Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Let’s talk about Hitchcock. Best plot twist in a Hitchcock film? Strangest character? A setting you’d like to use in one of your novels?

by R.M.

I won't be able to say much here, as I haven't been a follower of Hitchcock over the years. I haven't even seen Psycho! So I'll just set out in point form what I know of the Master of Suspense. At best it will give you a chance to point at my ignorance and laugh.

1)     While I haven't seen Psycho, I have seen the interesting Hitchcock, a 2012 film about Hitchcock's making of Psycho -- along with other events in the director's remarkable life. This movie starred Anthony Hopkins as Hitch, and Helen Mirren as his wife.

2)     I have seen The Birds, a long time ago, and was thrilled to find out Evan Hunter wrote the screenplay, because Hunter -- aka McBain -- happened to be a favourite writer in those days. Following up today, I found this online (http://www.mysterynet.com/hitchcock/mcbain): Charles L.P. Silet's interview of Hunter on MysteryNet.com, re working with Hitchcock. I found it a brief but enlightening glimpse into the complex process of turning a novel into a film.

Apparently early on Hitch told Hunter: “Forget the story (by Daphne Du Maurier) now that you’ve read it, because all we’re using is the title and the notion of birds attacking people.”

Hunter also describes the idea he had for the ending which didn't get used, it sounds like because Hitch ran out of steam by that point. Also a scene was added against Hunters' wishes, in fact one he sums up as "stupid." Hunter also says of Hitch: "... I loved working with him. He was like the father anyone wished he would have. He was intelligent, he was world-traveled. He knew everybody, he was famous, he was a star in his own right."

So that was an entertaining bit of research.

3)     What else can I say about Hitchcock? The other night I watched the 1954 Rear Window with James Stewart. I liked the set-up, but expected more of a twist.

4)     As for the span of Hitchcock's work, it's quite amazing. Just look at his filmography. Yes, his work stretches back to the dawn of time (almost). I had found this out by accident, as a few Christmases ago I bought a set of Hitchcock DVDs, expecting a whole whack of gripping thrillers that we could sit and watch for hours on end as the snow drifted down on Nelson. Not quite. As it turned out, it was a collection of his very first films from the '30s, many silent, which I couldn't watch through. The one I watched was hilariously aimless, with no suspense whatsoever, forget twists, and all set to nightmarishly weird music that has no nexus to the action. And what plot there was took back seat to the characters' reactions to one another and the things they did with their hats. Yet those meandering old films with their feverish milieu can be captivating too. Maybe they're ultra-modern and yet to be rediscovered! Anyway, if you're looking for strangest character in Hitchcock's films, try going back to the '30s.

All said, I admire the man for his devotion to the craft and his humour. One of these days I've really got to watch Psycho - and many others that have been and will be recommended this week on 7 Criminal Minds.


Art Taylor said...

This week's question is indeed a very specific one--with that expectation that everyone has seen Hitchcock! You did great here chatting about him, despite not being a true follower/fan. And I've got that same DVD set you showed--and we haven't yet watched it either, though I've seen some of the films there before.

RM Greenaway said...

Thanks Art. It helped that I finally learned we bloggers have some advance warning of upcoming questions, so I could do some looking up. :)

Susan C Shea said...

I hope Tracy will weigh in - she amazed me with her detailed knowledge and appreciation of Hitchcock when I saw her at a con earlier this year.

Paul D. Marks said...

I think some of Hitchcock's early films seem particularly dated to us today, both in the filming and storytelling aspects. And the early ones were also before he found his niche. His works from the 40s and 50s are his best period overall. Though there's a couple from the 30s, The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps that are really good, though again dated compared to what we expect today.

Susan C Shea said...

Paul, I didn't even know he directed The 39 Steps.