By Meaghan Walsh Gerard
I’ve always preferred psychological suspense over slasher films. I watch them all year but the cool evenings and shorter days is a perfect time to try a Hitchcock movie – especially if you haven’t before.
Alfred Hitchcock was born in 1899 in London, England. He began making silent films in England as a young man. He took his talents to America in 1940 and is one of the few directors to successfully make the transition to sound. In all, his career spanned more than 50 years and earned him the title of The Master of Suspense.
Trick-or-treat yourself to these beloved Hitchcock films.
Hitchcock’s first American production was a massive hit, earning him his only Oscar nomination. Starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier it’s a tense, moody mystery. Olivier is a troubled widower, taken with the naive Fontaine. Their newlywed happiness is poisoned by the memory of his first wife, who died under suspicious circumstances. Judith Anderson plays the evil, iconic housekeeper Mrs. Danvers.
Stylish and unsettling, Vertigo was named the best film of all time by the British Film Institute. James Stewart, a retired police detective, is hired to follow Kim Novak, the wife of an old college friend. She’s been behaving strangely but Stewart has no idea what he’s in for when he starts to uncover the truth. Gorgeous costumes, calculating characters, and a beautiful musical score from Bernard Herrman make it required Hitchcock watching.
When a bored photographer L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) with a broken leg begins to imagine his neighbor (Raymond Burr) may have done away with his wife, he has to convince his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) that something nefarious is afoot. The amateur sleuths must gather enough evidence without arousing the suspicion of the increasing volatile neighbor. In bright, saturated Technicolor, and with gorgeous gowns by Edith Head, the film is also a technical marvel, having been shot on an intricate, detailed, and massive set, built entirely on a soundstage. And it’s still a nail-biter, more than 60 years later.
While the thriller starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh isn’t my favorite of Hitchcock’s, I find something new and interesting each time I watch it. Leigh disappears while escaping a petty crime. Her sister and boyfriend follow her trail to a dusty motel off the old highway. Famous for its shocking ‘shower scene,’ it’s a tightly-constructed, stomach-knotting movie. It also features a Bernard Herrman score, this one entirely composed for strings.
Don’t want to commit to a full-length movie? Alfred Hitchcock also produced, and hosted, a popular thirty-minute television show in the 1950s, and it holds up well. Each episode is self-contained, telling stories of domestic suspense, failed robberies, mistaken identities and more. The series became known for Hitchcock’s own dry, amusing introductions and are a delightful way to get to know the Master of Suspense.
Browse the Alfred Hitchcock collection on DVD Netflix:
Meaghan Walsh Gerard has been writing about films (especially classic ones) and books (especially gothic ones) for more than ten years on her site. She is obsessed with the art of storytelling and holds a master’s degree in cinema studies. Meaghan has been a DVD Netflix member since 2003. Follow Meaghan at mwgerard.com, on Twitter @mwgerard, or Facebook and Instagram.