Hitchcock Something or Other

That birdie we call B-Sol over at The Vault of Horror posted a little somethin’-somethin’ on Hitchock’s (arguable) masterpiece this week.  And without his words, I may have missed out on the opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of Psycho.  (Yes, I feel like a big lame heel right now.  Thanks for pointing it out.)

To many genre fans, Psycho is the pinnacle of the horror genre–everything before led to it and everything after copied it.  It’s the standard no one else has ever reached.  It’s… well, it’s Psycho, dudes.  If you haven’t seen it, I’d be surprised to discover you even have a head.  I mean, really, what is your head for if not for absorbing the awesomeness that is Marion Crane in the shower?

But all this chatter on Psycho makes me think more broadly about Hitchcock.  Now, I have to be honest.  I am nowhere near an expert on Hitchcock.  I haven’t seen half of his movies, but I have seen enough to know I love him.  I have seen enough to know why everyone is all “Oh, Hitchcock is the best!”  I’ve seen enough to know, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if I argued with them.

However, Hitchcock is one of those directors whose name gets bandied about in reviews like crazy.  I cannot count the number of times I have read “Hitchcockian” in a review.  This has always bothered me.  It bothers me for many reasons (like it’s really just name-dropping for one), but mostly it bothers me because I have never in my entire life seen a film that was Hitchcockian that was not actually made by Hitchcock himself.

Now, I am no film theorist.  I just like to have fun and watch a lot of movies, and I like to think I have some decent taste, but I don’t know the ins and outs of movie-making.  I can’t usually put a finger on what it is that makes a movie work so well.  So what I offer you today is not an in-depth discussion of Hitchcock the filmmaker.  I would consider myself woefully unprepared for that discussion.  No, no.  All I am doing today is telling you why I love him.  These are just the top five things I love about him.  And the top five things I’m grateful for.

5.  Psycho (1960)

It seems only fitting to start with the film that prompted this discussion.  I first saw Psycho when I was but a wee bonny lass; it was in a living room in Southern Illinois.  As it was not the first “horror” movie I’d seen, my braincase was not completely obliterated by this viewing, but I was totally aware that I was watching something revolutionary.  And as I have grown and begun to understand film history as a continuum on which both Hitchcock and Bergman and even Wes Craven lie, I have finally begun to understand the significance of this film.  (Of course, it also helps that I have B-Sol walking me through it.)  I have to be honest and say that Psycho has never been my favorite of ole Alfie’s films, but I recognize its importance.  And it does rank at an extremely significant five in my Hitchcock faves.

4.  Lifeboat (1944)

This film, about torpedo survivors stuck in a lifeboat together, is among Hitchcock’s best, in my very humble and fangirl opinion.  All those movies about plucky bands of survivors overcoming their differences and working together?  Yeah, I saw that here first.  Because after all, one of them has to go nuts and accuse others of misdeeds, right?  As much as I love me some George Romero, I wonder how many times he watched this film before he wrote about what happens to people stuck in a desperate situation.  I mean, hey, for all we know they could just be as pleasant as peach pie… or it could be all Alive. Eh, who really knows?

3.  Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965, revived in 1985)

As much as I love a finished Hitchcock product, I might not love that more than the man himself passing judgment on the products advertised in the commercials that interrupted his lovely teleplays.  Many of us writing about horror will tell you, an overlong horror movie is a dud of a horror movie.  Hitchcock managed to shave his teleplays down to their most suspenseful elements.  The show was so beloved it required a 1985 revival; though, nothing is as good as those original episodes.

2.  Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window is, hands down, the most suspenseful film I have ever seen in my entire life.  And as I saw it as a very young kid, it is also the film all other suspense stories are measured against.  Jimmy Stewart plays a believable and lovable hero stuck in his house with a broken leg.  Grace Kelly manages to be someone I don’t hate for once in her life.  And Thelma Ritter… oh, Jesus, Thelma Ritter.  Can you love someone more than her?  (Yes, I know Ruth Gordon.  Don’t be so contrary, sheesh.)

1.  The Birds (1963)

For my money, The Birds will always be the best time you can have with Hitchcock.  The film is by turns scary, funny, uncomfortable, intelligent, and downright fascinating.  As much as I love me a good Nature Hates You! film, this is a character study wrapped in environmental terror.  The film is about the people trying to survive–and not really about the circumstances in which they find themselves.  It’s a difficult line to walk, and Hitchcock does it perfectly.

Sometime after 1960 (the year of Psycho, natch), Hitchcock made the discovery that not knowing an answer could be just as scary as knowing it.  As such, we are never sure why the birds attack Bodega Bay.  But we do know it could happen any day in any town.  And this is just the scariest thing of all.

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~ by acaseofyou12581 on July 1, 2010.

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