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After Hitchcock

After Hitchcock

David Boyd
R. Barton Palmer
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  • Book Info
    After Hitchcock
    Book Description:

    Alfred Hitchcock is arguably the most famous director to have ever made a film. Almost single-handedly he turned the suspense thriller into one of the most popular film genres of all time, while hisPsychoupdated the horror film and inspired two generations of directors to imitate and adapt this most Hitchcockian of movies. Yet while much scholarly and popular attention has focused on the director's oeuvre, until now there has been no extensive study of how Alfred Hitchcock's films and methods have affected and transformed the history of the film medium.

    In this book, thirteen original essays by leading film scholars reveal the richness and variety of Alfred Hitchcock's legacy as they trace his shaping influence on particular films, filmmakers, genres, and even on film criticism. Some essays concentrate on films that imitate Hitchcock in diverse ways, including the movies of Brian de Palma and thrillers such asTrue Lies,The Silence of the Lambs, andDead Again. Other essays look at genres that have been influenced by Hitchcock's work, including the 1970s paranoid thriller, the Italiangiallofilm, and the post-Psychohorror film. The remaining essays investigate developments within film culture and academic film study, including the enthusiasm of French New Wave filmmakers for Hitchcock's work, his influence on the filmic representation of violence in the post-studio Hollywood era, and the ways in which his films have become central texts for film theorists.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79529-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)
    David Boyd and R. Barton Palmer

    The half century or so of Alfred Hitchcock’s career spanned crucial eras in the history of world and, especially, Hollywood cinema: from the refinement of the silents’ ability to tell feature-length stories with images in the years before the coming of sound; to the reconfiguring of film style necessitated by the conversion to “talking pictures” a few years later; to the refinements, both narrative and visual, made in the so-called Classic Hollywood text during the 1930s and 40s; to the advent in the next decade of wide-screen cinematography (which required further adjustments to “corporate” techniques); to the industry’s accommodation with...

  4. PART I: Psycho Recycled

    • For Ever Hitchcock: Psycho and Its Remakes
      (pp. 15-30)
      Constantine Verevis

      Much of the talk leading up to, and following, the release of Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of the Alfred Hitchcock filmPsycho(1960) was an expression of outrage and confusion at the defilement of a beloved classic. For fans and critics alike—forre-viewers—thePsychoremake was nothing more than a blatant rip-off: not only an attempt to exploit the original film’s legendary status, but (worse) a cheapreplicaof “one of the best and best known of American films” (“Psycho: Saving a Classic”). These viewers consistently privileged the “original”Psychoover its remake, or measured the success...

    • Hitchcockian Silence: Psycho and Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs
      (pp. 31-46)
      Lesley Brill

      Although by 1991 Alfred Hitchcock’s last film was fifteen years past, his name was still synonymous with suspense, with movie (and TV) narratives of offbeat crime and terror. When an expensively produced crime-horror picture with marquee stars, a serial murderer, a generous dash of incongruous flippancy, and a strong psychoanalytic bent came out that year, one would have expected Hitchcock’s name to be widely invoked. In reviews and numerous commentaries onThe Silence of the Lambs, however, such was not the case. A number of critics noticed that Jame Gumb (Ted Levine), the serial killer of Demme’s movie, “is the...

  5. PART II: The Return of the Repressed

    • Shadows of Shadow of a Doubt
      (pp. 49-64)
      Adam Knee

      The Return of Dracula(1958) is hardly a distinguished film as American horror films go—a low-budget production at a time of a low ebb in the genre, horror having been largely supplanted by science fiction throughout the 1950s. Both in fact remained largely disreputable genres during the decade, rarely commanding “A treatment” and instead serving as fodder for drive-in double bills. The seventy-seven-minute film mentioned here, produced by the small independent company Gramercy Pictures, was itself variously released (by United Artists) on double bills with the genre filmsThe Flame Barrier(1958) andHouse of the Living(1958).¹ As...

    • Psycho or Psychic? Hitchcock, Dead Again, and the Paranormal
      (pp. 65-82)
      Ina Rae Hark

      Were a court proceeding to be conducted on the issue, theDead Againattorneys would have to stipulate that there are Hitchcockian echoes in that film. On the DVD commentary track, director Kenneth Branagh speaks of the film’s evocation of “a bit of Hitchcock black Gothic” and admits that the film throughout was infused with “a lot of Hitchcock and Welles.” Composer Patrick Doyle modeled his score on those of Bernard Herrmann, who worked with both these directors. On her track, producer Lindsay Doran remarks that the importance of objects in the film reflects Hitchcock’s theories about “plastic material.” A...

  6. PART III: The Politics of Intertextuality

    • The Hitchcock Romance and the ’70s Paranoid Thriller
      (pp. 85-108)
      R. Barton Palmer

      Emerging in the Hollywood of the 1970s to enjoy a popularity that has now lasted for three decades, the “paranoid thriller” is commonly considered thoroughly Hitchcockian, especially since at least three of the films in this series, all directed by Brian De Palma, are more of less imitative homages to the “master of suspense.”¹ A variety of the “suspense thriller,” these are films, according to Charles Derry, that have all been “made in the shadow of Alfred Hitchcock.”² Though never contested, the view that the shadow of Hitchcock looms over the appearance and flourishing of the paranoid thriller does seem...

    • Exposing the Lies of Hitchcock’s Truth
      (pp. 109-124)
      Walter Metz

      As a helicopter descends into an isolated trailer park, commandos storm into one of its residences. Inside, a man and a woman scream as armed troops surround them. The woman is whisked into a van and driven away. Later, this woman is taken deep within an intelligence agency’s headquarters. She is placed inside a dark, cavernous room where she is interrogated by two men who remain hidden behind a one-way mirror. The men’s voices are grotesque, distorted by computer technology. The woman cries hysterically, desperately trying to convince her abductors that she is not a spy.

      Is this torture scene...

  7. PART IV: Found in Translation

    • Red Blood on White Bread: Hitchcock, Chabrol, and French Cinema
      (pp. 127-144)
      Richard Neupert

      No British or American director has been more important to French critics and theorists than Alfred Hitchcock. Since the 1940s, Hitchcock has been at the center of every major debate and every critical movement in French theory, from auteurism to structuralism, psychoanalysis, feminism, and beyond. Moreover, Hitchcock’s highly structured narratives and manipulative cinematic techniques inspired several generations of French filmmakers to offer pastiches of shots, scenes, and even whole movies “à la Hitchcock.” Thus, there is no more fertile ground for evaluating the impact of Alfred Hitchcock on world cinema than testing his ties to French film criticism and practice....

    • “You’re Tellin’ Me You Didn’t See”: Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Antonioni’s Blow-Up
      (pp. 145-172)
      Frank P. Tomasulo

      Alfred Hitchcock’s influence on international culture and especially on other film directors has been enormous. Whether the filmmaker perceived trends ahead of his time or the contemporary zeitgeist just happened to catch up with his feverish fantasies (perhaps because of the popularity of his paranoid movies) is somewhat irrelevant. Whatisimportant is that the “Age of Anxiety” proclaimed by poet W. H. Auden and composer Leonard Bernstein found its cinematic “Artist of Anxiety” in Alfred Hitchcock. Critic Richard Schickel summed it up in the title of an article in theNew York Times: “We’re Living in a Hitchcock World,...

    • Melo-Thriller: Hitchcock, Genre, and Nationalism in Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
      (pp. 173-194)
      Ernesto R. Acevedo-Muñoz

      Pedro Almodóvar has been probably the most internationally prominent Spanish filmmaker since his breakthrough films of the 1980s,The Law of Desire(1987), andWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown(1988). The critical and commercial success of some of his films in the United States (Women on the Verge, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down![1989],High Heels[1991],Kika[1994], and the Oscar-winningAll About My Mother[1999]) has made his name synonymous with Spanish cinema in many circles. Almodóvar’s films have been celebrated as irreverent, self-reflexive, and self-conscious explorations of Spanish national identity, sexuality, repression, and...

    • “Knowing Too Much” about Hitchcock: The Genesis of the Italian Giallo
      (pp. 195-214)
      Philippe Met

      Enigmatic childhood trauma flashbacks; the fetishistic ritual of black gloved hands getting ready for the kill; point-of-view shots of a faceless murderer wearing a shiny trench coat; the flash of a blade in the dark (be it a knife, a razor, a meat cleaver, or a hatchet); scantily clad “scream queens” being stalked and subjected to shocking and sadistic acts of violence; a morally decadent and sexually deviant upper-class milieu; an inept local police force and an eye witness as impotent amateur sleuth; a deleterious atmosphere of rampant suspicion; an abundance of red herrings and twist endings (that not too...

  8. PART V: Theoretically Hitchcockian

    • Death at Work: Hitchcock’s Violence and Spectator Identification
      (pp. 217-234)
      Robert Sklar

      Writing the first extensive critique onPsychoin English, Robin Wood in 1965 described the “showerbath murder” as “probably the most horrific incident in any fiction film.” He devoted much of his subsequent analysis to the impact on spectators of this gruesome scene and its aftereffects. Having been drawn in by the filmmaker to experience Marion’s emotional turmoil as our own—“Hitchcock uses every means to enforce audience identification,” Wood declared—“we” have been shattered almost beyond recovery: “Never . . . has identification been broken off so brutally.” Yet, within moments of Marion’s blood swirling down the drain, we...

    • Hitchcock and the Classical Paradigm
      (pp. 235-248)
      John Belton

      Alfred Hitchcock’s interest in the cinema has always had a theoretical bent. His notions about the cinema were shaped, in part, by the theoretical agendas of British film culture in the 1920s. His apprenticeship as a filmmaker included screenings of German, Soviet, and other modernist films at the London Film Society.¹ The Film Society drew its membership from a broad spectrum of the film community, ranging from critics such as Iris Barry, Ivor Montagu, and Walter Mycroft, to directors and writers such as Anthony Asquith, Adrian Brunel, George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells, to producers such as Sidney Bernstein...

  9. PART VI: Modus Operandi

    • How to Steal from Hitchcock
      (pp. 251-270)
      Thomas M. Leitch

      No filmmaker has ever produced a more extended meditation on the work of another filmmaker than Brian De Palma. Nor has any filmmaker taken more critical drubbings than De Palma has for his borrowings from Hitchcock. On the strength especially of a small but provocative minority of his films—Sisters(1973),Obsession(1975),Carrie(1976),Dressed to Kill(1980),Blow Out(1981),Body Double(1984), andRaising Cain(1992)—De Palma has been variously characterized as a Hitchcock imitator, a creator of Hitchcock homages, an acolyte, an heir apparent, a parasite, a scavenger, and a thief. In reviewingBlow Out,...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 271-274)
  11. Index
    (pp. 275-282)