Friday, December 14, 2012

Hitchcock was his own greatest creation

The movie, Hitchcock, with Anthony Hopkins, is arriving amidst some grousing from critics. The complaints I’ve read about the biography are that it plays a bit with the facts. But would Hitchcock care that a movie was made about him and wasn't 100% factual? Probably not. He was known to be a bit slippery himself when it came to the truth. To put it another way, he didn’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

Hitchcock was also an inveterate publicity hound. Considering his portly features in this 1939 article from Life, you wouldn’t think he’d want a camera lens turned on him. But he did. And as often as possible.

Hitchcock sold his movies with his image and his name. This recent movie is about the making of Psycho in 1959. Historically Psycho has taken on great significance as a cinematic work of art because it was made by Hitchcock. For its time it was shocking, even morbid, and despite its story being well-known by now and its plot surprises long exposed, it still has that ability to create unease.

Copyright © 1939, 2012 Time-Life


Kirk said...

Not too long ago in the comment section of another blog, I said Pstcho was the one famous Hitchcock film that I've never cottoned to because, as you said, the plot points have long since been exposed. For some reason, I don't have the same problem with Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt, North by Northwest, or other films of his that I've seen over and over again. Only thing I can figure is that I was aware of Psycho's plot points BEFORE I ever saw the film. That's how famous it is. For instance, much has been written about Hitchcock killing off a major movie star--Janet Leigh--before the film was halfway over. Yet by the time I saw Psycho for the first time in the 1980s, the film was about the only thing Leigh was well-known for, whatever had originally made her a major movie star long since forgotten by that point. Anyway, as much as I love Hitchcock, Psycho's the one movie where I'm on the outside looking in.

Postino said...

Interesting observation, Kirk, and I share it to a degree. When Psycho came out I had it described to me in lurid detail, scene by scene. So all of the surprises were gone. But at that time I was in junior high school and my mom wouldn't have allowed me to see it, anyway. It took until 1970 or '71 before I saw it in a theater on a re-release as the bottom half of a double bill, and because of the vividness of that description 10 years earlier I “remembered” it before actually seeing it.

What you said about Janet Leigh I hadn’t thought of before. I never thought much of Leigh as an actress, although it could have been the roles she was given. Along with Marion in Psycho I thought of her as Aleta in the most miscast movie in history, Prince Valiant, co-starring with Robert Wagner and Sterling Hayden.

From things I’ve read about Hitchcock he didn’t think much of Robert Bloch’s book, which I also read long before I saw the movie. But after the movie Robert Bloch became forever “the author of Psycho” on the cover blurbs of his books, and it served him well. If Bob Bloch, who is one of my favorite authors, ever said what he thought of Hitchcock’s version of his book I haven’t read it. As with everything else Hitchcock did, he used the Walt Disney technique: Put your own name over the title and people will see it as your creation, not an interpretation of someone else’s work. It worked for Walt, it worked for Alfie.