In this New Yorker article, Anthony Lane talks about the mysterious allure of Hitchcock and his films. He piles praise upon Hitchcock for his unsentimental directing and artistic mastery, while commenting that his personality perhaps made his art more accessible and simultaneously off-putting than it would have been otherwise. His entertaining article perfectly elucidates why we love Hitchcock despite his follies, and points out all the ways he still continues to mystify us today. Hitchcock was a casual liar, a manipulator, and a genius. He was not a great thinker, but his common-sense understanding of human fear and weaknesses allowed him to reach inside our minds and play with our thoughts; through skill and a masterful understanding of film, he controls audiences with an ease that makes one shiver as much as the content in his films do. His sadism, aloofness, meanness and masochism are all traits that make him both a detested man and a beloved filmmaker. His movies were art, and his personality a show, and our love for him is undying.
Hitchcock was a film genius, understanding the art of cinematography and frame psychology like no other director after him. He and his silhouette are universally recognized, making him perhaps the only director in history to become a permanent part of international vernacular. He was conscious of this fact, appearing in cameos in most of his films and creating two TV shows featuring his name and himself in all episode openings. He crafted his persona to fit what he desired to be, and spun many fantastical stories about himself and his childhood to the media to generate and satiate public interest in himself and his movies. Because his persona was simultaneously carefully crafted and so obviously just that – a persona – his aura of mystery was able to carry over into his films and permeate the emotional connections generated in audiences whenever they heard the name “Hitchcock”. He was able to condition his audiences to think a certain way even before seeing a film of his! He injected his own fears into his films, as a way to make it more personal; he was obsessed with procrastination – a trait cultivated by his stint in a Jesuit school and community – and this often aided him well in his thrillers.
Hitchcock was truly the Master of Suspense, generating emotions in audiences no other filmmaker has single-handedly been able to produce. He made more than fifty films in his career spanning six decades, using his ability to manipulate the audience’s feelings of anxiety, fear and empathy to keep people coming back for more. He pioneered many different His films spanned from 1925’s “The Pleasure Garden” to 1976’s “Family Plot;” his film-making spanned two eras – his British era ended with 1938’s “Jamaica Inn”, and consisted of darker, seedier storylines. His American era started in 1940 with his masterpiece “Rebecca”, and consisted of physically brighter and better-constructed films as Hollywood gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted, with minimal constraints. My personal favorite film of his is 1954’s “Rear Window” with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.
A popular early 2000’s show by the name of That 70’s Show made an episode as a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, in fact it was the first time in which it had heard of him. The episode was a Halloween episode in which there is a combination of Hitchcock movies thrown into the mix. You had the main character gazing on his neighbor through his window believing he had seen a murder. The mother taking care of the neighbors bird witch turns out to be aggressive, and many more references. The popular TV show The Simpsons also made many episodes based on movies such as Dial “M” for Murder, Vertigo, and Strangers on a train. The idea that to this day TV shows are still making tribute episodes to movies that were made in the 1940’s-50’ speaks ends in of itself. Very few other directors have gained the levels of fame that Hitch has reached.
Nonstop is a movie that keeps the audience on the edges of their seats with its “nonstop” twists and fun thrills. Shot entirely in an airplane (except the very beginning, which is shot in an airport), it stars Liam Neeson, a private Federal Air Marshall who still mourns his daughter’s death, and the plot quickly jumps into a “whodunnit?” thrill ride as a clandestine killer texts Neeson, telling him that one person will die every twenty minutes unless money is vouchsafed into the unknown terrorist’s bank account. Scott Mendelson of Forbes Magazine states that “Non-Stop is the kind of film that Hitchcock might have made in his heyday, or at least one he would have enjoyed,” and he has good reason to. The claustrophobic setting can immediately remind one of the apartment setting in Rope, though the fact that it is on a plane takes an amplified approach to Hitchcock fanboy nostalgia. The movie is very fast paced, and the viewer questions throughout its entirety whether one of the side character passengers is responsible (and if so, who, who, who?!), or if Liam Neeson himself is a delusional psycho (pun intended) due to his daughter dying and is killing these people himself. The fast-paced, secretive plot reminds one of To Catch a Thief . Finally, without spoiling too much (though if you have not seen Nonstop, I suggest you watch it before reading this part), the ending has many parallels to Strangers on a Train‘s famous carousel-spinning-out-of-control-to-accomplish-resolution-type deals).
Carousel scene from Strangers on a Train
This movie may not be for everyone, and it definetely has its flaws. There are some scenes that are not very believable (depending on where you believe the line should be drawn in movies for realism), and a couple of the actors are a bit vapid (though they die first, hee hee!); however, for its fun thrills and its unpredictable twists, Nonstop is well worth a watch, whether you’re a Hitchcock fan or not (really? Not a Hitchcock fan? How?!).
Hitchcock’s psychological suspense Shadow of a Doubt (1943) has spurred an entire sub-genre of films. Being forced to live alongside a murderer whom everyone likes, be it a relative or a neighbor, inevitably results in the attempted murder of the potential snitch. There are a number of films like this one, but the most remarkably similar in story and style has to be Joseph Ruben’s 1993 film The Good Son.
When Mark (Elijah Wood) must stay with his aunt and uncle, one of his cousins, Henry (Macaulay Culkin), seems a little odd. Henry is very polite, nice, and generally well-liked. He and Mark are even the same age, and the two seem to get along at first. Mark learns that a few months before his visit, his three year-old cousin, Richard, drowned in the bathtub. Mark’s first big hint is how Henry talks about death. From there, things go downhill quickly. Henry’s excursions with his cousin consist of strange, disturbing, and even deadly activities. Mark grows even more fearful of Henry when he reveals that baby Richard’s death was not an accident. Unfortunately, Henry is such a perfect son that Mark’s accusations go completely dismissed. Outnumbered and labeled as hysterical, Mark can do nothing but put up with Henry’s psycopathy until he can leave his aunt and uncle’s. Eventually, Henry goes so far as to try to kill his own sister on a frozen lake. Again, no one believes Mark. The incident is ruled an accident. In the end, Mark’s aunt finally takes notice and finds a damning piece of evidence against Henry, but it is too late to save everyone.
From the sordid ending to the claustrophobic, psychological tension, this film screams “Hitchcock.” The plot is so similar it can almost be called a rip-off, though Joseph Ruben does vary the story quite a bit. The filming style is not overtly gruesome or grotesque. It does not go for “shock value,” but rather psychological value. As in Shadow of a Doubt, the family’s refusal to see beyond the façade of their beloved relative proves deadly. While it was panned by critics for being too violent for children (and too violent a film for children to play in), the performances of young Wood and Culkin remain praised. From start to finish, this film is rife with Hitchcock’s legacy.
What Lies Beneath, made in 2000, has an icy blonde suspect her next door neighbor of killing his wife and believes her house is haunted; it has strong resemblance to the plot of Rear Window besides the supernatural part which is not Hitchcockian.
Bates Motel, is an A&E series that is also on Netflix; it is supposed to allow the viewers to see what Norman Bates’ childhood life was like growing up so abnormally close to his mother. They move into a mansion in a small town with a motel, everything about the series is based on Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho. However, this film series takes place in modern times.
After viewing Rear Window, I noticed it was very similar to the movie Disturbia. Disturbia takes almost the same story plot, except that this time the main character, Shia LaBeouf, is on house arrest. Like in Rear Window, LaBeouf starts looking into his neighbors houses watching them do all sorts of things, and, like the character played by James Stewart in Rear Window, will see something he did not expect to see.
Shia LaBeouf with his binoculars spying on his neighbors in Disturbia
James Stewart using his camera to spy on his neighbors.
There is also, of course, the beautiful woman. Grace Kelly seems to be more under appreciated in Rear Window, the relationship is more typical of teenage relationships these days in Disturbia.
The relationship in Disturbia
The relationship in Rear Window
In both of the movies, a murder was seen through this secretive creeping into neighbors windows. This was the main plot point in both of the movies and also what created the suspense.
Murderer in Disturbia
Murderer in Rear Window
Disturbia was obviously inspired by Rear Window. This to me is important because it shows how HItchcock’s original ideas were genius and how we can change his ideas to better fit the likes of people today. Rear Window is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, but Disturbia was definitely more interesting of a movie to watch mainly because of the modern technology.
American Psycho is a film that is upfront about its inspiration. There are the obvious references in the title as well as the name of the name of the central character, Patrick Bateman, and the the thematic similarities confirm a degree of similarity. Psychological instability due to an erosion of identity is a key theme common to both films. However, being a comparatively new film, American Psycho had a much different feel to it. Bateman’s detached personality numbs the viewer to an abundance of shocking scenes that would not have survived 1960s censorship.