Happy Birthday Hitch
Today is the 118th anniversary of the birth of Sir Alfred Hitchcock. The internet is subsequently awash with editorials and retrospective analysis of his work. The great man himself is always worth scrutinizing, so you'll also find a great many articles that explore his "inner demons" and such like. Such is the extent of Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation and associated apocrypha, that we were given the cinematic biopic Hitchcock, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins in 2012. Not bad for someone who has been dead for thirty-seven years and who's last movie was made in 1976. I doubt if many of today's film directors will leave such a legacy and have their careers pawed over in the decades to come.
I won't waste my or your time providing a potted biography of Hitchcok nor critiquing his work, because there are plenty of existing online resources that can provide those services. What I will say is if you are a fan of quality cinema and are not familiar with the work of Alfred Hitchcock then you are doing yourself a disservice. Hitchcock was an innovator of using visual effects and cinematography to their maximum effect, yet it was never at the expense of the story. He was a clever observer of people and the human condition and could quickly weave a narrative that had the audience emotionally invested and in a state of suspense. In a nutshell, he fully understood every facet of cinema and how to use them to create accessible and compelling stories.
Hitchcock was also a great showman who understood about the power of the press and marketing. Furthermore, Hitch happily bought into the cult of his own personality. Watch the trailer below in which he walks around the set of Psycho making oblique references to the more salacious elements of the plot. Hitchcock manages to suggest enough to pique even the most casual viewers interest and play upon their desire for titillation. If only we had trailers presented in such a comparable style today by similar genuine auteur film makers. Sadly, the current state of mainstream Hollywood doesn’t provide an environment for such personalities to flourish.
Alfred Hitchcock's influence has been extensive among subsequent directors. David Lynch, Brian DePalma, Dario Argento, David Croneberg are but a few of those who have openly praised his work and exhibited homages to Hitchcock in their own material. And let us not forget the great partnership between Hitch and the composer Bernard Herrmann. Hermann crafted eight outstanding scores for the master including the iconic Psycho. The jarring strings of the shower scene have now transcended cinema and become a pop culture reference for anything vaguely horrific. Few creative endeavours have such an impact upon public perceptions.
So, in this age of video on demand and such like, there really is no excuse for remaining oblivious to one of the world’s finest film makers. Why not settle yourself down in a comfy chair, dim the light and partake of one of Alfred Hitchcock's classics. There's plenty to choose from, depending upon your tastes. Be warned, even by today's standard these films are not always family friendly, often containing a strong sexual under current. In his later work, some of the violence is still quite disturbing. But as Hitch said himself "In films murders are always very clean. I show how difficult it is and what a messy thing it is to kill a man"