The Films of Alfred Hitchcock

Posted by Jim on May 31st, 2017
May 31

For an overview of SAIL, see this post

The first SAIL Session was run as a pilot program. It went over two days in April 2017, with an optional half day before the two required days. Sign-ups were limited to members of the senior class. Based upon this session, future versions of SAIL may be modified. As this was a pilot program, there are a number of things that I would change if I ran this film series again. Instead of giving you a summary of how the event went, I will present this first SAIL Film Series post as an ideal situation, so it will include the optional half day and evening screenings.

Half Day
The Lodger (1927, 91 minutes)
The Lady Vanishes (1938, 97 minutes)
Evening Screening
Rebecca (1940, 130 minutes)

Day One
Notorious (1946, 101 minutes)
Rear Window (1954, 112 minutes)
Vertigo (1958, 128 minutes)
Evening Screening
Strangers on a Train (1951, 101 minutes)

Day Two
North By Northwest (1959, 136 minutes)
Psycho (1960, 106 minutes)
Evening Screening
The Birds (1963, 119 minutes)

This series will begin with an introduction to auteur theory and to some of the tropes common to Hitchcock’s films, specifically Robin Wood’s list of common plot elements from his book “Hitchcock’s Films Revisited”. Hopefully students will pay attention to these things while watching the films.

The first day will cover Hitchcock’s early films. We start with what Hitch considered his first real film, The Lodger. It was his first thriller and will represent his silent films period. This will be followed by one of his most popular films made in Britain, The Lady Vanishes. This film also represents one of his strongest female leads. The evening screening will allow all us to share Hitch’s first American film and one of his many du Maurier adaptations, Rebecca.

The first complete day offers a full schedule of films. Notorious will showcase his use of the MacGuffin and display how Hitch’s political films are really about the people involved, not the politics themselves. Rear Window gives students exposure to the films within a restricted settings (such as Lifeboat and Rope). I find this film the most effective example of this setting device, which is why I selected it. Lastly, we will screen what is arguably Hitchcock’s greatest film, Vertigo. We will examine the use of color and how the double is represented. The evening screening will allow us to share one of Hitchcock’s more famous plot devices, the murder exchange in Strangers on a Train.

The final day of screenings begins with Hitchcock’s longest film, North By Northwest. Again, we will examine the role of the MacGuffin in the plot. We will also look at how the gender roles in this film compare to Notorious, and how the outcomes differ when the victim is a man instead of a woman. The official screenings will conclude with the horror masterpiece Psycho. As this is Hitchcock’s most popular film, some students may have seen it before, but I feel it is important to include it in any overview of his work. The evening screening will be The Birds, another horror masterpiece, but one a little less accessible than Psycho. It is a film I would like to show during the daytime screenings, but I had to move it to the evening due to time constraints.