Alfred Hitchcock would have been 113 years old today and to celebrate his life and career we’re taking a look at 5 of his most memorable (and terrifying) moments. Through his genius direction, has made his name a synonym for suspense. A master craftsman of the thriller genre, he is considered to be one of the most creative and gifted directors of the twentieth century. He had perfected the art of creating terror in the heart of the viewer without too many props. With just the flicker of a glance or the sound of a footstep he could send goose pimples down the arms of the audience without much effort. “There is no terror in the bang of the gun, just in the anticipation of it” was his philosophy, and he succeeded in making his viewers sit on the edge of their seats while they breathlessly waited for the mystery to unfold. They saw the dangers that lurked in the corners, while Hitchcock’s characters walked unknowingly towards their doom.
Shower Scene – Psycho (above)
This is undoubtedly one of the scariest scenes in cinematic history. Black and white cinema relied upon stark images as much as it did on the interplay between light and the shadows. The shadowy image on the walls as Norman Bates kills in the shower was Hitchcock at his creative best. The collective scream of the audience was testimony to the craftsmanship of this eerie scene. This was not one his best films, it was probably one of his most violent ones, yet it was one his greatest hits. Many copies and spoofs followed but none could match the spine-tingling terror that was generated with just this one master stroke.
Plane Chase – North by Northwest
A crop dusting plane chasing a debonair, Cary Grant, down an empty road is one of Hitchcock’s most iconic moments on the silver screen. Grant was at his best in this film, and with one of Hitchcock’s perennial blond heroines, Eva Marie Saint, helping him with his sinister motives, this film is an entertaining thriller. This was Hitchcock at his urbane best. Even though the suspense was not of the spine-tingling kind, the twists and turns in the film kept the audience entertained, and this chase scene was a directorial triumph from him.
Birds in the Schoolyard – The Birds
A film of immense savagery, The Birds was not one of Hitchcock’s stock films and strayed significantly from his usual formula. The scene where the birds descend one by one and settle down on a schoolyard gym had an eerie and supernatural ambience to it. Never have birds looked so frightening, never has a director succeeded in making a simple everyday occurrence look paranormal and intimidating. Many critics believe that this was one of his finest films, since it departed from his traditional subjects and attempted something different.
Footsteps – Rear Window
Rear Window was a film which had a limited visual scope; the audience sees only what James Stewart can see from his window, a vista of small flats and families. Even within this restricted canvas, Hitchcock builds one of the greatest suspense scenes, when James Stewart listens to the sound of the elevator rising and of the footsteps moving towards his home. This nail-biting climax was Alfred Hitchcock at his very best. Using minimal resources, he built up apprehension and tension as the protagonist waited for the inevitable – a showdown with the villain. The use of bright flashbulbs to blind the intruder was ingenuity at its finest!
Climax Scene – Vertigo
Kim Novak was at her deadliest in Vertigo. She got to play one of the most beautiful double role characters in this Hitchcock classic. In the climax scene Hitchcock does not let go of the reins till the last moment and the audience is never too sure when the story is about to end. Hitchcock transformed a simple phobia into a spellbinding iconic climax on top of a bell tower. A tale of obsession and lost love, Vertigo is his finest film. The appearance of the shadowy nun will make even the most stalwart viewer jump.
Will Dole is a film and pop culture obsessive. He’s passionate about a range of film genres from b-movies to nouvelle vague. When not glued to a screen in rapt viewing, he’s glued to a screen writing for www.studentreps.org.uk