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Who was Hitchcock? A fat man who played practical jokes on people? A control freak who humiliated others to make himself look better? A little boy afraid of the dark? One of the greatest storytellers of the century? He was all of these and more - twenty years after his death, he is still a household name; most people in the Western world have seen his film, and he popularised the action movie format we see every week on the cinema screen. He was both a great artist and dynamite at the box office. What's in this Pocket Essential guide? As well as an introductory essay, each of Hitchcock's films is individually reviewed and analysed. In addition, the effect he has had on the industry is explained - virtually every big action movie of the past three decades has been influenced by his work. And there's a handy multimedia reference guide.
I had a dream once. I’m at LAX (Los Angeles airport) and I’m waiting for my case to slide down the chute.There are lots and lots of people milling about.They are nondescript. I see my case on the carousel, pick it up and roll it towards Customs. I’ve got drink to declare but, before I get there, I trip on my laces.A Customs man walks towards me, asks if everything is okay. I’m fine. I crouch to tie my laces. He picks up my case and dusts it off. As he does so, I look at my case and realise it is not mine. My heart misses a beat. Looking at my face, the Customs man realises something’s wrong. He asks me to accompany him to his desk. I pause, then get up. Slowly, I walk towards his table, watching him unlock the case, open it. I can only see his eyes look down, then look up at me.“Is this your case, sir?” he asks me. I wake up in dread.What was in that case? I knew it was something bad. Alfred Hitchcock pervades our consciousness.There is no doubt in my mind that virtually everyone in the Western world has seen at least one of his movies.We have seen the world through his eyes and we find it frightening. Alfred Hitchcock was afraid, and he was able to communicate his fear through the use of situation. His films are scary, not because the people are scary, but because they are nice, even attractive.Awkward, shy, gawky Norman Bates – he wouldn’t hurt a fly. His films are scary, not because they take place in the dark shadows of the night, but because they are situated in bright sunlight, in plain sight, amongst the crowd. His films are scary, not because he is explicit or direct, but because his world-view is coded in abstraction. The Birds ends with the world in chaos. Mankind has to tiptoe through the rest of their lives because, at any moment, the world will turn on them. In Vertigo an obsessed man sees the woman he loves killed twice – life not only puts the knife in, it twists it as well. The reason why people are uneasy about watching Hitchcock is because they know he is capable of killing his characters. He knows that their experiences in the story may damage or cripple them forever. Janet Leigh is killed in Psycho.Mrs Thorwald is killed and chopped up in Rear Window.Vera Miles ends up in a sanatorium at the end of The Wrong Man. People are killed in virtually every movie he made.Worse than that, Hitchcock shows you the killing and the killers but you do not avert your eyes – you want to see it all.
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