For the For Love of Film Blogathon this week, today we’re counting down our fifth and fourth favorite Alfred Hitchcock films along with a brief note on why they are important to each of our contributors (Wesley Lovell, Peter J. Patrick, Tripp Burton) here at Cinema Sight.
The Birds(Wesley Lovell)
Being a fan of the horror genre, two classics directed by Hitchcock helped define all others that followed. One of those two was the killer-bird drama The Birds. Set almost entirely within the cramped confines of a lonely house, trapped by a flock of territorial birds hell-bent on attacking anyone that gets near them. Psychologically thrilling without the need for gore, The Birds is one of those films that you remember vividly after only a single watch. It’s always been one of my favorite genre flicks and is on my list films I’d like to re-watch after I’ve seen the full Hitch canon.
Psycho (Peter J. Patrick)
Hitchcock’s taut direction, Bernard Herrmann’s pulsating score and the performances of Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh combined to make the first modern horror film an unforgettable experience, a feat that can never be duplicated and shouldn’t have been tried, even though they did -abysmally- in 1998.
Lifeboat (Tripp Burton)
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me putting this list together was how high up I placed Lifeboat. One of Hitchcock’s great experiments in filmmaking, confining a group of actors to a boat in a tank of water for 90 minutes, creates one of his most unusual yet compelling films. Most importantly, though, is how complex Hitchcock is able to make each of his characters, and how real he made even the Germans in a World War II-era war film. It is one of his smallest films, and one of his least “thrilling,” but it is still just as powerful and explosive as any other film in his canon.
Psycho (Wesley Lovell)
The ultimate genre thriller by Hitchcock is often cited as the mother, and I use that with tongue firmly set in cheek, of all slasher films. Although it was beaten to the punch every so briefly by Peeping Tom, it’s this masterpiece that fans of the genre look back to for all the cues and styles that have defined generations of films in the milieu. Crisply edited with a shocking twist that left audiences in the day reeling (and even some modern audiences who might be unfamiliar with the finale), this is easily one of his best films.
Vertigo (Peter J. Patrick)
A rare Hitchcock film in which the mystery is as important as the getting there with James Stewart at the top of his game as a private detecitve who suffers from acrophobia (the fear of heights) and how that fears plays into a cunning murderer’s plans. Two Kim Novaks and great location filming in and around San Francisco add to the fun.
Shadow of a Doubt (Tripp Burton)
Hitchcock’s work with actors (whom he called cattle on multiple occasions) is not usually talked about in his body of work, but he had an impeccable eye for casting and drawing out the best from movie stars in unsuspected ways. In Shadow of a Doubt, he gives reliable movie star Joseph Cotten his most complex and three-dimensional role as the murderous uncle who strolls back into town and upends his entire family. Hitchcock’s eye for detail was never better than on this film, which is among his tautest thrillers and most complex character studies, filled with great actors giving thrilling performances and thrilling set pieces adding up to a great film.