Spanish one sheet for REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1954)
Designer: Fernando Albericio
Poster source: Heritage Auctions
Bryan Menages writes: Hitchcock is the unquestioned master of suspense. But what is it about his scenes that makes them so gripping, and why do they stand up to repeated viewings, even when you know the twist?
To answer this, the Nerdwriter turned to blocking—how you position stuff and people in relation to each other—specifically, the blocking in an early interaction from Vertigo. In the lengthy scene, a retired detective (Jimmy Stewart) meets a shipping tycoon (Tom Helmore) in his office, where he’s about to be lied to quite a bit.
During the meeting, Hitchcock uses the chairs to suggest power, with the dominant party at any given time being physically higher than the seated party. Similarly, the back half of the room is slightly raised and blocked by partial walls, almost like a stage…(read more)
A few nights ago, I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds‘, for the first time in decades. I wonder why? I’ve seen restored versions of Psycho, Read Window, and Vertigo multiple times, but for some reason I’d missed re-watching this one. It was a pleasure to see again. And to see Tippi Hedren with fresh eyes.
And I’m not the first to notice it. A brief Google search shows seekers asking if Tippi and Paris are related. (they are not) In the course of this, I also rediscovered that Tippi Hedren is the mother of actress Melanie Griffith. Born in 1957, Melanie Griffith recalls visiting the set during the filming of The Birds, in 1962, when she was a little girl.
I was also pleased to find that the earthy and vivacious brunette female co-star is Suzanne Pleshette, another detail I’d forgotten. She has features similar to Elizabeth Taylor, or a young Stockard Channing.
Notice, in the photo below, how the 33 year-old Hedren has similar features, or facial expression, to the 34-year old Paris Hilton. See a similarity? I think it’s there.
Since we all know the story, and suspense isn’t a factor, I was free to pay closer attention to Tippi Hedren‘s performance, and to the interpersonal drama between the main characters, played by Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, and Suzanne Pleshette.
What a strange, dark, pensive, Freudian, romantic-erotic narrative! Where much is left unsaid, but implied. Jealousy, loneliness, abandonment, flirtation, hostility, attraction, are all explored, but not resolved. I’ve always thought of Vertigo as being the most neurotic, sexually obsessed, repressed, fixated story in Hitchock’s canon, but I had underestimated the peculiar storyline of The Birds. Before the actual birds take over the story, there’s a lot of familial and romantic turbulence. And the cast is wonderful.
Tippi Hedren looks so elegant, mischievous, and glamorous, one can see why Hitchcock selected the untrained model, fixated on her, and elevated her to movie star. Much is written about Hitchock’s abusive, controlling personality, and troubles with female leads, no need to cover that here, Hedren was no exception. Leaving all that aside, it was a pleasure to simply marvel at how lovingly photographed the neophyte actress is, and how well-crafted the film is. The moody San Francisco and northern California seaside locations, the special effects, the sound design (no music, only bird sounds make up the film’s score) the cinematography…besides being one of the most famous horror movies of all time, it’s also a terrific early 1960s time-capsule. Next time you watch it? Forget about the birds, and follow the other elements of the story. Perhaps you’ll find it as rewarding as I did.
Robert Nason writes: In Alfred Hitchcock’s films, the lack of information—or the possession of it—can have deadly consequences. The titles are revealing: “Suspicion” (1941), “Notorious” (1946), “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934, 1956). In his concise, insightful book on the director, Michael Wood asserts that in Hitchcock’s films there are “only three options: to know too little, to know too much . . . and to know a whole lot that is entirely plausible and completely wrong.”
“Some claim that Hitch was a sadist who took ‘pleasure in seeing beautiful women in harm’s way.’ Mr. Wood argues that Hitchcock worked out his own fears on film: ‘Far from enjoying the torments of these women at risk, he identified with them.'”
Hitchcock was born on Aug. 13, 1899, the son of a greengrocer. Members of this economic class, Mr. Wood says, were suspicious of the posh people above them and the unruly ones below. Hitchcock’s films would abound with upper-class villains and fearful mobs. As a Catholic, Hitchcock was an outsider in Protestant England; he would later be an English outsider in America.
Shy, chubby and intelligent, the young Hitchcock had few friends. He preferred attending sensational London trials—and movies. Instead of fan magazines, Hitch—as he preferred to be called—avidly read technical film journals and landed a job designing movie title cards. As a fledging director of silents, he was influenced by the shadowy lighting and dynamic camera movements of German Expressionist cinema. He would combine their beauty and atmosphere of anxiety with a dash of black humor and a blonde in jeopardy. All the ingredients were in place for his third feature, “The Lodger” (1927), the film “in which he became Hitchcock,” as Mr. Wood puts it. The title character is suspected by everyone as a Jack-the-Ripperish killer. Is he or isn’t he? “Innocence and guilt,” Mr. Wood notes, “leave many of the same traces.”
When Hitchcock came to Hollywood in 1939, he had already imparted alarming warnings to his British countrymen in a recent string of thrillers. He would send the same message to Americans: A menace threatened not only Great Britain and the United States but civilization as a whole. In many of Hitchcock’s great British films, from “The 39 Steps” (1935) to “The Lady Vanishes” (1938), we’re usually not told who the spies are working for, but there’s little doubt who the enemy is. Likewise, in his early Hollywood film “Foreign Correspondent” (1940), the “peace activist,” suavely played by Herbert Marshall, is actually a spy working for the unnamed foe.
While some Hitchcock films deal with global threats, the truly frightening works dwell upon more intimate dangers. In the film that was the director’s personal favorite, “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943), Joseph Cotton plays a dapper killer of wealthy women, proving that evil could lurk even in anytown America. In “Strangers on a Train” (1951) and “Rear Window” (1954), brutal murders occur, respectively, in an amusement park and a middle-class apartment building. Hitchcock became an American citizen in 1955, the same year that his hit television program “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” debuted. Mr. Wood suggests that the habitually fearful Hitchcock worried about “losing what he most cared about” at the pinnacle of his career, and this contributed to the richness of his confident yet melancholy films during the next few years.
Mr. Wood devotes more space to “Vertigo” (1958) than to any other Hitchcock film. In this masterpiece of misinformation and obsession, Jimmy Stewartplays a retired private investigator fascinated by a suicidal woman who is hardly who she seems to be. In “North by Northwest” (1959), Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a shallow Madison Avenue advertising man thought by enemy spies to be an American intelligence officer who in fact doesn’t exist. Read the rest of this entry »