The Master of Suspense himself, who is interviewed extensively here, shares stories including his deep-seated fear of policemen, elaborates on the difference between shock and suspense, defines the meaning of MacGuffin, and discusses his use of storyboarding in designing a film. Clips from many of his greatest films (including North by Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, The Birds, and the legendary shower scene from Psycho) illustrate his points, often to Hitchcock’s own voice-over observations, with narrator Cliff Robertson offering other critical insights. Produced and directed by Richard Schickel for PBS. This documentary has not been released on DVD.
Have you ever been tempted to make what is nowadays called a horror film, which is different from a Hitchcock film?
No, because it’s too easy. No, they’re… they’re props. I believe in putting the horror in the mind of the audience and not necessarily on the screen. I once made a movie, rather tongue-in-cheek, called Psycho. And, of course, a lot of people looked at this thing and said “What a dreadful thing to do. How awful,” and so forth. But, of course it was to me… it had great elements of the cinema in it. The content, as such, was I felt, rather amusing… and it was… it was a big joke, you know? And I was horrified to find that some people took it seriously. It was intended to cause people to scream and yell, and so forth, but no more than the screaming and yelling on a switchback railway. Now, this film had a horrible scene at the beginning with a girl being murdered in a shower. Well, I deliberately made that pretty rough, but as the film developed, I put less and less physical horror into it because I was leaving that in the mind of the audience and, as the film went on, there was less and less violence but the tension, in the mind of the viewer, was increased considerably. I was transferring it from the film into their minds. So, towards the end, I had no violence at all. But the audience by this time was screaming in agony… thank goodness! –Huw Wheldon’s interview with legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock
Also, recommended viewing: this BBC documentary was broadcast in two parts in 1999: Alfred, the Great and Alfred, the Auteur, and focuses on the important parts of Hitchcock’s career. It starts off with his early life and work experience at the German studio UFA, which moves into his first features such as The Lodger, Sabotage, and The 39 Steps. It then moves into his initial Hollywood work, with classics such as Rebecca and Rope. There’s also a look into his failed production company Transatlantic Pictures, who made Rope and Under Capricorn. —vaughanography
I enjoyed making this film because, after all, this is my greatest fear—fear of the police. And I had all of that going for me. I’ve often thought of a scene of a man being taken to jail in England in what they used to call the Black Maria, and able to see out the grill window at the back all the things people were doing, going to restaurants, going home, lining up to go into a theatre. And this man is on the way to jail for probably ten, fifteen years, getting a kind of last glimpse of every-day life. In truth, perhaps ‘The Wrong Man’ should have been done as a documentary, without any cinematic consciousness, by a newsreel cameraman with a camera in one position all the time. I felt the front part of the picture very much, and I liked the climax when the right man is discovered, while the wrong man is praying to the picture on the wall. I liked the ironic coincidence. I was disturbed by the fact that, due to the documentary line, we had to follow the wife’s story, and his story kind of collapsed. —Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Alfred Hitchcock, The legendary interview from 1963
20-minute 1966 interview with Hitchcock on filmmaking, actors and improvisation, the Hitchcock-woman, humour of the macabre, being a traditionalist, making television, suspense and more.
Alfred Hitchcock takes us inside his creative process in this fascinating 1964 program from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. A Talk with Alfred Hitchcock is part interview, part masterclass in the craft of telling stories on film. —Open Culture
Somebody once said to me, ‘What is your idea of happiness?’ I said, ‘A clear horizon. Not even a horizon with a tiny cloud, no bigger than a man’s fist. It has to be absolutely clear.’ […] Nothing to worry about on your plate, only things that are creative and not destructive… I can’t bear quarreling, I can’t bear feelings between people—I think hatred is wasted energy, and it’s all non-productive. I’m very sensitive—a sharp word, said by a person, say, who has a temper, if they’re close to me, hurts me for days. I know we’re only human, we do go in for these various emotions, call them negative emotions, but when all these are removed and you can look forward and the road is clear ahead, and now you’re going to create something—I think that’s as happy as I’ll ever want to be. —Alfred Hitchcock