The king of thrillers.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) -- This is meant to be a comedy, but most of Hitchcock's thrillers are more truly funny. The premise of this movie, screwball as it is, is almost offensive: that -- due to a technicality -- a couple learns they're not legally married. Previously, the husband had said he might not marry her again if he could do it all over (stupid), and now the woman takes the opportunity to have a new boyfriend. In some other movie, that might be funny, but here it was just bothersome.
Strangers on a Train (1951) -- "Criss-cross." The best thing about this movie is Robert Walker, who plays just crazy enough to be believable, just menacing enough to be scary, and just normal enough to be someone you kind of like. (Certainly you like him better than Farley Granger. And it also helps, somehow, that he's apparently gay.) The scene where Walker is tailing Granger and appears in the distance on the steps of the Supreme Court building is a great physical manifestation of the guilt and evil that lives inside us, our more charming alter-ego of murder and fun and ease. Hitchcock presents these basic yet thoughtful psychological ideas to a popular audience, keeping it suspenseful and comic as well. The movie lags a bit near the end and is probably ten or twenty minutes too long, but it certainly grabs you in the first scene and holds you through most of the movie. Good for a double feature with Throw Momma from the Train.
Rear Window (1954) -- A fun, carefully-directed movie where the only problem for me was that everything Jimmy Stewart thought he saw, he actually did see--but maybe that's just my twenty-first century self wanting even more twists. Some of the ideas from this movie went into many others, including Blue Velvet.
The Trouble With Harry (1955) -- A favorite of Hitchcock, and of me too, though you don't seem to hear as much about this one. It's really, really funny while also having a lot of the suspense that Hitchcock was so famous for... though mostly funny, black comedy funny.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) -- A really great movie that mixes suspense with the charm and humor of Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day. This is a remake of Hitchcock's own 1934 version.
Vertigo (1958) -- A good Hitchcock movie that, if anything, is so technically perfect as to render it sterile. Plenty of fun twists throughout, and a great performance by Jimmy Stewart.
North by Northwest (1959) -- A Kafkaesque comedy thriller sexy romance... along with a few other descriptors. This movie manages to be intriguing in at least two or three ways at once throughout. The double-entendres alone make the movie worth watching.
Psycho (1960) -- I wish I could have been around when this first came out, or at least seen it without knowing everything about it already. I don't know anyone who doesn't know what happens, who Norman Bates is, what happens in the shower, etc., but imagine if you'd seen it without knowing anything. It would have been the most shocking movie ever. Anthony Perkins is perfectly creepy. (Tom Holland directs the sequel, Psycho II.)
The Birds (1963) -- Like Psycho, the movie sets you up for another movie (something about a woman with a potentially-wild past falling in love with a ladies' man and mama's boy and their entanglements with his mother and past girlfriend) and then attacks you with murder--in this case, a swarm of birds. But unlike Psycho, where you only get a twist, the bird attack here seems to oddly relate to the previous story, though I can't exactly explain how. At any rate, the juxtaposition is eerie and the entire movie creeps up and up into grim and even depressing moods that add to the real horror, making it even more effective than Psycho to me. The trick shots with the birds still hold up fairly well in the computer age. The unexplained attack of the birds on people was no doubt an influence for George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, where the ante was upped even more.
Copyright (c) Nov 2001 - May 2008 by Rusty Likes Movies