A Conversation for Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 1


I'm sitting at home and just thought I'll post everything that pops into my head, so here goes;

Films - Psycho, Dial M for Murder, Vertigo, North by North West, Rear Window, The Birds.

Robert Bloch wrote Psycho.
Salvador Dali painted some of the sets for Vertigo.

That theme from the the TV Series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (a Twilight Zone formulation type series) I think it was called 'the March of the Marionettes' but not sure who the composer was.

The blood in the shower scene in Psycho was actually chocolate syrup.

The remake of Psycho was pants. (Anne Hesche - fameous for being Ellen Degeneres girlfriend starred)

Memories of films - Iconic images per se; The plughole to eye scene in Psycho. The aircraft zooming over Cary Grant's head in North by North West. Grant and his broken leg in Dial M. The 'vertigo sequences' in Vertigo. The Bell Tower in Vertigo. The Birds attacking Tippi. The 'Bird' Room in Pyscho. The stabbing music from Psycho (HOW do you describe it?)

Hitchcock's use of camera tracking (revolutionary at the time) the best example being the detectives fall down the stairs in Psycho.

The United Nations building allowing filming for the first time for North by North West.

And there's probably more but that's all I could think of for now smiley - smiley
smiley - wizard

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 2

Smij - Formerly Jimster

I think you're getting Dial M for Murder confused. It starred Ray Milland, and the broken leg was James Stewart's in rear Window - but apart from that, good stuff!

How do you describe the attack music from Psycho? How about:

The stabbing of the knife is mirrored by the hand movements of the violinists, 'stabbing' with their bows to create a shrill, shrieking effect - 'IIE! IIE! IIE! IIE! IIE!' - which then drops to the bass strings section to echo the slow, sinking thuds of Maron Crane's last heart-beats. 'Bu-baaaahh... bu-baaaah... baaah.... bu.. bu... Baaah.... bu... bu....' As the music finally quietens, all we can hear is the water and blood trickling down the plug hole. The image disolves, replaced by a close-up on Marion's lifeless eye. Carefully, the camera pulls away, out of the bathroom, pans across the bedroom and over to the window where the Bates house is framed against a stormy sky. Suddenly, from inside the house, Norman's distressed cries break the silence: 'Mother! No! Blood! Blood!'

smiley - biggrin

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 3

Steve K.

In his book "The Art of Film Music", George Burt has a number of examples of Hitchcock's use of music. Or not. Regarding the shower scene in "Psycho", Burt says that Hitchcock thought the combination of bare visual essentials with rapid cuts in the editing would carry the scene, no music needed. After watching the final film, he realized his mistake and recalled the composer, Bernard Herrmann, to compose music for that one scene. "The result? One of the most memorable and horrifying moments in film history ..."

As an aside, I recall a similar story about Spielberg listening to John William's shark theme for "Jaws". He said something like "That's it? That's all?" And of course it became about as famous as the shower scene music. smiley - sharksmiley - musicalnotesmiley - yikes
I think Spielberg later said the music was maybe half the impact in "Jaws". Composers compose, directors direct.

P.S. The theme music for Hitchcock's TV show is titled "Funeral March of the Marionettes" by Charles Gounod, 1818 - 1893. You can get a (pretty pathetic) ring tone of it from Yahoo:


Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 4

Smij - Formerly Jimster

I love the story of Hitchcock saying that he didn't want a musical score for Lifeboat, arguing 'The audience will be wondering where the orchestra are hiding, on this tiny lifeboat.' Apparently, the less-than-patient reply was 'In that case, where's the camera, dummy?'

The score for the film was duly granted.

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 5

Steve K.

A music professor once said during a lecture on film music that Hitchcock's "The Birds" had no music at all. As the story goes, he was mad at long time composer colleague Bernard Herrmann. The soundtrack consists only of ambient sound and effects, like loud birds chasing kids. All the sound was post-production, the sound recording during filming used only for reference.

Its interesting that the Internet Movie Database entry on "The Birds" has a half dozen people listed as "Sound Dept." (none for music), including "Bernard Herrmann, Sound Designer, (uncredited)". Sounds like some hard feelings involved. smiley - crosssmiley - geek

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 6

Smij - Formerly Jimster

It's significant that Hitch ditched Herrmann's score for Torn Curtain for another. You can hear Herrmann's version on the DVD, and it's baffling as to what Hitch thought was wrong with it...

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 7


What’s interesting is that, Hitchcock's reputation of directing insanely scary movies, most of his famous, most of his movies are more like comedies. Sure Psycho and The Birds fit his generic movie profile, but most of the Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, are pretty funny.

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 8

Tonsil Revenge (PG)

I concur.

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 9

Smij - Formerly Jimster

When I was a child, I was really disappointed by Marnie, because I couldn't see what was so scary about it. Then my mum explained the proper meaning of 'suspense' to me.

Most of his films are very tense, and some have moments where you're gripping the chair-arm, screaming at the hero/ine to get out of there, but only those two you mentioned - Psycho and The Birds - could in any way be described as scary. Even Psycho has lost its bite somewhat over the years (when my dad saw it in 1960, one of his friends was utterly terrified - not by the shower scene but by the second murder, which is so much more horrifying). But Hitchcock would never have accepted The Birds as a 'horror' film, especially because it was based on a true story as much as the original Du Maurrier novel. I seem to remember reading that he used the phrase 'lyrical poem' to describe it - whatever that means smiley - smiley

Hitchcock's Legacy

Post 10

Tonsil Revenge (PG)

Yes, well, several of his leading actresses thought that he made films so that he could torture them.

There are many reasons to believe that Hitchcock suffered from a sort of psychological infantilism where symbolism can overwhelm the actual plot itself, a la "The Birds", which is full of odd medieval winks and nods. Of course, one of the useful things about such strange goings-on is that you can learn almost as much from watching a video of a Hitchcock film with the sound off as you can otherwise.
His comic book/storyboard sensibilities make it very easy for an audience to just sit back and go along for the ride.

Vertigo is a frightening film to me in many ways.
Marnie was just plain weird.
Family Plot was... eh, goofy?
Topaz was just irritating.
To Catch A Thief seemed like an excuse to play with scenery and some new film stock.

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