Alfred Hitchcock’s childhood was not a normal one. With an abusive father and an overbearing mother, he grew up to be an anxious, sadistic and misogynistic man. These qualities that he developed are shown clearly in many of his movies including Frenzy, which is often referred to as his last masterpiece. While creating this movie, Hitchcock wanted to make it as controversial as he possibly could. Released in 1972, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy shocked audiences around the world. This was not an accident on the part of the filmmaker. He was extremely pleased when the film received an R-rating in America, his first to be given such an adult rating. His usual motifs are present in the film but with a more provocative twist. The Hitchcock blonde plays very sexualized part in the movie with her underwear showing during one scene. At another point, a man takes his pants off in front of the camera, showing that Hitchcock was playing with the censors, pushing them to their limits just to show that he could. My paper will explore the psychology and the motivation behind this world-famous filmmaker’s desire to push all the censors with Frenzy.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo made it to the top of the British Film Institute’s ranking of the fifty most important films ever made. Though younger crowds might overlook this film today, during the time of its release, the techniques used including unique plot twists, selective color usage and new camera angles had never before been seen. In Martin Scorsese’s essay about the importance of this movie to the filmmaking industry, he writes, “any film as great as Vertigo demands more than just a sense of admiration — it demands a personal response.” Later in the essay, Scorsese writes that, “Morality, decency, kindness, intelligence, wisdom — all the qualities that we think heroes are supposed to possess — desert Jimmy Stewart’s character little by little.” Hitchcock gave his character flaws, making him more relatable to the viewer and forever changed the meaning of the hero in any movie. This role would no longer be such a cookie-cutter one to play; it would be more than one-sided.
In Vertigo, characters are not always who they seem to be and not everyone the audience believes to be deceased actually is. Hitchcock tricks the audience multiple times showing everyone who views the film that they cannot always trust their own beliefs to be correct. Saul Bass created an opening sequence unlike any other before it and a score written by Bernard Herrmann added another dimension to the entire experience. Every aspect of the film was carefully and masterfully planned out; earning Vertigo it’s top ranking in the British Film Institute’s list of the fifty most important movies.
Scorsese, Martin. “Why Vertigo Is Truly Great.” The Guardian. March 5, 1999. Accessed November 7, 2014.
As a child, Alfred Hitchcock had a strange relationship with his parents. His father had him locked up at a local police station when he would misbehave and his mother would force him to stand at the foot of her bed and reveal to her all of his wrongdoings at the end of each day. His feelings towards his father were not good ones and the relationship with his mother was uncomfortably intimate. These odd exchanges with his parents may have been the inspiration for the unusual family dynamic in many of his movies including Strangers on a Train.
One of the main characters in Strangers on a Train is named Bruno. We see early in the film that he, like Hitchcock, has a very close relationship with his mother. His mother is also well aware of his hatred of her husband.
Later in the film, when he meets the other main character, he asks Guy to kill his father for him. These feelings might not have been so far from what the director wished for his own father. In Hitchcock’s Films Revisited, Robin Wood writes about a Freudian theory called the Oedipal Complex. Wood suggests that Hitchcock uses a theme called repression in this films because of his homophobia. Freud said that in one stage of psychosexual development, a boy will develop a desire for his mother and a competitive and jealous feeling for his father. One could argue that Bruno never passed this stage in his development which explains the intimate relationship he shares with his mother and his desire for his fathers demise.
Wood, Robin. “Murderous Gays: Hitchcock’s Homophobia.” In Hitchcock’s Films Revisited, 338. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
In many Alfred Hitchcock films, there is an innocent character that is believed to be guilty of a crime by the authorities and the rest of the people that they encounter throughout the story. This theme is a common one and is used in The Lodger, one the Hitchcock’s earliest films.
In the beginning of the film, a woman described encounter with the avenger, the murderer, to a policeman. She shows him with her hands, that the villain’s face was covered. When the audience first sees the lodger, he is wearing a scarf around his face in the same way the woman in the beginning described the avenger. This leads us to believe that we are seeing the avenger for the first time, that he and the lodger are one in the same. The audience thinks that he is guilty.
The lodger has to run from the police because they, like the audience, believe that he is the guilty one. The authorities are not to be trusted but neither are we. We can not decided who is to blame for the murders and who is not because we are tricked. The police try to arrest him before his true innocence is proven. They cannot be trusted to do their job, following along with the theme.
The innocent character is later represented by another common theme. The shadow across the lodger’s face is a motif within a motif. There is a cross-shaped shadow across his face in the film shown while he is looking out a window. This cross shadow is representative of his Christ-like innocence.
The innocent character running from the law is a very common Hitchcock motif used in many films after The Lodger.