Monday, August 13, 2012

Happy 113th Birthday Alfred Hitchcock!

by Jennifer Harlow

On Encore Suspense I've been enjoying Thirteen Days of Alfred Hitchcock in honor of his 113th Birthday on the 13th of August, today. Since I'm sure we're all fans of the Master of Suspense, I wanted to honor him as well on this day. So this post will be all about Hitch and what he means to me.

There was a time when my parents finally put their foot down and refused to allow me to watch horror movies, rightly so. I was around age eleven and still kept waking them in the middle of the night to check for monsters or serial killers (In my defense I was living in Central Florida near a swamp, both were very prevalent at the time). I was forbidden to watch anything with either save for the Universal Horror classics like The Bride of Frankenstein and The Mummy as the gore factor was a minimum. As I am me, I became obsessed with them watching the whole cannon. When Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) came around at Universal Studios about ten miles from my house I begged my father to take me so I could meet the monsters. (Please note the same never went for the Disney characters. I lost my shit, screaming like the pre-teen I was when I saw The Wolf Man as if he were Justin Bieber, but walked right by Mickey Mouse. As I said a million times before, I was a weird child.) At HHN Dad took me to the Hitchcock movie magic show, where you could see props from movies, a 3-D The Birds show, and a re-enactment of the shower scene from Psycho with audience participation. There I met Mr. Hitchock and his work. Good-bye monsters, hello Hitch.

As obsessively as my monster phase, so was my Hitchcock phase. Spies, conspiracies, serial killers, evil housekeepers, swarms of birds, I immersed myself in them. It was my first introduction to suspense, mystery, and intrigue using not only story and character but the tone set by use of lighting and camera angle. I learned that shock wasn't the only effective way to unnerve people. The slow burn was just as discomforting. I still always keep in mind his classic example of suspense versus shock. Shock being the main character walks into an office and right away a bomb goes off. Suspense is when the audience is shown the bomb then the characters keep talking, unaware of the bomb as the audience is. The thrill is prolonged with the latter, and in my opinion is better. 

I also loved that evil could be found where you least expected it. On a train, in a motel, across the table from you. The characters rarely went looking for trouble, it always just found them. Nowhere was safe, just as in real life. One day you're sitting in a hotel lobby, the next you're being chased by a plane in a corn field due to a case of mistaken identity. His movies also taught me that a villain could be sympathetic. Mrs. Danvers, Bruno Antony, even Norman Bates, they all had tragic back stories, desires that could never be fulfilled. They were overlooked by society and it drove them a little mad, as we all go sometimes. I try to incorporate all of these factors into my books. There are no absolutes in life, no one is wholy good or bad, but watch out when Mr. Hyde surfaces. You could end up being hacked to death in a shower or have your loved one attacked by the serial killer you've been watching through your window. That is Mr. Hitchcock's legacy, and I am beyond proud to have the ability to make even a tiny contribution to carrying on that legacy.

My Top Five Favorite Hitchcock Films
1. Shadow of a Doubt
2. Psycho
3. Strangers on a Train
4. Vertigo
      5. Notorious      

What about you? Which are your favorite Hitch movies? How have they impacted your writing or reading habits?  

Happy Birthday Hitch!


Sheila Webster Boneham said...

Great post, Jennifer. My top five are Marnie, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Vertigo, and Frenzy. (And I also love that hilarious homage to Hitch from Mel Brooks, High Anxiety! ;-))

Jennifer Harlow said...

All good ones

Kathleen Ernst said...

Jennifer, thanks for the list! I haven't watched much Hitchcock, but I think it's time to try some.

Beth Groundwater said...

Great post, Jennifer! Along with the Hitchcock movies you mentioned, I loved Rear Window and The Birds.

Keith Raffel said...

I was with you in re to Hitch till I saw that you left off To Catch A Thief, not a great film but a great movie, and Rear Window, which I just saw last month at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Come on, Jennifer!

Jennifer Harlow said...

Just couldn't get into Rear Window. But I did enjoy To Catch a Thief. My next book's title is a play on it To Catch a Vampire.