Author Archives: lfremont

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.

 

The Wrong Man in North by Northwest

The Hitchcockian device of the “wrong man” appears in his 1959 spy thriller North by Northwest. This plot device can be seen in several other movies he directed, such as The Wrong Man, Saboteur, and The 39 Steps. Due to its prevalence throughout Hitchcock’s works, some scholars, such as Stanley Cavell in his essay appearing in Critical Inquiry, have come to recognize it as the “typical-Hitchcockian narrative” that first appeared in The 39 Steps and gradually evolved through the years. The goal of my paper is to examine how the plot of North by Northwest is driven by this device and its role in character development. I will also discuss how the case of the wrong man serves as a basis for other Hitchcockian themes to appear, such as incompetent authority figures and police, the ordinary person in strange situations, and the MacGuffin of the microfilm and government secrets. Finally, I will discuss how North by Northwest uses this Hitchcockian device to parody previous films of the spy thriller genre while still being an exciting thriller that is still enjoyed today.

John Baldessari

John Baldessari is a modern conceptual whose more recent works incorporate images and text. The Tetriad Series, created in 1999, is a series of pieces he created by using a four-panel setup of various content. The first three panels contain stills from films or video, sections of artworks by other artists (specifically romantic painter Francisco Goya), and images from life. The final panel contains only text lifted from the works of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa. The Tetriad Series was Baldessary’s attempt to combine language and visuals, being a strong believer that language can be a form of art all its own.

Two pieces from The Tetriad Series, What Was Seen and Necessary Facts, both contain stills from Hitchcock’s spy thriller North by Northwest. Both of the lower-right panels are images from the iconic Mount Rushmore scene, when Roger Thornhill and Eve Kendall are being chased by the henchmen of the villainous Vandamm.

However, as I do not have a strong understanding of modern art, I could not tell you the meaning of either of these works or even offer a guess. If someone else would like to give their interpretation, feel free!

Views on Vertigo

I completely agree with the new ranking of Vertigo as number on on the the British Film Institute’s list. Albeit this is not the first time I have watched the movie, so I might be a little bit biased towards it. I also agree with critic Robin Wood’s claim that Vertigo is “…Hitchcock’s masterpiece to date, and one of the four or five most profound and beautiful films the cinema has yet given us.” (108)

Though modern audiences may be taken aback by the sexism and abuse shown in the film, I am of the belief that this was the full intent of the director. Hitchcock wanted the relationship between Scottie and Judy to be intense and aggressive. The movie is jam-packed with high emotions. Scottie was driven to such extremes by his own obsession with Madeleine, a major theme present. In order to portray the level of his obsession, as well as Judy’s desperation to win Scottie’s love, their relationship was seen as being toxic and alarming to the audience.

Regardless of the unnerving relationship between the two characters, the movie contains many images and details that make it mesmerizing to watch.

I must disagree with Laura Mulvey’s theory towards the movie regarding male gaze, however. As it was mentioned in class, a female viewer may see the movie differently than the “male spectator” that Mulvey refers to.

Also, Mulvey claims that the role we play as the male spectator is a scopophilic role, meaning that we are getting some form of gratification (sexual or otherwise) from viewing the passive female role portrayed on screen. However, I would disagree with this viewpoint. Though parts of the movie could be viewed as giving the spectator (both Scottie and us, technically) some form of pleasure, for the most part the movie does not provide either spectator pleasure. Scottie suffers greatly throughout the movie due to his obsession, and the movie-goer may not even feel fulfilled at the end. Many people in our class claimed that the ending left them feeling unsatisfied, as if there should be more or as if something else should happen. If the ending does not satisfy the spectator, what pleasure have they received from it? If the movie ever did contain the “male gaze”, I think that the ambiguous ending certainly shattered it. And technically, it was the “passive female” that shattered it by falling off the tower.

Mulvey, L. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen: 6-18.

Wood, Robin. Hitchcock’s Films Revisited. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Family Relations in Strangers on a Train

In Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, an interesting familial relationship is shown between Bruno and his mother.

Robin Wood in Hitchcock’s Films Revisited points out that their relationship is an example of an Oedipus complex, in addition to Bruno’s case of repression.

According to Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex, male children at some point in their development begin to experience an unconscious desire for their mothers while identifying with and competing against their fathers. This supposedly translates to a repression of feminine qualities that are considered “unsuitable” for a male while creating typical heterosexual desires.

However, according to the theory, some never complete the “oedipal trajectory” and end up stuck with an Oedipus complex throughout their adult lives. Bruno depicts this complex, becoming the epitome of a “mamma’s boy”.

It was believed in the time period that the movie was made that a failure to complete the oedipal trajectory could result in homosexuality and femininity, qualities that would have been considered a sufficient explanation for Bruno’s villainous actions. He represents this theory: he is fixed on his mother to an uncomfortable degree while simultaneously hating and desiring to murder his father. He never repressed his feminine qualities, making him act more flamboyantly than the typical-heterosexual character of Guy. He also identifies more with his mother than with his father, furthering their dysfunctional relationship.

Wood, Robin. “Murderous Gays: Hitchcock’s Homophobia.” In Hitchcock’s Films Revisited, 338. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Hitchcock Motifs in The Lodger and Blackmail

In both The Lodger and Blackmail, Alfred Hitchcock used one motif that would appear many other times in his later works: the blonde.

Blondes play a key role in The Lodger, being the target of the Avenger’s killing spree. This fascination with golden hair continues throughout the film, with the mysterious lodger showing a bizarre aversion to the blonde-haired women in the portraits around his room.

The lodger later admits he holds a fondness for Daisy’s hair, almost fixated on it’s color and frequently trying to touch it.

In Blackmail, Alice White plays the role of the Hitchcockian blonde.

As Hitchcock would frequently place his blonde leading ladies in peril, Alice portrays this trope rather well. From the artist’s attempted rape to her evading suspicion for his murder, Alice is constantly in compromising situations.

Though this motif of golden-haired leading ladies would later evolve into more of the icy-blondes Hitchcock would cast in the lead roles, it is important to note that the blonde-trope could be seen even in his earlier works.