warming, as director James Nguyen stated he was inspired by Al Gore as well as Hitchcock.

The trailer for the film really says it all:

With 1.8 stars on IMDb, I’d recommend this film to anyone who enjoys watching bad movies for fun.

James Nguyen attempts to mimic Hitchcock’s promotions

Bob’s Burger’s and Hitchcock

Bob’s Burger’s is a common, young adult, animated series, about a man who owns a burger restaurant and his crazy, yet realistic family. Recently an episode aired for Thanksgiving that could only be referencing one thing, The Birds. It was time for the Thanksgiving feast and the town decided to honor thanksgiving that they would have a “Running of the Birds.” Yes, it’s exactly at is sounds, the town released tons of birds into the streets and encouraged the townspeople to run with them. Everything takes a turn for the worst when the birds begin to attack the people. Soon the town is in utter chaos. As you can see in the clip below, instead of creepy crows and ravens, there are turkeys and chickens but the idea is still very much the same.

At the end of the

episode the situation is resolved in a slightly different manner than the Hitchcock film however.Instead of the birds leaving Linda, the mother, discovers that there is a serious pecking order between the birds, literally, and that they are all fighting to get to the top of the pecking order. Linda then pecks the other birds and her family forcing the birds to accept her dominance. The birds then leave and Thanksgiving was a success. Therefore, even with some drastic changes it is still very evident as to what Bob’s Burger’s drew their inspiration from.

The Unreliable Narrator in Hitchcock Films

This paper focuses on the use of Hitchcock’s unreliable narrators particularly in the films, The Lodger (1927), Stage Fright (1950), and Psycho (1960). It explains the use of an unreliable narrator and how Hitchcock used it and developed it in his time as a director and producer. The paper also argues that despite the fact all three films use the same technique to create complex plot twists, each time it is used, Hitchcock uses the idea in a completely new and unexpected way in order to keep the audience guessing and entertained.

In the film The Lodger, Hitchcock creates an unreliable narrator by choosing to conceal information until the very end of the film. Without all of the facts it is easy to believe that “the Lodger,” Jonathon, is the antagonist, however after a carefully timed reveal it appears that it is not the case.

Stage Fright is the most popular and widely known use of the unreliable narrator. Here a character provides a false flashback, directly giving the audience fake information which goes unrefuted until the end of the film when the antagonist reveals he was lying all along to avoid going to jail.

Finally, Psycho, one of Hitchcock’s later films takes the idea to a whole new disturbing level. The reason not all information is given to the audience is because the antagonist legitimately believes what he is saying. As far as he is concerned he is simply the victim in the situation. This means that Hitchcock left no clues for the audience to discover who the murder was on their own.

Finally, I will directly compare and contrast all three films and how Hitchcock’s style and use of this idea has evolved over his career.

Hitchcock in Psych

The popular TV show Psych has a season 4 finale entirely centered around Hitchcock films, called “Mr. Yin Presents…” Even the title is a reference to the TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents which aired from 1955 to 1965.

*Spoilers!*

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The episode involves a mysterious serial killer named Mr. Yin who bases his murders and clues off of classic Hitchcock movies. The protagonists of the show must decipher the messages left for them and catch the killer before he strikes again, playing along with the movie scenarios that he is referencing.

While watching the episode, I managed to find references to Frenzy, Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho, The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, The Birds, Lifeboat, Marnie, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. This is going to be a long post!

1. Frenzy

The first murder the killer commits and the detectives are investigating was committed via strangulation by necktie.

During a dream sequence the main character, Shawn Spencer, has, he sees a woman strangled with a necktie in a similar fashion.

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2. Vertigo

A scene directly from the movie plays on a television.

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Shawn Spencer falls asleep while watching Vertigo, starting a dream sequence similar to that in the movie.

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The killer casts one of the other main characters, Juliet O’Hara, as Madeleine in his plan to recreate several Hitchcock movies at once. Her clue is the sign for Ernie’s Restaurant, the one that the characters frequent throughout the movie.

 

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A staircase that leads to the top of a clock tower where Juliet is being held hostage is very reminiscent of the bell tower’s vertigo-inducing steps.

 

The killer’s entire setup to kill Juliet invokes multiple elements of Vertigo – deadly falls, grey suits, and tall towers.

3. Rear Window

The killer casts Shawn as L.B. Jeffries in his plan to recreate several Hitchcock movies at once. His clue is a wheelchair in a window, like the one that Jeffries was confined to due to his broken leg.

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4. Psycho

The characters watch Psycho in a theater at the beginning of the episode, and the shower scene can be seen in the background.

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Juliet takes the place of Marion Crane in the shower scene during Shawn’s dream sequence.

Another main character, Detective Lassiter, humorously portrays “Mother” in the same dream sequence.

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The mysterious killer paints a red “O” next to the Psych logo on the front window, spelling out “Psycho”.

 

 

The killer recreates Arbogast’s murder scene by stabbing the character Mary Lightly at the top of a flight of steps. The moments leading up to his death are intercut with parts of the original film sequence.

 

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5. The 39 Steps

A hint left by the killer reads, “Take 39 steps by 12:05, coordinates north by northwest, make a wish.”

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This clue leads them to the 39th step of an actual staircase.39

6. North by Northwest

While following the clue left behind by the killer, Lassiter is chased by a model airplane in a shout-out to the famous crop dusting sequence.

Part of the hint left by the killer mentioned above give the directions “coordinates north by northwest,” which ends up being the north line bus.

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7. The Birds

Graffiti of several birds sitting on a wire appear in one scene.

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The killer casts Lassiter as Mitch Brenner in his plan to recreate several Hitchcock movies at once. His clue is an old-fashioned car similar to the one that Melanie Daniels is attacked in.

 

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8. Lifeboat

The killer casts one of the other main characters, Gus, as Joe Spencer in his plan to recreate several Hitchcock movies at once. His clue is a life preserver on a door.

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9. Marnie

The killer casts Shawn’s father, Henry Spencer, as Mark Rutland in his plan to recreate several Hitchcock movies at once. His clue is also the old-fashioned car.

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10. The Man Who Knew Too Much

A crossword puzzle that contains a clue from the killer is signed “Ben McKenna”, a character from the 1956 version of the movie.

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That’s all that I could find! Whew, what a list! The episode also contains music from the original scores of several movies, most notably Psycho and Vertigo. Overall, a great homage to The Master of Suspense.

 

Subject to a Film: Marnie by Stan Douglas

Stan Douglas is an artist who is famously known for reworking films.  He reworked the robbery scene in Hitchcock’s 1964 film, Marnie, in his short film work, Subject to a Film: Marnie.  Douglas in this work did a loop of the scene where Marnie robs the office where she is employed, but he modernizes the set.  For example, he changes out the typewriters with computers.  However, he does make this short film in black and white, instead of color.  The film actually slows down during the action sequences and the loop ends right as Marnie is about to leave which symbolizes that she can never escape her crimes.  In his 1995 review,  Tom Eccles describes the work as “creating the effect of a recurring nightmare” as the character, rather than escaping is “caught in the film loop, forever trapped within the confines of the office.”  The whole work is not online, however there are images of it.

Marnie1

Marnie2

Marnie

Hitchcock’s 1964 film, Marnie, is quite different from his other films in that it focuses more on psychology and Freud’s psychoanalytical theory, like Hitchcock’s other film, Spellbound.  This paper argues that in this film Hitchcock uses the character of Marnie, the character of Bernice(Marnie’s mother), and the process of “curing” Marnie to convey different aspects of psychology and Freudian psychoanalytical theory.  Hitchcock in this film uses the character of Marnie to show Freud’s theory that traumatic early childhood memories can indeed impact a person’s development and their adult mental state. Hitchcock uses the character of her mother, Bernice, to show the effect a mother can have on her child and how she added to Marnie’s condition.  Keeping the incident hidden for most of her life, teaching her daughter to hate men, and not being able to show her daughter compassion all attributed to Marnie’s disturbed mental state as an adult.  Lastly, I will show how Hitchcock used two integral scenes to show how psychotherapy works and how to cure a person who has a repressed memory.  This paper argues that all these things together show the different ways Hitchcock tried to convey different aspects of psychoanalytical theory and psychology in his films.

Double Take

Johan Grimonprez is a Belgian artist and filmmaker whose works often address the effect the media has on our perception of reality. His 2009 film Double Take depicts Alfred Hitchcock, on the set of his 1962 film The Birds, as he inexplicably meets a doppelganger of himself from 1980 the year which Hitchcock died. The two Hitchcocks have a conversation which is marked by a deep paranoia as both are afraid of what the other may do. Primary themes in Double Take include the fear of the unknown/future, as well as the paranoia surrounding the Cold War and the television’s effect on it.

I believe that there are three primary reasons why Grimonprez chose to center his film around Alfred Hitchcock and The Birds. First, The Birds depicted a deadly threat to humanity coming down from the skies, which was a popular way of depicting Communist Russia’s threat to America. Second, The Birds was released in 1962, which was arguably the height of Cold War paranoia, as the Cuban Missile Crisis took place around this time. Third, The Birds was the last great critical and commercial success Hitchcock would have before his career would take a downturn, giving Hitchcock a very good reason to fear his future.

miguel perez Abstract

Miguel Perez

Abstract
This paper is going to focus on Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Lady Vanishes. This paper will cover influences in the film to the different design elements Hitchcock used. Hitchcock has produced dozens of films through his carrier; however The Lady Vanishes is uniquely different from his other films. The first texts cover the early days in Hitchcock’s cinematographical experimentation and his fondness to certain techniques. This early cinematography covers his experimentation with camera techniques and how they were influential in his later films. In addition, I will cover the plot devices that are used in the film and different phobias that Hitchcock used in the film along with their significance. The film The Lady Vanishes is rife with basic elements that Hitchcock translates into later films. The texts surmise how these elements influenced Hitchcock work.
The reminder of the texts encompasses both feminism influence in The Lady Vanishes and future Hitchcock films. The text also covers the McGuffins and the small mistakes that Hitchcock has in The Lady Vanishes. The intent of this is not to bash Hitchcock; it is merely showing that sometimes his experimentation with film techniques while cool and innovative can sometimes get away from him.

Abstract: North by Northwest

My paper argues that in the film North by Northwest, the leading man, Roger Thornhill, develops into a more well-rounded, mature individual in three major stages. Roger Thornhill’s character development is influenced by three major catalysts: being mistaken for George Kaplan, meeting Eve Kendall, and the Professor’s revelation over the true nature of the situation Thornhill has become embroiled in. North by Northwest provides insight into Hitchcock’s movie-making process by revealing connections between North by Northwest, Hitchcock’s earlier film, The 39 Steps, and John Buchan’s novel, The 39 Steps. The paper also provides clues as to why Cary Grant was chosen to play the role of Roger Thornhill and insight into Hitchcock’s personality. The film contains familiar motifs like the blonde female lead, innocent man being pursued, and the incompetence of the police. This is Hitchcock’s only film in which the female and male leads are clearly married by the end of the film. My paper emphasizes how Thornhill’s growing love and dependence on Eve Kendall allowed him to overcome his myriad of faults and become a more complete person in the process.