by Paul D. Marks
I have a confession to make. I love Hitchcock! Not everything, but plenty and not without reservations, though that’s for another post. And though I didn’t come up with this question I think it’s a fun one, so:
|Alma Reville, Alfred Hitchcock's wife|
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
Since I’m writing this ahead of time, I’m sure someone else mentioned my chosen plot twist as their best plot twist in a Hitchcock movie. Mine is the Kim Novak character, Madeleine, in Vertigo (one of my fave Hitchcock movies).
Briefly, Jimmy Stewart, a former detective suffering from vertigo, is hired by an old friend to follow the friend’s wife, Madeleine. Jimmy falls for her—no pun intended (if you know the movie you’ll know why it’s a pun…). Something happens and he loses her. But some time later he finds another woman who reminds him an awful lot of her, which leads to some very intriguing plot twists.
The first time one watches Vertigo these twists come on like a tsunami and, indeed, give the viewer a sense of vertigo. Wow! Where did that come from? But not ‘where did it come from’ in the sense of it’s out of the blue, but in the sense of ‘I didn’t see that coming’. It does work and it does grow from the plot. That said, it does strain credulity just a little, but one of the main conceits of movies is to suspend disbelief and truly great movies do that with panache.
As to who the strangest character is. Well, I’m not sure if he’s the strangest but I love Hume Cronyn’s Herb in Shadow of a Doubt. He plays the next door neighbor of Charlie (Teresa Wright) and her family, and along with Henry Travers, who plays her father, has a macabre fascination with murder and talks about it with a certain glee. You can see Hitchcock’s dark sense of humor bleeding through in their characters (pun intended). They’re constantly talking about how to kill people and get away with it.
Herbie Hawkins (Cronyn): Well, if I was gonna kill you, I wouldn't do a dumb thing like hitting you on the head. First of all, I don't like the fingerprint angle. Of course, I could always wear gloves. Press your hands against the pipe after you were dead and make you look like a suicide. Except it don't seem hardly likely that you'd beat yourself to death with a club. I'd murder you so it didn't look like murder.
|Shadow of a Doubt|
Joseph Newton (Travers): We're not talking about killing people. Herb's talking about killing me and I'm talking about killing him.
Herbie Hawkins: He ran plunk right into the propeller of an airplane.
Joseph Newton: Ooh boy!
Herbie Hawkins: Cut him all to pieces. Had to identify him by his clothes. His shirts were all initialed.
There’s so many great locations in Hitchcock, I’d love to use them all. Brazil in Notorious. Bodega Bay from The Birds. Denmark in Topaz. England in Frenzy. The middle of the ocean in Lifeboat, which occasions his most creative cameo.
All the movies mentioned here are worth a look if you’re looking for something to watch some cold, rainy night.
Check out Akashic's St. Louis Noir anthology with my short story Deserted Cities of the Heart.
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