Editor's Week 2002

December 16 - 2002
Your amiable editor is being pursued by yapping deadlines. Besides, the Festive Season is almost on us, isn't it? Accordingly, said editor begs leave of absence for a few weeks, until approximately the second week of January. He thanks you warmly, his valued readers, for all your support and interest during the year. Note that the website will not be entirely inactive during the break, and the 'News' section, in particular, will be updated whenever necessary. (An update was in fact added today, December 16.)

December 11 - 2002
(late) Alain Kerzoncuf in France has been corresponding with an inquirer about an aspect of North by Northwest. The matter remains unresolved. Maybe readers of this site can help out. Alain's correspondent originally wrote: 'I am a voice aficianado and have been trying to find out the name of the public address announcer [heard at Grand Central Terminal] in North by Northwest. I've checked [with] many railroad fans of the Terminal and of the New York Central but can find no answers.' Alain replied: 'I already had the same problem about the cymbalist in The Man Who Knew Too Much (2). I found out that he was not a real musician of the London Symphony Orchestra, but an actor. You know, the [bulk] of the shooting in Alfred Hitchcock's movies happened in the studio (MGM in the case of North by Northwest). So we can imagine the voice in Grand Central station came from .... somebody in Hollywood.' Alain's correspondent replied: 'I thought the Grand Central Terminal voice might be a Hollywood dub, however the same voice can be heard during the opening scene of [John] Frankeheimer's Seconds shot in GCT in August of '65. And that was a Paramount picture and I doubt rival sound departments were sharing background cues. Also, the P.A. voice used in the scenes in North by Northwest [set] in LaSalle Street Station in Chicago is quite distinctive and real - you can tell that woman's Chicago accent a mile away.' Well, I'm afraid I can't help much. I do agree with Alain that the voices in question may have been provided by professional actors. I think I recall hearing the voice of the Rapid City, South Dakota, radio announcer heard in North by Northwest while Thornhill is dressing, in quite another film - possibly a James Bond film, possibly Goldfinger (1964). And I don't think the fact that Frankenheimer's Seconds uses the same female P.A. voice heard in North by Northwest during its Chicago rail terminal scene, proves anything, one way or the other. After all, Frankenheimer was a keen Hitchcock fan and may have deliberately sought out the same (freelance) actor as Hitchcock had used. So I turn the matter over to our readers. Please, can anyone help?

December 10 - 2002
The pointed remark by Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) in Hitchcock's Marnie (1964) about Lil Mainwaring (Diane Baker) taking lemon with her tea, suggesting that she resents Mark's new girlfriend, Marnie (Tippi Hedren), has at least two precedents, both with Hitchcock connections. Playwright Benn W. Levy was (at least partly) responsible for the first. In 1929 he worked with Hitchcock on adapting Charles Bennett's play 'Blackmail' to the screen, and the result was the famous early British 'talkie'. Hitchcock and Levy became friends, and eventually Hitch invited Levy to direct the low-budget Lord Camber's Ladies (1932), with himself as producer. However, one day on the set they had a falling-out, resulting in Levy's leaving soon afterwards for Hollywood. Immediately, he struck success, teaming with fellow playwright R.C. Sherriff to adapt J.B. Priestley's novel 'Benighted' (an allegory of post-war Britain) as The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932). Leslie Halliwell reports that the film kept most of the original dialogue though it omitted the more thoughtful moments. He continues: 'The landslide is unconvincing in the Hitchcock manner, but once ... prissy Ernest Thessiger as Horace Femm descends the stair [to welcome his unbidden guests] and pauses by a gargoyle bearing an uncanny resemblance to himself, the intention to amuse is obvious ... [H]is sister Rebecca, a squashed toad of a woman played to the hilt by Eva Moore, is a rivetting example of religious bigotry, and deaf to boot.' It's when one of the guests, Penderel (Melvyn Douglas), who has sized up the situation adroitly, sits down at table to partake of a meal with his hosts, that we hear him ask, 'Vinegar, Miss Femm?' Her response is a snort. (Incidentally, it's quite possible that the idea of the old dark house to represent 'Britain' influenced Daphne du Maurier when she wrote her gothic novel 'Rebecca' [1937]. Oh, and Hitchcock and Levy were eventually reconciled when, in the 1960s, Hitch invited Levy back to Hollywood to script the never-filmed Kaleidoscope.) Another scriptwriter friend of Hitchcock's was Angus MacPhail (said to have invented the term 'MacGuffin'). In charge of the Script Department at Ealing Studios, MacPhail in 1949 helped write the multi-episode film Train of Events. One of the episodes centres on a philandering orchestra conductor (John Clements), his wife (Valerie Hobson), and his mistress (Irina Baronova). The episode was directed by Charles Crichton, though I'm unsure that MacPhail wrote it. (However, Hitchcock almost certainly saw the film, as he always liked to keep in touch with British production.) One afternoon, the worldly wife invites the mistress to visit. 'How will you take your tea?' she inquires. 'Thank you, I'll have lemon', says the mistress. The wife's comment: 'I thought you might.'

December 9 - 2002
Tomorrow a note on vinegar and lemons (?!). But I'm aware that the entry for December 3, above, ended rather abruptly after noting a couple of recurring light-and-shadow effects in Hitchcock. In truth, such effects are commonplace enough in films and television these days. Directors and cinematographers seem keen to give visual 'tone' to their work, and things like transparent shadows and shimmering reflections beside swimming pools are pretty standard. Indeed, so commonplace are they that, ironically, they may ultimately only 'cheapen' the program in which they occur by making it look run-of the-mill! Perhaps it's time for a return to more visual 'stylisation' in place of fashionable 'style' - where the latter simply amounts to the maximum realism allowed by new skills and equipment, including digital enhancement. Hitchcock, of course, tried to strike a balance between stylisation and realism, ultimately putting both at the service of the story. The location filming of I Confess, To Catch a Thief, The Wrong Man, and Vertigo was realistic where it mattered, but also amply stylised (e.g., statues-as-symbols in I Confess, the diffusion-filtered Mission Dolores scene in Vertigo). Now to come back to what I was saying on December 3 about Hitchcock's evident liking for leafy shots at night. I seem to recall a similar effect or two in Young and Innocent (1937), which has quite a few nocturnal scenes - as well as scenes in the midday Kent sun - commensurate with a certain lyrical tone in its story of two young people on the verge of being lovers but for the time being 'innocent' of the 'darker' side of life. (I have previously compared the film to David Lynch's Blue Velvet, and it's a comparison I think holds up despite the much greater emphasis on comedy in Hitch's film.) In using such shots, Hitch was always aware of their emotive content, or their value as counterpoint. I would add that they help contribute or sustain a 'vibrancy' in the respective films that I associate with Hitch's awareness of film as analagous to a life-force that is also a death-force (cf. his recurring images of leaves in general, including blowing leaves or falling leaves; ocean waves, especially waves dashing against rocks; light-made-visible, including Stimmung effects; and so on). Something else that occurs to me is that such shots are at least as much Hitchcock trademarks or signatures as the 'white flashes' in his films or the visual pattern of parallel lines referred to by scholar William Rothman as Hitchcock's //// sign. I am sceptical about just how significant the latter is in the films. According to Rothman ('The Murderous Gaze', 1982), '[i]t recurs at significant junctures in every one of [Hitchcock's] films. At one level ... it is his mark on the frame, akin to his ritual cameo appearances. At another level, it signifies the confinement of the camera's subject within the frame and within the world of the film ... we might say that it stands for the barrier of the screen itself. It is also associated with sexual fear and the specific threat of loss of control or breakdown.' (p. 33) What Rothman is referring to are shots through banisters or cell bars or the back of a chair or - a dubious instance - the lap-dissolve in Psycho from the face of 'Mrs Bates' to the portico of the Fairvale courthouse with its lit-up pillars. I find such //// shots neither more nor less significant than some of the other visual motifs in the films. (Comments, anyone?)

December 4 - 2002
(late) The paper this morning carries news of a major scientific breakthrough by Dr Burkard Polster of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. The results of his research have just been published in 'Nature' - and that's about as prestigious as you can get. In brief, Dr Polster has shown mathematically that of the millions of ways you can lace a shoe, the two favourites - the 'criss-cross', and a variant of it, the 'home from afar' way - result in the tightest fit. (For the record, in the case of a normal shoe with seven pairs of eyelets, there are about 4 million different ways of threading the lace.) This important finding is supported of course by pages of mathematics, diagrams, and explanatory text. And naturally it scarcely matters that the 'finding' was already known, and obvious - each of the lace-up methods named above has been commonplace since shoes with eyelets were invented (though the 'criss-cross' method is 'traditional'). Or does it matter? In other words, what's the point of triumphantly 'proving' what everyone already knows? Well, I'm afraid that you're going to have to ask a mathematician that. She will no doubt say that such a 'proof' allows further refining of mathematical techniques in other, contingent areas. Or something like that. What troubles me, though, is whether there's an analogous situation in the humanities - film studies, say. It seems to me that a lot of film theorising is fatuous. It may be hailed by some of the writer's fellow academics, including other film theorists, as wonderful stuff, yet strike many observers as a substitute for experience at the coal-face (which I'll call 'suffering' - cf. below) and one's own creative insight. Perhaps my complaint here amounts to no more than the old jibe: those who can, do; those who can't, teach. I mean, I often feel that one reason film theory appeals to a certain type of academic mind, and to almost no-one else, is that it helps the user to 'teach' film. Professor X may personally think Psycho a minor work, or he may even 'like' it, but be at a loss for words and insight into why he feels that way. Yet he feels obliged, as Dean of Film History at Z University, to 'teach' Hitchcock's film. After all, it has obviously been influential as a 'genre-piece' and popular with audiences in cinemas and on video. The professor's solution? He'll simply screen the film and prescribe a study of 'what the theorists say'! But how very fatuous, it seems to me! This is 'film appreciation at third hand'! Not only is all theory a substitute of 'concepts' for 'percepts' (as Schopenhauer pointed out), but comparative theory is an insult to what the father of Existentialism, Kierkegaard, insisted was the sine qua non of his teaching, 'the existing individual'. In this context, one of Kierkegaard's aphorisms is particularly stinging, with or without its religious overtones. It reads: 'The two ways. One is to suffer; the other is to become a professor of the fact that another suffered. The first is "the way"; the second goes round about (the proposition "about" is so aptly used for lectures and sermons) and perhaps it ends by going down.' As for lacing one's shoes, I'm going to continue doing it without undue resort to theory. I may even use velcro fastenings. Theory is so irrelevant and 'rear-view mirror'-oriented, a lot of the time!

December 3 - 2002
Bill Collins was back on TV tonight (see previous entry) to present a double-bill of Vertigo (1958) and Saboteur (1942). He made good use of quotes from the book 'Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic' (1998) by Dan Auiler (pronounced 'Eye-ler'), notwithstanding that he started out referring to its author as 'Dan Wheeler' and then, later, 'Dan O-eeler'! At one moment, Bill held up the book to the camera and remarked that the orange dustjacket seemed to him to be apt, somehow. It was a point perhaps lost on this viewer - unless Bill was referring to how a similar colour was used for the film's original poster, which I believe was suggested by Hitchcock himself. In turn, Hitch seems to have chosen that colour because (a) it was the colour of the Golden Gate Bridge, and (b) it offers a contrast to the film's predominant colour, which is green (a life-death colour, associated both with trees and ghosts). Oh, and as the film got underway, I noticed again Hitch's painstaking attention to art-as-décor. In Midge's apartment, several small, tasteful prints hang on the wall, including at least one that could be either a Klee (Hitch's favourite painter) or a Miro. Then, when we arrive in Gavin Elster's shipyards office, the walls carry more sturdy, 'masculine' framed views of old San Francisco, and the like. As for Saboteur, Bill rightly noted that this was the first Hitchcock film on which Robert Boyle worked. Boyle would later be art director for many Hitchcock pictures. Apparently, he came straight from working on the Universal serial, Don Winslow of the Navy (1942), which is interesting because the score for the low-budget Saboteur includes snatches of music from the studio library, including music used in the Don Winslow serials. Something else that struck me as I (intermittently) watched the film tonight was this. According to the excellent book 'Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco' (see review on our New Publications page), when Hitch was deciding on real-life locations for Family Plot (1976) he chose the house where Adamson and Fran live because it had a tree outside that cast interesting shadows on the front door at night. (Much of Family Plot takes place at night.) In truth, Hitch always seems to have liked that effect. It's in Saboteur in the early scene where Barry (Robert Cummings) visits the mother of his best pal to console her over the death of her son in an aircraft-factory fire. There, however, the fluttering shadows of leaves do seem to have a studio look. Some other films where a similar effect is used include Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Strangers on a Train (1951). A variant of the effect is in Saboteur when Barry goes to Tobin's ranch and converses with its owner beside a swimming pool. Throughout the conversation, the water casts blotches of shimmering light on the wall behind the two men.

December 2 - 2002
In Australia, the two cable-TV suppliers have now merged, which means that there are more channels available. It was good to re-acquaint myself tonight with host Dr Bill Collins, known as 'Mr Movies', who began a week of Hitchcock double-bills with screenings of Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Pressed for time, I watched little more than the credits-sequences of each movie, but as usual I spotted things previously unnoticed. (Hitchcock is illimitable!) As readers will recall, Shadow of a Doubt opens in a particularly run-down part of New Jersey where Charles Spencer (Joseph Cotten), the Merry Widow Murderer, is laying low. Informed by his landlady that two men, whom we guess are detectives, were inquiring after him, 'Uncle Charlie' (even murderers have relatives!) decides to give them the slip. Suspecting that the police have nothing definite on him, and that the two men now lounging against a fence at a nearby street corner, are merely interested in keeping him under observation, he brazenly walks up to and past them. Sure enough, they pretend indifference and then begin to follow him down the street. The next few moments were filmed by Hitchcock even before he had cast Joseph Cotten in the role, and use a 'double' shown only in long-shot. From a high angle, we see Uncle Charlie cut across a vacant lot filled with rubble and junk. Keeping the run-down atmosphere going, Hitchcock even shows a discarded toilet-seat! Then suddenly, as the camera pans, we become aware that Uncle Charlie has snuck up some back stairs and is smugly watching the baffled detectives looking around for him below. He lights up a cigar! Okay, now to the opening of The Man Who Knew Too Much. As the overture - a variant version of 'The Storm Cloud Cantata' - ends, the sound of the cymbal-clash is somehow kept going and, like plasticine, merged into the next sound (or 'colour'), the whine of a bus's motor. Now we are in North Africa with the McKenna family, and a fateful note has been well and truly struck. Lastly, I'll mention this. After the film, Bill Collins spoke of how Hitchock had said that the inspiration for the use of Doris Day's 'Che Sera, Sera' as a signal came from Shakespeare's 'Richard III'. Bill questioned this connection, as well he might - we have done the same on this website several times. I gather that the DVD of the film, which Bill must have recently played, got similar information from Bill Krohn's book 'Hitchcock at Work' which in turn got its information from here! And we got our information from an audio tape, supplied by Richard Franklin, of a talk that Hitchcock gave at USC! However, we long ago pointed out that Hitch seems to have slipped up, and that when he mentioned 'Richard III' he really meant the legend of how Richard I, imprisoned in a tower, signalled to his searching troubadour by means of a song they both knew. Moreover, Bill Krohn's canny research has shown that Hitchcock's friend Angus MacPhail had indeed got the idea from that source. But that's not quite the end of it. We have further noted that the same idea became a staple of stage melodrama and pantomime, and that a long-lost child might be re-united with its parents when, one frabjous day, they sing its favourite song in a snowy street and hear the song sung back to them from a window above! And Bill Collins's take on this? Tonight he suggested that there's a similar moment again in the film of Ivanhoe (1952)! We're feeling giddy!

November 27 - 2002
I used above (November 14) the phrase 'traffic-cop morality' to describe an attribute of a great number of policemen in Hitch's movies (e.g., Blackmail, Young and Innocent, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Psycho), many of them actually shown on point-duty. I got the phrase many years ago from an article in 'The Listener' (BBC) which was called "The Sense of Guilt As An Instrument of Law and Order" and written by Lord Devlin. As I recall, the basic idea of the article was that guilt is A Good Thing because it helps keep society law-abiding. Its relevance to Hitchcock is fairly obvious because Hitch loved to show, and mock, the mechanisms that society uses to keep its members in check - cynics might say 'in thrall' - at the price of their free-thinking, something which, in Hitch's case, by contrast, he was very adept at displaying in his movies. (In Strangers on a Train, Bruno asks the unanswerable question, 'What's a life or two, Guy?') As I also noted here on November 14, Hitch's doctrine of 'pure film' conveniently, and inspirationally, allowed him an 'anything goes' approach to content, and an almost Nietzschian 'freedom' - which, in a filmmaker, was often crowd-pleasing. But then, what is 'freedom'?! Penelope Houston said that Hitch gave her a sense of je ne sais quoi, and anticipated his retort (after Henry James), 'My dear sir! That's exactly what I wanted you to say!' In the same article (in 'Sight and Sound') she spoke of the films as a form of madman's flytrap, defying and defeating logical thought. I think that she was 'onto something', perhaps more than she knew. After all, North by Northwest - another film where cops bumble in the dark, though not only cops - is full of almost Becket-ian absurdity, and has a key scene take place, as counterpoint, at midday, in a landscape reminiscent of the surrealist vistas of Georgio de Chirico. There is a crossroads here, amidst the emptiness, but not a cop in sight (of course). As I say, this pivotal scene exists in the film for the sake of counterpoint. And a certain metaphysical truth. Chirico once wrote: '[The philosophers] Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were the first to teach the deep significance of the senselesness of life, and to show how this senselessness could be transformed into art ... The dreadful void they discovered is the very soulless and untroubled beauty of matter.' (Both Chirico and Samuel Beckett were major Schopenhauerians of the 20th century. Another was the playwright Luigi Pirandello, whom we have mentioned here lately, apropos Hitchcock's sympathy to games-playing and role-taking. It's the villain, Vandamm, who asks in North by Northwest, 'Games? Must we?') On his self-portrait (1908), Chirico wrote, 'And what am I to love if not the enigma?' Answer that one, traffic-cops of the world! And where were you when, in Family Plot, an archbishop is kidnapped in front of the disbelieving eyes of his congregation, who are even then professing their belief in a higher power, and who don't have it in them to intervene? Their sense of guilt, normally such a Good Thing, momentarily turns them into zombies, and the scene into a travesty of Christ's injunction, 'Let him amongst you who is without sin cast the first stone.' Or so it might seem!

November 26 - 2002
We've talked here previously about how Hitchcock's films seem to acknowledge those of Ernst Lubitsch - for example, Notorious (1946) has a character, Alex Sebastian, with the same name as a character in Lubitsch's That Uncertain Feeling (1941) - and our friend Nandor Bokor has extracted a series of quotations from Scott Eyman's biography of Lubitsch to show how closely the two filmmakers resemble each other in their pronouncements about their art. (Nandor also notes that Lubitsch in the 1940s attended several dinner parties hosted by Hitchcock.) Lubitsch said in 1924: 'A photoplay today often is nothing else but the narration of a story told in subtitles and interrupted by a series of moving pictures. In some cases this goes so far that not only the telling of the plot but also the characterization is done almost totally by means of subtitles and the motion pictures serve merely as illustrations.' As Nandor points out, this anticipates Hitchcock's criticism that many films are no more than 'photographs of people talking'. Well, a French series of short documentaries called 'Stars From the Silver Screen' has an excellent episode devoted to Lubitsch and in particular Lubitsch's film made for Warner, Lady Windermere's Fan (1925), from the play by Oscar Wilde. Written and directed by Gabrielle Thil, the episode includes on-screen observations made by N.T. Binh of 'Positif' magazine. At one point, Binh invokes Hitchcock by pointing out that both directors believed in creating suspense by letting the audience in on a secret, and then showing the characters' reactions in the situation. In the case of Lady Windermere's Fan, the secret is that the woman of whom the 'orphaned' Lady Windermere is jealous, Mrs Erlynne, is in fact the heroine's mother. The latter is actually more central to the film than Lady Windermere. Lubitsch said that he tried to find the visual equivalent of Wilde's literary witticisms (I'm reminded of Hitchcock's own acknowledged indebtedness to Wilde, and in particular 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'), and he even gave the film a central scene, set at the Ascot races, which is not in the play and which is designed to show the social hypocrisy which surrounds Mrs Evelynne. To judge from the clips included in the program, the Ascot scene is thoroughly visual, with plenty of documentary detail, and includes what we're told is a typical Lubitsch silent-movie technique, the use of the frame-within-the-frame for dramatic emphasis. Here it's views-through-binoculars, much as Hitchcock would use in his race track scenes in Notorious and Marnie (1964). A couple of other things mentioned by the program, and which reminded me of Hitchcock, Lubitsch appears to have learnt from the great Max Reinhardt's theatrical troupe in Berlin, with whom he trained as an actor. One concerns staging: the movement for emphasis and contrast from a broad general view, or overview, to a particular, highlighted detail. And, related to this, the use of metonymy and the use of props - such as the eponymous fan in Lady Windermere's Fan and, in the same film, a witty and suggestive sequence showing the different ways in which doorbells may be rung! I doubt that it's altogether coincidental that Hitchcock availed himself of the services of screenwriter Samson Raphaelson, who had worked for Lubitsch, when in 1941 he turned to making Suspicion. Likewise, perhaps it's no accident that Shadow of a Doubt (1943) should contain reference to 'The Merry Widow' - Franz Lehár's operetta was filmed by Lubitsch in 1934.

November 25 - 2002
More miscellany. More trivia. They say that Hitchcock used several Ford cars in Psycho (1960) because Ford was one of his major TV sponsors at the time. But that's nothing to how Hitch repaid Magnin's of San Francisco - somewhat dubiously - for help with costumes on Foreign Correspondent (1940). Eighteen years later, in Vertigo, he had Judy (Kim Novak) work there. Next, can any of our UK readers help with this? Leonard Maltin lists the running-time of the (American) print of Jamaica Inn as 98 minutes, which is exactly how long it runs in my (American) Kino-Video print. (My LaserLight DVD only runs 90 minutes - though it does have footage towards the end, notably when Pengallan [Charles Laughton] is fleeing in a coach with Mary [Maureen O'Hara], that used to be missing from a lot of prints.) But several reputable UK publications, including 'Halliwell's Film Guide' and the 'Time Out Film Guide', list the running-time as 107 or 108 minutes. Is there really ten minutes of extra footage in the UK print? Lastly, speaking of differences between US and UK prints, here's something more subtle. New York film collector (and Vertigo fanatic) Richard Ducar has lately acquired a UK 35mm print of Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972). Now he is able to confirm what he had heard, that there are small differences in the UK print. When Bob Rusk (Barry Foster) takes Babs (Anna Massey) back to his rooms in the same building as Duckworth's, the long-established London publisher (they published John Galsworthy's plays and fiction), he tells her, 'I'm on the first floor' (the US print has 'I'm on the second floor'). And when Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowan) exclaims at something served up on a plate by his wife (Vivien Merchant), who has been taking a course in Continental gourmet cooking, 'It looks like some pig's trotters!', that's not what he says in the US print: there, he says, more prosaically, 'It looks like a pig's foot!' Okay. It's about time we got a little more serious again. Starting tomorrow, that's what we'll be!

November 21 - 2002
Miscellany. First, more on the actress known as 'June' (Tripp), who was Daisy in Hitchcock's The Lodger (1926). Thanks to the entry in Howard Maxford's 'The A-Z of Hitchcock' (Batsford, London, 2002), I now know that 'June' stayed active professionally between 1926 and her next film appearance, 17 years later, in Forever and a Day (see November 18, above). Though she may not have made any movies in that period, she did appear in stage musicals and achieved popularity. Also, Maxford lists additional films that 'June' made before The Lodger (besides the couple mentioned on the IMDb, which, curiously, are not mentioned in Maxford), and one she made after Forever and a Day. That latter film is Renoir's The River (1951) where, under the name of June Hillman (I just ran the credits!), she is the narrator. Now here's another piece of trivia, prompted by the mention here lately of the film Bulldog Drummond (1929). Ronald Colman went on to play Drummond again in Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934) which, according to William K. Everson ('The Detective in Film', 1972), 'was that rarity, a sequel superior to its original' (p. 65). And once again there may be a Hitchcock connection. The film's mystery plot prompts this from Everson: 'the suddenly changed room, the denial from all sides that the heroine ever had an uncle, the implication that she is imagining everything - all of this stemm[ed] originally from an actual happening at the Paris Exposition at the turn of the century when all traces of a person's existence had to be instantly wiped out since he had contracted the plague, news of which could have wiped out the fantastic investment in the Exposition.' (pp. 65-66) That happening is also, of course, the basis of the novel 'The Wheel Spins' (1936), by Ethel Lina White, later filmed by Hitchcock as The Lady Vanishes (1938). In addition, it was the obvious inspiration - or else invented - for the plot of a novel by Mrs Belloc Lowndes called 'The End of Her Honeymoon' (1913), which the author wrote at about the same time as her best-known novel, 'The Lodger'. (Later again, the basic idea was used in the 1950 film So Long at the Fair, directed by Terence Fisher, and in an episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' called "The Vanishing Lady", made in 1955 and starring Pat Hitchcock.) Interesting that Everson - a respected scholar - should say that the incident at the Paris Exposition actually happened. I have never seen this confirmed, and suspect that it is a myth of the same order as the one started by Joan Lindsay, author of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' (1967), a novel which people often say - erroneously - is based on an actual incident. Okay. An actor who played Bulldog Drummond in several films was John Howard, and the best of them (thinks Everson) is Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937) in which Drummond's friend Inspector Nielsen of Scotland Yard is played by John Barrymore adopting a succession of disguises. At one point, removing a false nose, Barrymore intones mournfully, 'To think that I should ever descend to being an actor!' (p. 68) Didn't Hitchcock say that he always made his cameo appearances in his films as brief as possible, 'so as not to suffer the indignity of being an actor for too long'?! Hmm!

November 20 - 2002
The famous handcuffs scenes in The 39 Steps (1935) were not an original invention by Hitchcock and his screenwriter Charles Bennett. The basic material of a man and a woman handcuffed together and hiding out for the night in a secluded inn comes from the comic adventure novel 'Mr Priestley's Problem: An Extravaganza in Crime' (1927) by Anthony Berkeley (Cox), aka Francis Iles, who later wrote the novel on which Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941) was based. Nor, I have to reveal, is the famous opening scene of The 39 Steps an ex nihilo invention of Hitchcock and Bennett. Take a look at the scene in Bulldog Drummond (1929) in which a young blonde woman named Phyllis throws herself on the manly Drummond and pleads with him to save her father who is being held prisoner by Carl Peterson, Dr Lakington, and their gang. She bursts into Drummond's room at an inn, their arranged place of assignation (Phyllis has responded to Drummond's advertisement in 'The Times', requesting adventure), and immediately crosses to the window where she closes the curtains and peers down, terrified, into the courtyard below. The episode not only anticipates how Hannay in The 39 Steps is suddenly accosted in the street outside a music hall and asked by a blonde woman, Annabella, to be taken home by him - where she promptly requests him to draw the curtains and to tell her if he sees anyone suspicious in the street below - the element of male gratification is the same and pretty clearly shows the influence of one scene on the other. Also, remember the scenes in Foreign Correspondent (1940) where a frail, drugged Van Meer (Albert Basserman) is held prisoner and tortured in an upstairs room by Fisher (Herbert Marshall), Krug (Eduardo Ciannelli), and their gang? There are similar scenes in Bulldog Drummond (film, novel, and play) where the frail, drugged old man being tortured is Phyllis's father, whose ghastly screams we periodically hear. In Hitchcock's film, Scott ffolliott (George Sanders) momentarily intervenes before being captured in his turn. Finally, the hero Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) turns up and during a moment of distraction is able, with Scott's help, to rescue the old man, though the gang escapes. The precedent in Bulldog Drummond has Drummond climbing onto a roof and observing proceedings through a skylight before leaping down, switching off the lights, and, in the resulting confusion, rescuing the old man, though the gang are not captured. (They never are, finally. They all dress up as policemen and trick Drummond into letting them go. But that, of course, might almost be another pre-echo of The 39 Steps, when you think about it!)

November 19 - 2002
The answer to yesterday's question - which no-one guessed (does that mean the prize jackpots?!) - is Bulldog Drummond (F. Richard Jones, 1929), starring Ronald Colman and Joan Bennett. Critics generally agree that this is the best of all the film adaptations of the popular adventure novels featuring Captain Hugh Drummond, the character created by 'Sapper' (H.C. McNeile), and one can see why. Ronald Colman, in his first talkie, performs with panache; the stylish photography is by Gregg Toland and George Barnes; the sets that capture the mood of strange goings-on and plenty of action (much of it at night), have a tongue-in-cheek Germanic look and were designed by William Cameron Menzies. I'm convinced that Hitchcock showed it to screenwriter Charles Bennett before the pair embarked on their highly successful series of thrillers that included The Man Who Knew Too Much (adapted from Bennett's original treatment called 'Bulldog Drummond's Baby'), The 39 Steps, and Foreign Correspondent - the last made in America straight after Rebecca. The film of Bulldog Drummond was itself probably adapted from the 1921 play of the same name which 'Sapper' wrote, basing it on his novel of the previous year. However, he was helped in the stage adaptation by none other than Gerald du Maurier (later Hitchcock's good friend), who then starred in the play as Drummond. Probably Hitchcock saw the play at this time (just a year after another that left an indelible impression on him, James Barrie's 'Mary Rose'). Now here's why I think the Ronald Colman movie influenced those Hitchcock films I mentioned. First, Drummond and his bumbling pal Algy are detectably the predecessors of Bob Lawrence (Leslie Banks) and Uncle Clive (Hugh Wakefield). Likewise, Drummond's opponents, who aren't averse to a spot of kidnapping (of the Joan Bennett character, Phyllis, and her aging father), are roughly the equivalent of the gang in Hitchcock's film. The boss, Carl Peterson, actually looks very like Hitchcock's would-be assassin Ramon. More telling, though, is this little detail. Peterson's female offsider is called Irma and passes as his 'sister'; however, it's clear that the two are, in fact, lovers. Here, very likely, is a source of the quirky (or kinky) relationship in Hitchcock's film between gang boss Abbot (Peter Lorre) and his 'nurse' Agnes (Cicely Oates), the latter appearing to be in fact either his sister or his lover - or both (with a trace of 'mother' as well)! However, an 'intermediary' film was surely Howard Hawks's great gangster movie Scarface (1932), with its incestuous relationship between the Paul Muni and Ann Dvorak characters. All three films climax in a showdown that takes place upstairs in the gangsters' house, sealed off from the police downstairs by steel shutters. (There's more on the Scarface connection to The Man Who Knew Too Much in my book.) Tomorrow, I'll show how The 39 Steps and Foreign Correspondent also 'borrow' from Bulldog Drummond.

November 18 - 2002
There's a review of the excellent book 'Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco' now posted on our New Publications page. I may have more to say about it here later. Today, though, some 'trivia' and other matters. The film Forever and a Day (1943) aired here in Australia yesterday (thanks, Channel 31!). As keen Hitchcock buffs know, there's a sort-of Hitchcock connection in this episodic movie about a London house from the time of the Napoleonic threat to that of Hitler. The cream of (largely) British film talent in Hollywood contributed their services to the movie, which was intended to raise funds for War Relief. David Shipman thinks that the best episode among an uneven lot is the one in which a tippling butler (Charles Laughton) observes a manufacturer (Cedric Hardwicke) and his hopeless assistant (Buster Keaton) trying to install a new bathtub. But it's the sequence in which Ida Lupino, playing a little Cockney maid, runs up and down behind a crowd, trying to see over, that Hitchcock prepared and was going to direct. But then his schedule stopped him, and René Clair, recently arrived from France, directed it instead, from Hitchcock's script. All of that I knew already. What I didn't know was that the actress usually known only as 'June', who starred as Daisy in Hitchcock's silent film The Lodger (1926), has a part in Forever and a Day. She plays the V.A.D. (Voluntary Air Defence) Girl - apparently her only film role after The Lodger (though she had been in at least a couple of movies before then). The IMDb gives her place and date of birth as Blackpool, England, in 1901, and her place and date of death as New York, New York, in 1985. (Her full name was June Tripp.) Okay, having maybe whetted your appetite for trivia, tomorrow I'll carry on with more! That is, I shall disclose the film that I think provided the forerunners of scenes in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), and Foreign Correspondent (1940). Anyone care to guess? I'll give a prize to 'the winner'!

November 14 - 2002
Don't be mistaken, gentle reader. It is very easy for scholars to make a filmmaker's passing allusion, or mere light-hearted touch, sound of equal weight - or weightier - than a film's 'main' text. (Difficulties arise in defining what the latter is, but that's another matter.) Nonetheless, as literary scholars have often pointed out, it's the small things that contribute texture to the text and which may give away the artist's true or deeper or even unconscious intentions or attitude apropos that text. In Hitchcock's case, he told Donald Spoto, during the making of Family Plot (I gather), 'We try to tell a good story and develop a hefty plot. Themes emerge as we go along.' Further, such themes might be especially opportunist in Hitchcock's case - whose main preoccupation, he often insisted, was in creating 'pure film' - where it was virtually a matter of 'anything goes' provided it helped elaborate or shape the story. Water imagery in the unrealised Kaleidoscope insinuated itself into the film after the initial setting, near a bay, began to play a part in the story. In turn, a murder was located beside a rushing waterfall, whose symbolic overtones (of sexual passion, à la, say, Splendour in the Grass [1961]) Hitchcock was well aware of, and took advantage of. On another occasion, Hitchcock explained that themes might emerge simply to make a virtue of necessity - to tie together what would otherwise be loose ends (as in the example I've just given or in Hitch's famous windmills-in-Holland, chocolate-factories-in-Switzerland illustration of how to organically put a setting to work). Accordingly, I strongly suspect that the 'blindness' motif of Psycho, which was later carried over into The Birds, began in similar fashion. As a filmmaker, Hitchcock had always shown an interest in seeing and looking (from The Pleasure Garden to Rear Window and Vertigo); now here was a story about both of those things (voyeurism and investigation) but also, if only metaphorically, their opposite (being looked at, not-seeing, death). For a start, there was the eyeless face of 'Mother'. There was Marion's impulsive and unthinking, i.e., 'blind', stealing of the $40,000. There was emphasis on misadventure, and on being dazzled. Above all, Hitchcock knew that Marion was to meet her death by knife in a gleaming white bathroom which he insisted should have - like the bathroom in Spellbound - 'blinding white tiles' (something documented in Stephen Rebello's 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho'). Accordingly, death itself, in this film, would be like a blinding. (There were also more fortuitous images, like the slatted venetian blinds that keep out the glare from a hot Phoenix hotel room, and the dark glasses - apparently suggested by the actor himself - of the traffic cop who represents not 'blind Justice', as in The Paradine Case, but oppressive, yet ignorant, 'traffic-cop morality', as in countless Hitchcock films, from Blackmail to Strangers on a Train, and beyond.) All of a sudden, I suggest, Milton's famous sonnet known as 'On His Blindness' suggested itself to the filmmakers. Very possibly, they called for a copy and read it, noticing in particular its famous last line - 'They also serve who only stand and wait' - but also its general theme of withstanding despair, and its imagery of, on the one hand, darkness and blindness, and, on the other, of redemption and of angels who selflessly serve both God and the glory of God. I could say more, but that should be enough, I think.

November 13 - 2002
I slightly revised the last part of yesterday's entry after an email from Bill Krohn. Bill has also drawn my attention to how the Milton allusion, in the opening scene of Psycho, may have been instigated by Joseph Stefano (rather than by Hitchcock). Stefano once wrote the following piece of narration for the TV series 'The Outer Limits' (1963-64): 'There is a passion in the human heart that is called aspiration. It flares with a noble flame, and by its light Man has travelled from the caves of darkness to the darkness of outer space. But when this passion becomes lust, when its flame is fanned by greed and private hunger, then aspiration becomes ambition - by which sin the angels fell.' As Bill notes, the reference to ambition is a reference to 'Paradise Lost' - or at the very least to the myth of Satan as promulgated by 'Paradise Lost'. (Note, though, that Stefano wrote these lines after Psycho, not before! It's conceivable that his work on Psycho was what brought him to Milton - or, at any rate, refreshed his knowledge of Milton! Also, for whatever reason, the line, 'They also pay ...', is not in the 1998 remake of Psycho, which Stefano scripted. Nor is another 'religious' moment, the scene outside the Fairvale church.) Now, just as Spellbound has its allusions to angels, so does Psycho. And both films may seem to draw on a literary precedent that links whiteness, angels, and 'Angell-infancy', as in a famous poem by Milton's contemporary, Henry Vaughan (1621/2-95), called 'The Retreate'. This is an almost-Surreal aspect of Spellbound, in particular, that Hitchcock was quite capable of incorporating in the 'lost paradise' imagery that runs through his films - and where blackness is associated with Satan! In scenes for Psycho that were scripted but not filmed (because the swamp scenes replaced them, I imagine), after each of the murders a plume of black smoke ascends from the chimney of the Bates house (à la Claude Chabrol's Landru!). Next, the painting of angels ascending into Heaven, seen on the wall of Norman's parlour during his conversation with Marion, is literally overshadowed by a stuffed black crow with a knife-like beak. Here the filmmakers have improved on an idea from Robert Bloch's novel (end of Chapter Twelve), where Lila Crane is walking on a Fairvale sidewalk with Sam, and the late afternoon sun casts the shadow of a Civil War veteran's bayonet across her throat - a momentary reminder to the reader of what happened to her sister. The film's imagery, of course, is a prolepsis of what will shortly befall Marion in the shower - and where the shower-head gives Marion a temporary 'halo' (ironically, perhaps, though somewhere in Raymond Durgnat's book on Psycho is a piece of Christian doggerel to the effect, 'Between the stirrup and the ground,/ A penitant his salvation found'). In turn, Lila Crane is repeatedly photographed in Sam's hardware store with a 'halo' - or 'effulgence' - of garden rakes behind her head - which roughly corresponds to the link to her sister at the moment of her death made by the passage in the novel I quoted above (and which seems to say, 'In life, we are in death'). Some of this imagery is noted by Durgnat, though he makes little of it. At one point, he refers to Lila as an 'avenging angel' and 'conscience figure' (p. 149). Later, he describes how, as Sam leaves Lila in the hardware store, to go to poke around the Bates property, 'the camera dwells on her silhouetted face, haloed by the black hooks of tall, stacked rakes' (p. 178, emphasis added). Okay. It is when you consider the above imagery in conjunction with another set of images in the film - images of 'blindness' - that my question, why on earth would Hitchcock want to allude to Milton's sonnet known as 'On His Blindness'? - begins to make sense, I think. More tomorrow.

November 12 - 2002
Why on earth would Hitchcock allude to poet John Milton, and in particular the latter's sonnet known as 'On His Blindness', in Psycho? That's the question I started to try and answer yesterday. True, a character in the Robert Bloch novel is called Milton Arbogast, which may have been quite enough to set Hitch's witty, playful mind racing! I'm reminded of the fun he had, in Strangers On a Train, with 'doubles' and 'criss-cross' motifs: Donald Spoto records that just as the script was being completed, Hitch sat down with his secretary and dictated a whole set of 'doubles' images that were to be worked into the story! Also, the same film does not shy away from employing a motif of darkness versus light, both in its literal imagery and in its literary allusions, such as the name of the boat that Bruno takes in the 'Tunnel of Love' scene - 'Pluto', a reference to the ruler of the infernal regions in Roman mythology - and the sardonic description of Detective Hennessy as Guy's 'guardian angel'. In turn, the latter reference may remind us that Hitchcock's films are full of allusions to 'angels' - from the description of the intrepid overseas press corps, in the titles-sequence of Foreign Correspondent,as 'recording angels', to the name of the key locale in Spellbound, 'Gabriel Valley', named after the archangel Gabriel ('man of God') whom Milton, in 'Paradise Lost', makes chief of the angelic guards placed over Paradise (Book 4, lines 549-50). (Spellbound, of course, is one of Hitchcock's numerous 'lost paradise' films. It is also the film whose imagery, especially of white tiled bathrooms and cutthroat razors, most prefigures Psycho's.) Further, it's not hard to imagine how the increasingly Buddha-like, and immobile, Hitch might have been happy to compare himself to Milton whose famous line 'They also serve who only stand and wait' concludes his 'Blindness' sonnet - and is itself an allusion to the higher order of angels (such as Gabriel!). During the writing of Psycho, Hitch, in his sardonic way, may have prompted screenwriter Joseph Stefano to have Marion Crane say, 'They also pay who meet in hotel rooms' (Sam has just commented, 'I sweat to pay my ex-wife alimony, and she's - living on the other side of the world somewhere!'). I say 'sardonic' because we know that Hitch saw Marion as 'a perfectly ordinary bourgeoise'. Marion herself is remarking that she, like Sam, is going to have to wait and hence she makes the allusion to Milton's famous line. But, unwittingly, she is thereby drawing attention to how she's 'no angel' - a proleptic (and ironic) reference, if ever there were one, in view of how she'll soon be stealing $40,000 and fleeing 'blindly' to Sam. Tomorrow, I'll look more closely at Psycho's 'Miltonic' imagery of 'angels' - and 'blindness'.

November 11 - 2002
I said that I would try and tidy up the recent series of postings in which I claimed that Psycho makes elaborate reference to John Milton's sonnet known as 'On His Blindness' (e.g., November 1,4, above). Why on earth, I asked, would Hitchcock want to do that? Okay, here goes. First, commentators have long noted (e.g., the late Arthur Knight writing on The 39 Steps) that Hitchcock would sometimes take the merest hint from his source novel (or play) and then elaborate it into a full-blown episode in the finished film. Of course, these commentators are referring mainly to something that is visibly performed on the screen (e.g., the music-hall scene in The 39 Steps), rather than mere iconography or leitmotifs. Nonetheless, Hitchcock was equally inclined to the latter way of 'elaborating' an idea, such as his constant 'punning' on the title The Ring in his 1927 film, where that title comes to refer not just to a boxing ring (the obvious allusion) but to a bangle, a wedding ring, and even a whole closed world from which its characters never escape. (The 'ring' becomes a 'vicious circle' and/or a 'benign circle', depending on your interpretation.) In turn, the idea of a circle allows a whole fresh series of allusions (a circus with its ring and also a circular boxing tent; the boxing climax in the circular Albert Hall; references to 'rounds' of a boxing match; even, as counterpoint, the 'eternal triangle' at the film's core). Further again, the boxing idea is played with in imagery during a party scene in which two girls do a wild dance and then retire to their 'corners' where they are 'counted out' by their 'seconds', and in a scene at a night club where one character is knocked down by another and appears to be 'counted out' by the slide of a trombone in a corner of the image. Make no mistake, Hitchcock's agile mind enjoyed exercising its own cleverness! Remember, too, that during the 1920s Hitch was a frequent attender at the newly-formed London Film Society with its sophisticated, even high-brow, attitude to the art of the film - something which sat well enough with his exposure, earlier that decade, to the workings of the German film industry and the ideas of German Expressionism and other art movements. It's fair to say, I think, that Hitch was always a bit of an intellectual apropos film art - and art in film. Which may bring us back to Psycho. The first thing to note is that both the novel and the film have a character named Milton Arbogast. Was this the spark, then, that set Hitch ruminating on his fellow-Cockney John Milton (1608-74), the author of the most famous 'poem' in the English language ( 'Paradise Lost', written after Milton became totally blind)? After all, Hitch could hardly have avoided being 'exposed' to Milton at school. In an email, Bill Krohn reassured me on this point. 'Milton would be known to any well-educated Brit,' writes Bill, 'plus there are many things in the big poem that are simply part of the culture now, like the myth of Satan, which have become part of the Christian religion. Milton is on par with Sir Isaac Newton as a thinker and as an influence.' So that's for starters. More tomorrow.

November 6 - 2002
Another recent (and regular) correspondent has been Stephen Rebello, author of 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho'. Good to hear that Stephen is giving a talk on that film later this month at Santa Monica College, California. Now, apropos the News item below on how Hitchcock - anonymously - once sent a dozen red roses every day for a week to actor Bob Crane for his work on 'Hogan's Heroes' (1965-70), Stephen has emailed a couple of messages, as follows: 'This Bob Crane stuff is fascinating to me, perhaps even more so after having seen Auto-Focus, director Paul Schrader's film about him, a few months ago. Hitchcock's sending roses, though, absolutely piques my interest. Such a gesture suggests the kind of 'courtship' that often meant an offer of movie work from Hitchcock. Crane, who, at his best, radiated certain young Jack Lemmon-esque qualities (hints of complexity, darkness, even anguish festering just beneath bland, surface handsomeness), might have been very interesting under Hitchcock's direction. Hmmm. Now, what might Hitchcock have had in mind for him? (Or was it merely admiration for an actor doing a very good job in "Hogan's Heroes"?) I'm [speculating] - and that's all it is - whether Hitichcock might possibly have had Crane in mind for his never-made project set "behind the Iron Curtain." This project first came up around 1965, the year in which "Hogan's Heroes" debuted on TV. Hitchcock had in mind an espionage thriller in which a brilliant American agent fluent in many languages parachutes out of a plane to perform his mission but accidentally takes with him a hapless, helpless "civilian" (the Crane role?) who puts them both in constant danger. It's not difficult to see how this basic premise morphed into Torn Curtain [1966] - with its physicist professor and fiancée/assistant dragged along on a misadventure behind the "Curtain."' Thanks, Stephen, and maybe our readers may have comments? I was vaguely aware of the never-made project to which you refer. Is it the one whose file in the Margaret Herrick Library, Beverly Hills, is called 'In Another Country'? And did you know that as early as about 1933 Hitchcock had wanted to film such a story, an adaptation of Dennis Wheatley's newly-published first novel, called 'Forbidden Territory'? The latter is set inside Communist Russia and has an exciting escape by plane at the end, in which the heroes' getaway is aided by the actress Valeria Petrovna, wearing riding breeches, who lashes out with her crop at the pursuing Russian soldiers. Left behind, she seems almost the prototype of the Countess Kuchinska in Torn Curtain.

November 5 - 2002
Yesterday's entry pretty much concludes my month of musings prompted by a reading of Robin Wood's superb 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited'. However, later this week, after consulting with Bill Krohn, I'll try to answer an obvious question: why on earth would Hitchcock want to refer to a Milton sonnet in Psycho? Meanwhile, here's something completely different. Our friend Gary Giblin (whom we thank) has provided the following excerpt from his forthcoming 'Hitchcock's London'. It's an entry on that venerable institution, the London Palladium ... 'This luxurious music hall opened on December 26, 1910, when it was known simply as “The Palladium.” [...] Fans of [Hitchcock's The 39 Steps] will recall that it is here, during one of [the famous] Crazy Gang shows, that Richard Hannay finally exposes “the Thirty-Nine Steps” as a spy ring, through the timely help - and ultimate murder - of “Mr. Memory.” In fact, much of this sequence was shot in one of two different studios: Lime Grove for the theatre interiors (including Pamela’s search for Hannay, Hannay’s recognition of Memory and the encounter with the police), and Welwyn for the exteriors (including Pamela’s arrival by taxi and the police van arriving at the rear entrance). Several bits were staged at the actual theatre, though, including Memory’s introduction and the Professor’s dramatic jump onto the stage. In addition, Hitchcock apparently indulged in at least one Schüfftan shot of the theatre. One, according to the shooting script, is a long shot of the audience watching the performers on the stage. Another, not mentioned as such in the script, may be the long shot of Hannay breaking free from the police to ask Memory about the Steps (note its "static" look). Speaking of Hannay and Memory ... the shooting script also reveals that their original exchange went a little differently: “What are the Thirty-Nine Steps?” Hannay demands. “Come on! Answer up - Where are the Thirty-Nine Steps?” The slightly shaken Memory replies: “The Thirty-Nine Steps lie at the North Foreland - four miles the other side of -,” at which point the Professor shoots him, as in the film. This, of course, was precisely the set-up of the novel, in which the steps were real steps, located on the North Foreland, via which the spies would reach the ship that would whisk them out of the country. Hitchcock’s switch from a “where” to a “what,” making “the Thirty-Nine Steps” an organization, truly seems to have been a last minute decision, possibly to heighten the dramatic impact of the title, the enemy operation, or both. The original exchange was filmed in semi-long shots, with Hannay demanding his answer at Lime Grove, and Memory actually responding at the Palladium. The modified exchange substitutes an extended close-up of Memory, apparently filmed at Lime Grove, during which we hear Hannay’s revised question, after which Memory gives the new answer and is shot. Apart from a few extraneous bits and lines (notably in both music hall sequences - missing from the opening sequence, which was set in an “East End” music hall, are the questions “Who killed Cock Robin?” and “Who was Jack the Ripper?”), obviously dropped for time or pace, the shooting script is quite close to the finished film and it is remarkable to think that but for the change of two lines near the end, the film’s title would have had an entirely different meaning. Then, again, considering the lack of importance Hitchcock attached to the MacGuffin, maybe it isn’t so remarkable after all.'

November 4 - 2002
In the light of the above remarks on Psycho, I was not unhappy to read Raymond Durgnat's comment that he 'free-associates' Hitchcock's film with Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and Books 1 and 2 of Milton's 'Paradise Lost' - all of them 'spiritual journeys'. ('A Long Hard Look at Psycho', p. 229) Implied in my previous remarks (November 1, above) is how I think that Hitchcock may have sensed parallels between his film and Milton's 'On His Blindness', just as Marnie, it seems to me, draws parallels between that film's narrative and one of Emerson's 'Voluntaries' (which Mark Rutland misquotes). You could say that Marion in Psycho 'misquotes' Milton's sonnet - her remark to Sam, 'They also pay ...' - to similar allusive effect. In both films there seems to me a sense of contingent 'grandeur' (Emerson's word) that the characters in the respective films are oblivious to. For the Milton of the sonnet, 'grandeur' meant his own God-given genius - of which he was well aware - and the prospect that one day, if he did not succumb to impatience and despair (because of his blindness), he would write a masterpiece to the glory of God. (He did. It was called 'Paradise Lost', and was followed by 'Paradise Regained'.) And it further seems to me that Hitchcock, the artist, located somewhere outside Psycho (except for his token walk-on, in which he briefly suffers 'the indignity of being an actor'), is contrasting himself, and his own 'genius', with Marion, 'a perfectly ordinary bourgeoise' (again I'm quoting Hitchcock's own words). If she and her sister are like lesser-order angels, forever 'posting o'er land and ocean without rest', Hitchcock is of the superior kind who merely 'wait' (in two senses) on God, knowing themselves 'chosen'. Of course, that is all very abstract, and abstruse. Nonetheless I do think that Hitchcock may have sensed the sonnet's applicability, at some level, to his own situation. I can perhaps indicate this by citing the philosopher Schopenhauer's remarks on 'genius' which seem to me apt here. '[T]he gift of genius', he wrote, is nothing but the most complete objectivity ... the capacity to remain in a state of pure perception ... to remain pure knowing subject, the clear eye of the world ...' This is surely what the blind Milton is referring to in his sonnet, the capacity to bide one's time and 'see' with the true inner-eye (cf. what the blind hermit says in Saboteur). Schopenhauer adds that the genius is not only an individual, but 'at the same time a pure intellect that as such belongs to the whole of mankind'. As I've tried to show in earlier remarks, such a stance was something that Hitchcock (increasingly Buddha-like in appearance and manner when on the set) sought to adopt - a stance, and outlook, from which he could in his films critique the subjectivity and, yes, blindness of all of us. In his non-attached way, and drawing on his creativity and 'wholeness' (including his sense of humour), he was offering us his vision of 'Heaven'. With a wink, it's true! Many thanks, Hitch!

November 1 - 2002
November 1 On October 16, above, I described how Hitchcock's films repeatedly tell us that 'all the world's a stage' though Hitchcock himself, I suggested, typically maintains an ambivalent stance, as if he were in this world but not quite of it. 'He presents himself', I wrote, 'as more the clock-winder or, precisely, the presenter, standing in, perhaps, for an invisible, or absent, deity.' This was misleading inasmuch that Hitchcock's cameos often joke at his own expense, starting with his harassed passenger on the train in Blackmail. Nonetheless, the very discrepancy between his powerlessness in the cameos (another example: missing the bus in North by Northwest) and his actual God-like power as the films' director may suggest his role as an 'intermediary'. If he is never - not even in I Confess or The Wrong Man - the poet John Milton seeking to 'justify the ways of God to man', he nonetheless is often prepared to ask (by implication, and cinematically) what we may achieve in the world and what we must be content to leave to God (or anyway a 'force of destiny'). I think it's significant that Psycho contrasts 'active' characters (the impulsive Marion, say) and relatively 'passive' ones (such as Norman has become by the end of the film), and seems to ask whether, in this world, you aren't 'damned if you do and damned if you don't'! Self-interest and self-overcoming may both be deadly, and therein lies a very 'Schopenhauerian' mystery. This seems closely to match the Keatsian/Wagnerian paradox I described above on October 24, which Wagner (Hitchcock's favourite composer) sought to resolve in the massive Kunstwerk that was 'The Ring'. But it also seems to accord both with Schopenhauer's systematic philosophy (a major inspiration for 'The Ring') and, two centuries earlier, the standpoint apropos his future life and work that Milton adumbrated in his sonnet known as 'On His Blindness'. And I have indicated previously - for example, in a piece for the book 'Dark Thoughts: Philosophic Reflections on Cinematic Horror' (see October 15, above) - that Psycho not only echoes in its dialogue the famous last line of Milton's sonnet, namely, 'They also serve who only stand and wait', but adopts much of the poem's imagery and its standpoint apropos taking action now (acting?!) versus merely waiting on God. Literary scholar Maynard Mack notes that the sonnet turns on the two halves of a central Christian paradox: (1) that God insists on man's engaging in the work of His kingdom, and (2) that God needs nothing man can do or give. The blind Milton, verging on desperation because his 'light is spent/ Ere half my days in this dark world and wide' (cf Marion Crane) and whose 'one talent which is death to hide/ Lodged with me useless' (cf. the film's $40,000 buried in the swamp - Milton's word 'talent' puns on the parable of the talents, of course), is finally enjoined by a personified Patience to be like the superior order of angels - not to 'post o'er land and ocean without rest' (as lesser angels are required to do) but to merely 'stand and wait'. (Fifteen years later, Milton published 'Paradise Lost'.) Imagery in Psycho likens both Marion and her sister, Lila, to angels (presumably of the lesser order), while dialogue stresses that 'Patience doesn't run in' the Crane family. But where does all this leave both Milton and Hitchcock, exactly? I would like to answer that question next time by referring to Schopenhauer's conception of 'genius' - and, again, Robin Wood's contention that 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell'.

October 31 - 2002
Have further slightly re-worded the entry for October 29, above. Now to the crux of the matter. In his Buddha-like detachment, and in his concomitant, if paradoxical, attempt to unite divers audiences in a bond of common emotion (an analogue of the very Will that Schopenhauer said we all share), I think that Hitchcock found himself uniquely privileged. I imagine that Paul Klee's 'Romanticism which is one with the universe' was a familiar 'experience' for Hitchcock when he was creating - and that a film like The Trouble With Harry expresses as much, both by analogy and in fact. (For his part, in discussing Psycho, which I consider almost a companion-piece to Harry, Hitchcock acknowledged the pleasure he felt in knowing that audiences in Paris, New York, and Tokyo might all be reacting identically, on a given night, to the same experience of 'pure film'; however, he added that critics were still not giving him an appreciation of his work in the terms he felt were most appropriate. I'm reminded by this of Wordsworth's saying that a truly innovative poet may need to create and educate his public.) Nor, I think, is Harry some sort of aberration in Hitchcock's oeuvre, but a direct expression - and sharing - of the 'Heaven' or 'pastoral' that his creativity represented for Hitchcock. (All that digging in Harry is a metaphor for creativity and the bond with 'Mother Earth' that it may give. See the analysis of Harry elsewhere on this website for an indication of the full richness of this under-appreciated film.) Further, by powerfully involving the audience in the moment-to-moment twists and turns of each film - in effect, the act of creativity itself - Hitchcock is sharing his 'Heaven' with us. I think that Family Plot makes such a statement, and that Hitchcock there is telling us that we're all part of his 'family' - and his 'plotting'! You could even argue that 'Hell' in Hitchcock's melodramas (e.g., Under Capricorn, I Confess, Frenzy) exists mainly to highlight the 'Heaven' that is only seemingly lost because of how, the harder we look, the less we see it. (This is not to deny evil, or the sorry state of the world in all kinds of ways.) Preoccupied with our individual problems, we aren't detached enough. In this context, Stella's words in Rear Window about our need, once in a while, to get outside our homes and look in, ring very true. Of course, Hitchcock further knew that most members of his audience will not be ready for 'enlightenment' (in Zen terms, 'sartori'). We are like Manny in The Wrong Man and Scottie in Vertigo - unable, in our wretched subjectivity, to appreciate the reality of our situation, though we may have inklings (cf. Manny's 'It seems like a million years ago' remark). Zen masters and yoga teachers, for example, know that it may take a lifetime, or longer, for many of their students to even begin to approach such a desirable state. Nonetheless, I must disagree with Robin Wood's statement that 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell.' Indeed, I think it may be significant that two films conspicuously not examined by Wood are, precisely, The Trouble With Harry and Family Plot! As for Wood on Psycho, he tells us (in 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited') that Penelope Houston rejected his now-celebrated essay on that film - the germ of his original book - because he had failed to see that the film is 'a joke'! For all of the brilliance of Wood's essay that emphasises the dark and pessimistic side of Hitchcock's vision, I think that Ms Houston had a point - if you interpret 'joke' correctly (and in a way that may go beyond what Ms Houston had in mind). Tomorrow: my reading of Psycho!

October 30 - 2002
[I may not have time for an entry today. However, I've slightly re-worded the turgid entry of yesterday! Also, maybe check out the item added to 'News & Comment'. KM.]

October 29 - 2002
Alerted by the good Doctor G. (Tag Gallagher), I dare say that there are things above that I have explained badly or got wrong. But I'm going to insist on my reading of The Wrong Man and of Vertigo as being two cases where the protagonist isn't 'genius' enough. Tag thinks that Manny Balestrero withstands every test to his faith (whereas Rose Balestrero succumbs to despair), and I imagine that is correct. Nonetheless, I insist that Manny doesn't grasp the true nature of his ordeal and its 'miraculous' (?) resolution. I find less than magnanimous the moment when he finally confronts his double and asks querulously, 'Do you realise what you've done to my wife?' - thereby perpetuating the same assumption of another's guilt, and of 'otherness', that he, accused of committing the hold-ups, has recently endured himself. After all, Manny's double, we learn, has a wife and kids of his own for whom he went out and committed the robberies. Manny is clearly not on the same plane as someone like Dickens's saintly blacksmith Joe Gargery (in 'Great Expectations') who, confronting the convict Magwitch after the latter has (apparently) broken into Joe's premises and stolen a file and food, tells him that he was welcome to them as 'a poor miserable fellow creature' whom he cannot bring himself to condemn. As for Scottie in Vertigo, there's a passage in the novel (a passage that might have been inspired by Blake or Poe) where he says that he lost the Judy character because he didn't have enough 'energy', i.e., he simply wasn't endowed (genius) enough. (Given the equation of Judy/Madeleine with transcendence and 'eternity', compare Blake's line, 'Energy is eternal delight'.) At some level - the level of the 'reality that none of us can stand'? - Scottie in the film was bound to fail in his heroic quest (cf. the film's Argosy Bookshop allusion) for the same reason. He is a mere mortal tempted by the Mephistophelean Gavin Elster with 'colour, excitement, power, freedom' (i.e., heightened 'life' and absolute truth) that amounts to a knowledge of the noumenal, Kant's Thing-in-itself, that none of us, being bound in subjectivity, the phenomenal, can truly aspire to. Nonetheless, as Schopenhauer recognised, secular and religious myths have an enthralling appeal - and art may indeed (at a non-absolute level) give us glimpses of more-than-everyday truths. More on that later. Next, Tag has questioned my interpretation of the passage I quoted from McLuhan and Parker's 'Through the Vanishing Point', whereby I sought to contrast the passive 'aesthetic moment of stasis' with the active 'creative process in both art and life' (see October 25, above). I admit that 'passive' and 'active' were all my own work! Tag, though, writes that, 'I really do not observe this passive aesthetic moment in Romantic music. Restlessness and yearning are more the rule.' So what did McLuhan and Parker have in mind when they wrote that the Romantics seemed to react against the stress on the aesthetic moment (stopping the world to get off, as they put it) to develop instead a deep concern with creativity? Tag replied: 'I don't know what their point is. It isn't clear to me from the quote'. Well, I volunteered the following, and shall stick with it, for now. Given that Schopenhauer came close to equating music and Will (and how, in listening to great music, one might have a direct, intuitive experience of Will-at-work, so to speak), perhaps the Romantics wanted to emphasise that music, being created by the effort of an individual composer, was also not just Will! That is, in opposition to a relatively static notion (music = Will), in which the composer might seem to be largely just someone who takes dictation, and the listener is invited to (passively) eavesdrop, the Romantics now stressed the active, painstaking, creative role of the composer. Tomorrow: back to Robin Wood's contention that, 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell.'

October 25 - 2002
I need to clarify just how a Hitchcock film may, or may not, illustrate the sort of aesthetic - and psychological - reward that Schopenhauer felt great art could give. In emphasising what McLuhan and Parker call 'the aesthetic moment of stasis' (see October 22, above), Schopenhauer basically meant that such moments may give the perceiver direct knowledge of Platonic 'ideas' or 'forms' - in layman's terms, high-grade insights, even 'eternal truths'. (As in yogic meditation, if you succeed in even momentarily stilling the essentially restless mind, your quality of perception may approach genius level. Of course, it's also doubtless true that 'genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration', but Schopenhauer's formulation, emphasising the secondary role of applied 'imagination' in genius, allows for that fact. Come to think of it, both The Wrong Man and Vertigo illustrate this: Manny and Scottie are both vouchsafed heightened awareness of the time-space-causality nexus [of our everyday understanding] - as when Manny speaks the revealing line, 'It [his arrest] seems like a million years ago' - but are not up to doing anything with that new awareness. Hence Manny's blindness to possible 'miracles' that have occurred, and Scottie's inability to lastingly unite with Judy/Madeleine.) In short, Schopenhauer's aesthetic theory is essentially a cognitive one, and I have tried to show that there are indeed 'aesthetic moments' of heightened cognition in even such an unlikely film as Psycho. But McLuhan and Parker have more to say. 'It is almost as a reaction to the stress on the [passive] aesthetic moment', they write, 'that the Romantics developed a deep concern with the [active] creative process in both art and life.' (p. 23) They note the correlation between the Romantic interest in art processes and in the growing-up processes (e.g., in J.J. Rousseau's 'Émile'), and trace the developments in that interest during the 19th Century. And here is their conclusion: 'The idea of a work of art as a direct manifestation of the creative process itself exerted wide influence among the Symbolists. It remained only to devise means to include the audience in this creative process in order to reach that stage of aesthetics that is familiar in Expressionism and in the speculations of the twentieth century.' (p. 23) Which brings us straight back to Hitchcock, of course. Like Oscar Wilde in 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (a work read by Hitchcock 'several times', and influenced by Schopenhauer indirectly, at any rate, through J.K. Huysmans's 'À Rebours'), the director made a theme of growing up, or not growing up, central to many of his films, from The Lodger, Downhill, and Rich and Strange to Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho - and repeatedly 'devise[d] means to include the audience in [his] creative process'. For example, the emphasis in Vertigo on painting - including Midge's failed attempt to boost herself into a major league, which tells us something about Scottie's own misplaced aspirations to be an artist, as revealed in the Boileau and Narcejac novel - goes with that film's 'Faustian' theme which the audience is invited, or inveigled, to share. Hitchcock's 'subjective technique' is the key here. Scottie wants to re-create Madeleine in Judy, as if he were an artist and Judy were his 'canvas' (again the novel is explicit about this, where the film is only implicit), and the audience can hardly help but go along with him, for 'Madeleine' has become associated in Scottie's mind, and in ours, with such desirable qualities as (Platonic) beauty, (Platonic) knowledge, art itself, and even 'eternity'. (There is also an erotic charge, of course, but in a way that is secondary to the larger quest.) At the same time, we remain aware of Hitchcock's own 'artiness' in this particular film, from the credits-sequence onwards, and enter the more willingly (even wilfully) into 'his' world as he creates it for us, albeit, or because, it is presented to us in the guise of a 'superior' detective-story. So there is not only a 'cognitive' aesthetic operating in films like Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho, there is also an 'expressive' one. (But that, too, is 'Schopenhauerian' to an extent.) And then there is what we might call a meta-aesthetic, combining 'passive' and 'active' modes. [Oh dear, to pull all of our threads together must wait until next week.]

October 24 - 2002
You'll need to pay attention tonight, gentle reader, as we consider the end of Psycho and the 'double-vision' that Hitchcock (in his genius, which was likely intuitive and unconscious on his part) brought to it. That end is both iconic (definitive) and ironic (disturbing). In a way, it matches (or transcends) the ending of Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' (whose themes Robin Wood relates to those of Psycho): 'The horror! The horror!' Equally, it may remind us of the Surrealists' credo about there being a point where opposites cease to be perceived as contradictions. Further, it will be helpful to remember how Hitchcock's favourite painter, Paul Klee, spoke of a Romanticism that may (quite suddenly) yield the artist or spectator a sense of being at one with the universe and its life-force - which, of course, is simultaneously a death-force. Next, as I've noted on previous occasions (e.g., when discussing Suspicion), the poet Keats famously conceived of a 'negative capability' whereby the poet or reader dissolves (for a time) his/her very being to enter into the being of another (a sparrow, even) - though Keats admitted that he was torn between the essential passiveness of such 'negative capability' and the need for an 'active pursuit of rational knowledge and philosophy'. (But such an apparent paradox or, anyway, opposition, is familiar enough to anyone who pursues certain modes of knowing and/or creating, whether yogic meditation or various forms of composing.) Lastly, it may also help to bear in mind Wagner's endeavours to reconcile words and music in one mighty (operatic) Kunstwerk whose themes, in turn, represent an attempt to cease perceiving life and death as contradictions ... Okay, if there is one 'voice' behind, or in, all of these notions it is that of the philosopher Schopenhauer. (For example, both Wagner and Conrad were Schopenhauerians.) And in a brilliant passage, the neurologist Oliver Sacks has put his finger on what is involved here - a passage that I find directly relevant to Psycho. For reasons of economy, I must begin in media res: 'Freud reminds us repeatedly that we must clearly distinguish the liability to illness from the need for illness: it is one thing, for example, to be migraine-prone, and another to want an attack as an excuse for breaking an unpleasant appointment. [In Hitchcock's films, vide Lina in Suspicion and Caroline in Psycho, it is most often ostensibly a case of the latter - though clearly the liability, or propensity, is already there in the fallible, all-too-human characters.] Schopenhauer's thesis is that the world presents itself to us under two aspects - as Will and [Representation] - and that these two aspects are always distinct and always conjoined; that they totally embrace, or inform, one another. To speak in terms of either alone is to lay oneself open to a destructive duality, to the impossibility of constructing a meaningful world ...' ('Awakenings', revised pb, 1982, p. 219) Sacks goes on to show how language, in its very ambiguity, may allow the adept physician the means to simultaneously describe the true situation and prescribe a suitable remedy - rather than bisecting and thereby compounding the problem (with 'destructive duality'). Schopenhauer's stress on the need for compassion as providing our only hope of coping with, and even understanding, the ravages of (ambiguous) Will strikes this reader, at least, as analagous to what Sacks is talking about from his clinician's standpoint. Equally, what Sacks is saying here strikes me as analogous to what the endings of such films as I Confess and Psycho are telling us. In turn, the apparent 'open-ended pessimism' (Donald Spoto's term, quoted by Frank Hurley, S.J.), and veiled optimism (as I now see it), of those endings, may indicate why I would contest Robin Wood's claim that 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell'. Tomorrow: explanation, and a slanting ray of sunlight, à la the ending of The Birds!

October 23 - 2002
In the new edition of 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited', Robin Wood tells us that in his 'personal life [he has] never been happier' (p. xxxvii). This, from the man who more than once wrote that, 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell', and who, I have already suggested, has much in common with Hitchcock in background and outlook. This, too, from someone who has clearly endured much sorrow in his life, including the loss of a former partner, Andrew Britton, from AIDS, whom Wood describes as 'the best film critic in the English language' and who authored 'the most devastating assaults on mainstream academic film theory ever written' (p. xxiii). Even today, years after Andrew's passing, Wood tells us that he 'occasionally "dream[s] him alive" again' (p. xxiv). Okay, what I am wondering is whether Hitchcock really decreed, somewhere in his films, that Wood could never be happy in this world? Surely Hitchcock's films, like Schopenhauer's philosophy (the nearest thing I know to a philosophical expression of what is implicit in those films), are 'about' the human condition in general? It's true that a film like I Confess (1953) or Torn Curtain (1966) or Frenzy (1972) shows the Devil at work - the black smoke in two of those films betrays his presence, and, in Frenzy even signals the film's conceit (after Luther, I believe) that this world is the Devil's anus. Equally, I hold to my interpretation of the ending of I Confess (as the camera withdraws back across the river) that Quebec City has been shown to be a city of churches but decidedly not the City of God. On the other hand, when asked about the summer-house scene in that film, and whether Logan had slept with Ruth, Hitchcock replied: 'I hope so. Far be it from me, as a Jesuit, to condone such behaviour.' There speaks, surely, a wise eqivocator? The true artist in the otherwise devout Catholic? The director who said of Rear Window (1954) that no considerations of morality could have stopped him making it? The filmmaker who made the delightful - and delightfully amoral - The Trouble With Harry (1955) whose elements of 'pastoral' imply so much about the potential of 'pure film' to provide something for everyone (cf the quote from 'Faust' on October 9, above)? (Not for nothing, I'd say, is the credits-sequence of Harry inspired by drawings by Paul Klee, Hitchcock's favourite painter, who spoke optimistically of 'that Romanticism which is one with the universe': see October 18, above.) Accordingly, when the last scene of I Confess (before the camera withdraws back across the river) takes place at the foot of a stage with its proscenium arch, it seems to me to be allowing everyone in the film - and outside it, i.e., individual members of the film's audience - to take what they will from this tableau, or drama, based on life. Of course, Hitchcock knows that most people will take away very little - such is the nature of our subjectivity. Ruth, for example, finally disabused of the self-centred notion that Logan may have killed for her, turns to her husband and asks, 'Take me home, Pierre.' That is, she finally accepts for what it's worth her marriage of convenience, to make of it whatever she and Pierre still can. I Confess is very much one of Hitchcock's 'lost paradise' or 'corrupted garden' films, but that is not to say that the film itself - for both its makers and individuals who view it, and who enter into it, so to speak - may not find there a key to some sort of Heaven. Now, I see the ending of I Confess (the ballroom scene, the camera's withdrawal) as matched by the ending of Psycho (Norman in his cell, the shot of Marion's car emerging from the swamp), which we were discussing yesterday. Accordingly, I'll be saying more about the ending of Psycho next time. October 23 In the new edition of 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited', Robin Wood tells us that in his 'personal life [he has] never been happier' (p. xxxvii). This, from the man who more than once wrote that, 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell', and who, I have already suggested, has much in common with Hitchcock in background and outlook. This, too, from someone who has clearly endured much sorrow in his life, including the loss of a former partner, Andrew Britton, from AIDS, whom Wood describes as 'the best film critic in the English language' and who authored 'the most devastating assaults on mainstream academic film theory ever written' (p. xxiii). Even today, years after Andrew's passing, Wood tells us that he 'occasionally "dream[s] him alive" again' (p. xxiv). Okay, what I am wondering is whether Hitchcock really decreed, somewhere in his films, that Wood could never be happy in this world? Surely Hitchcock's films, like Schopenhauer's philosophy (the nearest thing I know to a philosophical expression of what is implicit in those films), are 'about' the human condition in general? It's true that a film like I Confess (1953) or Torn Curtain (1966) or Frenzy (1972) shows the Devil at work - the black smoke in two of those films betrays his presence, and, in Frenzy even signals the film's conceit (after Luther, I believe) that this world is the Devil's anus. Equally, I hold to my interpretation of the ending of I Confess (as the camera withdraws back across the river) that Quebec City has been shown to be a city of churches but decidedly not the City of God. On the other hand, when asked about the summer-house scene in that film, and whether Logan had slept with Ruth, Hitchcock replied: 'I hope so. Far be it from me, as a Jesuit, to condone such behaviour.' There speaks, surely, a wise eqivocator? The true artist in the otherwise devout Catholic? The director who said of Rear Window (1954) that no considerations of morality could have stopped him making it? The filmmaker who made the delightful - and delightfully amoral - The Trouble With Harry (1955) whose elements of 'pastoral' imply so much about the potential of 'pure film' to provide something for everyone (cf the quote from 'Faust' on October 9, above)? (Not for nothing, I'd say, is the credits-sequence of Harry inspired by drawings by Paul Klee, Hitchcock's favourite painter, who spoke optimistically of 'that Romanticism which is one with the universe': see October 18, above.) Accordingly, when the last scene of I Confess (before the camera withdraws back across the river) takes place at the foot of a stage with its proscenium arch, it seems to me to be allowing everyone in the film - and outside it, i.e., individual members of the film's audience - to take what they will from this tableau, or drama, based on life. Of course, Hitchcock knows that most people will take away very little - such is the nature of our subjectivity. Ruth, for example, finally disabused of the self-centred notion that Logan may have killed for her, turns to her husband and asks, 'Take me home, Pierre.' That is, she finally accepts for what it's worth her marriage of convenience, to make of it whatever she and Pierre still can. I Confess is very much one of Hitchcock's 'lost paradise' or 'corrupted garden' films, but that is not to say that the film itself - for both its makers and individuals who view it, and who enter into it, so to speak - may not find there a key to some sort of Heaven. Now, I see the ending of I Confess (the ballroom scene, the camera's withdrawal) as matched by the ending of Psycho (Norman in his cell, the shot of Marion's car emerging from the swamp), which we were discussing yesterday. Accordingly, I'll be saying more about the ending of Psycho next time.

October 22 - 2002
In a consistently brilliant book-length essay, 'Through the Vanishing-Point: Space in Poetry and Painting' (pb, 1969), Marshall McLuhan and Harley Parker note how the 18th Century saw a stress on the aesthetic moment, the moment of arrested awareness, in art. The 19th Century inherited this 'interest in aesthetic stasis and detachment from the world. In nineteenth-century art, emotion tended to be associated more and more with unworldly and otherworldly attitudes. In his "World as Will and [Representation]" Schopenhauer made the aesthetic moment of stasis memorable as the prime means by which one could, as it were, stop the world and get off.' (p. 22) In the medium of film, which might seem, by dint of its dynamic nature, antithetical to such moments, there are nonetheless signs of directors' striving to realise similar insights. It seems to me that a Hitchcock film typically moves to a moment of stillness in which the 'moral' or 'force' of the film is suddenly there to see - or feel. In Psycho, for example, the scene that Hitchcock called a 'hat-grabber', but still included in his film, the scene with the psychiatrist, is the last-but-one in a series of pauses-for-reflection that also includes the parlour scene, the cleaning-up scene, and the attic scene. But now everything is really stilled: note the stationary fan (contra the whirring one in the the opening scene), the picture on the wall of a lone, unthreatening motor-cycle cop (contra the oppressive patrolman in dark glasses earlier), and, alongside, the static map of the county (contra the photo of rippling sand, expressive of restlessness and yearning, in the Lowery office). Given the film's Miltonic references, I'm reminded of the famous last line of 'Samson Agonistes': 'And calm of mind, all passion spent.' In effect, the audience is being invited and readied to become detached, and even wise, in the face of the horror - nothing less than the working of the world's cruel and inexorable Will, that Schopenhauer described with extraordinary power in his magnum opus - that we have just experienced at the Bates Motel. Finally, of course, comes the topper: the view of Norman/'Mother' in his/her cell, vowing, like a good Buddhist, to not even harm a fly. This is truly an iconic moment, summative of the preceding horror even while 'suggesting' the very same remedy for coping with the demands of Will - non-attachment and non-violence - that both Schopenhauer and Buddism had advocated all along. (Even the desistance from sex and other forms of the individual will that Schopenhauer and Buddhism see as an ideal is implicit here.) Of course, given that Will is both a life and death 'force', there is necessarily a contradiction implicit in this scene. Therefore, if we like, we may tell ourselves that Hitchcock, a good Western (Occidental) filmmaker, is merely being wittily, and devastatingly, ironic (rather than iconic) here. Nonetheless, the Surrealists conceived of a point where opposites cease to be perceived as contradictions - and so, in his own way, did Paul Klee. Accordingly, if this 'static' scene is just a bit of a joke, at whom is the joke aimed? And whom is it on? (More tomorrow.) (By the way, reviews of Robin Wood's 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited' and Howard Maxford's 'The A-Z of Hitchcock' are on our New Publications page.)

October 18 - 2002
Hitchcock's favourite composer was Wagner, and his favourite painter was Paul Klee. Both of those eminent persons believed in a life-force and the possibility of arriving, in Klee's words, at 'that Romanticism which is one with the universe' ('Paul Klee on Modern Art', Faber, 1948, p. 43). In Wagner's case, his Romanticism, from 1854 on, was primarily influenced by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Musicologist Howard Goodall reports, 'We're often told that Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation" will change your life' and how that was certainly true of Wagner - the composer read Schopenhauer's book four times in a year. ('Howard Goodall's Great Dates', Channel 4, program on Wagner) According to Wagner himself, what he immediately took from Schopenhauer was 'a simple and sincere recognition of the true relation of things, and complete abstinence from the attempt to preach any particular doctrine'. (Quoted in Bryan Magee, 'The Philosophy of Schopenhauer', 1983, p. 342) Furthermore, Bryan Magee, who is himself a Wagner authority, notes that 'Tristan and Isolde' teaches - not preaches - 'Schopenhauer's doctrine that existence is an inherently unsatisfiable web of longings, willings and strivings from which the only permanent liberation is the cessation of being' (Magee, p. 356). Accordingly, gentle reader, here are my thoughts on how the foregoing may apply to Hitchcock. What Magee says about 'Tristan' clearly has some application to a film like Vertigo: Robin Wood was right, in the original 'Hitchcock's Films', to detect echoes of Wagner's music in Bernard Herrmann's score. Equally clearly, I think, Vertigo is one of several Hitchcock films to allude to 'the infernal regions': Gavin Elster is something of a Mephistopheles-figure, and Scottie is at once Faust and Orpheus (Royal Brown has written of the film's Orphic connotations in an article listed on our New Publications page). Other such films include Shadow of a Doubt, Under Capricorn, I Confess, Frenzy, and Torn Curtain. But does this really mean, as Wood has claimed, that 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell'? I guess it all depends on what you mean by 'Heaven' and 'Hell'. It's true that Schopenhauer felt that, in general, there can be no permanent liberation from suffering in this world - though even then he seems to have exempted both saints and geniuses (himself among the latter!). And, after all, Faust is finally reprieved and Orpheus, though he loses Eurydice, does return from the Underworld. Furthermore, Schopenhauer adduced aesthetic and ethical paths to liberation, and how many major thinkers have ever offered more than that? At all events, it's the aesthetic path that I think is particularly pertinent to a consideration of Hitchcock's films. With few exceptions (e.g., Frank D. McConnell and his concept of film as a kind of pastoral), critics and scholars seem to me to have given too little attention to how the essential subjectivity of film extends to the individual viewer: a film isn't only what happens onscreen but also what happens inside the viewer's head. In an otherwise splendid exegesis of The Birds in her BFI Film Classics monograph (1998), Camille Paglia seems to me to falter when discussing the moment when the distraught woman (Doreen Lang) in the Tides Restaurant accuses not just Melanie (Tippi Hedren), but the very viewer, of being evil. The moment is pure Hitchcock - and pure Schopenhauer. (Again see our New Publications page.) However, I'm going to need more space to show the connection between Paul Klee, Frank McConnell, and Hitchcock's 'open-ended pessimism' which, arguably, doesn't foreclose on the possibility of the individual viewer building 'a Heaven in Hell's despair'. (To be continued.)

October 17 - 2002
I haven't forgotten that we're supposed to be discussing here the matter of Robin Wood's sharing with his readers his 'personal views' on film and life, plus his sharing (whether readers like it or not) aspects of his personal life per se, in the Preface to the new edition of 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited'. (I'm also supposed to be offering a spot of self-revelation of my own, as Bill Krohn keeps reminding me.) But, having suggested the aptness of Robin's choosing to write on Hitchcock - at the end of his new book he even does a Flaubert and declares that Hitchcock's character Marnie 'c'est moi' - I decided to widen things out to incorporate discussion of both Wood's and Hitchcock's roughly parallel backgrounds. This, I think, will prove instructive. Now, I mentioned last time another of Hitchcock's characters, the cymbalist in The Man Who Knew Too Much. He's the man who makes one single but significant contribution to a performance of The Storm Cloud Cantata, then (as Hitchcock describes it) catches the bus home. Effectively, he epitomises a man who knows hardly anything at all - call him an everyman-figure. The contrast, as I see it, is with the actual performance of the Cantata in its entirety by a full orchestra and a massed choir, set against a realm of international intrigue in which, inadvertently, the film's two main protagonists, Ben and Jo, and their young son, Hank, find themselves caught up. Here again is the worlds-within-worlds idea of Downhill, as well as what Hitchcock in the 1960s told Huw Wheldon of the BBC, the notion that 'reality is something that none of us can stand, at any time'. (Cf. one implication of the title, The Man Who Knew Too Much.) We're all everyman-figures. We all live in a 'lost paradise' world. So is Robin Wood right to say that 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell'? About this, I have my doubts. For one thing, Wood himself has had some 'high old times', notably in the '70s, when he reports that, '"With a little help from my friends," I did more than "get by": I had found myself.' (p. xxix) Further, he later met a youth, Yuichi, about whom he writes: 'Yuichi restored my youth ... I have never met anyone, before or since, with such an open-minded appetite for experience.' (pp. xxx-xxxi) No matter that Wood now begins to have an inkling (not before time?!) of the truth embodied in a sentence from a novel (by Lydia Minatoya): '"I thought I was committed to social justice but my commitment was all to self-image"'. (p. xxxiii) He may even be the freer for such self-insight, which would explain why he can (almost) end his Preface with the Leavisian truth, which is also the truth long ago imparted - verbally - to me by my yoga-teacher, Veejay, about the crucial importance of being non-attached: theory is finally irrelevant. (See the full passage in Wood, pp. xli-xlii, to extract the other nuances he is conveying there.) Was Hitchcock incapable of allowing for such knowledge and the possibility of building for oneself 'a Heaven in Hell's despair' (in William Blake's phrase)? My task tomorrow is to answer that question and to sort out a few other issues raised above. Wish me well!

October 16 - 2002
October 16 I need to explain what I meant yesterday by indicating a relation between Hitchcock's 'lost paradise' films (i.e., most of Hitchcock's films) and those that end (or start) with a stage setting. Some of this will be familiar to my regular readers, so I'll try to be brief. By the way, it was Orson Welles who called the search for a 'lost paradise' the 'principal theme of Western art' (and his own films are replete with imagery of 'corrupted Edens' and their analogues, such as snowfields, walled estates, tropical islands ruled by mercantile magnates, and the like). I think Welles's remark was made in the famous interview with Kenneth Tynan, but I can't be sure. (I must ask Sid Gottlieb.) Anyway, apropos Hitchcock, it's something that fits nicely with that director's own interest in the visual arts, as instanced recently by the sumptuous book 'Hitchcock and Art: Fatal Coincidences'. The same book further reminds us of Hitchcock's broad awareness of Shakespearean motifs and imagery (the latter also very much a source used by Arthur Schopenhauer to illustrate some of his 'empirical truths', not to mention by Orson Welles, ditto). Again and again, then, Hitchcock's films tell us that 'all the world's a stage' or 'all the world's a soundstage, as the openings of Rear Window (1954) and The Wrong Man (1956) both manage to imply, with Hitchcock in or contingent to this world of suffering (see, notably, John Fawell's book on Rear Window) but not quite of it. He presents himself as more the clock-winder or, precisely, the presenter, standing in, perhaps, for an invisible, or absent, deity. The 'lost paradise' again. And in this world - on this stage - full of 'alurums and excursions', we may think ourselves free but are clearly not. At least, not in any demonstrable or tangible way. In another of Hitchcock's early worlds-within-worlds films, The Ring (cf. Downhill), the hero works his way up from circus tent to Albert Hall, but remains circumscribed within these circular structures: his 'world' remains that of boxing. (I know, I know, thereby squaring the circle! As Hitchcock would say in a different context: 'Isn't it a fascinating design? You could study it forever!') There is even a scene, midway through the film, where two girls in a lounge room drink champagne and loll in their respective 'corners' where their boyfriends, or 'seconds', attempt to revive them by flapping towels in their faces. Contrariwise, the Albert Hall climax shows us champagne being poured over one of the boxers to mark his victory. The circle, or ring, is closed again. Equally, in The 39 Steps, we are made aware of Mr Memory's ascension in his world, from seedy music hall to up-market Palladium, but still he is only ever part of the 'world' of vaudeville. The view remains subjective, and Mr Memory's essentially mechanical, or rote, skill - 'Every day he commits to memory fifty new facts' - never allows him to transcend his 'imprisonment'. There is also the 'one-note man' - the cymbalist - in The Man Who Knew Too Much. But more on this topic later.) I'm working my way towards justifying what I said yesterday, about how Robin Wood's claim that 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell' is excessive. To be continued.

October 15 - 2002
I'm rather ashamed of my contribution, on Psycho, to a book that is about to appear, 'Dark Thoughts: Philosophic Reflections on Cinematic Horror' (Scarecrow Press), edited by Steven Schneider and Daniel Shaw. I set myself to read widely, and view extensively, whatever I could find on horror and horror films, but ended up, under pressure of time, jettisoning virtually all of the prepared stuff. I wrote my chapter largely from my knowledge of Hitchcock's films alone, with scant reference to horror films generally, and with minimal shaping and revision. Nonetheless, I think I managed to make some worthwhile points. One concerns how the last shot of Blackmail (1929) - the pointing finger of a jester accompanied my the sound of mocking laughter - would seem indebted to the final moment of Pirandello's famous play, 'Right You Are (If You Think So)', which Hitchcock very likely saw at its first London presentation, in 1925, when it starred Claude Rains. Pirandello was, of course, the 20th-century theatre's equivalent of Hitchcock inasmuch as his plays are typically about the very nature of theatre and its relation to life just as Hitchcock's films are typically about the nature of cinema and of how the world itself is a stage - or screen - where we perform our fantasies to which other people relate with their essentially subjective performances, their own created 'worlds'. Pirandello's most famous play is called 'Six Characters in Search of an Author', a conceit which reminds me of William Rothman's characterisation of Hitchcock's films as about the director's veiled search for 'acknowledgement' (and his characters likewise). Influenced by Schopenhauer, Pirandello knew that 'reality' is virtually always subjective, just whatever we make it. From the same source, as well as his Catholic background, Pirandello adduced 'compassion' as potentially the one saving grace in this veil of tears that we call our world - but which is 'really' a myriad of separate, subjective worlds. And so things are in Psycho, I think. References to subjective 'worlds' and 'private traps' and a 'reality' that 'came too close' abound in it. (Norman: 'We're all in our private traps ... That house up there happens to be my only world.' Dr Richman: 'When reality came too close, [Norman] dressed up ...' These are quintessential Hitchcock lines, reminding us that in his films 'masquerade' and theatricality are commonplace.) But, as I've indicated before, such things go back to Hitchcock's silent films, whether the theatrical metaphor of the cabaret in The Pleasure Garden (1925), the references to worlds-within-worlds in Downhill (1927), or a chilly aristocracy's retreat to 'Moat House' and its expulsion of would-be interlopers in Easy Virtue (1927). Nor is it an accident that such films that designedly show a broad spectrum of class and privilege (or lack of it), such as The 39 Steps (1935), Stage Fright (1950), and I Confess (1953), should end on a stage. These are again 'lost paradise' films which remind us, at some level, that the human family still lives in a house (or houses) divided, and where the idea that 'a free-flowing Eros is the surest means of keeping us all human' is very much unrealised. Nonetheless, I've always felt that Robin Wood's claim that 'There can be no Heaven corresponding to Hitchcock's Hell' is excessive. Continued tomorrow.

October 10 - 2002
(late) When two women kiss near the end of Easy Virtue (1927) which is based on the play by the gay Noël Coward, I have said that it 'suggests Hitchcock's belief in a free-flowing Eros as the surest means of keeping us all human' ('The Alfred Hitchcock Story', p. 17). That is, in a near-surreal way - the two women aren't actually lovers but, rather, ex-rivals for the hand of the mother-ruled male protagonist - the moment anticipates much that is to come in Hitchcock. Certainly it anticipates the 'lost paradise' idea of Rebecca (1940), based on the novel by the married lesbian Daphne du Maurier, where in effect a 'dolorous stroke' has made 'Mandelay'/England an emotional waste land that now awaits the 'return' (or 'advent') of a new saviour to set things to rights. The equivalent of 'Manderley' in Easy Virtue is 'Moat House' (cf. the passage in 'Richard II' defining England as 'a demi-paradise' whose 'moat' protects it from 'less happier lands'), and both works share a common ancestor in a now-forgotten play by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, 'His House In Order' (1906). (See 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', p. 17.) Hitchcock indicated to Truffaut that he had Pinero's play in mind when making Rebecca, and all three works, I suspect, effectively posit how the reign of an enlightened patriarchy has been usurped by an unlawful and cold matriarchal figure (e.g., Mrs Whittaker in Easy Virtue, Mrs Danvers in Rebecca). (I confess to my readers that I haven't yet read 'His House In Order'.) The saviour implied by du Maurier's novel would clearly be a Rebecca-figure, ambi-sexual or 'polymorphously perverse', to use Freud's term, but one no longer regarded with suspicion and rivalry by the 'unenlightened' patriarch, Maxim de Winter (whose very name defines his emotional limitations). And now, reading the new Preface to Robin Wood's 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited', I find the gay Wood himself calling for a 'return' to a sexual and ideological 'paradise'. (I have discussed the psychoanalytic equivalent of a 'paradise' in infancy in the section on Spellbound in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', p. 96.) For example, on pp. xxvi-xxvii he writes of how he 'began to want [in his own life] not just sexual encounters but free and open relationships ... and [like a revelation] the possibility of a whole new series of relationships remote from any models available in the West opened up. For a few months I had four lovers [but eventually settled into a gay equivalent of marriage, though with intermittent affairs on the side of which Wood's regular partner was always informed].' We're told that Wood's book 'Sexual Politics and Narrative Film' 'is the one that best speaks for me, and represents me, as I am today' (p. xxxii). What Wood doesn't venture to discuss is precisely where bisexuality fits into his scheme of things, and I find that disappointing. But returning to Hitchcock now, I would just add for today that the whole 'lost paradise' or 'corrupted garden' notion in Hitchcock, from The Pleasure Garden (1925) to the Covent Garden metaphor in Frenzy (1972), fits with my Schopenhauerian reading of the films. In turn, the playwright Luigi Pirandello, whose 'theatrical' and 'Schopenhauerian' influence on Hitchcock I would trace from Blackmail (1929) to Psycho (1960), seems to me to offer a key to understanding the films. By drawing on Wood, I will try to demonstrate this. Continued next week.

October 9 - 2002
(late) The story so far (for late-comers). If Robin Wood, in his new Preface to 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited' (2002), can see fit to spend much of its 30+ pages recounting his personal history (including its several gay affairs) and personal philosophy (pro-Marxist and anti-bourgeois), then shouldn't KM have a stab at something similar, if on a suitably reduced scale? (No matter that KM recognises that the whole procedure may appear unseemly, having found even the great Wood's account a bit like that!) Well, despite the invariable risk of purblindness that comes with making sweeping statements, I'll say tonight that I do think that both Wood and myself are temperamentally suited to exegete Hitchcock. But I'll hasten to add that this is likely Hitchcock's doing as much as ours. For as I've noted before, and which John Fawell's recent book on Rear Window seems to me to endorse, Hitchcock's films try to offer something to everyone, and not to alienate them once 'hooked'. (The text that I invariably think of here is Goethe's 'Faust' with its Prelude in the Theatre where The Director, the Poet, and The Clown agree that, 'The mass is overwhelmed only by masses,/ Each likes some part of what has been presented./ He that gives much, gives something to all classes,/ And everybody will go home contented.') Furthermore, in running a website on Hitchcock, you soon become aware that seemingly everyone thinks that they have a direct line to Hitchcock! William Rothman's book, 'Hitchcock - The Murderous Gaze' (1982), merely exemplifies such a tendency at its most explicit (and egregious)! In Wood's case, though, not only is he, like Hitchcock, English and class-aware, he is also a married man who 'outed' himself and became openly gay. So? Well, Hitchcock did tell John Russell Taylor, 'If I hadn't married Alma, I might have gone gay!' And, often, he made a point of emphasising (see 'Hitchcock on Hitchcock', edited by Sid Gottlieb) how he regarded acting as a very protean matter, even to the point where a good actor must psychologically, at least, be bisexual. Again and again (e.g., Easy Virtue, Murder!, Rebecca, Psycho), he built a certain tragic, or ironic, pathos into his films based on the insight that individual sexuality is potentially very fluid, i.e., ambi-sexual or bisexual. The pathos here stems largely from how patriarchal society is divisive on such issues, at least outwardly - and Hitchcock (who reportedly read Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' 'several times') knew very well that appearances count for a great deal. Okay. As I'll explain tomorrow, I see the Robin Wood of 'Hitchcock's Films Revisted' (the new edition) as in a line with the authors of several of the above films (Easy Virtue, et al.), all of whom were English, class-conscious, gay, and hoping one day that a 'lost paradise' might return ...

October 8 - 2002
Lost in the Wood! That's me, wondering exactly what to write here this morning! (My apologies to a certain 'George Kaplan' who in 'Film Comment' called an anti-Robin Wood article by that title many years ago - and who turned out to be Mr Wood himself!) Bill Krohn, unhelpfully, keeps urging me to 'get to the smutty stuff'! Actually, I think that Wood and I are close to being on the same critical wavelength, if not other types of wavelength (and even then, I'm not 100% sure!), despite our misunderstanding that I reported here on October 3. In his new Preface to 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited', Wood calls both F.R. Leavis and himself 'outsiders', and adds: 'This "outsiderness" applies most importantly, I think, to our refusal to connect ourselves to theories, be they theories of philosophy, theories of literature, theories of film ... I have learned from many theories, but subscribed to none. I recall a wonderful remark, in an interview, by Jean Renoir. Asked if he believed in any theories, he replied that he thought they were probably all true, depending upon their application, but he didn't accept any as absolute.' (p. xii) Among Wood's books, of course, is one on the Apu Trilogy of Satyajit Ray. So maybe Wood is more 'non-attached' and 'Easternised' than some of us thought. After all, when Renoir went to India to make The River (1950) - where, incidentally, he was watched by the young Ray - he reportedly exclaimed one day, 'I've been a Hindu all of my life without knowing it!' I do think that my own sympathy to certain Hindu teachings, and to Hinduism's quality of tolerance (including of other religions), which I encountered when I began to practise yoga under Veejay, was facilitated by my Leavisian training (and, more vaguely, from having read and loved E.M. Forster's 'A Passage to India'). My personal admiration of Schopenhauer's philosophy, quite apart from its applicability, as I see it, to Hitchcock's films (something I'll consider shortly), was occasioned precisely by its openness to ... everything. It is the least exclusive of philosophies - and Schopenhauer, I remember exclaiming, 'so honest!' More, even, I fancy, than Robin Wood! Now here's something else about the misunderstanding that occurred between Robin and me. When I first wrote to him, albeit clumsily, concerned at his tone of despair and what sounded like a decision to stop writing about film altogether and concentrate on novel-writing, I remarked that he had too many supporters and followers for him to suddenly depart the critical scene, leaving it to the academic philistines (whom he had recently castigated). He should think how bereft of a leader some of us would suddenly feel! (Robin later denied that he had said that he would quit writing film criticism - only books on film.) In his eventual reply to me, he expostulated, 'What followers?' His tone was at once angry (towards me) and self-pitying. I could hardly believe that the writer of 'Hitchcock's Films' and 'Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan' (which he now reports almost managed to approach best-sellerdom) could deny that he had many followers. But he did! And this despite what he had written in 1988: '[I]t is clear that many people continue to regard ['Hitchcock's Films'] as important ... Even if I wished to repudiate it altogether, who am I among so many?' (p. 2 of the new edition) Tomorrow I'll try to pull some threads together, and maybe even get smutty!

October 7 - 2002
Sir Isaac Newton said that he couldn't have achieved what he did (e.g., discover the laws of gravity) if he hadn't stood on the shoulders of giants. The same might be said of Robin Wood's film criticism. Wood's evaluative and analytical method, drawing on a literary critical tradition whose 'giants' include F.R. Leavis, T.S. Eliot, and I.A. Richards (to be such a giant, it seems that you have to have imposing initials!), and a masterful outlook (not unlike Hitchcock's own), deriving in part from England's hegemony in world affairs until the Second World War, incorporates a loftiness of judgement that zeroes in on a film's strengths and weaknesses and intelligently and cogently exegetes them, invariably by means of reasoned arguments. Naturally, such a procedure produces much fine and discerning criticism, though it may become formulaic and beside the point. (But the insistence of Leavis and others on 'practical criticism', i.e., a nitty-gritty examination of textual passages, is a built-in safeguard against this ossifying tendency.) I'm feeling well-disposed to Wood this morning, as I continue to read the new edition of 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited', which has many brilliant passages, but let me say a little more about how my own intellectual and spiritual development (such as it has been) first began to depart from Wood's, and, to an extent, continued that way. Almost overnight, the judgemental part of my critical makeup began to be diffused after I started to practise yoga under my teacher, 'Veejay', to whom I had been introduced by the then-Director of the Melbourne Film Festival, Erwin Rado. (I was, and still am, an asthmatic, and Erwin, who suffered from the same malady, felt that yoga breathing procedures would be right for me. The yoga 'philosophy' would be a bonus. For what it's worth, my asthma markedly improved within a few weeks.) I can easily sum up Veejay's principal teaching: it was the need for a certain kind of 'non-attachment' in order to open oneself to the fuller reality of other people and other things and indeed of the World Soul itself - though I don't remember Veejay ever using that term or its Hindu equivalent, Atman. It is scarcely simplifying matters to say that, in intention at least, I became a more tolerant person, including towards certain works of literature and film that I would have once looked down on (exercising Leavisian principles to excommunicate them from my further attention). I was prepared to give them a 'second chance', and wait to see if they revealed hidden merits. To some extent, this certainly made me a lesser critic, less willing and less rigorous in passing judgement, at least in the short term. It even played havoc, I sincerely believe, with my attempt to write a Master's thesis on Hitchcock, because I was now constitutionally unwilling to use value-judgements and value-arguments to make my case (when 'making a case' is precisely what thesis-writing is traditionally about!). More positively, especially in the long term, I began to see in certain films - those to which I turned my attentive gaze (n.b., no pun intended at the expense of Laura Mulvey and her kind) - not just one way of reading them, with one set of merits, but many - all constellating together. More tomorrow.

October 3 - 2002
There is no question of Robin Wood's dedication to an informed and vigorous polemic of humanist film criticism, and of the penetration of his insights. He is exemplary in many ways. He can also be opinionated (as John Fawell has pointed out) and be no less blind, sometimes, than any other human being to what is obvious to others. (If you know the concept of the Johari window, that's part of what I'm talking about here.) Wood is often as subjective as the next man (or woman), and I'm not sure that I would want it any other way! Encountering Wood's eager mind and cogently-formulated (if still fallible) opinions is part of the excitement of reading his film criticism. Somewhere in the original 'Hitchcock's Films' (1965) is the phrase, 'the impossibility of knowing another person in the deepest essentials'. In retrospect, that's a very revealing phrase about Wood himself, I think. For there is an exactly contrary view which says that we can know other people in the deepest essentials even if it's impossible to know them fully in a myriad of inessential ways. If we are all subjective, just about all of the time, at least we have that much in common! It constitutes (much of) our common humanity! Wood repeatedly disclaims that there is such a thing as 'the unchanging human condition', but his disclaimer is made on expedient and polemical grounds - for he believes (erroneously, in my view) that once you endorse such a concept, you lose your will to political action. Doesn't Wood know the so-called 'Serenity Prayer', I wonder. That's the prayer that runs: 'Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.' Wood isn't big on serenity, it must be said, unless it is aestheticised (listening to Mozart or Janacek, say, or, rather, writing about listening to them, making Wood the hero!), and even then he seems most happy when finding revolutionary and sexual content in the music. Wood's is typically a very Westernised position; nor is he big on things Eastern. A few years ago, after reading in short succession two seemingly despairing articles by Wood on the state of Western civilisation and of the futility of film studies as practised in many American universities at the time (I'm not saying that he was wrong about either matter), I wrote to him in some concern, quoting the Zen adage, 'the reed that bends does not break'. (The new Preface to 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited' indicates that Wood has more than once had suicidal thoughts, some of them 'inspired' by the fate of his beloved Anna Karenina, whom he had thought to emulate). Two or three years later, Wood finally replied to me, mainly apropos another matter. It was then that I learnt how, on reading my (admittedly clumsily-phrased) original letter, he had been rendered incensed and livid by it. I'll have more to say about this, and about my own slowly arrived-at worldview, next time.

October 2 - 2002
Come clean (or maybe dirty), 'MacGuffin' editor (KM)! If Robin Wood, in his new Preface to the 2002 edition of 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited' (Columbia University Press, pb), can give us his 'critical biography', which he claims to be both 'honest' and 'disarming' (because of the honesty) and which includes a sizeable run-down on his sex life and philosophy (which roughly equals: have one steady beau - in Wood's case, gay - and any number of affairs on the side), then why can't you? And why aren't you a would-be Robin Wood clone - after all, Wood claims to have been told by several people that he's the writer of the best book on Alfred Hitchcock (a claim which I would probably endorse)? Okay, I'll answer the latter question, at any rate. Inwardly, I probably was, or appeared to myself to be, something of a Robin Wood aspirant, for a while. Like Wood, who is only a little more than ten years my senior, I was trained in a university English Department whose principal guiding light was F.R. Leavis. And all through my undergraduate years, at which time I became thoroughly convinced of the fineness of Alfred Hitchcock's filmmaking, I was aware that Wood was saying pretty much the same sorts of things - and with enviable lucidity - that I would want to say about Hitchcock. I, too, was asking my tutors and lecturers (in particular, a Dr Wilson, from South Africa), 'Why don't you take Hitchcock - and Hollywood films in general - seriously?' (Dr Wilson's answer, I still remember, was to sniff and say, in effect, 'They're just pictures, illustrations!') And already I was drawing parallels in my mind - and then in my undergraduate Honours thesis - between Hitchcock's films and the suspenseful and comic-grotesque novels of Charles Dickens (by no means the favourite author, incidentally, of many of the English Department faculty, e.g., Dr Wilson, who saw him as a mere entertainer). When Dr Leavis recanted on his earlier position, which had excluded Dickens from the 'Great Tradition' or 'pantheon' of English writers, and wrote with his wife a book-length study, 'Dickens the Novelist', I was one of the first to read it - avidly. It was, and is, an admirable book. But always, in the years that followed, Robin Wood remained the same decade ahead of me in years and ideas! (Surprise!) When Robert Kapsis in 'Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation' (1992) quotes Dr Samuel Johnson on why someone is pre-eminent in his field, Johnson's answer, 'Because, sir, he was first!', made real sense to me! Not that it much mattered to me by now. I had long ago found other sources of wisdom than art and literature and Dr Leavis, and had gained from them a perspective on Leavis (and Wood) that gave me, I think, the detachment and self-direction I needed - I saw Hitchcock from new angles, so to speak. Most notable of these influences for me was my yoga teacher of fifteen years, Shri Vijayadev Yogendra, whose father, in Bombay, had began the modern yoga resurgence in India in the 1920s. More tomorrow. (Whether there will be any dirty bits remains to be seen!)

October 1 - 2002
I was tonight going to start commenting on the remarkable, if egregiously 'personal', new Preface to the latest edition of Robin Wood's 'Hitchcock's Films Revisited' (Columbia University Press, 2002, pb), which will soon be reviewed on our New Publications page. But instead, for tonight only, let's talk about movies and rain. Mark Cousins is director of the BBC's 'Scene by Scene' program, and has just published online an essay called "Cinema loves rain". Pointing out that painters have seldom depicted 'rain in the present tense, as a visual moment', i.e., rain actually falling, as opposed to scenes of rain's aftermath (wet streets and biblical floods), Cousins notes that movies, by contrast, seem to have had a love affair with rain. Indeed, Indian (Hindi) movies seldom depict a good soaking in the rain as 'anything other than exhilarating or symbolically erotic' (e.g., Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding [2001]). Accordingly, the rain song, as Bollywood calls it, 'has become a narrative structural device, like the action sequence in Hollywood'. I set myself to count how many Hitchcock films have rain scenes (Cousins mentions one, Psycho), and got a figure of twelve. Here are the films: Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent, Mr and Mrs Smith, Lifeboat, The Paradine Case, Under Capricorn, Stage Fright, I Confess, Rear Window, Psycho, and Marnie. Have I left any out? I have ignored related meteorological phenomena like windstorms (Number Seventeen, Spellbound) and blizzards (The Mountain Eagle, The Lady Vanishes) and films in which storms happen offscreen (The Manxman). Equally, I have ignored allegorical equivalents of rain (you might call them!) like the bird attacks in The Birds. But that last instance raises an important point I would want to make about Hitchcock's rain scenes: they all reflect his sense of how suitable the medium of film is to depicting the 'flow of life' and, indeed, to registering the sheer life-force, the cosmic Will, itself. Not surprisingly, given the harsh judgment on Will made by Arthur Schopenhauer - that it represents a blind force that brings suffering and hardship in its train, as much as it brings brief exhilaration and transient erotic pleasure - most of Hitchcock's rain scenes are connected with suffering or unsatisfied yearning. Marion Crane drives to her death through rain (which continues to fall symbolically in the so-called 'shower scene' at the Bates Motel, where she is murdered); Van Meer (or his double) is shot in the face at close range during a rainstorm in Amsterdam, on the steps of that city's town hall; innocent ship's passengers and crew are drowned or killed by cutthroats after their vessel is deliberately lured onto rocks during a storm by Sir Humphrey Pengallan's wreckers; and so on. In I Confess, as Ruth waits longingly for letters from her lover, Michael Logan, her 'sweet suffering' is depicted by a grey long-shot of drizzling rain and a postman not stopping in the street outside. Such scenes gain additional resonance and - quite literally - force, by the way they link to other 'weathery' scenes in the same films. For instance, Quebec City and its environs in I Confess are depicted in both rain and sunlight, though the overriding mood in this black-and-white film is sombre, as epitomised by the 'pall' of black smoke (symbolic of the Devil's presence) that drifts across the city.

September 30 - 2002
While I was out of sight, Nandor Bokor (indefatigable Hitchcockian!), having just returned home to Hungary from the USA, sent me the following. I print it here for what it's worth. (And hearty thanks, Nandor!) 'During my vacation in San Francisco this August, I went to Bodega Bay (drove up there on Highway One, of course), and visited what had been the Tides Wharf restaurant in The Birds. Now there is a fairly large mall in its place, with a restaurant, a cafe and a souvenir shop. In the souvenir shop you can buy several Hitchcock memorabilia, among them a little booklet - printed in Bodega Bay - about the filming of The Birds (with lots of great photos about the filming). In it I read the following: "The Tides Wharf restaurant and parking lot in Bodega Bay were used for the gas station, cafe and boat dock scene. (The gas station was blown up on a studio lot.) The Tides complex has been expanded and remodeled several times since then. When the 1960s owner of The Tides, Mitch Zankich, allowed Hitchcock to use the restaurant in The Birds, he made three stipulations: the town in the movie would be called 'Bodega Bay'; the male lead, played by Rod Taylor, would be named 'Mitch'; and Zankich would receive a 'speaking part'. If you're listening at the right moment, you can hear him say those immortal words: 'What happened, Mitch?'"' Nandor's comment: 'I think it's quite a charming story.'

September 27 - 2002
Technical problems stopped publication of the page earlier this week. I regret the inconvenience to our readers. In the next 24-36 hours, I'll put up a couple of book reviews on our New Publications page, with others to follow. KM.

September 18 - 2002
I'll be reviewing the current 'Hitchcock Annual' and also the book 'Hitchcock's Rear Window', both mentioned above, on our New Publications page in the next few days. Meanwhile, I will say here that a highlight of the 'Hitchcock Annual' is Richard Allen's brilliant essay on The Lodger, from which I got much stimulation and satisfaction. Here are some random thoughts it prompted. First, Allen understandably sees Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (and one of its key inspirations, Stevenson's 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde') as having influenced The Lodger. Apropos Hitchcockian ambiguity (see also yesterday's entry, above), he makes this point: 'Wilde's aestheticism triumphantly subverts the value system of Victorian society to which it nonetheless subscribes' (p. 43). Yes, and Hitchcock likewise knowingly constructed his films for his audience to both have its cake and eat it too (as in the case of Marnie where, quite literally, we're invited to both hunt with the hounds and run with the hare - or fox - in a scene that at once crystallises the film's design and reminds us of Oscar Wilde's quip about the English fox-hunting aristocracy: 'the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable'). Allen further writes: 'Dorian Gray is afforded eternal youth [he thinks] by assuming the identity bequeathed upon him in an idealized portrait painted by Basil Hallward ... However, the portrait unflinchingly registers his increasing depravity, just as Hyde reveals the inner soul of Jekyll.' (p. 42) This description of Wilde's novel confirms for me the latter's iteration in Hitchcock's Vertigo, where Scottie (James Stewart) abandons his ex-girlfriend Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) to pursue the chimera of Madeleine (Kim Novak), the film's eternal-feminine figure whom Scottie predictably loses in the end. (Interestingly, the fruit-cellar climax of Psycho had itself been influenced visually by the film The Picture of Dorian Gray.) And again, Allen describes how the dandified Dorian loses the actress Sybil whom he had put on a pedestal: 'The moment that Sybil resolves to step outside her roles as a lover, assumes her real-life identity as a woman, and "fall" in love with Dorian. Dorian's desire is quenched and Sybil, rejected, precipitously dies by her own hand.' (p. 43) This time, I'm reminded of how Vertigo owes something to Goethe's 'Faust', itself an influence of Wilde's novel. For clearly Sybil derives from the hapless Gretchen/Margaret in 'Faust', and in turn both of those women are reflected in Midge/Margery in Vertigo. Midge of course doesn't commit suicide, but the equivalent scene in the film is the one where she paints the parody-portrait of herself as Madeleine, which Scottie scorns, leaving Midge to berate herself and tear at her hair. (The reference to a portrait is itself significant, no doubt.) Lastly, for now, Richard Allen cites Freud's essay "On Narcissism" to suggest how '"idealization" involves not [so much] a deflection of sexual instinct from sexual satisfaction but [rather] an investment of the sexual instinct in the aggrandization of self ...' (pp. 43-44) Allen is building a case for the Lodger (Ivor Novello) as a Wildean dandy, which I find interesting because I have recently argued that in Hitchcock's Rope Rupert (James Stewart) is something of an Oscar Wilde-figure, and that two other Stewart characters in Hitchcock - Jeff in Rear Window and Scottie in Vertigo - derive from him, to some degree ...

September 17 - 2002
I revised the last third of yesterday's entry. In the process, thinking of the lines spoken by 'Mother' when we last see her in the police cell, I was struck by how cunningly crafted they are - both by writer Joseph Stefano and, as it were, by Norman himself (who of course is carrying on his 'masquerade' as his own mother). One moment it is decidedly 'Mother' who is speaking ('It is sad when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son') and the next minute it is just as clearly Norman who is speaking, albeit in the voice of 'Mother' ('They are probably watching me'). Or, if not the latter, then now it is 'Mother' who is being the cagey one and Norman who is still the good boy going along with whatever 'Mother' requires, though remaining pure and wholesome himself. Shades of both Vertigo (with its vertiginous plot and levels of reference) and of the yet-to-come Marnie (whose heroine is likewise unnaturally keen to keep herself 'decent'). Either way, the scene shows Hitchcock's wise and humane outlook which I've already described as 'civilised and non-judgemental and compassionate'. The other thing I want to comment on today is my remark above that Hitchcock may finally seem 'aloof, paring his fingernails'. In one way, I do think that's true, and Hitchcock on TV certainly cultivated his detached, aloof persona to good comic effect. But this is not to deny the related persona he equally cultivated, both in his films and on his TV shows: that of the witty showman. (Note: 'aloofness' implies distance, but 'wit' implies immediacy. There's a paradox or oxymoron here.) Right to the end of Psycho, Hitchcock's wit is in evidence, not least in the scene of 'Mother' in the police cell. The sheer presentation of that scene is witty in the sense that the Metaphysical poets were witty when they used brilliant conceits to make their points: e.g. comparing love's amenability to a pair of compasses. I haven't yet mentioned how Hitchcock's scene evokes Whistler's famous portrait of his mother (nor, by the way, how it balances, in a dulled-down way, the 'blinding whiteness' that Hitchcock insisted on for the shower scene, and how Norman in his blanket/shroud/mother's shawl/monk's robe parallels Marion wrapped in a shower curtain/shroud/mummy's winding-sheet). As so often, Hitchcock, unlike Gus Van Sant, was showing himself capable of running contraries together, and not insisting on the priority, or superiority, of either. For 'reality' is contraries, after all (cf., for example, Schopenhauer's Will and Representation, the One and the Many). This is a point I've made before, and lately I've seen variants of it made by others that seem worth sharing. First, here's Richard Allen: 'The Lodger is a film that is structurally ambiguous or undecidable in a manner that is a defining characteristic of many of Hitchcock's films' ('Hitchcock Annual', 2001-02, p. 64). And second, here's John Fawell: 'Hitchcock strove for an overarching ambiguity in his films ... that trait that even André Bazin marveled at in Hitchcock's cinema, its equilibrium. Hitchcock's goal was not so much to trap us into a single consciousness but to make us feel, viscerally, a consciousness with which we are distinctly uncomfortable. His goal was not so much to manipulate us but to confuse us, not to control our thoughts but to make us think.' ('Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-Made Film', p. 10) Yes, that comes close to defining Hitchcock's Pirandellian cinema in a nutshell. Eat your heart out, Gus Van Sant!

September 16 - 2002
Summing up the previous item, on Psycho, I am saying that whereas Gus Van Sant permits his audience a cool detachment - call it objectivity - at moments during his film, Hitchcock is constantly moving us along with the force of his film's 'will' - which is represented by a succession of immediate subjective states (Marion's, Norman's, Arbogast's, Sam and Lila's, and finally, or penultimately, that of 'Mother') yet is more than that, for Hitchcock's own subjectivity is also at work, albeit disguised as the cosmic Will itself (the film's 'will' posits the larger 'Will' and becomes analogous to it). And I am saying that Hitchcock-as-God adopts a certain stance, which is basically civilised and non-judgemental and compassionate. Furthermore, this is apt, because compassion is about all we've got (besides art and philosophy) to meet and deal with the ravages of Will - so the 'pessimistic' philosopher Schopenhauer tells us. (The playwright Luigi Pirandello, very much a Schopenhauerian, devoted a lifetime to depicting the-world-as-theatre whose various 'characters' can be redeemed by compassion alone; and Hitchcock's Psycho, I have written elsewhere, is a very Pirandellian film.) Consider the tone of the scene in which we last hear from 'Mother'. 'It is sad', she tells us, 'when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son.' She could have been less philosophical and more recriminatory: 'So it's come to this, and my rotten son has finally got his come-uppance.' But of course 'sad' is so apt - that has been the tone of the film all along, from Marion's 'quiet desperation' to our view inside the Bates house of where Norman spent his 'more than happy' childhood - and in any case it fits with Norman's subjective view of himself which of course is what we are really getting in the voice of 'Mother'. This scene matches the one in which Marion imagines the voices of Lowery and Caroline and Cassidy learning of her theft of the $40,000 (and her quiet smile there is the precursor of both the grinning skull of 'Mother' in the fruit-cellar and of our last view of Norman-as-Mother grinning at his/her self-serving joke about not harming a fly). In turn, this whole scene is subjective for us, the audience: in its emphasis on the maternal voice, it literally speaks to our innermost feelings (dating back to our infant identification with our own mother), and is charged with symbolism. Hearing the allusion to not harming a fly, I think of both Buddhist desistance from taking life (Norman with a blanket around his shoulders looks very much like a Buddhist monk in his cell!) and of the observation in 'King Lear': 'As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods;/ They kill us for their sport.' (The earlier scene of the lady buying the pesticide here has its final pay-off. Pre-figuring The Birds, now it's humans who are seen as being under attack, and accordingly Norman/'Mother' wants out.) That is, we're reminded by "'Mother's" words of both the destructive nature of the cosmic Will and of the 'proper' attitude to take - a wise, compassionate desistance from harming others (Norman, let's recall, had always spoken of 'Mother' as 'harmless') - if only it were feasible to do so. Psycho both posits that possibility and wonders if it isn't madness to attempt. And what of Hitchcock himself? He may well seem by this time (despite his earlier cameo appearance) like James Joyce's description of the artist-author, 'aloof, paring his fingernails.' Which is fitting because ultimately his film is whatever we, in our subjectivity, make of it. More tomorrow.

September 12 - 2002
Actually, the business with the lady buying the pesticide has been modified in Van Sant's version of Psycho. We no longer have the all-important moment when the lady, after saying 'insect or man, death should always be painless', exits the shop clutching her purchase (though still not knowing whether it will do its job painlessly) and wearing a beatific smile. Thus the point of the episode is lost. The lady's bland platitudes and actual hypocrisy - a metaphor for the film's vision of society - go largely unremarked by us. Yet it is just such wilful 'blindness' as hers that Hitchcock's film is about. There, 'blindness' (from that of Marion to that of the eyeless Mrs Bates) is everywhere - and is linked to the film's own 'Miltonic' outlook whereby blindness is ultimately given a triumphalist meaning (see my book). None of this is in Van Sant's film - indeed, Hitchcock's verbal and visual allusions to Milton and the poet's famous sonnet known as 'On His Blindness' have all been cut out, which is a topic for another time. Here's what I want to say today: at the core of Hitchcock's film is a humane concern which is an integral part of the film's 'subjectivity', yet in Van Sant's film it has been replaced by a 'cool' objectivity. I began to feel this in the scene where Marion (Anne Heche) first arrives at the Bates Motel and meets Norman (Vince Vaughn) - and immediately starts mugging to herself, and the audience, about what a 'wierdo' he is (little does she know ...). Hitchcock would never have allowed this. In his Psycho, Marion has a 'motherly' side that is capable of fellow-feeling with Norman - even more so, after she hears Norman's 'real' mother berating him. Some of Van Sant's approach seems intentional enough, but that doesn't help. It is all the sadder. After all, Kierkegard's wise words surely still apply: 'The majority of men are subjective towards themselves and objective towards all others - terribly objective sometimes - but the real task is in fact to be objective towards oneself and subjective towards all others.' Now, what I am calling Hitchcock's 'subjectivity' has a 'loving' aspect, which seems to me fitting. For it is through love that we come closest to performing our 'real task' as Kierkegaard defined it. Lila and Sam are not lovers but, in Hitchcock's film, they are capable of mutual respect for what the other is going through. That fellow-feeling is Marion's legacy in the second half of the film. In terms of the film's 'subjectivity', the latter is Hitchcock's own 'higher' (Miltonic?) consciousness which is certainly a form of fellow-feeling, or generosity, even when masquerading as the cosmic Will itself. (I am reminded of how someone has called Shakespeare 'a sort of universal Counsel for the Defence'.) In this context, one has to wonder why Van Sant cast both Anne Heche and Julianne Moore (playing Marion's sister) in the roles he did. I hear that Heche had just gone through a well-publicised lesbian affair, while Moore, a heterosexual, plays Lila as a lesbian. The person on the Yahoo 'MacGuffin' Group site (Fergal Hughes, I think) whom I mentioned yesterday referred specifically to the moment in Hitchcock's film where Lila's impatience, as registered in the line 'Sam, he said an hour - or less', shows her considerable concern for her sister - whereas the same line, in Van Sant's film, is made to sound more of a petulant criticism of Sam than anything else! Hmm. Have I made my point? (More later.)

September 11 - 2002
In Gary Giblin's generally astute observations above on Hitchcock's use of studio backlot locations, one of his speculations (September 9) is that the reason we never see the exterior of Sam Loomis's hardware store is for the sake of economy: 'My guess is that, given his desire to do things quickly and cheaply on Psycho, Hitchcock chose to shoot through the entrance of an existing façade, from the inside out ... rather than customize the exterior to reflect Sam’s ownership.' Of at least equal importance, though, may have been Hitchcock's understanding of a different kind of 'interiority', involving a film's subjective-technique, which is also showcased in Psycho (as the film's very title may suggest). In part, this is a case of not dissipating an audience emotion: as Hitchcock told Truffaut, you don't have to show the exterior of a police station if you can cut straight to the sergeant on duty at the counter and show the stripes on his arm - and that doing it this way may save more than time and money. It may actually keep an emotion going from the preceeding scene, or scenes. In Psycho, such technique is especially pertinent. I even believe that it helps explain the difference in intensity between Hitchcock's and Gus Van Sant's versions of the same film. But let's stay with the hardware-store scene, for now. (There are in fact two such scenes, but neither shows the store's exterior.) Instead of a close-up of the stripes on a sergeant's arm, the sequence begins with a close-up of white notepaper - surrounded by darkness - which is headed 'SAM LOOMIS HARDWARE' and, in smaller print, 'FAIRVALE, CALIFORNIA', and on which Sam's hand is penning a letter to 'Dearest right-as-always Marion'. This compounds the irony of Marion's being killed after she has decided to return the stolen money - it now turns out, equally too late, that Sam has decided to marry her anyway, despite a lack of funds. Meanwhile, the visual conceit here concerns how the white paper surrounded by darkness echoes the image of the roof of Marion's white car disappearing into the black swamp a moment before. The camera now pulls back to reveal the hardware store interior - in effect, pulling us back out of the swamp. But our emotional involvement in the film, and the 'mind' (or Will) it represents, is not dispelled, and is even added to by things like the ironies I've just described. The episode that immediately follows, of the lady buying the pesticide, I have analysed in my book (the uncut UK edition), and it functions as roughly the equivalent of the famous 'knocking at the gate' (the porter scene) in 'Macbeth' after the murder of Malcolm - a moment of light relief that somehow also comments on what has just occurred. Now, talking of dissipating (or not dissipating) the audience's emotion - the latter a correlative of immanent, ever-present Will or life-force - something evident in both of the hardware-store scenes is how very concerned Lila (Vera Miles) is for her missing sister. But as someone on the Yahoo 'MacGuffin' Group site has noted this week, in Gus Van Sant's version of the film the portrayal of Lila by actress Julianne Moore, complete with Walkman, does away with such feelings of deep anxiety - to the detriment of the film. In truth, such 'objectification' of events has been allowed by Van Sant to happen several scenes earlier. More tomorrow.

September 10 - 2002
More from Gary Giblin about Hitchcock and the Universal backlot ... 'Hitchcock, of course, first made use of Universal’s backlot on Saboteur (1942), filming, for example, the exteriors of the drugstore and Mrs Sutton’s home here. Years later, with Hitch's television series based at Universal’s "Revue Studios", he would stage several of his teleplays on the backlot as well. Once one knows the layout of the Courthouse Square area and the adjoining Brownstone Street, New York Street, and Circle Drive, it becomes relatively easy to identify what has been filmed where. In one of the Hitch-directed episodes, "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat", the title-character arrives at a train station located between the Mockingbird school (background) and Courthouse (just out of view in the foreground). The station was a temporary structure, erected for the television shoot, and the railroad tracks were, in fact, non-existent! (There has never been a railroad in this part of the backlot.) Later, Mrs Bixby rides north on Brownstone Street (shown in rear projection behind actress Audrey Meadows) looking for a pawnshop. She soon spots one and asks the driver to stop. However, the building she alights in front of is actually one she has already passed! Hitchcock, who signed a multi-picture deal with Universal in 1962, continued to use the studio’s backlot in his theatrical films. In The Birds, as we know, the massive gas station fire was staged on the backlot. And in Torn Curtain (1966), the Berlin street scenes involving Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, and Mort Mills (the "Farmer") were all staged in New York Street. (These shots are skillfully camouflaged through the use of actual footage of East Berlin.) For Topaz (1969), Hitchcock constructed part of the façade of the Hotel Theresa, host to Fidel Castro on his famous 1960 visit to NYC, on New York Street (the real Hotel Theresa, in Harlem, being unavailable). Oh, and don’t look too closely at DuBois’s "Martinique Florist" - you may just spot Mrs Bixby wearing the Colonel’s coat!' [Editor's note. I'll put more of Gary Giblin's observations in similar vein on the Yahoo 'MacGuffin' Group site soon. Gary's book 'Hitchcock's London' is forthcoming.]

September 9 - 2002
On the backlot - news from our correspondents. First, my thanks to Stephen Rebello, who has sent along a couple of items. One of them is this. Parts of the delightful George Sidney musical Bye Bye Birdie (1963), though a Columbia release, were shot on the backlot at Universal while Hitchcock was there filming stunts for The Birds. Recently, one of Birdie's cast, dancer-director Will Mead, who was in the chorus, presented two revival screenings of the film at the historic Alex Theater in Glendale, California - and showed silent 8mm footage shot by his mother of her then-young son at work. Of special interest to Hitchcockians, though, were glimpses of the maestro himself overseeing the sequence depicting the ‘burning of Bodega Bay’ from The Birds. Though probably no more than 30 seconds in duration, the footage showed Hitchcock in all his commanding, Mariani dark-suited splendor standing observing the filming of the episode in which the runaway two-toned car careens past the Fish Market, plows into a Stop sign and past the men struggling ineffectively with a fire hose as flames engulf the Capitol Oil Company gas station. (In the completed film, of course, the scene is shot from the point of view of Melanie Daniels [Tippi Hedren] trapped in the phone booth.) The Mead 'home movies' also showed the car reversing and repeating the jagged route. Okay, my thanks too to Gary Giblin, who knows the Universal backlot rather well, it seems. Here's part of what he told me recently. 'Every time I watch Psycho, I can’t help wondering about the exterior of Sam Loomis’s hardware store, which Hitchcock never properly reveals. What did the store actually look like? Was it a “real” building or merely a façade erected for the shoot and subsequently removed? Now, having studied photos and plans of Universal Studios’ backlot, as well as other films from the period, I think I know. First, the hardware store was an existing, two-story building in the backlot’s “Courthouse Square,” an area showcased in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Back to the Future (1985) among other films. It appears as “Jones Paint Co.” in the 1959 AIP release Earth vs the Spider, and stands to the right of the “Savoy Theatre,” seen in the same film. My guess is that, given his desire to do things quickly and cheaply on Psycho, Hitchcock chose to shoot through the entrance of an existing façade, from the inside out (some of the Universal buildings have just enough interior to facilitate this), rather than customize the exterior to reflect Sam’s ownership. Sadly, this building burned down in 1990 and has not been replaced. The church where Sam and Lila meet the sheriff and his wife also required little in the way of dressing; it may be seen in the earlier Harvey (1950), where it is shorn of its steeple. Both the Bates Motel and the Bates mansion (the latter clearly inspired by a very similar backlot house used in Harvey and the 1966 comedy The Ghost and Mr Chicken) were custom-built for the film near Laramie Street in the studio’s Old West area. Both still stand, although they have been moved twice since 1960. Ironically, one backlot building that Hitchcock did not use in Psycho was the Courthouse itself, opting instead for the less grandiose studio administration building. Fittingly, though, the former Mockingbird and future Future Courthouse was used for the dénouement of Psycho II.'

September 4 - 2002
Mrs Oxford (Vivien Merchant/ Mrs Harold Pinter) in Frenzy tries hard to be a 'sweetie' to her husband but inadvertently almost poisons him with her inedible dishes! But self-deception finally receives its just desserts (!) when she gets to drink her own Marguerita which Sergeant Spearman, called away, has left untouched. After draining the contents of the glass in a single swallow, she grimaces and hastily excuses herself. The bitter taste might almost symbolise the contents of the film itself, a very soured view indeed of Hitchcock's home town. We had been prepared for this from the outset - that smudge of black smoke emitted by a Thames tug in the credits-sequence is like the proverbial 'raspberry', a word whose derivation Hitchcock had fun explaining to a late-night TV audience back home in California. (Cockney rhyming slang uses incomplete rhymes: 'cat's feet' for paws = pause; or 'raspberry tart' for ... well, you get the idea!) Such black smoke is associated with the Devil, and hence my earlier reference (August 28, above) to London being in the grip of a devilish force. (For further explanation see a recent post by 'magaroulian' on the Yahoo 'MacGuffin' Group site: the same post, or an accompanying one, notes that Frenzy is one of Hitchcock's 'lost paradise' or 'corrupted garden' films that began with his first film as director, The Pleasure Garden [1925]. Sufficient to say here that such symbolism helps explain the film's use of 'excremental' imagery.) The only other would-be 'sweeties' in the film are the ill-fated Brenda and Babs. Even the former's reciting of Psalms from the Old Testament can't save her. Just about everyone else is out for what they can get. Notably so is the businesslike Hetty Porter (Billie Whitelaw) who, in one very striking image, is made to resemble a winged harpy-figure. Bill Krohn has an interesting comment or two about her. The only kiss in the film, by Richard and Babs in the park, is witnessed by Hetty from above, standing on the balcony of one of the new high-rise apartment blocks that were becoming commonplace in London. Bill writes in an email: 'According to my interpretation of AH's trilogy of zooms - Bruno, Thorwald and [Hetty]: brother, Dad and Mum - this would be what [Slavoj] Zizek calls the "maternal superego" (so prominent in Psycho and The Birds) putting the kibosh on the kiss.' Yes, there's something in that! I think, too, of the forbidding nun, or mother-superior, at the end of Vertigo (who might almost come from the sinister realm of 'the Mothers' in Goethe's 'Faust', Part II), who is the de facto nemesis-figure of Scottie's and Judy's relationship; slightly complicating matters, I also think of the blackmailer Vilette in I Confess, who first encounters his future victims, Logan (Montgomery Clift) and Ruth (Anne Baxter), waking up in the summer-house where a storm has forced them to spend the night: when Hitchcock was asked whether he thought the couple had made love, he replied that he couldn't say - but far be it for him to condemn them if they had! The point I would make is this: in both Vertigo and I Confess, we sense the work of the Devil, just as we sense it in Frenzy. In Vertigo, the Devil is represented by the fiendish Gavin Elster (the nun merely finishes off what Elster has started!); in I Confess, by both Vilette and Otto Keller. (Meanwhile, black smoke drifts across Quebec City.) Frenzy may be 'ugly', but it is a film of almost Blakeian power and vision. In this respect, the work that comes to mind is, of course, Blake's 'London' ...

September 3 - 2002
It may be a coincidence, but consider the name of the classier of the two London pubs we see in Frenzy. (I'm not referring to Forsyth's 'Globe' public house - a name which invokes the hoi-polloi who attended Shakespeare's plays at the Globe theatre.) It's 'The Nell of Old Drury'. And who was the famous 'Sweet Nell' referred to here? Why, Nell Gwynn (1650-87) who was first heard of selling oranges (and what else?) at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, who became a popular actress (always a suspicious occupation in Hitchcock - see Theodore Price's 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality'), and who ended up as the beloved mistress of Charles II, bearing him a son. Now, there's not too much sweetness on display in Frenzy, but what we do see is often associated with the ubiquitous colour orange. A few instances of the colour's occurrence: Babs's orange dress and jacket, the blooms in a flower-pot outside Brenda's mews apartment, the bed-covers in the Salvation Army hostel, the carpet outside the Cupid Room at the Coburg Hotel, Rusk's orange sofa (matching the colour of his hair in some scenes and, if I'm not mistaken, one of the Tretchikoff prints of native girls on his wall), the orange marigolds in a vase at the Oxfords' house, and, last but not the least telling, the many shots of oranges, carrots, and onions in orange sacks at Covent Garden Market. (Interviewed on location here by a journalist, Hitchcock spoke proudly of the amount of 'life' in his film.) Frenzy of course is the 24-hours-in-the-life-of-a-great-city film that Hitchcock told Truffaut he dreamed of making, perhaps originally inspired by Walter Ruttman's Berlin: die Symphonie einer Grossstadt (1927) and Murnau's Sunrise (1927), both of which also seem to have inspired Hitchcock's original intention for Champagne (1928). In the latter, he wanted to follow the grapes after they have been picked and the sparkling product is bottled and shipped to the city, where it serves many purposes and tastes, some of them sordid. (There is one particularly savage moment involving grapes in Frenzy.) So the film ends up demonstrating, in effect, what Hitchcock once told 'Movie', that 'everything's perverted in a different way' and - what is also a message of The Birds (1963) - that 'it's all One'. Champagne in Hitchcock's films is the very symbol of 'the flow of life', though in Frenzy (as in Dickens's 'Our Mutual Friend') that symbolic function is served, rather, by the Thames River. And when Blaney and Babs check into the Coburg Hotel as 'Mr and Mrs Oscar Wilde', you can almost hear Hitch asking, 'Well, why not?' (However, another inspiration for that moment may be the real-life case of sex-murderer Neville Heath, with whose story Hitchcock was all-too familiar, who once checked into a hotel in Bournemouth using the name of the famous poet Rupert Brooke.) Continued, and perhaps concluded, tomorrow.

September 2 - 2002
(late) The sheer abstract design of a film like Frenzy is a joy to consider. Not that the design is without relation to the wider picture. Hitchcock was a stickler for pertinence (even deleting a whole scene from North by Northwest, at the script stage, because he couldn't see any point to it). In a moment, I'll talk about the ubiquitous use of the colour orange in Frenzy. But here's a related (!) thought. In the film's rape scene, Hitchcock draws a time-honoured visual parallel between a woman's breast and an apple. (I've seen medieval woodcuts of the Adam and Eve story that do the same thing.) Elsewhere in the film, visual analogies are made between (sacks of) potatoes and dead bodies and turds - all waste products. We're specifically told that the potatoes are surplus, due to be ploughed, or dumped, back into the ground. What is also interesting, from a design point of view, is that these things contain each other - literally and figuratively. Both Bab's body and the potatoes are sacked up, ready for disposal. (The sacks are then sewn up. If Rusk knew that the sack containing Babs's body would not be re-opened before being dumped, that would make for a particularly ingenious, and seemingly foolproof, means of solving the perennial problem of murderers: what to do with the body?) More than ever, each resembles the other in its relative shapelessness. In one respect, the novel goes one better than the film: the murderer even thrusts potatoes into his victim's orifices. However, Hitchcock finds his own ingenious visual conceit: Babs's toes look like baby potatoes. (I wonder if Hitchcock got this idea from reading the recently-published book about the Moors Murders, 'Beyond Belief', by his actor friend Emlyn Williams. There, the police find the body of a youth hidden in a sack in an upstairs room. What first tells them that they have found a body is feeling the victim's toes through the sacking.) And when the sack falls - is excreted - from the back of a truck, and bursts open, 'spilling [its] load' (as a line of dialogue has already put it), there's an almost exact analogy with another ingenious scene that Hitchcock never got to film: the moment in North by Northwest where Thornhill (Cary Grant), hiding in Lincoln's nostril on Mount Rushmore, has a sneezing fit, and thus betrays his presence to the searching spies. Now, speaking of analogies ... if Hitchcock in Frenzy compares a woman's breasts to apples, what are we to make of the scenes where oranges figure? Are these to be taken as analogous to buttocks? After all, the greengrocer Rusk's remark, 'Don't squeeze the goods until they're yours', does seem to suggest something along those lines! Also, as noted last time, the organic colour orange, which is everywhere in the film, though it's particularly associated with sweet Babs's orange jacket, is contrasted with the colour brown, the colour of excrement. The criticism of Frenzy that it's an 'ugly' film would indeed seem to miss the meaningful - and organic - use of colour by Hitchcock! More tomorrow.

August 28 - 2002
I've already referred to Hitchcock's belief, from his younger days (when he was making Easy Virtue), in how 'a free-flowing Eros is the surest means of keeping us all human' - and to how, by the time of Frenzy, he had come to feel, if regretfully, that some sort of compromise is called for. That's not an artistic compromise on his part, only a further illustration of how he refined his earlier 'surrealism' in line with a Schopenhauerian (as opposed to Nietzschean) understanding of how the world actually goes. Those arrows on the wall outside the Blaney Bureau are a reminder of the sexual imperative - Schopenhauer's prime instance of Will in humans - that drives every creature but that, as Schopenhauer himself taught, must be turned back on itself if an individual is to win release into truer vision and relative freedom. (Interestingly, those arrows also echo the 'Direction' signs at the start of I Confess, another film that shows a fallen world - like Frenzy's London - in which an implacable, devilish force is at work. I'll come back to this.) I'm reminded of how Hitchcock once said of himself that imagination was paramount. Once his front door is closed, he told 'Newsweek', 'I can be anywhere. I can create the wildest things without being wild. Maugham travelled to Malaya, James James to Hawaii. With me, it's imagination, it's supposin'.' (24 January, 1966) All of this is in line with Schopenhauer's Romantic emphasis on art-as-liberation and a certain type of genius. Now, Richard Allen has reminded me that the picture of the Oxfords in Frenzy may be a (caricatured) picture of the Hitchcocks' own marital state, in which Eros has been sublimated to, well, imagination of sorts (Mrs Oxford's culinary experiments!). He also suggests, apropos the bulk of the characters in Frenzy, that 'this film is the closest Hitchcock comes to a cynical Kubrickian view of man's essential fallenness'. Not only do I agree with that - Kubrick's 'cynicism' isn't so far removed from Schopenhauer's 'pessimism', after all - but I don't think it's accidental. Hitchcock is picking up on, and offering his own variant of, the critiques of 'swinging London' (or its immediate aftermath) offered by such films as Antonioni's Blowup (1966) and, by implication, Kubrick's futuristic A Clockwork Orange (1971). The latter film seems especially to have been in Hitchcock's mind. Those arrows on the wall are a variant of the graffiti on the walls of council flats in Kubrick's film. But, more pertinently, and tellingly, Frenzy offers a variant on Kubrick's and Anthony Burgess's metaphor of organic-versus-inorganic which the title 'Clockwork Orange' refers to. The vision of London in Frenzy is one where, so to speak, the left hand doesn't know - or chooses to disavow - what the right hand is doing. An amoral, other-directed place where self-interest is rampant and glib politicians spout platitudes that fly in the face of reality. Above all, Frenzy (interesting title!) is a visual essay on the colour orange, whose organic reference (incorporating actual oranges in one scene) is contrasted ironically with another key colour, brown, the colour of excrement. To be continued.

August 27 - 2002
Apropos Frenzy, more in a moment about the working of the life-force that is also a death-force, but is still One though perceived as Many. But the main idea of the entries here in the past few days has been to defend Frenzy against the accusation (aired on the Yahoo 'MacGuffin' Group, and elsewhere) that, in all kinds of ways, it is an 'ugly' film. Our plea will be: guilty as charged, but with extenuating circumstances. As already noted, Hitchcock's 'subjective technique' requires that if a film's theme is ugliness, or the film's central characters see the world in a soured way, then the very look and feel of the film will reflect this. One example: the central characters, Manny and Rose, in The Wrong Man (1956) both suffer, in different degree, from a depression induced by the 'unfair' and seemingly inexplicable accusations brought against Manny. Hence the gloomy, 'noir' look of the film. (Its first shot, set in an almost deserted film studio, exactly duplicates, in its use of a high angle and back-lighting, the last shot, set inside a prison, of the Claude Rains movie, The Unsuspected [1947].) Corresponding 'unfair' circumstances beset characters like Norman in Psycho (1960) - 'They moved away the highway' - and Blaney in Frenzy - 'Was it my fault the council pulled down the riding stables?'. In Frenzy, self-interest, self-pity, and greed are rampant, and their only sure antidote, love, is constantly being menaced. The menace is personified, of course, by the serial-killer Rusk whose red-blonde hair makes him look less than fully virile, if not actually ugly. But behind him are darker forces, which may at times seem like purely market ones (consider the potatoes destined to be ploughed back into the ground in Lincolnshire) yet can't in fact be explained so easily. As both Hitchcock and Schopenhauer knew full well, there are immediate causes and there are underlying ones. Call the latter Will. Meanwhile, the world's ugliness is there to notice. Let's return to the beekeeping couple. The woman, who wears a hat like a turban, making her look even more towering, and whose pointed nose is grotesque, knows what matrimonial bureaux are about, all right. 'You mean you don't just do it for the money?', she laughs disbelievingly (and raspingly). Her new beau, half her size, submits meekly to having his dandruff brushed away, even as he observes of his partner's late husband, 'A neat man was he then?' Like 'Glad' and 'Bertie', or the Porters, or the Oxfords, this partnership is going to be more a marriage-of-convenience than one dedicated to Eros. A pity, laments Hitchcock, while allowing that maybe things are better that way: the usual 'open-ended pessimism' of all his American films, i.e., his wiser self. It's almost as if both beauty and ugliness were in the eye of the beholder (a theme, I think, of Under Capricorn and Marnie), and that Eros must be conquered to allow wisdom in. But meanwhile, in 'swinging London' (or its immediate aftermath), there's not much sign of that happening. Every woman is out for what she can get. The writing is literally on the wall: the row of arrows on the wall outside the Blaney Bureau, whose echoes in the dialogue include Brenda's last words from Psalms ('Thou shalt not be afraid for ... the arrow that flieth by day') and Bertie's remark about 'love's little arrows' that have struck in the Cupid Room. Explanations tomorrow.

August 26 - 2002
You won't like, or appreciate, Frenzy, I believe, unless you can sense Hitchcock's 'surrealist' (or perhaps 'Blakeian') vision which encompasses so much more than appears on the screen or is heard on the soundtrack. Writing about Hitchcock's Easy Virtue (1927) in my book, I describe the scene in which Larita, the 'expelled' heroine (expelled, that is, from the Establishment and her would-be home: cf the literal expulsion of Roddy, from Public School and then home, in the earlier Downhill), kisses her former rival, Sarah, and tells her that she should have been the one to marry the feckless John. Sarah belongs to John's own class, the aristocracy, and, besides, has no scandal in her past, to make an enemy of John's formidable mother. That particular kiss, I suggest, of two women momentarily united in their understanding of each other and their own powerlessness, 'suggests Hitchcock's belief in a free-flowing Eros as the surest means of keeping us all human'. If there is a 'lesbian' connotation here (shades of Daphne Du Maurier's secret heroine, Rebecca!), it is to be understood surrealistically, as I say. And so in Frenzy. The one kiss we see, if I'm not mistaken, is of Babs and Richard on a park bench, just after they've fled the Coburg Hotel because the hotel porter 'Bertie' has dobbed Richard in to the police. (He would.) The rest of the time, we're shown a London where the life-force has soured, where 'the lusts of men [and women]' have supplanted love (the bee-keeping couple, who can't even be bothered taking out a licence to officiate their union) or been turned off entirely (the Oxfords, who have stopped sleeping together after eight years of matrimony) and been sublimated into trivial pursuits (Mrs Oxford's couse in Continental, i.e., un-English, gourmet cuisine whose products represent a 'souring' and an 'adulteration' in their own right - reminding us of how Bab's boss, publican Frederick Forsyth, allegedly pisses in the beer and waters down the gin). Indeed, Mrs Oxford's soupe de poisson is like a virtual cesspool of unmentionables. Likewise, when Babs is murdered, her body is bundled up - literally like a sack of potatoes, resembling another unmentionable - ready to be ploughed back into the earth. (And when it falls off, or is expelled from, the back of a truck, leaving Babs's once-beautiful arse - which we have been briefly allowed to savour in the Coburg Hotel - exposed in the night to the beam of a policecar headlight, the excremental analogy is complete.) Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. According to Hitchcock, it was this imagery of dust that most attracted him to the idea of filming the novel, as well it might. For Frenzy is the perfect demonstration (albeit a rhetorical one) of Hitchcock's own claim, which deserves to be famous, that 'everything's perverted in a different way'. That claim, which, incidentally, is pure Schopenhauer (cf 'The world is my representation', i.e., is always subjective - meaning that the One is forever being perceived partially, and fragmented into the Many), may remind us that in Frenzy it's the dark side of the life-force that is on display. The film's last shot, of a sinister black trunk, is the symbolic image of that mysterious, unstoppable force, of the world's Will at work. More tomorrow.

August 22 - 2002
I simply had to get the above 'statement' about Frenzy right! Now to build on it! As I've often said before, Hitchcock's later films, from, say, To Catch a Thief (1955) onwards, are subjective worlds. The world of To Catch a Thief is the 'false paradise' of the complacent, retired jewel-thief John Robie (Cary Grant) who has been having things too easy (the opposite of Blaney in Frenzy, for whom nothing has been going right). The views we see of the French Riviera are not objective views but represent Robie's situation, emotive states centred on him, and narrative concerns - again centred on Robie. Okay, as I've also said before (in my book), Donald Spoto is unfair to Frenzy when he complains that Hitchcock has gone sour on life, has suddenly turned into a total misanthropist. That is too simple a position. For one thing, negative world-views in art or literature can be bracing, constructive, imply a positive - any or all of those things. Jonathan Swift, the author of 'Gulliver's Travels' (1726), with its 'excremental vision' (as Norman O. Brown calls it), is a classic case. So is the Swedish playwright August Strindberg, a pioneer of subjective states in drama, such as 'Miss Julie' (1888), containing Strindberg's own 'excremental vision', and the later 'A Dream Play' and 'The Road to Damascus', two plays that heavily influenced German Expressionism. For another thing, precisely because a playwright or a filmmaker, since, say, the late 19th century, might knowingly construct a subjective world, not necessarily his own, again it makes imperfect sense to criticise him for what such a world might show. Hitchcock's Frenzy is based on the novel 'Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square' by Arthur La Bern, and follows it quite closely. And, as Professor Richard Allen has pointed out to me, a key passage is this one from Chapter 3: 'As they [Richard and Brenda Blamey - the film changed the surname to 'Blaney'] walked from Leicester Square to Piccadilly, he said: "The sooner this lot comes down the better." This, he thought, is not the heart of London. It's the anus.' So there you have it! Pure subjective vision, and a 'destructive' one at that! Pure expressionism (a hub representing the whole). Above all, a soured view of things that is explicitly 'excremental'. All of which Hitchcock's film carefully, artfully duplicates. Monica Barling, who works at the Blaney Matrimonial Bureau, and who is called 'Vinegar Joe' by Richard, seems to think that all men are 'beasts' who simply want to have 'their disgusting gratifications'. (Ostensibly, she is talking just about Blaney, suspected of being the 'Necktie Murderer', but it's clear that her animus towards him extends to other males as well.) Nor is she alone. The rather effete and balding porter, Robert, at the Coburg Hotel, Bayswater, says that 'just thinking about the lusts of men makes me want to heave'! He seems to be the husband of that hotel's straight-laced receptionist, Gladys, whose sniffy look at Richard when he signs in with 'Babs' Milligan for a 'dirty afternoon' (shades of Marion and Sam in Psycho) is something to behold. Not much intimate tenderness between 'Bertie' and 'Glad', we gather. Which, though, is just what Richard and Babs do seem capable of (for all of his self-pity and simmering rage at the world). But now it is that very tenderness, and Babs herself, that is about to be destroyed ... To be continued.

August 21 - 2002
I've revised yesterday's entry! I'll talk tomorrow about the general 'souring' that Frenzy represents - knowingly, on Hitchcock's part, of course - and about the likes of Monica Barling, aka 'Vinegar Joe', and that couple on the stairs, beekeepers both. What a sweet future may be theirs!

August 20 - 2002
To explain what I meant when I said that Bob Rusk in Frenzy (1972) would once have aspired to something grander than his Covent Garden job - a vision which I think is represented by the film's credits-sequence, with its 'God's-eye' overview of London (I know, of course, that it's meant to announce Hitchcock's homecoming) - let me quote from Norman O. Brown's 'Life Against Death', 1959. I'd apply the same passage to Vertigo (1958), and perhaps to Hitchcock's work in general: 'The infantile conflict between actual impotence and dreams of omnipotence is also the basic theme of the universal history of mankind.' (Chapter III) Hitchcock makes it clear in Frenzy that serial-killer Rusk is impotent, and gives lines to Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowan) to that effect; and in Vertigo, it's clear that Scottie's acrophobia is symbolic, inter alia, of his sexual impotence. In turn, that literal condition serves as a metaphor for the sort of existential condition that Norman O. Brown is referring to. Also, all of Scottie's aspirations in Vertigo for 'colour, excitement, power, freedom', which the film's iconography (and its 'eternal feminine', Madeleine) seems prepared to grant him, have their correspondences in the 'garden' references in Frenzy, where if Covent Garden is the garden of London, and Kent is the garden of England, then England itself is the 'demi-paradise' to which Hitchcock is now 'coming home' (à la the theme of his 'pastoral' comedy, The Trouble With Harry, 1955). Rusk confirms the presence of such a theme when he defines home as the place where, if you seek admittance, 'they have to take you in'. But of course - and the realist side of Hitchcock would be the first to agree with Thomas Wolfe on this - 'you can't go home again'. The same idea is explored brilliantly in the psychoanalytic Spellbound (1945), definitely one of Hitchcock's most underrated films - though, at the end, a reference to the 'orange blossom' of marriage fobs off ultimate questions about what garden Constance (Ingrid Bergman) and John Ballyntine (Gregory Peck) may be headed for. Which may bring us back to Frenzy. It's a film from which love has gone missing. Sure, there are matrimonial bureaux, like Brenda Blaney's, and registry offices, to bond people in sexual partnerships, and to sanction, if not sanctify, those relationships. But something, as I say, is missing. Love? Religion? Forebearance? When Blaney visits Barbara at her office, the dialogue soon tells us that Brenda's own marriage (to Richard) has not been successful; nor does it seem likely that Brenda's secretary, Monica, whom Blaney calls 'Vinegar Joe', has fared any better! And what about that newly-hitched couple whom we see on the stairs? More tomorrow ...

August 19 - 2002
While I've been away, there have been many challenging comments about individual Hitchcock films on the Yahoo 'MacGuffin' Group. I haven't caught up with them all yet. But the correspondence on Frenzy (roughly, messages 249-265) by 'Sandy', 'nnw39', and others, was so good that I felt impelled to watch the film again. However, I do think that a few misunderstandings have arisen. Two observations made by the Group concerned the film's 'ugly' look and the 'dreadful' score by Ron Goodwin. I'll respond to the latter criticism first. I think it's unfair and not well founded. I think the score does what Hitchcock intended, which was to open the film with a 'grand statement' (evoking composers like Elgar and Walton) and then depict modern London as a bit of a flop, subject to all the old sordid aspects of a life-force that is as tyrannical as ever, perhaps more than ever. That life-force is inveigling and debilitating, and the villain Bob Rusk (Barry Foster) is its representative victim - the score is often tied to him, as when, at night, he has to wheel the murdered Babs's body to a potato truck and the music becomes both plangent and throbbingly monotonous, befitting Rusk's captivity to something that is beyond his control and is eating away at him (he is obviously tired), as well as befitting waste and a tragic loss of life, the very opposite of what Rusk may once have aspired to. The moment when he introduces his Mum to the hero Blaney (Jon Finch), saying that she comes from 'Kent, the garden of England', is very telling - you feel that Mrs Rusk's 'little boy' has landed at Covent Garden in a place and a capacity not of his own choosing. He, too, would have aspired to something grander. The opposite of Rusk's condition - the human condition, for that matter - would be precisely the detached, but not alienated, grand view that opens the film, and whose 'negative image' is the high view of London at night (to which Hitchcock gave special attention, perhaps inspired by a similar moment in The Paradine Case) that accompanies the lonely moment when Rusk is trundling Bab's body to the potato truck. Meanwhile, at other points in the film, Goodwin's score is both functional, underlining plot turns, and attentuated, crying out for elaboration and additional instrumentation. Which is very 'negatively expressive', if I may so phrase it. Tonight, I can only begin to hint at what was in Hitchcock's mind. I'll simply say that it is no accident that Brenda Blaney (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) runs a matrimonial bureau in the film, and that such an establishment is a metaphoric 'secular church'. More tomorrow ...

July 23 - 2002
For about three weeks, I must neglect this column. I have 'promises to keep'. If news stories break, they'll get reported in the News section below. Meanwhile, I do urge you to think of joining the Yahoo 'MacGuffin' Group - details near top of this page - which has been active and full of interest lately. For tonight, I'd just like to mention a forthcoming book called 'The A-Z of Hitchcock' which is to be published next month by B.T. Batsford of London. The book's author, Howard Maxford, who writes regularly for 'Film Review', has sent me details of what the book will have: 'Basically, the book contains reviews of all of the films Hitchcock worked on, and not just as a director. I’ve gone into the archives and unearthed details about the very first films Hitchcock worked on as a graphic artist, designing the inter-titles. His first film, The Great Day (1920) is included, along with about ten other films he worked on in a junior capacity (full cast and credit lists are provided, along with approximate running times and a synopsis, plus any other relevant information – though obviously a review in these cases was impossible given that most if not all these films are missing in action; as far as I’m aware, these films haven’t been touched upon in print in any great detail elsewhere). There are also reviews of all the films Hitchcock worked on as an assistant director, screenwriter, editor and art director, such as Woman to Woman (1923). The book also contains Who’s Who entries on all of Hitchcock’s collaborators, from mighty producers like David O. Selznick, to lowly supporting actors, like Clare Greet, who worked with Hitchcock many times between 1922 and 1939. The book contains many rare behind the scenes stills showing Hitchcock at work on the sets of his films. The reviews are packed with sourced quotes from both Hitchcock and his associates, whose recollections help to create a better picture as to how the movies were conceived and made. I also point out the mistakes and plot inconsistencies to be found in several of Hitchcock’s films, from camera crews reflected in windows – as per Torn Curtain (1966) – to microphone shadows – as per Under Capricorn (1949) and Dial M for Murder (1954). Meanwhile, did you know that in Rope (1948) you can see the chalk marks on the carpet where the furniture is supposed to stand, whilst in the opening scene of North by Northwest (1959), a huge camera shadow passes over a newspaper kiosk? There are many more examples like this. Hitchcock may have been a genius, but he was fallible like the rest of us. The book also explores Hitchcock’s interests in radio (all the radio adaptations of his films are listed), publishing (he lent his name to many thriller anthologies) and his TV work (including episode guides to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Suspicion and the abandoned Black Cloak, though here information is more limited, as you really need another book to cover the TV work in equal detail). There are also sections dealing with Oscars, sequels, remakes and homages. Hitchcock’s cameos are also referenced in each review.' Sounds like another must-have Hitchcock book. I'll see you in the Fall, gentle readers. KM

July 21 - 2002
Some fresh thoughts, tonight, on the above - specifically, on the scene in Marnie in which Marnie's mother clumps downstairs with her stick in the darkness. The audience feels that Marnie has heard that sound many times, ever since Mrs Edgar was crippled after what she calls her 'accident'. (Actually, with Hitchcock, as with Freud, there are no accidents, since every event has a secret cause or is deliberately distorted by memory.) The incident had happened long ago, at the time a sailor (Bruce Dern) fell on Bernice's leg after young Marnie hit him with a poker because she thought her mother was being attacked. Afterwards, Bernice could no longer ply her trade as a prostitute, and, prompted by Marnie's forgetfulness of what had happened, resolved to bring her daughter up 'decent'. Hitchcock invests with a suitable uncanniness the sound and image of Bernice hobbling downstairs by holding the shot for several seconds. The shot is associated with other nocturnal events, and sounds, which the flashback shows to have been occasioned by the visits of Bernice's clients. Now, there's a similar moment in the famous story 'The Sandman' by E.T.A. Hoffmann, one of Hitchcock's favourite authors (others were Flaubert, Wilde, and John Buchan). Hitchcock owned sets of Hoffmann's works, both in the original German and in English. When the story's hero, Nathanael, was a child, his mother would sometimes hasten him upstairs to bed because a sinister individual named Coppola was coming to practice alchemical experiments with Nathanael's father. Coppola is eventually merged in Nathanael's imagination with Dr Coppelius, another forbidding father-figure (about whom Sigmund Freud has much to say in his essay "The Uncanny"). Coppola's visits were made even more sinister for the boy because of his mother's words: 'Now, children, off you go to bed. The Sandman is coming, I can hear him already.' And he narrates: 'At such times I really did hear someone clumping up the stairs with a rather heavy, slow step. "That must be the Sandman," I thought.' His mother later explained that she had been joking, for the legendary Sandman is actually the person who is suppposed to throw sand in children's eyes to make them sleep (note the suggestion of cruelty). Hoffmann's tale (1815), like Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' (1818), which it resembles in several ways, is a product of the new Romantic Age which saw considerable interest taken in the nature of life and man's renewed attempts to understand, and even master, it. The same era also produced a philosopher like Schopenhauer (1788-1860), whose whole system was effectively an attempt to explain the life-force philosophically. The implications re Hitchcock, I suggest, concern the analogue his films provide with the life-force (something he was aware of) and the notion that we are all bound in subjectivity, cut off from any total understanding of what the life-force, and our situation in the cosmos, consists. A sense of the uncanny, and of our common frailty, have real aptness in this context.

July 20 - 2002
From November 23 and 24, 1999. That close-up of feet in Mr and Mrs Smith, signifying a woman's sexual surrender, is the likely prototype, I think, of shots in later films. At the climax of Vertigo (1958), when Scottie drags Judy up the mission tower, a close-up shows her feet trailing helplessly on the stairs: but as someone has pointed out, she could have dug her her feet into the steps, trying to clutch hold of them with her toes. (But how inelegant!) And there are similar close-ups of a heroine's feet, signifying her powerlessness to resist, at respective climaxes of The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964). In all of these cases, the idea of a woman's surrender to her 'fate' is subtly present ... But here's something else of interest about that scene in Mr and Mrs Smith. As Ann (Carole Lombard) pretends to try and kick David (Robert Montgomery) away, Hitch gives us a delectable view of her bent legs! This was certainly inspired by an earlier - and famous - screwball comedy of Lombard's, Howard Hawks's Twentieth Century (1934). In Hitchcock's film, Ann is wearing a pert ski-suit that only enhances her attractive figure. In the Hawks film, set on a train, the actress called 'Lily Garland' (Lombard) is wearing satin pyjamas in the scene where, enraged, she bends her legs to fend off the egregious actor-manager Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore). Such 'borrowings', with variations, by Hitchcock of effective scenes from earlier films were part and parcel of his method, as we've often pointed out. (Another such borrowing in Mr and Mrs Smith is the Mamma Lucy's restaurant scene, clearly based on a scene in King Vidor's The Citadel [1938] starring Robert Donat and the delightful Rosalind Russell.) I've been talking of how Hitchcock's films sometimes verge on soft-core pornography. Let's now broaden this out a little. Several of the films (e.g., Rear Window, Marnie) seem to evoke 'the primal scene' (a child's-eye view of its parents' lovemaking). It seems quite likely that Hitchcock read Geraldine Pedersen-Krag's "Detective Stories and the Primal Scene" (1949) in which the author attempts to account for such stories' popularity by claiming that they reawaken the reader's interest and curiosity in the forgotten primal scene. According to her, the murder in a detective story is a symbolic representation of that scene, and 'the victim is the parent for whom the reader (the child) has negative oedipal feelings. The clues in the story, disconnected, inexplicable and trifling, represent the child's growing awareness of details it had never understood, such as the family sleeping arrangements, nocturnal sounds, stains, incomprehensible adult jokes and remarks ... The reader addicted to mystery stories tries actively to relive and master traumatic infantile experiences he once had to endure passively.' I think this explains much of what Hitchcock was trying to do in the Marnie flashback (where the mother's actions may be seen as her attempt to reclaim her daughter's love from the father-figure), as well as earlier scenes set in the mother's house, such as the evocative one on the stairs. Of course, the Marnie flashback is directly modelled, in part, on the shocking one in Joseph Mankiewitz's Suddenly Last Summer (1959), from the play by Tennessee Williams ...

July 19 - 2002
Another flashback entry today, from November 23, 1999. Hitch often allowed into his films a little prurience or soft-core pornography, starting with some of the backstage shots of chorus girls in his first film, The Pleasure Garden (1925). In The Lodger (1926) there are similar shots, and also the daring moment when Daisy (the actress named June) is summoned from her bath to receive a whispered message from The Lodger (Ivor Novello) and the breathless audience is aware that he is only inches away from her, albeit on the other side of the bathroom door! (Moments earlier, he had surreptitiously tried the handle!). Less subtly perhaps, in The Farmer's Wife (1928), an elderly farmer speaks of pulling turnips 'as round and white as a woman's bosom'. That beautifully-photographed rural comedy anticipates The Trouble With Harry (1955) with its (mostly) charmingly frank dialogue: almost the first line that painter Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) speaks when he meets the newly-widowed Jennifer (Shirley MacLaine) is, 'I'd like to paint you nude!' But probably the acme of what I'm talking about is Rear Window (1954): in that film, Lisa (Grace Kelly) is so much more than just glamorous! Hitch could not have gotten away with the suggestiveness in that film if Jeff (James Stewart) hadn't been confined to a wheelchair and - at least in the first half of the film - inclined to be irritable. That's part of the joke, of course. But also, the frank tone, leavened by joking, is all part of what I call the presence of the world's Will in Hitchcock's films. Sexuality is a prime manifestation of that Will, as the philosopher Schopenhaur often emphasised. Now, I've just been watching Hitchcock's screwball comedy Mr and Mrs Smith (1941) in which there's a scene at the end where estranged husband David (Robert Montgomery) and wife Ann (Carole Lombard) get back together. Late one night, in a remote ski lodge, he traps her in her skis, and up-ends her, whereupon she wraps her feet, still in their skis, around him as he leans over her from behind. The result, which takes place just below the camera's line of vision, suggests what sex manuals call the '69' position - though, I hasten to add, both characters are clothed - initially, at any rate! (There's a suggestive shot of David removing his tie!) Moreover, just before this, Ann's feet had started to disengage from the skis; however, a close-up had shown her surreptitiously clamping her feet firmly back in place! The economy and precision of this scene is a delight. To be continued.

July 18 - 2002
Apologies for absence lately. Call it dereliction of duty. Will post some new/old entries here starting tomorrow. KM.

July 10 - 2002
So where have we arrived after the past two days' musings about Hitchcock and Schopenhauer and Wilde and Huysmans and Romanticism and the 'transcendental pretence'? The latter, remember, refers to the philosophical tendency to try and know the world by treating the Self as all, as a microcosm of the world itself. But as Robert Solomon shows, that attitude perpetuates egotism and prejudice, such as patriarchal and racist and imperial attitudes. Well, I really do think that Vertigo is about such matters. (An article by Christopher Morris in the 'Hitchcock Annual' a few years ago noted the significance of the run-down 'Empire' Hotel where Judy resides, and the film's theme of 'westward expansion' - San Francisco is an apt setting in this respect - which seems to me to match some of the underlying symbolism attaching to Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest - whose far side overlooks a sacred Indian burial ground long ago overrun by the rapacious white man - not to mention the further allusion in Vertigo to the expansionist glories of old which inspired the name of Pop Liebel's 'Argosy' bookshop.) The Romantic poet Coleridge's line about 'The dread watchtower of the absolute self' thus matches the symbolism attaching to Scottie's eventual mounting of the Vertigo belltower - in saying that, I am not overlooking the sexual symbolism - but what does it avail Scottie? At the very moment he believes he should be 'possessing' Judy, he loses her, and realises that he has been 'tricked'. All of which is explicable in terms of the transcendental pretence as well as in Kantian and Schopenhauerian terms of the difference between the phenomenal and noumenal realms. (A remarkable thing about Schopenhauer's philosophy is that, as Robert Solomon shows, it is written within the shadow of the transcendental pretence yet contains a built-in critique of that very phenomenon. Equally, I believe, Hitchcock's films, and especially Vertigo, work like that.) Okay, but how does this relate to Symbolist or Decadent writers like Huysmans and Wilde? Just this: both writers, both of whom were known to Hitchcock (he read Wilde's 'Dorian Gray' 'several times'), were part of a late 19th-century Romantic revival, and Huysmans, moreover, was an avowed Schopenhauerian. Accordingly, Hitchcock, who was himself a Romantic (pace Truffaut), found in such writers both an attraction to the dark side of the life-force and a methodology, not unlike Schopenhauer's own, for critiquing it, not least by aesthetic distancing. Mind you, there is always the famous Hitchcockian ambiguity - or ambivalence - to bear in mind when saying this. But that, too, is Wildean. Jack Sullivan's entry on Wilde in 'The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural' notes Wilde's remark, 'From an artistic point of view, life is a failure' (how very Schopenhauerian!), and sums up 'Dorian Gray' thus: 'An aura of pure evil hangs over [several] scenes, an evil Dorian plunges into with "a terrible joy." The ending, with its brutal swiftness and economy, leaves Dorian's moral status totally ambiguous.' (pp. 464, 465) We've seen how that ending was in Hitchcock's mind when he filmed the climax of Psycho. Might it not also have been in his mind when he filmed the belltower climax of Vertigo?

July 9 - 2002
Listening on the radio this morning to an interview with one of Australia's leading yachtsmen - and winemakers - Sir James Hardy, it powerfully weighed upon me that, by contrast, people like Alfred Hitchcock and the philosopher Schopenhauer were introverts whose involvement with 'life' was mainly at the theoretical level. In Schopenhauer's case, of course, that was literally true - his notion of the world as Will and Representation is about nothing else but what constitutes the essence of life (the world's 'Will') and its distortion by human subjectivity ('Representation'). Hence, you might say, the affinity of both men, Hitchcock and Schopenhauer, with, or to, Romanticism and its later development, Decadence. Though clearly Romanticism might embrace an extravert lifestyle - what else, for example, was that Romantic hero, Don Juan, but an extravert? - it provided an umbrella for those of opposite persuasion or tendency (for some reason I think of the Danish hunchback philosopher, Kierkegaard, who, rather amusingly, was much preoccupied with the lessons to be drawn from Don Juan's lifestyle). Others, perhaps the 'true Romantics', took 'all' of life as their field: Lord Byron, say. (And if, for some reason, 'life' should pass them by, they might be a sorry - or a wicked - sight indeed. That is the subject of Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, where the devotee of beauty, Byron's poetry, and 'life', Sir Humphrey Pengallan, literally finds himself at the ends of the earth - Land's End, Cornwall - and is driven to wrecking and murder, and finally madness, apparently from boredom as much as anything. Daphne du Maurier's story had the potential to be a great Hitchcock movie, a savage commentary on, and parody of, Romanticism and Decadence, but for whatever reason/s, the director wasn't up to it. Elsewhere, he would create characters far more successful in parodying 'life', or its withdrawal or renunciation, whether the Jack the Ripper character of The Lodger - himself a parody of Don Juan, when you think about it - or the 'hermitical' Norman Bates of Psycho, himself a parody of the priestly vocation, as the film's final shots of him in his 'cell' indicate.) I mention all of this by way of reminder, again, that Hitchcock had roots in Romanticism and Decadence, and associated movements such as Symbolism. And again it turns out that Schopenauer's thought is highly relevant. If one of Hitchcock's favourite novels, Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', takes significant inspiration from the Symbolist writer Huysmans's 'À rebours' (see yesterday's entry), it seems important to know that today '[e]very literary critic and art historian writing on the period ... associates the Symbolists with Schopenhauer' (S. Doss-Davezac, "Schopenhauer according to the Symbolists", in D. Jacqette, ed., 'Schopenhauer, philosophy, and the arts', 1996, p. 249). Further, the author of those words continues: '[i]t was his pessimism above all that first attracted the generation of writers and poets of the 1880s to Schopenhauer. In "À rebours", ... hailed by many as the literary incarnation of Schopenhauer's metaphysics, its author ... gives the Symbolist/Decadent hero Des Esseintes these words: "Schopenhauer extolled to you no panacea ... as a remedy for inevitable ills ... He pretended to heal nothing, offered the sufferer not the slightest hope; but his theory of Pessimism was ... the great consoler of ... higher souls ...'"' (p. 251) Those words still ring true today! Moreover, just as a Catholic friend of mine, a psychologist, assures me that Nietzsche can easily be reconciled with Catholic belief, so I have no difficulty in seeing how the Catholic Hitchcock might find Huysman's writings attractive. It seems timely to mention something Bill Krohn told me: that Hitchcock's famous dinner-party at which his guests were served nothing but blue food - course after course of it! - had as its likely inspiration an (at least) equally famous dinner-party given by Huysmans, where only black food was served! To be continued.

July 8 - 2002
Back to more 're-runs' of past "Editor's Day" items soon. Today and tomorrow, though, I'd like to answer my own question of last month, about what the French novel being read by Dorian in 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (one of Alfred Hitchcock's favourite books when he was a young man) might be. On June 6, I wrote: '[Oscar] Wilde, like many of his contemporaries, had probably read or absorbed the thought of someone like Schopenhauer on the life-force, a fashionable notion of the time: thus, when in Chapter 10 [of 'Picture'] Dorian glances through the Symbolist novel [anyone know what it is?] given him by Lord Henry Wotton, 'a psychological study of a certain young Parisian', he notes that it deals with the young man's attempts 'to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods through which the world-spirit had ever passed' - not a bad description, come to think of it, of both the 'transcendental pretence' and the possible hidden ambition of the corpus of Hitchcock's cinema!' The 'transcendental pretence' is Prof. Robert C. Solomon's term for the besetting tendency of Western thought since 1750 to regard the Self as the centre of knowing - as if it were a microcosm of the world itself - which I have previously suggested is the ultimate subject of Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) where it is symbolised by the bell-tower that Scottie (James Stewart) finally manages to climb - but to what avail or purpose? Well, as part of my research recently for an article on horror films, I have been re-reading portions of 'The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural' (1986), edited by Jack Sullivan. There, an excellent entry on Oscar Wilde, by Sullivan himself, notes that 'the ruinous "yellow book" given to Dorian by his mentor Lord Henry Wotton is an allusion to [Joris-Karl] Huysman's "À rebours" ("Against the Grain"), itself a chronicle of a young man plunging himself into decadent pleasures.' In turn, the entry on Huysmans describes him thus: 'French author, the quintessential exponent of Decadence in literature. As a cultural innovator and stylist, [he] has probably exerted as definitive an influence on horror fiction in [the 20th] century as Hoffmann and Poe did in the last.' Further, in confirmation of Robert Solomon's point about the 'transcendental pretence' (to which Hitchcock was not immune, I think), let me note what Jacques Barzun, in a marvellous essay on "Romanticism" in the same encyclopedia, writes: '[T]he Romantics ... were intent on charting all the capacities and emotions of mankind ... The details of age-old superstitions ... gave shape and color to the feelings of lust, power, apprehension, and guilt that any truly introspective person could detect in himself ... [Thomas] De Quincey and opium go with the fantastic and Romanticist art, because the use of the drug, newly prescribed medically as an analgesic, was soon discovered by artists to be - like mesmerism - a means of exploring the hidden self: again, the dark side of the life force. [Samuel Taylor] Coleridge and De Quincey [both of them, let's note, contemporaries of Schopenhauer] not only theorized to this effect but proved the reality of what we would call consciousness-raising by the works of art they composed under its influence.' Tomorrow I'd like to relate the above to Vertigo, to Hitchcock himself (who once informed 'Newsweek' that he eschewed consciousness-altering drugs - 'with me, it's imagination, it's supposin'), and to Coleridge's famous line, 'The dread watchtower of the absolute self'. Tying it all together, I'll refer to Schopenhauer's considerable influence on the French Symbolists ...

July 3 - 2002
This item first ran here on 5 January, 2000. Many people naturally notice the recurrence of female names beginning with 'M' in Hitchcock movies. Notably, there are Marnie, Melanie (in The Birds), Marion (Psycho), Madeleine (Vertigo), Margot (Dial M for Murder), and Miriam (Strangers on a Train). Tonight I've posted an observation about this on the newsgroup (and I'm sure I've said a lot of this before, here). Firstly, to the names just listed, I'd immediately add Emily ('Em') in Rich and Strange, the mother named Emma, like Hitchcock's own mother, in Shadow of a Doubt, and, importantly, Magda in Torn Curtain (the bookshop scene). Beyond a reasonable doubt, the gloss for all of these names is the New Testament of the Bible, where 'Mary' is central. But not just one Mary, of course. In addition to the Virgin Mary, revered by Catholics and other Christians as the mother of Christ, there is Mary Magdalene, the prostitute who was reformed in a famous episode in which Christ cast 'seven devils' out of her. (Reformed prostitutes, or Magdalens, became a staple ingredient of 19th-century stage melodrama.) Now, 'Em' in Rich and Strange (1932) says at one point, 'a wife is more than half a mother', which rather confirms the significance of her name in that film. (She is, of course, far from being the only wife in a Hitchcock film who must also 'mother' her husband. Ann in Mr and Mrs Smith [1941] is explicitly a 'mother' to husband David Smith, as we hear in a line of dialogue in the opening scene.) And in Shadow of a Doubt (1943), like The Lodger (1926) before it, the mother is revered, but by no-one more than her brother, Uncle Charlie. This relates to the theme of symbolic incest that is in both films - briefly discussed in a note on The Lodger elsewhere on this website. Both Biblical connotations of 'Mary' have been employed in literature, drama, and art (e.g., Surrealism) for centuries, so it's no wonder that Hitchcock's films should also tap into the resulting, and intriguing, 'virgin-mother-whore' complex. That complex relates, too, to Hitchcock's use of blondes in his films, for, as writers like Marina Warner (in a fine book on fairy tales and myth) have shown, blondeness has connotations of both virginity and fruitfulness! Finally, as I mentioned on the newsgroup, I seem to recall that in Hinduism and/or Buddhism, 'M' mother-figures have importance as well (though I don't think there's the additional 'Magdalen' connotation). Perhaps someone reading this may know, and get in touch ...

July 2 - 2002
(late) In the entry above (June 28), I wrote: 'A Catholic acquaintance of mine told me many years ago that to (be able to) 'stare down' imputations of guilt - as Father Logan does in a key scene of I Confess (1953) - is to signal one's innocence, apart, that is, from whatever 'original sin' attaches to each and every one of us.' But Tag Gallagher, a good and knowledgeable Catholic, tells me that there is no warrant in Catholic teaching - or in common-sense, for that matter - for such a notion of being able to show one's innocence by out-facing one's accusers. So I retract what I wrote to that effect. And if Eamon Byrne should happen to read this, perhaps he might get in touch (I'd love to hear from you, Eamon!) and explain what he really meant all those years ago! Okay. Now, this month I'm beset by a deadline like a savage dog. Accordingly, to save myself time, I'm going to fall back on some 're-runs' of past "Editor's Day" items, chosen pretty much at random. The first will appear tomorrow.

June 28 - 2002
If I am right that the Rope screenplay's notes on Rupert Cadell show that he greatly resembles Hitchcock himself, that supports several other claims I have made previously. For example, I have suggested that an amoral, Nietzschean side of Hitchcock contended with a more conservative, 'Schopenhauerian' side, and that this 'dualism' informs such films as Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, Saboteur, Lifeboat, Vertigo, and Rope itself. (By the late 1920s, largely as a result of T.S. Eliot's influence, it was practically de rigeur in British intellectual circles to hold the Nietzschean view that most people, the masses, were essentially 'dead'. The original play of 'Rope', published in 1929, reflects such a view; at that time, too, Hitchcock was mixing in the intellectual circles represented by the newly-formed Film Society in London, though undoubtedly he brought with him an ambivalence towards Nietzsche picked up from reading John Buchan - whose 'The Power House', published in 1912, prefigures so remarkably the 'fascist' or 'Nietzschean' villains of Saboteur and Lifeboat.) Rupert's crise-de-conscience at the end of the film is thus that of another influential dandy-figure, i.e., Hitchcock, as well as being ours, for we cannot, if we are honest, avoid the imputation that 'society' has produced these two killers and that in judging them we are calling ourselves to account. Another way of putting this is to say that everyone in Rope is, at some level, a victim - a recurrent Hitchcock theme whose apotheosis is Marnie (1964). Nonetheless, Hitchcock would never commit to an absolute certainty - would always keep the ambivalence going. A Catholic acquaintance of mine told me many years ago that to (be able to) 'stare down' imputations of guilt - as Father Logan does in a key scene of I Confess (1953) - is to signal one's innocence, apart, that is, from whatever 'original sin' attaches to each and every one of us. Is this, perhaps, why Hitchcock allows Rupert to finally (try to) distance himself so vehemently from Brandon and Phillip's crime? But, equally, isn't Rupert's very shrillness at this point a sign that he is not being honest with himself? (The philosopher Schopenhauer, of course, would always remind us that absolute certainty is impossible in this phenomenal world of ours.) Consider another significant moment in a Hitchcock film: the prologue to The Wrong Man (1956). By appearing at this point, in a deserted film studio, separate from the 'true story' told by the film itself, Hitchcock appears to distance himself from what follows. On the other hand, notice the lighting: it is the same ominous and expressionistic back-lighting, casting long shadows, that runs right through the film - until the final scene in a Florida street. (But even that is composed with expressionistic angles and a large empty foreground, like the prologue.) Hitchcock seems to be saying - ambiguously, without saying anything - that he is 'in this world but not of it'. Finally, then, I'm reminded of what George Cukor remarked of Hitchcock: that he would never tell you what he really thought - never, never, never. Which is pretty much what the Rope screenplay notes about Rupert: 'you cannot really be sure whether he means the extreme ideas he propounds or whether he is joking'. Any Catholics out there care to comment?

June 27 - 2002
Though James Stewart's performance in Rope doesn't exactly bring it out, he is clearly a dandy-figure (see the screenplay's description of the character, quoted above). Once Stewart was cast - or miscast - in the role, neither Hitchcock nor Arthur Laurents was prepared to develop the character's gayness - nor tell Stewart about it. (Shades of William Wyler and Gore Vidal not telling Charlton Heston that Ben-Hur had once had a gay relationship with his best friend, Messala! For more on this aspect of Rope, see the current 'MacGuffin'.) Nonetheless, the script is able to suggest that Rupert, in his role as mentor to Brandon and Phillip, has unwittingly or unavoidably had a baleful influence on them: we're back to the Hitchcock theme I suggested on June 6 above, that not only does 'each man [unwittingly or inadvertently] kill the thing he loves' but by simply being in the world he may harm others. I wrote: 'Out of ignorance and selfishness and pettiness, we allow - and even encourage - the Will to have its way in us, thereby more than likely bringing harm to our immediate circle and beyond. Schopenhauer extracts a moral principle here [just as Keats extracted an aesthetic one], an appeal to quietism based on wisdom - such that even going to the cinema might be thought a culpable act, as Hitchcock's cinema at times implies, not altogether jokingly.' Oscar Wilde, at the height of his fame, before the Marquess of Queensberry brought him down, wrote - irresponsibly and hubristically - in an Oxford undergraduate magazine a piece called "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young". Among its maxims: 'Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others', and 'Nothing that actually occurs is of the smallest importance'. (One wants to say: that may be all very well in the case of little things like debauchery or gambling, or even acts of sodomy or incest, but what of, say, swindling or murder? When, at this time, Wilde wrote the cautionary 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', was he taking dictation, as it were, from his Unconscious, i.e., living one way but ultimately espousing another? If so, there is something of both Schopenhauer and Hitchcock in this ambivalence. Both of those men took a long-range view - Hitchcock in Strangers on a Train even has the gay Bruno ask, 'What's a life or two, Guy?' - but both were also fully cognizant of the consequences of actually living as if everything were permitted and nothing were harmful. Which, of course, is the core lesson of Rope.) In short, Rupert in Rope is an Oscar Wilde-figure, the arch dandy of his day. Here, then, is more circumstantial evidence for what I suggested on May 29 above, that another Stewart character in Hitchcock - Scottie in Vertigo - is another closet gay, even perhaps part-based on Wilde! Also, Prof. Thomas Elsaesser has suggested that Hitchcock himself was a bit of a dandy, in his detached superiority and elegant black suits! Which further bears out what I said yesterday, about Rupert and Hitchcock being much alike! To be concluded.

June 25 - 2002
Have been thinking about Rope (1948) tonight. Any 'Guide to ...' book on that film, or anthology of readings about it, might do worse than print the notes on its characters, presumably written by Arthur Laurents, that appear at the front of the studio script/screenplay. (My copy lacks a full title page, but the date at the top of its individual pages is 1/13/48.) The note on Rupert Cadell follows the Patrick Hamilton play in ascribing to him 'a slight limp' sustained 'as a result of the last war'. The symbolism of this - I take it to be a mark of Rupert's sexual impotence - prefigures similar symbolism in two other Hitchcock pictures with James Stewart: Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). But it is also a mark, more broadly, of his flawed humanity, his shared guilt in society's destructive aspect which has redounded on him, a comment on his attempt to assert a superior knowingness. The line between Rupert and his two former pupils-turned-murderers - Brandon and Phillip - is very fine, for all three consider themselves 'superior' and are guilty of hubris, a personal guilt which Rupert will both affirm and deny at the film's end. For all kinds of reasons, I think of Hitchcock himself when I think of Rupert. Hitchcock's - very English (and Nietzschean) - snobbery was noted at this time by Peter Viertel, John Steinbeck, and others. We also know that the director was now leading a 'celibate' married life, and Arthur Laurents has testified to Hitchcock's sense of detached superiority - but also curiosity - about what people got up to in their bedrooms. Anything that smacked of 'kink' - such as homosexuality - was like meat and drink to him. Hitchcock, remember, would later say, 'If I hadn't married Alma I might have gone gay'! Here's what else the Rope screenplay says about Rupert: '[He] would be the most outstanding person in almost any room. [...] He is distinguished in appearance, manner and thought. His clothes are not new but are impeccable and somehow seem better than anybody else's. He manages to convey the romantic feeling of another era and if you met him, you would immediately want him to like you. At the same time, however, you would sense the existence of a wall of reserve which you know that you would not be lucky enough to break through. He is completely self-possessed and elegantly detached. His manners are beautiful, his speech is eloquent and his tongue can be sharp. Yet he has such charm and humor (and a smile) that you cannot really be sure whether he means the extreme ideas he propounds or whether he is joking. Just as you cannot be sure whether Rupert is erssentially good or essentially evil.' Some further comments tomorrow.

June 24 - 2002
Your amiable editor is back. He's been reading the book 'No Go the Bogeyman' (1998) by novelist, scholar, and film critic Marina Warner. The book is a sequel to the same author's 'From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers' (1995), which we have mentioned here previously apropos the symbolism of blondes. (Incidentally, Marina Warner's monograph of Jean Vigo's film L'Atalante is published in the BFI Classics series, and is worth seeking out.) 'No Go the Bogeyman' is sub-titled 'Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock'. The book's first section, on scaring, explores what Noël Carroll has called 'the paradox of horror', namely, why we should enjoy something that, on the face of it, we might want to avoid, i.e., being scared. Warner uses exactly the same explanation as Hitchock often gave: that it all goes back to our earliest childhood. In playing the age-old game of Peek-a-Boo with a very young infant, not only does the mother introduce her child to fear, but pleasure also: the fearful surprise on the infant's face will be followed (hopefully) by a broadening smile as it realises that the fear is unfounded. Elsewhere in the book, Warner delightfully notes how children will often watch something scary in an ambivalent fashion, covering their eyes but being compelled to peek through their fingers! (I can recall seeing my own first scary movie, The Wizard of Oz. A neighbour took a group of us kids to see it. The Wicked Witch of the East frightened the life out of me, but back home afterwards I felt an uneasy fascination in remembering the experience! That film still remains one of the least anodyne I have seen!) An author whom Hitchcock admired, Roald Dahl, understood well the relish that growing children have for scary things - like monsters, say - provided the author gets the tone right. Warner's book makes several approving references to Dahl's stories, including 'The BFG' (or Big Friendly Giant', 1982). Warner explicitly doesn't talk about Hitchcock or the Dracula myth, believing that such matters have been well covered elsewhere. Nonetheless, Hitchcock is mentioned several times. Also, I thought of Hitchcock when I read this passage (in the chapter called "'Of the Paltriness of Things'"): 'The larks played by Florentine humanists, as recounted in comic tales of cozenage and high spirits, can strike the contemporary reader as callous, even wicked: in Antonio Manetti's "The Fat Woodcarver", a reportedly true incident of merry mischief-making, a band of friends decide to pretend that they no longer recognize the hapless protagonist; when one after another of his circle, including his wife, fails to respond to his greetings, he thinks he has lost his identity and his mind begins to turn. Eventually, he is driven out of Florence.' Was the practical-jokester in Hitchcock (who once hired an actress to impersonate an elderly dowager in a restaurant who sat unaccompanied and unintroduced at the same table as Hitchcock's party, and whom he claimed not to know) a person out of his time?!

June 20 - 2002
From your 'absentee editor'. Sorry, the week has got away from me. Friends, there's plenty of action on our Yahoo Group whose URL is printed in green type at the top of this page. It includes several long posts from 'nnw39' on the excellence of Marty Balsam's performance in Psycho (and the actor's virtual reprise of it some 30 years later in the spoof movie Silence of the Hams) and a poem (posted under 'Files') called "Hitchcock Presents", by reader David Soriano, which pays tribute to how Hitchcock's TV show launched a new kind of 'American madness' ...

June 13 - 2002
About Sylvia Sidney and others. Tag Gallagher has emailed me to correct an impression given by yesterday's entry here. Sylvia Sidney had enormous respect for Hitchcock and (rather surprisingly) Fritz Lang. In an interview with the actress, then in her 80s, that Tag conducted in 1994, Ms Sidney told him: 'Oh I was crazy about Hitchcock. By that time [1936] I was an established star, so I was paid a lot of respect! Also he had a great deal of respect for me because I was making so much money!' Truth to tell, Hitchcock had great respect for American movies and their actors generally. But Sidney was especially well-cast as Winnie Verloc in Sabotage because, as the lonely American-expatriate wife of Mr Verloc (Oskar Homolka) and sister of the not-particularly-bright Stevie (Desmond Tester), she could give rein to her capacity to register sadness and grief. (She afterwards said of her work at this period, 'I was paid by the tear.') As for Fritz Lang, for whom she played fatalistic heroines in Fury (1936), You Only Live Once (1937), and You and Me (1938), Sidney was exceptional in getting along with him for much of the time! She told Tag Gallagher, 'I adored him. Oh, he and I fought tremendously, but I adored him absolutely, and we were very, very good friends. He was one of the nicest men I've ever known.' Tag thinks that without Sidney's intervention, Lang's career would have been finished after Fury. Here's what Tag emailed me: 'Sylvia Sidney had huge power after a few films. In [a] piece I wrote about [writer/producer/director Joseph L.] Mankiewicz, I retell the story about how Mank when he was 26 and who wanted to make great art rescued Lang from the dunghill of oblivion and put him on Fury. He then defended him when he proceeded to make lifelong bitter enemies of everyone at the studio - including his own crew who actually tried to murder him - with the exception of Sidney. [Yet] Lang wouldn't speak to Mank for 25 years afterwards. And Lang would have been totally finished, because Fury was arty and Lang's reputation was f---y, but Sidney imposed him on [independent producer Walter] Wanger to make You Only Live Once,and then he managed to make [for Paramount] the extraordinarily Brechtian, if uncommercial, You and Me.' As for Sidney's earlier work for directors of the stature of Josef von Sternberg and King Vidor, she distinguished between them in her interview with Gallagher by saying, 'Vidor was a lot different from Sternberg. He was a human being!' The moral for us Hitchcockians, then, is that we need to appreciate that our admired director was more than just a gifted story-teller! For he, too, was 'a human being', and was generally liked and respected by those who worked with him. So far as I know, none of his casts or crews ever planned to murder him!

June 12 - 2002
My gratitude to correspondent Brian Cady in Atlanta who writes that he just saw King Vidor's Street Scene (1931) adapted from the play by Elmer Rice. 'So many elements of the movie', thinks Brian, 'point toward later moments or techniques in Hitchcock's films.' He lists them as follows. '1. The film stars the actress Sylvia Sidney. Her younger brother in the film is made up to look exactly like Sidney's younger brother in Sabotage (1936). And the scene of Sidney fighting her way through the crowds after her father shoots her mother is in effect re-staged by Hitchcock when Sidney is caught in the crowd at the end of Sabotage. 2. Vidor never "extends" the play by going into the apartment house. Rather he uses many different camera angles to keep up visual interest while restricting his camera to the street. The refusal to open up a play, filming in a restricted location and using camera technology to maintain visual interest, points forward to [several later Hitchcock films]. 3. Since the film takes place during a heatwave, many of the characters talk about events while leaning out of their windows. Each window contains a different ethnic group, [giving] a microcosm of the city. It seems a clear anticipation of Rear Window (1954). 4. The film begins and ends with children singing a mordant nursery rhyme while playing ring o' roses. It's not the same rhyme used at the end of Marnie (1964) but in both films the heroine heads off into the distance center left while the children are playing to the right of the screen.' These are all good points, I feel, and I'm reminded of a comment I emailed the other day to a Professor of Film: how, in a sense, Hitchcock hadn't an original bone in his body! 'I agree', said my correspondent, 'Hitchcock's genius lay elsewhere.' Also, I'm reminded of how another of Elmer Rice's plays, the expressionistic 'The Adding Machine', has a central character named Mr Zero who is a slave to routine (until his boss replaces him with an adding machine). I've often wondered about this play's influence on a couple of Hitchcock films: Rich and Strange (1932), whose accountant Fred Hill works in a clock-dominated office like Mr Zero's, and North by Northwest (1959), whose advertising man Roger Thornhill leads an empty existence and virtually admits that his middle initial 'O' suits him perfectly! Lastly, I mentioned the possible Hitchcock connection of Street Scene to my film scholar friend Tag Gallagher, who replied that though the film and Rice's play were both hailed in their day, they look comparatively minor works now. Nonetheless, Vidor was universally recognized at the time (1925-31) 'as the most important artistic/socially conscious filmmaker in the world'. Tag adds: 'Sylvia Sidney herself was absolutely immune to being in the least impressed with working with Vidor, Hitchcock or von Sternberg; she literally didn't give a s---. But it's unthinkable that Hitchcock would not have been familiar with Vidor's work at this date. It's impossible to overestimate Vidor's influence.'

June 6 - 2002
Never doubt that 'Dorian Gray' influenced Hitchcock. Another instance: after Dorian knifes to death Basil Hallward, the painter of his portrait, we're told: 'How quickly it had all been done! He felt strangely calm, and, walking over to the window, opened it, and stepped out on the balcony. ... He looked down , and saw the policeman going his rounds and flashing the long beam of his lantern on the silent houses.' (Chapter 13) A prolepsis, this, of the knifing-death of another portrait-artist, and its aftermath, namely, the murder scene in Blackmail (1929) - not to mention the related moment in Psycho (1960) when, cleaning up after Marion's murder, Norman steps out of Cabin One and a passing truck (improbably) shines its lights in his eyes as he waits for it to pass. (Also, Wilde, like many of his contemporaries, had probably read or absorbed the thought of someone like Schopenhauer on the life-force, a fashionable notion of the time: thus, when in Chapter 10 Dorian glances through the Symbolist novel [anyone know what it is?] given him by Lord Henry Wotton, 'a psychological study of a certain young Parisian', he notes that it deals with the young man's attempts 'to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods through which the world-spirit had ever passed' - not a bad description, come to think of it, of both the 'transcendental pretence' and the possible hidden ambition underlying the corpus of Hitchcock's cinema!) Moreover, it's obvious that Hitchcock had seen Albert Lewin's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945): as the critic Danny Peary points out, in the climactic scene where the figure in the portrait becomes a monstrosity (shades of the portrait of Bruno's father as St Francis in Strangers on a Train!), a hanging lamp sways from side to side, casting light and shadow that makes the whole effect even more shocking - the same effect achieved at the climax of Pyscho, when we finally see the monstrosity that is 'Mrs Bates', and a swaying lightbulb casts flashes of light and shadow on her shrunken, grinning face. Given the life/death preoccupation of both Wilde and Hitchcock, and the ambivalence of Hitchcock, in particular, rivalling that of Keats and Schopenhauer (see yesterday's entry), to the (im)possibility of living in this world as a saint, I am not surprised that Norman (his name implying 'nor woman, either', meaning his very identity) goes mad for good and finally surrenders everything to his (dead) Mother. That is, he finally achieves the saintly, or Buddhistic, ideal of passive non-intervention in the lives of others ('I'm not even going to harm that fly!'), a delicious irony that reflects on the whole life-journey of all of us in this vale of tears, as described by the so-called arch-pessimist, Schopenhauer. (Such a theme is also the stuff of a melodrama like The Manxman.) I'll sum up by quoting from the current 'MacGuffin' (p. 19): 'Out of ignorance and selfishness and pettiness, we allow - and even encourage - the Will to have its way in us, thereby more than likely bringing harm to our immediate circle and beyond. Schopenhauer extracts a moral principle here [just as Keats extracted an aesthetic one], an appeal to quietism based on wisdom - such that even going to the cinema might be thought a culpable act, as Hitchcock's cinema at times implies, not altogether jokingly.'

June 5 - 2002
Of course, I've always said that, contrary to what an audience goes through as it watches a Hitchcock film - the latter invariably an exercise in audience involvement - Hitchcock himself remained aloof, paring his fingernails (as James Joyce described the artist). Sure, he felt creatively involved in the filmmaking process and he empathised knowledgably with what his characters were going through (let's say Marion's peculiar mix of emotions as she flees from Phoenix with her boss's money, in Psycho), but always with detachment. (One possible exception, according to Hitchcock's own testimony, was The Birds, where he did feel himself swept into the besieged Brenner family's predicament, significantly a very ontological one.) I once heard Josef von Sternberg say of Hitchcock that he was 'fat and detached' on the set! And of course Hitchcock's difficulties with method-actors were occasioned by the latter's inability to share his detachment. Not for them the art-for-art's-sake philosophy that 'it's only a movie!' The point I am making here is this: attitude is all. Yesterday I described Oscar Wilde's brand of 'nihilism' (there may be 'no reality in ... things apart from their appearances') which I likened to a traditional Eastern wisdom and also the philosophy of Schopenhauer: the latter famously concluded the first volume of 'The World as Will and Representation' by describing how, with the abolition of will, all that would remain is 'empty nothingness'. But in the same passage Schopenhauer makes plain that there is nothing and nothing! He writes: '[W]e freely acknowledge that what remains after the complete abolition of the will is, for all who are still full of the will, assuredly nothing. But also conversely, to those [such as saints] in whom the will has turned and denied itself, this very real world of ours, with all its suns and galaxies, is - nothing.' In other words, Schopenhauer saw two types of 'nihilism': a gloomy one and a wise, accepting one. As I say, attitude is all. And in the current 'MacGuffin', I note (p. 25, n44) how someone else who clearly (at times) felt this way was Schopenhauer's contemporary, the poet John Keats (1795-1821). His belief in 'negative capability', poetic impersonality that has 'no self' (cf June 3, above), a wise passiveness that allows an entering into the very being of other people and things, is famous. However, we're also told that he sometimes rebelled against his own doctrine (which was very human of him!) and sought instead the active pursuit of rational knowledge and philosophy. It is this ambivalence that, I suggest, Hitchcock's films accommodate. They are, after all, rhetorical devices for involving audiences and putting them 'through it' (as Hitchcock described the 'deepest logic' of his films) - leaving them no way out until the final scene rolls around. Essentially the films are active investigations into some intriguing situation, right up until the final moments. Only then may 'sainthood' or some parody thereof be posited. In this respect, I suggest that the 'nihilism' of Psycho goes one better than 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. Explanation tomorrow.

June 4 - 2002
Summing up the entries of the past few days now, I begin with a further quotation or two. First, this: 'The romantics' infatuation with the self was a mental aphrodisiac; decades before Oscar Wilde observed that to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance, they proved that the re-enchantment of the world often began with self-enchantment before the mirror.' (Peter Gay, 'The Naked Heart: The Bourgeois Experience Victoria to Freud', 1996, p. 71.) But the self, subjectivity, is not everything - nor even close to it - whatever the 'transcendental pretence' (cited yesterday) may have whispered beguilingly, and to believe otherwise was to risk harming, for example, one's nearest and dearest. Hence Wilde's line, 'Each man kills the thing he loves', and hence the exemplary fate of poor Sibyl Vane in 'Dorian Gray'. Well, I happen to believe that both 'Dorian Gray' and Hitchcock's Vertigo are about the limits and deficiencies of the transcendental pretence (cf 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', pp. 146-49), just as I happen to believe that both those masterworks reveal ultimately a wisdom about the illusory nature of appearances that resembles the philosopher Schopenhauer's teaching about the working of the world's Will - the all-and-nothing of everything (cf entries for May 8 and 13, above) - profoundly in keeping with late-Victorian pessimism (cf entries for May 27 and 28). (It was at this time that George Bernard Shaw, for one, was helping bring Schopenhauer to English readers. Cf, for example, the 'Epistle Dedicatory' of 'Man and Superman', 1903, where Shaw says that 'you and I buy and read Schopenhauer's treatise on Will and Representation when we should not dream of buying a set of sermons on Faith versus Works' - the implication being that Will and Representation are analogous to justification by Faith and Works respectively!) Wilde, a major proponent of art for art's sake, ended up saying exactly what Schopenhauer, as well as conventional Eastern wisdom, not to mention Wilde's near-contemporary, August Strindberg, all taught: that behind appearances there is next-to-nothing. '[T]ry as we may', Wilde wrote, 'we cannot get behind the appearance of things to reality. And the terrible reason may be that there is no reality in the things apart from their appearances.' In Hitchcockian terms, life may be no more than one vast MacGuffin! And Hitchcock's audiences - whom at times the director looked down on, calling them 'the moron masses' - were always happy to be beguiled by appearances, by MacGuffins! Though the films themselves would subtly take their audiences to task for looking in the wrong place, so to speak, it's surely significant that Hitchcock's notion of 'pure film' is itself analogous to both the doctrine of art-for-art's-sake and to Will (the One as opposed to the Many). So there you are, Sid Gottlieb, and that's a little of why I think Schopenhauer is relevant to Hitchcock! Tomorrow: 'Dorian Gray' and Psycho.

June 3 - 2002
Correction: in the famous clip of Hitchcock auditioning Anny Ondra (cited on May 23, above), it isn't a sailor whom Hitchcock refers to but a soldier ('as the soldier said to the girl'). That spoils the connection to Marnie I was making, but, oh well, there are plenty of other fish in the watery ocean - or to fry! Now, we were discussing how one of Hitchcock's favourite books, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', offers parallels to Vertigo and indeed to a whole artistic mind-set of the director, I believe. Basically I see the actress, Sibyl Vane, whom Dorian finally discards, as like poor Margaret in Goethe's 'Faust' and like another Margaret - Midge - in Vertigo. But initially, in Dorian's eyes, Sibyl is more like Helen of Troy in 'Faust' (Part II) or Madeleine in Hitchcock's film: she is an idealised 'eternal feminine' figure, seeming to point the way out of this worldly confusion, a prophet, deserving to be worshipped. Hence her name 'Sibyl'. Only when she descends, so to speak, off her Shakespearean stage, and Dorian, under the influence of the hedonist Lord Henry Wotton, has his way with her, does she lose her allure for him. Whereupon she suddenly seems to him a silly, weak, vacillating creature - like a weather vane - and he throws her over. (Later, news comes that she has killed herself.) Meanwhile, her loving brother, James, has gone off to Australia to seek his fortune, though his mother warns him that 'there is no society of any kind in the Colonies' (Chapter 5) - a line used in Hitchock's Under Capricorn (1949). When James returns, he vows vengeance on his sister's 'killer', and there is a hint of almost incestuous jealousy on his part: he is a forerunner of the possibly crazed brother in The Lodger (1926). The theme of a cozy, closed, incestuous world being shattered by an irruptive being or even force is one that Hitchcock would make his own thereafter, in films like Shadow of a Doubt (1943), The Trouble With Harry (1955), and The Birds (1963). Altogether, the cautionary parable of Dorian Gray is one of a Romantic egoism (such as Dorian's) become decadent, though it was always potentially harmful: indeed this is the thesis about Romanticism of Robert Solomon's 'Continental Philosophy Since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the Self' (1988) with its term 'the transcendental pretence'. The poet Keats seems to have sensed the danger when he rejected the 'wordsworthian or egotistical sublime' and sought instead the poetic impersonality that 'has no self'. Likewise, Oscar Wilde must have sensed it when he wrote after leaving prison his famous line, 'Each man [inadvertently or unwittingly] kills the thing he loves' - about which Hitchcock said, 'I think that's a very natural phenomenon, really'. I'll try and elucidate all of this tomorrow.

May 30 - 2002
Tonight's entry is for Sid Gottlieb, who so proficiently edited 'Hitchcock on Hitchcock' (1995) - we reviewed it enthusiastically in 'The MacGuffin' when the paperback came out - and whose 'Hitchcock Interviews' is forthcoming from the University of Mississippi Press. Sid once told me that he didn't see why I linked Hitchcock and Schopenhauer, and he has never budged from that position (so far as I know). This, in spite of how I see nothing but empirical truth in Schopenhauer's basic description of how the world goes (I have even cited the view of internationally-respected zoologist and polymath, Emeritus Professor Charles Birch, on how 'something analogous to mind' indeed operates at even the fundamental level of the proton - 'Regaining Compassion for Humanity and Nature', 1993, p. 223 - exactly as Schopenhauer's concept of Will insists), and why shouldn't Hitchcock have been capable of making films based on that truth? Especially so, as Hitchcock's concept of 'pure film' so obviously fits just such a preoccupation with fundamentals, very much as Wagner (Hitchcock's favourite composer) wrote music that was directly inspired by Schopenhauer's world-view, and whose music was then cited by Schopenhauer in illustration of his (and Wagner's) principle of musical 'suspension' - a principle comparable to Hitchcock's notion of filmic 'suspense' (call it 'anxious waiting', whether by listener or viewer). In turn, both principles are analogous (in Schopenhauer's words) to 'the satisfaction of the [individual] will which is enhanced through delay'. (Cf 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', p. 148.) But Sid, I'm afraid, is of the old school, archly conservative if not positively fuddy-duddy! I can see him now, shaking his head and murmuring (for no explicit reason), 'Oh, I don't think you can say that!' So what will he make of what I am going to write now, I wonder?! For there is a whole further side to Schopenhauer's (and Hitchcock's?) world-view, and it concerns what Schopenhauer called Representation (many-faceted appearance, as opposed to the single reality that is Will). In both Wilde's 'Dorian Gray' and Hitchcock's Vertigo, it seems to me, we are quickly brought to a point where everyday life appears shallow and deadly, and this is in keeping with the so-called pessimistic message of Schopenhauer, that this phenomenal world of ours conceals the essentially unknowable noumenal world. (Schopenhauer, though, thought he saw a way out ...) In Vertigo, Scottie's initial near-death experience on the rooftop awakens in him a profound dissatisfaction with the surface of things, and poor Midge, working on her sketch for a new type of brassiere 'based on the principle of the cantilever bridge', becomes the scapegoat of his self-anger. Here my analogy with the actress Sibyl Vane, in Wilde's story, only half stands up. For initially Dorian Gray sees Sybil (the word means 'a woman prophet') as exceptional, more like the Madeleine of Hitchcock's film. Awakened to a profound dissatisfaction with the surface of things by the influence of painter Basil Hallward, Dorian falls in love with Sibyl, saying that unlike ordinary women who 'never appeal to one's imagination' and who lack 'mystery', this Shakespearean actress is 'different' (Chapter 4). To be continued. [By the way, the reader will have recognised that I am sending up my friend Sid Gottlieb in this squib: Sid of course is as knowledgeable about Hitchcock as they come.]

May 29 - 2002
Pardon me while I shift my hoary beard from the keyboard. There, that's better! Once, when I was an undergraduate, I wrote to Alfred Hitchcock about how I thought a passage in 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' describing San Francisco perfectly evoked the atmosphere of Vertigo! The passage was the decadent Lord Henry Wotton's remark in Chapter 19: 'It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.' Since then, of course, I've realised how apt my casual observation was. For one thing, we now know that Wilde's novel was one of Hitchcock's favourites. For another, commentators like Theodore Price ('Hitchcock and Homosexuality') have noted that Scottie (James Stewart) in Vertigo might almost be a closet gay! (Nobody, I think, has actually compared Scottie to Oscar Wilde, but it's teasing to read that when Wilde was still living in his native Dublin he fell in love with a young lady named Florence Balcombe. They became engaged, but she soon broke it off. Sound familiar? Talk about 'good old college days'! Later, by the way, Florence married Bram Stoker, the creator of 'Dracula', which is also teasing, as Stoker himself is reputed to have been gay!) Shades of Stewart's casting in Rope - see the current issue of 'The MacGuffin'. Thirdly, in view of some of the literary antecedents of Wilde's novel, especially Goethe's 'Faust' (1808), my 'Faustian' reading of Hitchcock's film in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' gains additional resonance. I wasn't thinking of 'Dorian Gray' at the time, but now I can see how - in very broad terms - Scottie is a driven Dorian figure, Midge the equivalent of poor Sibyl Vane, Gavin Elster is like the Mephistophelean Sir Henry Wotton, and Madeleine/Judy might almost be the embodiment of the novel's seemingly ageless portrait itself (which Dorian in the end tries to destroy, but only succeeds in killing himself). Another literary antecedent of 'Dorian Gray' is Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' (1886), reminding us that stories of doppelgängers, mirrors, and portraits are all frequently about the two sides of the human soul - or psyche. Altogether, then, I think again of Schopenhauer - friend and contemporary of Goethe, and acknowledged forerunner of Freud and his doctrine of the Unconscious - whose philosophical pessimism is amply reflected in the dashed optimism and a certain sweet melancholy of both 'Dorian Gray' and, yes, Vertigo. But Schopenhauer's doctrine of the life/death force which he called Will is itself only one side of his profound description of how the world goes. The other half he called Representation. It, too, is amply reflected in both 'Dorian Gray' and Vertigo. More tomorrow.

May 28 - 2002
The epigraph at the start of Albert Lewin's The Picture of Dorian Gray, adapted from the Oscar Wilde novel that a young Alfred Hitchcock read 'several times' (Donald Spoto), does indeed come from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. (My thanks to 'Toff'/C.P., who emailed me about this, pointing out that Fitzgerald published four different editions of his translation of Khayyam's work.) A website I consulted notes that the Rubaiyat 'captured the imagination of many freethinkers of the time [late 19th century]' because of its 'tendency to rebel against the restricting Puritanism of the Victorian era'. I suggested yesterday that Hitchcock's Marnie likewise shows a tendency not dissimilar to Fitzgerald's (and Oscar Wilde's) to rebel against 'scientific determinism ... the heartless doctrine of the survival of the fittest ... the dreary responsibilities of a mundane middle-class existence'. Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) is an amateur zoologist who tries to keep up in his field, no doubt as a way of asserting a certain freedom-through-knowledge (he is also a publisher); Marnie herself (Tippi Hedren) shows a more instinctive flight from the cold and heartless business (and patriarchal) world she finds herself in. But both would come 'out of the cold' if they could - a theme that runs through all of Hitchcock's films of the 60s, starting with Psycho. What I want to suggest - and will examine in further "Editor's Day" entries here - is that much of this is in keeping with a Victorian 'literature of pessimism' among whose forerunners and exponents I would include Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), with his doctrine of implacable Will, Edward Fitzgerald (1809-83), whose main idea, crudely put, was 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die', and Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), an advocate of art for art's sake. Of course, I need to cover myself straight away against some potential accusers! I'm reasonably aware, I think, of what I'm leaving out when I simplify matters in the way I've just done. For instance, further to what I quoted yesterday about the Rubaiyat's influence, let me add this: 'Within its own time, too, the romantic melancholy of the Rubaiyat anticipates the pessimistic poetry of [Matthew] Arnold, James Thomson, [Thomas] Hardy and others, whereas its Epicurean motifs suggest the growing tide that swells into the fin-de-siècle to inform the writings of [Algernon] Swinburne, Wilde, [Aubrey] Beardsley and [Walter] Pater.' ('The Wordsworth Companion to Literature in English', 1994 pb edition, p. 803.) In turn, I could discourse at length on most of the persons just named - on Thomas Hardy, say, a known Schopenhaurean - or keep adding footnotes, such as one on how Schopenhauer was finally gaining wide distinction at the end of his life just when Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat was being published, thanks partly to the notice taken of him - Schopenhauer - in the British Utilitarian quarterly, the 'Westminster Review' (which started publication in 1824 and continued until 1914). (Cf 'The Oxford Companion to Philosophy', 1995, p. 802.) But I want to come straight away now to the likely influence of Oscar Wilde on Hitchcock. Perhaps I can conveniently start by talking about portraits and mirrors. To be continued.

May 27 - 2002
Tonight I would like to start adding an extra dimension to the discussion of a life-and-death-force in Hitchcock's movies (and which, as I've said before, is demonstrable in many of those movies' title-sequences, for example). In doing so, I'll be seeking to tie the notions of the MacGuffin and 'pure film' (in particular, what I was describing on May 8 and 13, above) to a late Victorian 'literature of pessimism' and a concurrent fin-de-siècle decadence and hedonism (and interest in the Oriental). Where to begin? I can think of no better place than the classic film that was made of one of Hitchcock's favourite works of literature, Albert Lewin's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), adapted from the 1890 novel by Oscar Wilde. The film begins with an epigraph taken ostensibly from Edward Fitzgerald's 'The Rubaiyat [Quatrains] of Omar Khayyam', first published in 1859: 'I sent my soul through the invisible,/Some letter of that after-life to spell:/And by and by my soul returned to me,/And answered, "I myself am Heaven and Hell".' In fact, I'm pretty sure that the quotation is apocryphal (it's not in my edition of the Rubaiyat, anyway). Nonetheless, Lewin (who scripted as well as directed the film) has put his finger on something essential about the Wilde story, its mystical bent and its rootedness in a certain sensuality not unmixed with pessimism. Here's what one reference work says about Fitzgerald (1809-83) and his poem: 'Fitzgerald was an undeniable influence on the late Victorian literature of pessimism mainly through his adaptation of the Rubaiyat [by the 12th-century Persian astronomer and poet Omar Khayyam] ... [I]ts hedonistic philosophy offered escape from a world fast surrendering to scientific determinism ... Fitzgerald, albeit unwittingly, offers a luxurious sensual warmth to counter the despair so many saw in the heartless doctrine of the survival of the fittest. The poem also suggests withdrawal from "this sorry scheme of things", from the dreary responsibilities of a mundane middle-class existence. Neither is the tinge of romantic melancholy that informs many lines without its attraction.' ('The Wordsworth Companion to Literature in English', 1994 pb edition, pp. 332, 803.) Mutatis mutandis, I would happily use that description of Fitzgerald and his work to illuminate a Hitchcock film like Marnie. The heroine of that film is clearly in retreat from, and rebellion against, 'the dreary responsibilities of a mundane middle-class existence', albeit for psycho-sexual reasons of her own. I have previously analysed the office scenes in Marnie in just such terms. I have also noted the film's mystical undercurrent, though of course the poet referenced by the film is Fitzgerald's American contemporary, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) ... However, when we turn back to the novel and film, The Picture of Dorian Gray, the Hitchcock films most immediately evoked include The Lodger, Rebecca, Under Capricorn, Vertigo, and (especially) Psycho. To be continued.

May 23 - 2002
Hitchock's wife, Alma, said that her husband was the only man she knew who could tell a dirty joke in mixed company and not offend anyone! I thought of this tonight when reading a description by academic Mike Frank of a sequence early in Marnie (1964): 'In Marnie, Hitchcock has old man Strutt [Martin Gabel] refer to the attractive woman who has just robbed him . . . Rutland (Sean Connery) hears this, and remembers the woman (he calls her "the brunette with the legs") . . . The camera then dollies to a close-up of Rutland's face as he looks dreamily off-screen and, musing, refers to her as "resourceful" . . . We then cut to a close-up of Marnie's purse [being carried under her arm], an icon that has already been established as representing both her criminality and her sexuality . . . The cut is precisely of the kind that would normally be construed as an eye-line match, Rutland looking at Marnie's purse . . . Problem is that Marnie is nowhere near Rutland but is in fact checking into a hotel somewhere else entirely . . .' Mike Frank adds: 'I think we need not be any more specific than to say that Rutland is thinking (day-dreaming) about what Strutt has already identified as "the treasure" that [Marnie] keeps hidden.' Quite so, and the double-entendres such as 'resourceful' and 'national treasure' convey a libidinous underlying meaning while, at the same time, cleverly keeping the 'monetary' surface-meaning well-fitted to the scene's business setting (Strutt's office, where Rutland is a visiting client). Hitchcock could pun like this effortlessly, and endlessly, as one can infer from the famous clip of him 'interviewing' sexy-blonde Anny Ondra, his star of The Manxman and Blackmail. (Incidentally, the 'rape' scene in the latter film prefigures the ones - figurative or literal - seen later in Psycho, Marnie, and Frenzy. Also, the joking reference in the Anny Ondra clip to 'the sailor' who tells his girlfriend to stand in her place 'or it won't come out right' prefigures the sea-symbolism of Marnie - though ostensibly Hitchcock is doing no more than impersonate the Cockney manservant Sam Weller, with his fund of stories for every occasion, in Dickens's 'Pickwick Papers'!) In turn, the yellow and gold colour-symbolism that runs through Marnie, where yellow stands for material wealth and gold stands for a related 'mythic' subtext with its 'lost paradise' connotations, adds a degree of 'satisfying complexity'. The whole libidinous thrust of the film, like Hitchcock's natural propensity for suggestive story-telling, both in everyday life and on the screen, illustrates what I keep insisting on: that the director and his films were always attuned to Will, the basic life-force - which is also a death-force. The single most recurrent symbol of that force in Hitchcock's films is the sea (The Manxman, Rich and Strange, Rebecca, Lifeboat, Vertigo, Marnie, et al.). Ultimately, there is nothing 'dirty' about that - which is something that we all recognise subconsciously ...

May 22 - 2002
I'm often asked to explain Hitchcock's 'MacGuffin' concept. (Don't know why!) I've had a stab at answering such questions on our FAQs page, but last week a high school student named Teege (hi, Teege!) put the question atypically. She wrote: 'I am ... doing a paper on Hitchcock's use of the McGuffin [sic] in four of his movies. I am set for the [first] three but have a hard time deciding [about] Rear Window. Is it the ring , the suitcase, the purse, or am I way off?' I replied: 'Well, there was no rule that said that every Hitchcock film had to have a MacGuffin in it! A MacGuffin was most suited to the 'picaresque' spy films, where excitement was generated by the sheer profusion of crazy events whose rationale was equally crazy and irrational - looked at in the light of serious human concerns (shall we say?) by which spying appears childish and brutal and [morally] wrong. [That last phrase needs explaining, and I apologise to Teege for not doing so originally. The film I most had in mind when I wrote that phrase was Secret Agent. There, Hitchcock does everything he can to make spying appear the way I've just described - a thoroughly nasty business in which grown men become addicted and regressive and irresponsible - and in that respect the film is a commentary on spying in the more overtly entertaining spy movies, the ones I've called 'picaresque'. This is a topic to be expanded on another time.] The presence of a MacGuffin (e.g., the search for secret papers) actually takes an audience's mind off the reality of spying, and lets them enjoy themselves (in a way, be childish for a while!). In a sense, Rear Window is H's 'testament' film (as French critic Jean Douchet was one of the first to observe) because it is about the nature of H's filmmaking: the audience as voyeurs [spies], increasingly obsessed with proving themselves right and having an absorbing time ('We chose to watch this film, out of curiosity, so let's see it 'prove' itself - and us!'). In a way, Jeff (James Stewart) is both audience and filmmaker whose lenses magnify events and focus attention on what one wants to see - and in a sense create. Accordingly, the film is also about the nature of the MacGuffin: people get involved in 'trivial pursuits' [and 'spying'] and almost ignore the real humanity and suffering (e.g., that of Miss Lonely Hearts or the elderly couple whose little dog is killed) that, in H's wise view, is what the world is really like. (The philosopher Schopenhauer taught the same thing - the world is truly a place of suffering, and we should face up to that truth, rather than egoistically seeing it as primarily a place for fulfilling our personal wants and desires!) Everybody in Rear Window is so preoccupied, they don't see what is happening under their very noses (a - long-suffering - man murdering his - long-suffering - wife!). You could say that the speech about 'neighbourliness' or, rather, the lack of neighbourliness ('You don't know the meaning of the word "neighbours"!') is the core of the film. The ring, the suitcase (what's in it?), the purse are all MacGuffins, but fittingly none of them is allowed in this particular film to overwhelm the general picture of humanity that the film presents (and that H said he took considerable care over, to make it representative). Of course, H knew that entertainment was indeed important, but he also saw keenly [and responsibly] the dark side of human nature and human existence. He couldn't have made films like Secret Agent and Rope and Vertigo and, yes, Psycho, without such an all-round perspective, or overview.' Okay. I'll just add a couple of teasers to end on. Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad, stories by whom H filmed in succession in 1936, Secret Agent and Sabotage, had both read Schopenhauer: see, for example, Bryan Magee, 'The Philosophy of Schopenhauer'. And the line in the arch-'picaresque' spy film, North by Northwest - 'It's time you guys [from the C.I.A., etc.] learnt how to lose a few Cold Wars' - surely bears out the sort of underlying attitude of H's to which I've been referring here.

May 21 - 2002
Lower down this page is a News item about the release last year of a boxed set of 'Hitchcockian' tele-dramas produced in the Ukraine. Collectively they are called 'Limbs of Vice' - though Nandor Bokor, who has recently been looking at them, suggests that the title would be better translated as 'Guards of Sin'. [Friend Boris Roginsky notes a pun in Russian on 'porok' - sin, vice - and 'poriadok' - order.] In the manner of Hitchcock's own television series, the stories are introduced by actor Kote Maharadze, playing Hitchcock himself. The stories do resemble ones that 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' regularly showed: human-interest dramas with a twist or surprise in store. To give the flavour, here's a translation by a colleague of Nandor Bokor's of one of the eight episodes, called "A Matter of Honour" [or "A Matter of Dignity" - Boris Roginsky's suggestion] ... 'A professor of psychology goes to a newspaper. He wants to publish an advertisement saying, "If you are tired of your husband or wife, and you want the best solution, write to me." At first the newspaper won't publish the advertisement, but the professor says that he is studying homicidal tendencies in marriage, and that his study will help fight the problem. The advertisement is published. After a lecture by the professor, a student approaches him and asks for private lessons. Meanwhile, at the newspaper, a policeman snoops around. The professor gets six letters replying to his advertisement, but he is not willing to show them to the policeman when he asks to see them. One of the letters says: "Go to your local pub tonight at 8, order a scotch and then tie your shoelaces." Another letter also arouses his interest: "If you mean your offer seriously, place another advertisement, saying, 'Collie dog lost. Answers to the name Reghis.' '' The professor starts to type "Collie dog …”, but suddenly realises that the typeface of the letter is familiar: it might be that of his own typewriter! He questions his wife, but she denies everything. The professor goes ahead and places the "Collie dog" advertisement. That evening he goes to the pub, orders scotch, ties his shoelaces - but no one appears. Disappointed (and drunk), he walks toward home. In front of his university, he is stopped by a man who claims to be a professional killer. The man says that he wrote the "scotch" letter, merely wanting to find out the professor’s identity. He makes a proposition: the two should be partners, the professor will get clients for him (after all, a professional killer himself can't advertise) and he will do the killings - then both of them will share the money. The professor refuses. Later, the professor receives other letters. One of them refers to the "Collie dog" advertisement, saying, "Let’s meet tomorrow in the Leon Restaurant. I’ll be wearing a black dress and a pink scarf. Put a flower in your buttonhole. I’ll say 'Reghis', you say 'black dress' ". The professor feels that this letter, too, might have been written on his own typewriter. To test his wife, he asks her out for dinner at the time mentioned in the letter - but she says that she has a prior engagement! Complicating matters further, the professional killer again approaches the professor in the street - and is again turned down. Arriving home, the professor finds his student talking to his wife. Next day, the wife goes out dressed in black. The professor heads for the Leon Restaurant in disguise, feeling sure that he will find his wife there. However, he is contacted by a woman other than his wife. So his wife may be innocent after all. The professor walks happily towards home, but then sees his wife and his student exchange a kiss in the street. He is plunged into gloom, now fearing the worst. He phones the professional killer, agreeing to hand over all replies to his advertisement in return for the murder of his wife. The following day, the professor insists on taking his wife out to dinner. She seems genuinely surprised: "Why did we come here? Are we celebrating?” And again: "We haven’t gone out together for a long time.” She mentions the previous night: "It was only a kiss." She adds: "I’m a woman, I love you, I just need a little more attention.” Too late. The professional killer fires.'

May 19 - 2002
Tonight they're showing on TV here (Melbourne, Australia) one of my favourite non-Hitchcock thrillers: John Frankenheimer's Black Sunday (1977), not to be confused with Mario Bava's classic horror film La Maschera del Demonio (1960). I haven't watched it for many years, but the reason for its revival seven months after 11 September seems clear: it deals with an attack from the air by Middle Eastern terrorists on the American people, and even contains footage, as I remember, of the main terrorist seeking to hire or buy a plane from a private airline that he will later use in the attack. The film is long - seven minutes longer than North by Northwest - and has been criticised for displaying Frankenheimer's tendency to let his characters talk and talk - but I can't say that I ever noticed it. All I know is that I was gripped by this film as by few others. (By the way, I like British critic David Pirie's comment: '[P]erhaps any Hollywood film giving the Palestinian case an airing deserves to be welcomed.') There are at least a couple of Hitchcock connections. Ernest Lehman worked on the script, adapted from a bestseller by Thomas Harris (Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs). And Bruce Dern (Marnie, Family Plot) plays the disenchanted former Vietnam POW whom the terrorists use to pilot the plane (or rather a TV blimp). I'll not say more, for fear of spoiling the film for you, but do seek it out when you can. Actually, I'd love to hear what you think of it, and whether you agree with my high estimation of it as a thriller.

May 13 - 2002
Okay, just to conclude for now what was started above. (By the way, there's a new 'Odd Spot' elsewhere on this page, if you're looking for a diversion!) I said on May 6, above, that Rich and Strange is about a 'duality' which for convenience I'll call a childish running-away versus an adult injunction to be 'a good little boy [or girl]' and settle for what one has: or child-versus-parent, for short. A similar theme informs, say, Psycho (1960), but the 'duality' I mean may be more correctly seen as an inner tug-of-war very possibly being waged in Hitchcock himself. However, a close look at the film shows something else going on, hinted at in the shot of a huge clock in Fred's office at the start, in shots of the ship's foaming wake, in (ostensibly point-of-view) shots of a Singapore road slipping by, and, above all, in things like the final dissolve from clouds over the South China Sea to a shot of London's bustling Piccadilly Circus. The motif adumbrated here suggests a sense of the time-space-causality nexus that is the ultimate knowable 'reality' of all of us, and which Manny in The Wrong Man (1956) so palpably fails to grasp (likewise Fred and Emily Hill in Rich and Strange). Manny hasn't 'got it all together'. But the film's overall perspective somehow makes all 'One', thereby dissolving 'dualities' in a 'wiser' or 'higher' vision that Hitchcock's cinema - which I believe is linked to his notion of 'pure film' and which invites what Strindberg's 'A Dream Play' calls 'compassion for all living things' - invites us to finally share. Who better than a film director, after all, to understand the time-space-causality nexus, which is virtually his stock-in-trade? Related to this is Hitchcock's phrase that he often murmured to himself, 'logic is dull', and his thumbing his nose (in at least one interview) at the so-called 'father of modern philosophy', René Descartes, in a glorious Oedipal gesture. Hence the relevance of Paul Klee's phrase, 'that Romanticism which is one with the universe'. But 'the universal Hitchcock' was himself a bundle of contradictions. On the one hand, the artist in him was near to God, and in creating 'pure film' he was making something analogous to Will itself (much as Schopenhauer said of music). (Of course, seen thus, even the final film amounts go no more than a MacGuffin - a diversionary bauble, or next-to-nothing - which is a salutary thought: 'it's only a movie'.) On the other hand, he was only human (thank God!) and never took himself so seriously as to suppress entirely the 'naughty boy' in himself who liked to play and sometimes be disobedient. So part of Hitchcock is on Fred and Emily's side in wanting to 'go places' and see the world (dream-like though it may finally be). A character in Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali (1955) says that 'It's staying in one place that makes you mean', and Hitchcock the pragmatist loved a holiday as much as anyone did. (Against this, the theme of John Milton's sonnet known as 'On His Blindness', which is referenced in Psycho, is precisely the nobility of the chosen few who can afford to be infinitely patient and 'stay and wait' - but Milton was a Puritan and a genius, of course.) All of which is perfectly obvious, and the secret of the universe is therefore precisely next-to-nothing at all. Perhaps no more than 'energy'. And didn't Hitchcock with his notion of 'pure film' (and his own 'conservatism' and puritanism) know it?!!!

May 8 - 2002
At one stage, Hitchcock toyed with the idea of giving his up-and-coming remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) the title Into Thin Air. That would have constituted yet another allusion in his work to Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', namely, in this case, the famous passage [IV.2]: 'Our revels now are ended. These our actors,/ As I foretold you, were all spirits and/ Are melted into air, into thin air:/ .../ We are such stuff/ As dreams are made on, and our little life/ Is rounded with a sleep!' (Hitchcock and Joan Harrison had also thought about giving the title to the episode of 'AHP' that eventually aired, in October 1955, as "The Vanishing Lady", starring Patricia Hitchcock.) The same Shakespearean passage is quoted (and disparaged by the elder son) in Eugene O'Neill's 'Long Day's Journey Into Night', whose influence on Hitchcock's Mary Rose project and on Vertigo I've already noted. (You suspect that Family Plot was also so influenced.) To me, the correlation with Hitchcock's notion of 'pure film' (that is, film that references itself alone, that is as self-sufficient - and in a way as intangible - as music, or Will) and with the notion of the MacGuffin (a diversion that is next-to-nothing from that which is all-important, which is also, in a sense, almost nothing - as Schopenhauer said of Will - allowing Hitchcock to define it, quite aptly, as 'a device for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands') is plain. In my book (p. 164), I quote Hitchcock's favourite painter Paul Klee on how there's a point at which dualities cease to appear as such, somewhat akin to André Breton's celebrated description of what the Surrealists were searching for (a point where life and death cease to be perceived as contradictions): Klee called it 'that Romanticism which is one with the universe'. Once again, the affinities with Schopenhauer's Will (the sole reality, a life-force that is also a death-force), which he contrasted with mere Representation (variegated appearance), seem fully apparent to me. That said, there remains what may be the most striking parallel of all with Hitchcock's position: I'm thinking of the life and work of a celebrated dramatist who moved from Naturalism to Expressionism, from taking pleasure in 'the tough, predatory character of human nature' and the so-called 'battle of the sexes' to espousing 'compassion for all living things' and professing the essentially dream-like nature of human existence, namely the Swedish playwright August Strindberg (1840-1912). He had read Nietzsche and very probably Schopenhauer. I am not saying that his development as an individual and as an artist corresponded precisely to Hitchcock's, but I am saying that Strindberg's famous 'dualisms' (as enumerated by Robert Brustein: the struggle in the playwright's mind between male and female, father and mother, aristocrat and servant, spirit and matter, aggressiveness and passivity) were resolved by a broader, more compassionate outlook which I believe Hitchcock took on board quite early (possibly as early as 1920, when he saw 'Mary Rose' performed onstage in London) and which ripened over the years until its maturity at the time of The Birds and Marnie. To such a director the notion of 'pure film' would have come naturally. Finally, there's this. When, in the aptly-named (and Expressionist) 'A Dream Play', filled with images from Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, the mysterious green door is opened at last, 'the secret of life is discovered to be - nothing. The area behind the door is a vast emptiness.' (Robert Brustein) Again one may be reminded of 'the universal Hitchcock'.

May 7 - 2002
I don't think that I have yet seen a film scholar attempt an in-depth explanation of what Hitchcock meant by 'pure cinema' (which he himself once defined as 'pieces of film put together the way notes of music make a melody') or attempt to relate that concept to Hitchcock's notion of the MacGuffin (which he likened to 'a device for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands') or speculate boldly, the way that Schopenhauer did of music (that it was closely analogous to the cosmic Will itself), about the wider correlation of 'pure film' with certain empirical facts. But the entries here in the past few days, on the possible 'imaginative duality' of Hitchcock's films, now prompt some such speculations from me. Yes, you could argue that a certain duality was evident in Hitchcock's work from the start. Child-versus-parent was only part of it: there was also the 'loner' versus the 'groupie', and the happy 'innocent' versus the disillusioned and fallen 'sinner', to mention just two other key manifestations. In turn, in Hitchcock's early period you may detect an active, if clumsy, attempt to overcome 'duality' by force, as it were. There is a resort to artistic (and, reportedly, actual) sadism whereby the 'masterful' director wanted to bend all others to his will and vision - so scenes of sadism (in Blackmail and Murder!, for instance) arguably reflect Hitchcock's own predisposition to make wider reality conform to another, his own! But of course that didn't really work, and to the extent that he may have denied what was happening, and, like certain of his characters, clung to the notion that 'paradise' was regainable (cf scenes in The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, Downhill, The Ring, etc.), the duality would have remained. Hitchcock's relaxed and happy home life (vide the home movies that have surfaced in recent years) opposed to some extent the thorough-going professionalism he maintained at the studio. (I'm reminded of how Dickens in 'Great Expectations' depicts the split in the law-clerk Wemmick between his 'office' and 'Walworth' sentiments!) However, a lot of what I've just written is a simplification and a distortion. Clearly, Hitchcock's sense of humour and sense of fun stood him in good stead (most of the time): few artists showed such a developed grasp of reality at the outset as Hitchcock did. References to a 'lost paradise' in his work were never sentimental, but reflected a sophisticated understanding that some things are gone forever. At the studio, far from being some dour or tyrannical director (as perhaps Graham Cutts was), Hitch enjoyed a practical joke with the best of them! He was, in fact, often a ringleader in that respect! After some false, or too-exuberant, attempts at overcoming duality in himself and in his work, Hitchcock seems to me to have rapidly matured into the director with the master-mind, and master-vision, that he always remained thereafter. Tomorrow, then, my thoughts on what that vision consisted of, and its relation to 'pure film', the MacGuffin, etc.

May 6 - 2002
Of course, all that the story of young Alfred Hitchcock being locked in a police cell may really show is that the adult Alfred Hitchcock was an inveterate self-mythologiser and self-publicist! I had that thought after Bill Krohn reminded me that the incident of Hitchcock being punished for being a 'naughty boy' is referenced in both the closing monologue of the script of the unfilmed Mary Rose and in the words Hitchcock reputedly wanted carved on his mythical tombstone ('This is what happens to naughty boys' - talk about trying to have the last laugh!). Mary Rose, from the play by Sir James Barrie ('Peter Pan'), ends with the words of its narrator, Cameron, as the camera moves further and further away and the island grows smaller and enveloped in mist: 'Let's go back home now. (ironically) There of course it's raining as usual. And there's a naughty boy waiting for punishment and an old villager who had the fatal combination of weak heart and bad temper. He's waiting to be buried. All the usual, dependable, un-islandy things. (He sighs deeply) You understand.' To me, this is a fitting, rather wonderful combination of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', Thornton Wilder's 'Our Town', and the closing camera movement of Sidney Lumet's Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962). (Eugene O'Neill's play itself contains allusions to 'The Tempest', not to mention much quoting of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche - whose respectively pessimistic and optimistic 'vitalism' prefigures a tension that seems to inform Hitchcock's later films in particular - like Vertigo, which actually quotes from the O'Neill play. QED!) Coming even more full circle, it may help to turn to a recent life of Charles Dickens by the novelist Jane Smiley: 'Writing is an act of artistic and moral agency,' Smiley asserts, 'where choices are made that the author understands, full of implications and revelations that the author also understands.' That might serve nicely as the epigraph for Bill Krohn's nitty-gritty study of Hitchcock called 'Hitchcock at Work'. I do think that Hitchcock saw himself as having the omniscient Victorian authorial voice, or at least encouraged his audience (e.g., by means of his cameo appearances in his films) to feel the presence of such a voice. Nonetheless, if there were psychological and unconscious factors, disregarded by Smiley, in Dickens's make-up, predisposing him to the imaginative duality I mentioned last time, so too there may have been with Hitchcock. One such element of duality that I would note in the latter is precisely the 'naughty boy' in him that enjoys itself (and enjoys causing a bit of a stir) versus the punitive parent that would say, 'I told you so' or 'I warned you'. For some reason, I think of Rich and Strange (1932) as an early instance of such a duality made manifest in Hitchcock's work. Yet that film's very title is from 'The Tempest', and that has to give us pause. Attempted explanations, and further commentary, tomorrow!

May 1 - 2002
Well into his adult life, the author Charles Dickens could tell nobody - not even his family - of the humiliation he had felt when, as a boy, he had been sent to work in a blacking factory near the Thames, sticking labels on jars. Manual labour and the company of 'common' boys (notably an orphan named Bob Fagin), and the squalor and filth (and rats), were only part of it: the young Dickens felt that he had been abandoned and that all of his 'great expectations' of a glorious future had been suddenly dashed. Dickens was nearly forty before he could bring himself to write down an account of what he had felt, for his eyes only - though he later showed it to John Forster, who published it in his posthumous biography of his friend. The words are fervent and indelible: 'The deep remembrance of the sense I had of being utterly neglected and hopeless, of the shame I felt in my position; of the misery it was to my young heart to believe that, day by day, what I had learned, and thought, and delighted in, and raised my fancy and my emulation up by, was passing away from me, never to be brought back ...' This might almost be an allegory of the individual human condition, and the individual's Fall, so powerfully does Dickens describe it; and anyone who has read 'Great Expectations' - as Alfred Hitchcock did at school - feels at some level that power, for Dickens's own feelings about his boyhood humiliation are all distilled there, in disguised form. (Throughout, the novel shows a marvellously mature, yet sympathetic, understanding of the course of Pip's life, of the boy's and young adult's circumscribed condition and understanding, of the ultimate need for compassion towards one's 'poor, miserable fellow creatures', including one's own self - yet it is all told with the 'inimitable' invention and comic gusto and sharp insight into sham and unregenerate evil that were always Dickens's trademarks.) Not only that, but Dickens's boyhood experience in the blacking factory, as Edmund Wilson's classic essay "Dickens: The Two Scrooges" first showed, accounts for the novelist's essentially dualistic imagination - constantly affirming the necessity for virtue, love, and altruism, but attracted to the portrayal of evil, cruelty, and hypocrisy. In other words, Dickens's boyhood suffering was the source of his masterly power and penetration as an adult writer. It is probably not coincidental that two artistic Englishmen, Charles Dickens and William Blake, both of them firmly based in London - that pulsing hub of the universe in their time - were precursors of Expressionism, one of whose tenets is to express the human condition in its fulness, including its potential fulness and/or what it once had but later lost. Returning to Hitchcock, then, I would say that his own childhood 'traumas' - notably the disgrace and terror of being locked in a police cell, but also the chilling memory of waking one Sunday evening and finding that his parents had gone out (see John Russell Taylor, p. 28) - gave him a natural affinity for the sort of material he would have found in Dickens. (Besides 'Great Expectations', he also read 'Bleak House', 'A Tale of Two Cities', and 'Our Mutual Friend'.) Accordingly, Hitchcock's films display an imaginative duality of their own. More later.

April 30 - 2002
April 30 It will be interesting to see how Patrick McGilligan's biography of Hitchcock treats the famous incident in which young Alfred, at his father's request, was briefly locked in a police cell as a punishment. In some interviews, Hitchcock claimed that he was uncertain whether the incident wasn't apocryphal, a convenient way of explaining his enduring fear of the police (and, I suggest, much else besides) - but according to John Russell Taylor ('Hitch', 1978, p. 28), Hitchcock's sister insisted 'that it actually did happen'. Also, there's the issue of how old - or young - Hitchcock was at the time. Taylor says 'five or six', but that's not what Hitchcock told Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. To her, Hitchcock reported that he had been 'about eleven' ('Limelighters', 1967, p. 92). Finally, one wonders why the boy (of whatever age) was being punished at all. What exactly had he done? Taylor merely says that it was 'some minor transgression', but again Hitchcock had a diferent story for Oriana Fallaci. 'I had been on a bus ride as far as the terminus', he recalled, 'but I didn't have the money for the return fare. I made my way back on foot and reached home after nine. We used to live in the district of Soho, in London; my father was a poultry dealer. My father opened the door and didn't say a word. Not a word of reproof, nothing. He just gave me a note and said, "Take it to Watson." Watson was a policeman, a family friend. He'd no sooner got the note than he shut me in a cell shouting, "This is what happens to bad boys who get home after nine o'clock."' Clearly there is a certain theatricality about this whole incident, as reported by Hitchcock: his father's silence on opening the door, for example, and the elaborate act of writing the note and handing it to his son (whom he had always called 'my little lamb without a spot'). I think of the pivotal sequence in Hitchcock's early film Downhill (1927) in which Roddy is expelled not just from the 'Eden' of his public school (which his father had attended before him) but from his very home because his father doesn't believe his plea of innocence. Then there's the scene in Rear Window (1954) in which Jeff writes the father-figure (and suspected murderer) Thorwald a note asking cryptically, 'What have you done with her?' (which evokes a child's puzzlement on observing the 'primal scene' - its parents' lovemaking), and the camera on a crane watches the entire act of the letter's composition, then emphatically zooms down to read it. As for the no-less-theatrical moment when a cell door closes with a clang of ignominy (if not doom) on a young boy, that too has its echo in countless Hitchcock films, notably the incarceration of the innocent Manny (note the significant diminutive of 'Emmanuel') in The Wrong Man (1957). So what exactly does this incident tell us about the adult Hitchcock? To answer that, I'd like to invoke an even more famous 'traumatic' incident in the boyhood of a renowned English author. More tomorrow ...

April 29 - 2002
I had prepared a little item for "Editor's Day" but then I mentioned it to Patrick McGilligan who said that he would use it in his biography of Hitch. So now I shan't run the item here after all! But the news is good about Patrick's book. After delays caused by 9/11 (or 11/9 where I come from) - thanks a lot, Mr bin Laden! - the book is now in its final re-write. Also not far from completion is Gary Giblin's 'Hitchcock's London' - which has clearly expanded massively beyond its original modest conception. Gary seems to be doing a 'MacGuffin' (the journal) and correcting or supplementing many of the inadequate reports and interpretations of Hitchcock that have been published elsewhere over the years. (Nor is he the only author in recent times to take such a lead from 'The MacGuffin'!) Just the other day Gary asked me to comment on a somewhat misleading passage in Charles Barr's 'English Hitchcock' (p. 83) where Barr seems to imply that all of the opening few minutes of the silent-version of Blackmail were re-shot for the sound-version - though almost certainly that wasn't Barr's intended meaning. Barr writes: 'Although the first 63 shots of B1 and B2 have apparently been identical ... [e]ven the simplest insert shots ... on close scrutiny reveal tiny differences' - where it's that word 'even' that causes the ambiguity. Also, Barr adds: 'The reason for this must be that two negatives were required ...' My comment to Gary was as follows: 'As for two negatives, that might warrant a "not proven" verdict (à la Scottish murder trials). If only stuff like inserts are slightly different, that might simply be because it was always a matter of course to shoot extra, alternative takes of such things for certainty's sake. Then it would have been quite natural for H to use the alternative versions of shots in compiling B2, so as not to have to go back and cut up the master negative of B1 that had been assembled.' (I added: 'But I'm only surmising. I don't know.') Now another point. Gary has noticed that when in the opening moments of Blackmail, the police van suddenly does a U-turn, the silent version covers this incident in a sweeping pan-shot without a cut - whereas the sound version (on the Laserlight DVD) has a cut at this point, 'though otherwise the footage is identical'. And Gary asks: 'So, what do we know about (differing) prints of the sound Blackmail? If the cut was simply the result of missing frames, then we should expect a concomitant sound loss. Yet, the soundtrack remains intact. It hasn't been redone, surely?' Well, I'm not certain about that, Gary. Over the years, a remastered soundtrack of Blackmail might well have been laid down. But here's what I think is at least equally likely. Studios themselves do damage film! So perhaps British International Pictures managed to damage their negative before the sound version was released, and they simply printed the soundtrack over the damaged footage. (True, the silent version of Blackmail was released after the sound version - for the film's run outside of London where many cinemas hadn't yet converted to sound - but presumably the silent prints existed before then, awaiting release.) Comments, anyone?

April 24 - 2002
My thanks to Danny Nissim and Paul Duncan for material that I've just put up on our 'New Publications' page. That's where you should head for now, gentle reader.

April 22 - 2002
My thanks to Filippo, a student at the Catholic University of Milan, who emailed me last week with a question about the chase in Hitchcock's movies. For what it's worth, here's part of what I wrote back. It concerns the relation I see between the philosopher Schopenhauer's description of the world as both 'Will' and 'Representation', and the nature of film (especially Hitchcock's). 'To me,' I said, 'the sound film ... offers a close analogy to what ... Schopenhauer referred to as the two aspects of the world: its "Will" (reality, a life-force that is also a death-force) and its "Representation" (appearance, everything that makes up the phenomena of our lives). I [think] of the moving film per se as Will, and the events/plot of the film as Representation - that which we call our world though it is never its essence (which is Will). In this schema, the chase in a Hitchcock film is [a special case; it's] like an analogue or apotheosis of Will, one whose element of excitement prompts a certain raising or quickening of the viewer's consciousness which in turn prompts a certain intuiting of the invisible (noumenal) reality that is Will [...]' Okay, what I'm doing with this formulation is combine Hitchcock's own so-named 'moving-around principle' (his idea that the movement involved in making, filming and even projecting a film should be reflected onscreen, and culminate in 'the chase') and the philosophy of another thinker, Henri Bergson (himself a 'vitalist' philosopher like Schopenhauer), who had his own notion of a life-force, the élan-vital, and who put special emphasis on intuition as being the key to obtaining a profounder understanding of 'life', our place in the scheme of things, knowledge of how the world goes. Put crudely, Schopenhauer and others have seen that 'its all One', and a film like The Birds (where the chase is distilled into the bird-human 'war' and the MacGuffin is the ultimately foolish question of 'what does it all mean?' or even 'what do the birds stand for?') conveniently sums this up. Elsewhere, in the new 'MacGuffin', I have drawn on another philosopher, Sören Kierkegaard (who admired Schopenhauer), to put a different spin on some of this. Kierkegaard's profound subject was 'subjectivity', on which he placed the highest value, seeing it as the path we all have to take in order to realise our special relationship to 'God'. In this case, I feel that Hitchcock's Psycho gives classic expression to Kierkegaard's notion that we must each follow our individual subjectivity right through to the other side, 'over the bridge of sighs into eternity' - because, even if 'objectivity' were possible, it would avail the individual nothing - and that subjectivity, as the film's title implies (come to think of it), is Hitchcock's very subject here. Accordingly, what we get in Psycho is a virtual portrait of subjectivity (call it Will, but also Representation) in which the psyche's drives and amoral impulses are not only all on show but are the felt source - and terror - of the film's grip on our imaginations. The 'moving-around principle' come home to roost, you might say, using a suitably avian metaphor.

April 18 - 2002
Some ad hoc thoughts today, for consideration and expansion another time. My thanks to Stephen Rebello ('Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho') for the news that he recently interviewed Faye Dunaway for a forthcoming issue of 'Movieline'. Hitchcockians may always think of Ms Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Mommie Dearest) as 'the blonde that got away' because she turned down the part of Fran in Family Plot. Now she is starring in a new film, Rules of Attraction (director Roger Avary), has directed a short based on Tennessee Williams's 'The Yellow Bird' which recently aired on American television, and has plans to direct herself as Maria Callas in Master Class, adapted from Terence MacNally's play. ('Zoe Caldwell was spectacular in it on Broadway', notes Stephen, 'and La Dunaway had a good run with it touring.') Here's what Faye Dunaway told Stephen about not working with Hitchcock: 'It's true I turned down doing Family Plot with Hitchcock and I wish I hadn’t. I don’t remember why I said no but I think it was the character he talked with me about, really. I didn't want to play a medium who ran around abducting people or killing children or whatever she did in the script at the time. I had some wonderful meetings with Hitchcock, though. And recently, I watched every one of his movies that are available on VHS and DVD. It was fantastic but it also made me sad because now I have no more Hitchcock films to watch. He's truly one of my favorite directors and I'm really sorry I didn't work with him.' (Parenthesis: in Family Plot, it is of course Blanche, not Fran, who is a medium. Ms Dunaway must have mis-remembered this detail.) Stephen further reports that he's hopeful of interviewing Lynn Redgrave and Michael Caine on why they turned down Hitchcock's Frenzy - Redgrave the part of either Brenda or Babs (there are conflicting reports), Caine the part of villain Bob Rusk. But of course what casting Frenzy has anyway! (For a note on the late Barry Foster, who got the part of Rusk, see the brief obituary in 'News briefs' below. Stephen Rebello notes that '[i]t's quite clear seeing Barry Foster, with his Caine-esque accent and dyed hair colour, etc., that Hitchcock had something very specific in mind for the character'.) Consider ... In place of Michael Redgrave's daughter Lynn, we got either (depending on which of the above-mentioned reports you believe) Raymond Massey's daughter Anna - wonderful as Babs - or the remarkable Barbara Leigh Hunt as Brenda (whose name always reminds me of the poet and essayist Leigh Hunt, the author of a book on London, 'The Town' [1848], which is still read - is she a descendant, I wonder?). Then there's Jon Finch (straight from playing the lead in Polanski's Macbeth) as Blaney; the Olivier-like stage actor Alec McCowen as Inspector Oxford; the delectable Vivien Mercant (Mrs Harold Pinter) as Oxford's wife whose culinary zeal exceeds (for now) her expertise; Billie Whitelaw (she won a BAFTA award the same year) as Hetty Porter; and the list goes on ...

April 17 - 2002
The recurring 'wrong man' theme in Hitchcock goes back to his second film The Mountain Eagle (1926) in which the hero Fearogod (Malcolm Keen) is falsely imprisoned by the local store-owner and magistrate, Pettigrew (Bernard Goetzke). As a parable of what Schopenhauer described as the perpetual conflict between worldly justice and eternal justice (though it's resolved at the end of the film by a handshake!), i.e., imperfect justice as it's meted out in this phenomenal world of ours versus true justice that exists only in the noumenal world, the film is related to both Lang's Metropolis, released the following year, and to such later Hitchcock films as The Wrong Man (1957) and Vertigo (1958). But the theme is also an 'English' one inasmuch as leading literary figures such as Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had long taken an interest in actual cases where justice was known, or strongly suspected, to have miscarried. (For instance, in 1886 Collins agreed to write three stories for 'The Youth's Companion', published in Boston. All three were to be accounts of people wrongly hanged for crimes on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone.) And there was a particularly famous English case of mistaken identity and wrongful imprisonment, that of Adolf Beck. This poor man, completely innocent, was twice convicted (and ended up serving five years in gaol), each time having been - wrongly - identified as one 'John Smith', confidence trickster. He was awaiting sentence for the second offence when the 'right man' (real name William Thomas) was arrested, and a detective on the case suddenly spotted the strong resemblance between the two men. Chilling stuff. And it still goes on. A new book, called 'The Wrong Man: A True Story of Innocence on Death Row', by Michael Mello, is published by the University of Minnesota Press. The case described is all the more horrendous because, nine years after 'Crazy Joe' Spaziano was convicted of murder by a Florida jury, a set of audiotapes was found in which police hypnotise witness against him, a witness who later recanted his testimony. Despite this exculpatory evidence, Spaziano's case continued to move steadily towards the electric chair. Nor is that all. A spate of recent books recount similar stories of miscarriages of justice even in capital cases. (To read a full review of these books, from the 'Boston Review', click here: Boston Review: Bedau on Capital Punishment) Hitchcock's 'wrong man' theme, then, can be seen as both a metaphor of the human condition ('Original Sin' makes us all guilty innocents) and of something immediately real, if largely hushed up (as paedophilia, and even death itself, used to be). 'It's only a movie', said Hitchcock. But he was lying through his teeth.

April 16 - 2002
Further observations tonight on the differences between the American-release print of Strangers on a Train and the so-called 'British' version (which runs two minutes longer). As noted in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' (p. 121), the latter version has extra footage in the opening scene on the train, but a different ending. On the train, Bruno coaxes Guy to have lunch with him in his compartment, ordering for himself lamb chops, french fries, and chocolate ice cream. Later, when the pair are alone, an obviously drunken Bruno expresses his view that 'murder is not against the law of nature' (a view with which Thomas Hobbes and Arthur Schopenhauer, for two, would fully agree!) and theorises that 'everybody is a potential murderer'. Patrik Wikström [whose Hitchcock website is listed on our Links page] has noted another tiny change in the first part of the scene: Guy's line, 'I guess I'm a little jittery' (American version), becomes 'I guess I'm a little jumpy' (British version). Also, Patrik has taken the trouble to note more precisely some of the additional dialogue in Bruno's compartment. Bruno: 'My theory is that everybody is a potential murderer. Didn't you ever feel that you wanted to kill somebody - say one of those useless fellows that Miriam was playing around with?' Guy: 'You can't go around killing people just because you think they are useless.' That's a piquant line coming from Farley Granger (who plays Guy), given that the same actor played Phillip in Rope (1948) who expressed (or endorsed) an exactly contrary view: there, his partner-in-killing, Brandon (John Dall), says that their victim and others like him, 'merely occupy space in this world'. Of course, Bruno in Strangers on a Train is heard to ask in both versions of the film, 'What's a life or two, Guy?' Accordingly, if Bruno is the voice of (Hobbesian, Schopenhaurian) truth, even of the life-force that is also a death-force (Schopenhauer's 'Will'), Guy is the voice of morality that would oppose or stay it; unfortunately, the casting of Farley Granger (instead of the more virile William Holden whom Hitchcock had wanted) reduces the heroism of Guy's character. (It could be argued, though, that human morality is a pretty bumbling, or expedient, matter, much of the time, so that the casting still has a certain rightness!) As for the various endings of Strangers on a Train, Bill Krohn has recently drawn attention to the fact that there were three of these, two actually scripted (the American-release 'tag' ending with the clergyman on the train, the 'British' ending which consists of a final phone conversation between Anne and Guy). In an email, Bill summarises the endings thus: 'Guy and Milksop [i.e., Anne!] on the train with the priest; Milksop is waiting outside the sheriff's office as Guy comes out, cleared, and they hug; the one with Milksop on the phone.' In a follow-up email, Bill notes that the sheriff's-office ending 'was found in the editing room. The last day [of shooting], AH filmed the "tag" with the priest on the train and improvised a silent scene of lovers reunited outside the [sheriff's office]. Then before the first preview, he decided to cut both tags and just end with [Anne] on the phone. After the first preview, AH went back to his original idea to include the tag with the priest, and made other changes too. The first preview print is probably the one that was found in cans labelled "English version" and recently released on tape [and DVD].'

April 10 - 2002
Friend Richard Franklin (who made Psycho II) recently asked me what was the difference between the 'British' and 'American' versions of Strangers on a Train. Very little, I said. And I referred him to the sidebar item in my book which notes, for instance, that the British version omits the scene at the end on the train where Guy and Anne encounter a sports-loving clergyman. (BTW, Bill Krohn recently referred here to the film's three separate endings. I hope to give more details of those soon.) Then I remembered that English film scholar Brad Stevens once sent me a message on this very topic, and today I'd like to print it here. It's dated 22 May, 2000. 'The recently discovered "European" version of Strangers on a Train has just started playing on the British subscription channel Sky Cinema [writes Brad]. According to Bill Desowitz's "Film Comment" article (May/June 1992), the European edition adds footage to Bruno's first meeting with Guy, the fairground climax and the the phone call at the end while deleting the coda with the [clergyman]. But I also noted the following variations: (1) The credits are slightly different. On the American print, the words "Mr Granger appears by arrangement with Samuel Goldwyn" appear under Farley Granger's credit, but no such phrase can be found in the European edition. There are also some minor variations in names: "Edward S. Haworth" on the American print, "Ted Haworth" on the European; "William Ziegler" on the American print, ""William H. Ziegler" on the European. (2) After Guy phones Bruno and agrees to kill his father, the European print adds more than a minute of footage showing Guy finding the map of Bruno's house and walking towards a door marked "exit". The American print dissolves from Guy climbing off the fire escape to him approaching Bruno's house, but the European variant adds a shot of him hiding in a dark alley to ensure that he is not seen by the detective [his "guardian angel", I think Guy calls him! - KM]. (3) After she talks to Bruno's mother, the initial part of Anne's conversation with Bruno plays as an uninterrupted take in the European version. But the American edition, while it does not delete any footage, inserts a close-up of Guy's lighter in the middle of the shot.' Comments, anyone? (I may add some of my own later.)

April 9 - 2002
To the above, Bill Krohn would add a note saying that Hitchcock's Irish background (mainly on his mother's side, as I recall) surely also helped broaden his basically English outlook: that is, living in London, the youngest child of a Catholic family with Irish connections, must have made the young Alfred aware (up to a point) of belonging to a minority culture within the mainstream one. Not that his own family would later show much sign of feeling like this. Bill writes: 'Was [Hitchcock] burying it, reacting against it? Pat[ricia Hitchcock] acts like she never heard of such a thing, but she's got a crystal shamrock on a side table in her livingroom ...' (But let's not forget that her married name is O'Connell!) It's interesting that when Hitchcock embarked on his project of filming Juno and the Paycock (1930), adapted from the celebrated play by Sean O'Casey, and set in Dublin, that his wife Alma (born in Nottingham of English parents) was entrusted with writing the screenplay. That is, one supposes that Hitchcock could have brought in an Irish writer to do the adaptation, but was happy to keep it 'in the family', so to speak. He and Alma share the screenplay credit. One gets the impression from the film that the play's 'Irishness' was of limited importance to Hitchcock: provided some authentic Irish detail was retained from the play, that would suffice to ground the tragi-comic melodrama that was his main concern. (I'm not sure what religion the family in Shadow of a Doubt [1943] follow - possibly Baptist? - but again you feel that Hitchcock's main concern is with the melodrama centred on Uncle Charlie, and that simply getting the background 'right' is more important to the director than depicting details for their own sake. Another point about Shadow is that, for all the 'Americana' provided by writers Thornton Wilder and Sally Benson, the storyline is essentially the 'English' one Hitchcock had used in The Lodger!) Now here's an additional point about Hitch's cosmopolitanism, which I take straight from John Russell Taylor's biography of him ('Hitch', 1978, p. 26). Taylor notes that Hitchcock and Noël Coward were born within four months of each other, on opposite sides of London (Hitchcock in Leytonstone in the East End, Coward in Teddington). 'Both [men] offer, in their careers and personalities, a number of curious parallels and contrasts. Coward seems at first glance remote from Hitchock, but their unpredictable mixtures of sentimentality and cynicism, their fierce English patriotism combined with easy cosmopolitanism, their extreme social mobility and command in many areas of society other than that in which they originated, their ability to create their own fantasy worlds and impose them without question on the public, all indicate an improbable similarity.' (Whenever I read Taylor, I feel like bowing, such is his command of prose - and, certainly in this case, the sense of what he says!)

April 8 - 2002
Hitchcock was English, and don't anybody forget it! Granted, he was much else besides - his Catholicism and his early career experiences (notably, working in Germany for two years, and later in Hollywood) helped make him a man of cosmopolitan outlook - but even those things were arguably the fruit of English 'pragmatism'. Recently the distinguished novelist A.S. Byatt (sister of the even more well-known Margaret Drabble) edited 'The Oxford Book of English Short Stories'. Her introduction discourses on Englishness. The English, she believes, have a special talent for pragmatism, humour, satire, dandyism, horror, surreal fantasy and a largish clutch of other peculiarities (among them, a refined class consciousness). Is that a thumbnail description of Hitchcock, or is it not? With the exception of satire, which is pretty much confined in his films to some poking fun at English insularity and solipsism (e.g., Rich and Strange, The Lady Vanishes - though could he have made Shadow of a Doubt or Rear Window without those films behind him?), the list might be a description of Hitchcock's strong suit as a director. Sure, every good director, almost by definition, needs to be pragmatic, but Hitchcock's abilities in that direction were remarkable, no doubt given a further boost by his training in draughtsmanship and engineering. I think this matter is almost a key to Hitchcock. For instance, there is a poetic, Nietszchean strain in Hitchcock but it is always tempered by his English common sense and feet-on-the-ground conservatism. Reading a review in 'The New Yorker' (online version) of 'Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography' by Rüdiger Safranski (who has also written a major biography of Schopenhauer), I came across this passage: 'For the rest of his thinking life, Nietzsche strove to sustain belief in the possibility of the flight; that is, in a new future for humanity. He derided the cowardice of the "little bluestocking" George Eliot [the famous writer], who had forsaken the Christian church but who nevertheless insisted - typical of the English! - that Christian morality must be preserved for the sake of society. But why should a society based on lies be protected? Why can't we live with the truth?' (Italics mine.) Immediately I thought of how John Buchan, in his novel 'The Power House', written immediately before 'The Thirty-Nine Steps', had sent the novel's Nietzschean villain packing with just such a message as George Eliot's: society, we're told, needs its illusions, and any would-be 'Supermen' with their individual quests for power are its enemies. Now, Buchan's villain, Julius Pavia, is the prototype of such Hitchcockian villains as Tobin in Saboteur and Willi (whose name evokes will-to-power) in Lifeboat, and Hitchcock's stance towards them is pretty much Buchan's towards Pavia - though with a certain ambivalence. My point for today, then, is: how pragmatically English of Hitchcock - and how brilliantly realist of him. (The review in 'The New Yorker' is subtitled: 'Nietzsche believed in infinite possibility. The world knew better.')

April 4 - 2002
Ask a question or two, and get some richly informative answers! First, my special thanks to the folks at 'Scarlet Street', and especially to Tony Dale who wrote the original review of the DVD of Frenzy that I quoted from. I was wondering about the terms 'artifacts' and 'anamorphic wide-screen transfer'. No problem! Tony Dale has sent along the following, which puts everything in a nutshell. 'Artifacts', he writes, 'can come in two shapes and sizes: dirt on the film, including hair marks, cigarette burns and signs of age. Secondly, digital artifacting occurs when the film is telecined for digital compression, resulting in pixalation or "blocking" effects.' That's perfectly clear, Tony. And so, pretty nearly, is the other part of your answer to my questions: '"Anamorphic" now also refers to the encoded enhancement for widescreen television sets, those that are capable of a 16:9 aspect ratio. Anamorphic film refers to any film which was shot using an anamorphic lens, ie - cinemascope, vistavision, technirama and cinerama. It's a terminology which is bound to create confusion amongst mature adults who remember the glory days of cinema. When a dvd is anamorphically encoded, the black bars surrounding the picture will be far less visible on a television screen capable of reading the anamorphic codes contained on the dvd.' If I interpret that last sentence aright, anamorphic coding will adjust the size and shape of the screen image to minimise 'waste' space at the edges, especially at the top and bottom - the 'black bars' that Tony referred to. In a moment, I'll study offline detailed additional notes on these matters sent by reader Christopher Philippo, and then perhaps I'll be almost an expert! But not alone - I'll put Christopher's notes up on our Yahoo Hitchcock Group site so that others may share them. Finally, for tonight, Bill Krohn is someone else who responded to my questions, and what he says relates specifically to Hitchcock: 'I don't know about the transfer process (I don't have a DVD player), but "artifacts" are any little video glitches that can contaminate the image. One reason [Frenzy] bears little sign of aging (in a more-than-technical sense) is that Hitchcock was quite conscious of the way films date and avoided it, in [this] film set in Swinging London, by reshooting, for example, the scene where two girls passing in the street hear the cry of the secretary who has found her boss's body. You see this in the unedited behind-the-scenes footage, and AH explains it, either on camera or in a note made by the script supervisor: when they first shoot it, the girls are wearing very short skirts; he sends them back to put on skirts that are still contemporary, but not so short that the film will be an antique in a few years. I think this is something he often did - Patrick McGilligan was commenting in an email on all the old props, as well as decor and costume touches, in Shadow of a Doubt, which made him wonder for a moment if it weren't taking place in the 30s, even though the film is clearly set during WWII. AH was very conscious of making a contemporary film about a small town - cf. his remarks about a "small town with neon" - but he was also careful to imbed the signs of the times in a world that from some angles could be the 30s, too. And that means that he thought of his films as lasting past their first run, even before tv, which was very much on his mind when he shot Frenzy.' (My thanks again to Richard Valley and Tony Dale of 'Scarlet Street' - may it sell a million copies - and to Christopher Philippo and Bill Krohn.)

April 3 - 2002
My reference to David Kalat's article on the Fantomas novels and films (see yesterday's entry) lets me mention something that I've not seen pointed out before. Yes, the novels and films may indeed have been 'a direct source of influence on Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock', et al. But in Hitchcock's case, I'm thinking, there may have been an indirect 'source of influence'. For when you read any of the popular Bulldog Drummond novels by the English writer known as 'Sapper' (H.C. McNeile) - which we know that Hitchcock was familiar with - and you encounter their villain-of-many-disguises, the master criminal Carl Peterson, he is clearly a forerunner of Lang's Doctor Mabuse. (The first Bulldog Drummond novel appeared in 1920, and was adapted to the stage the same year, where it starred Gerald du Maurier as Drummond; the first Doctor Mabuse film didn't come out until 1922.) Given that the Fantomas stories are also about a master criminal, they would seem to be the progenitors of both the Bulldog Drummond stories (later filmed, most notably in 1929 starring Ronald Colman) and the Doctor Mabuse films. And Hitchcock - who may or may not have read the Fantomas novels or seen Louis Feuillade's film versions (he never mentioned them, as far as I know) - certainly knew both the works of 'Sapper' and the films of Lang. That's the point I wanted to make. Now, something else in the new issue of 'Scarlet Street', mentioned here yesterday, is a review of the DVD release of Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972). I want to quote a passage. 'The opening demonstrates just how remarkable Universal's anamorphic wide-screen transfer really is: from the turgid tones of the Thames to the brilliance of the clear blue sky to the dusty hues of the buildings on the shore, all is clearly seen and well-defined. Rarely does an imperfection mar the remainder of the film - though in one famous scene, in the back of a potato lorry, the film does seem too dark. Fleshtones are nicely rendered, as are the muted tones of the interior scenes. Virtually free from all artifacts, Frenzy bears little sign of aging.' (p. 26). I'd just like to ask our readers a couple of questions. Please, what does 'artifacts' refer to here? And can anyone provide brief details of the 'anamorphic wide-screen transfer' mentioned? (The film itself was not, of course, shot with an anamorphic lens.)

April 2 - 2002
On March 27, above, Bill Krohn noted the possibility that Hitchcock had filmed different versions of the nude-painting scene in Blackmail (silent and sound versions) with a view to meeting censorship objections if the need arose. Bill has now sent along an explanation of what he meant when he said that this was a pointer to something Hitchcock would do later in Hollywood. (I had speculated that Bill was referring to shooting alternative endings for films like Strangers on a Train and Vertigo.) He writes: 'Actually, I was thinking of alternative takes, of which alternative endings (three on Strangers) are a special case. In Saboteur [AH] shot scenes with two different sets of dialogue in case the censors objected. (A version of Cummings' big speech to the villain was shot that included "We'll fight just as dirty as you if we have to" but not used.) In Strangers he shot [Guy's] hesitation at the door of Bruno Sr.'s bedroom two ways; the one that was not used added a camera move in to CU to underline the fact that [Guy] was considering going through with it just to get Bruno off his back. In Rear Window this practice had become baroque, expanding to include all sorts of possibilities to try in the editing room, not necessarily morally contrasted (do we pan down to follow the alarm clock when it falls or hold steady while it drops out of frame, etc.). As late as Torn Curtain, two versions of the scene at the blackboard were shot, one of which made Newman look smarter and less of a pure thief than the other. AH used the one that made him look dumber, and more of a thief. By the time of Frenzy this interesting obsessional symptom had shrunk to tv version/feature version for certain shots, which is a return to the earlier (Saboteur) "one for me, one for the censor" practice. My question lately has been: When did it start? Did the need to allow for 2 different endings on Suspicion (made just before Saboteur) initiate the practice of "2-headed takes"? (Not a common practice, by the way. We can't be sure about the early American films because we don't have continuity reports for anything before Saboteur.) Or did it start in England? It seemed to me that the two different ways he framed the nude drawing in Blackmail might indicate that it did start there, and very early, too.' Okay, thanks as always, Bill. Now, someone else I need to thank is Richard Valley, publisher and editor of 'Scarlet Street', who has mailed me his magazine's latest issue (#44) - excellent as usual. Included in this issue is a long appreciation of the various Fantomas movies (starting of course with Louis Feuillade's famous Les Vampires [1915] and Judex [1917]) and their pulp-novel origins in the work of co-authors Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain. The article is by David Kalat, who writes (p. 57): 'Any self-respecting fan of movie thrillers needs to know the name Feuillade, for he is the true granddaddy of the suspense film, and a direct source of influence on Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, and everyone else of consequence.' (There's more information on the 'Scarlet Street' website: scarletstreetmagazine.)

April 1 - 2002
Proper entry tomorrow. I've just uploaded a whole lot of photos - mainly of Hitchcock locations - to our Yahoo Group. Many thanks to Nandor Bokor, Matthew Gear, Mark Eyers, and Alain Kerzoncuf, who provided (most of) them. KM.

March 27 - 2002
(late) Bill Krohn, too, has looked at the newly available video (and DVD) of the silent Blackmail, and been hugely impressed. And also saddened. 'This is the last time I will see a Hitchcock film - and a major one at that - for the first time', he says in an email. (I just wish I could tell him that a print of The Mountain Eagle had turned up!) As always, Bill has some keen observations to offer. Here are some of them. 'The first thing one notices when watching the two versions back to back is the enormous amount of detail conveyed by sound that is missing without it. Little things like Tracy whistling "The Best Things in Life Are Free" after finishing his breakfast (I wonder if anyone thought to pay for the rights!), or big ones like the exchange between Alice and Frank after she confesses at the end: "I did it." "I know." "No you don't. He tried to ... I was defending myself. I didn't know what I was doing", etc. All that is reduced to one card in the silent version - "I did it" - and Frank's expression suggests he's hearing something he didn't know [previously]. [So] the scene is actually played differently in this case, but at other points the difference between [the] sound and silent [versions] lies in the greater free rein given to interpretation by the audience when confronted with just an image. [...] Take the scene where Tracy "realizes" he can't pay for the cigar, seen from the couple's pov. In the sound version we hear his excuses ("how embarrassing ..."I could've sworn"), making the scene more plausible; in the silent version, we see what he's doing and anticipate what's coming - the turn to the camera, "Would you mind paying for this?" - in a more nightmarish, dreamlike way because the plausible dialogue touches are absent: without those lines to anchor it in reality (ie convention), his pantomime takes place in another dimension. Lastly, I noticed while quickly scanning the sound version that the nude woman Alice "draws" with the Artist guiding her hand is out of frame in the silent version, although we see it later. Assuming that this is not a flaw in the print, which does not seem to be the case, and bearing in mind [Charles] Barr's brilliant hypothesis that AH was shooting everything twice to be able to end up with two negatives, might this not also be a difference in staging with the censor in mind, of exactly the kind he was to do later in the US? [Editor's note: Bill seems to be thinking here of how, for example, Hitchcock shot two endings of Strangers on a Train and Vertigo, in both cases with a view to the fact that different countries have different notions of what is permissable or tolerable.] [...] None of this means that one version [of Blackmail] is better than the other - both are masterpieces, and seeing how that was achieved makes them all the more staggering. There is a lot to be learned about AH's early and later filmmaking by studying this remarkable "double" film.'

March 26 - 2002
(late) Notice how I imply above that the worldly artist Crewe in Blackmail is, in some ways, the equivalent of Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt. Equally, he is a successor to the admittedly not-as-worldly character played by Ivor Novello in The Lodger. To use the apt observation of Professor Richard Allen, these are all dandy-figures (as in their ways are those later psychopaths, Bruno of the distinctive ties in Strangers on a Train, Bob Rusk with his personalised tie-pin in Frenzy, and the again not-as-worldly, but nonetheless fastidious, Norman Bates in Psycho). In Crewe's case, Hitchcock no more than hints at his dark proclivities (e.g., the very fact that the blackmailer Tracy has something on him suggests that he makes a regular practice of seducing his young models). But assuming that the portrait of the grotesque pointing jester is his own work, perhaps we may infer that, like Uncle Charlie, he too sees the world as a rotten place, 'a foul sty', and that he uses his 'vision' to somehow justify his crimes - though equally probable is that his crimes contribute to his 'vision'. Several of these characters are in fact 'Dorian Gray' figures whose outward aspect is fair (and even 'eternally young') but who are inwardly corrupt and hideous. (Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', which Hitchcock read several times, is clearly a seminal influence on his work.) This isn't to say that the films aren't ambivalent about the truth of such a vision - they are. The 'misogynist' Schopenhauer, whom I mentioned above, saw the world as governed by a life-force that is also a death-force, and forever corrupted by Original Sin, and that may be the most suitable way of understanding Hitchcock's own reading of how things are. As for the 'misogyny' of Hitchcock's films, that too is tempered by ambivalence. Sure, the women in his films are prey to their concupiscence at least as much as the men: what else is 'innocent' Charlie's pursuit of the truth about her uncle in Shadow of a Doubt if not an unconscious seeking of sexual 'knowledge'? (Thus it corresponds to Daisy's strange fascination with the new boarder in The Lodger - which is only piqued when she hears that he 'isn't one for the ladies'! - and to Alice's assignation with the worldly Crewe in Blackmail.) But the men in these films are no less culpable, and that is surely the point of this particular film whose title is Blackmail (cf William Blake's 'London' with its symbolic reference to 'How the chimney-sweeper's cry/ Every blackening church appals'), whose heroine Alice White seeks to erase her name on an incriminating picture with black paint, yet whose own crimes - such as they are - are only part of a tapestry of crime perpetrated by Crewe, Tracy, Frank, and others. Arguably, even the middle-class complacency of Alice's parents, no less than the near-slum conditions of Whitechapel (is it?), seen at the start of the film, are part of the general 'blackening' - which the film depicts in its uniquely good-humoured way.

March 25 - 2002
More tonight on the silent Blackmail. (But first, let me urge: do think about subscribing, free of charge, to membership of our new, interactive Yahoo Group where I hope that yours truly and others - especially others - will be able to exchange information about our admired Hitch and the world of film. I haven't attempted to publicise the Group yet outside of this website, because I'd like it to build on a core of dedicated members/participants and their enthusiasms. For what it's worth, I'll try to find time in the next 24 hours or so to put up three or four Hitch-related photos in the Pictures album.) Okay. The first thing I want to say about the previous entry on the silent Blackmail concerns the transition I mentioned from Alice, fretting about the blackmailer Tracy (whom she and boyfriend Frank have set up - blackmailed - into taking the rap for her own crime of murder), to a shot of the Reading Room at the British Museum. Think about that transition for a moment. I don't suppose it's accidental on Hitchcock's part that this particular bit of mise-en-scène anticipates so exactly the moment in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) where another young woman, Charlie, first learns the truth - and the implications - about how her namesake Uncle Charlie is a murderer. Young Charlie, you'll recall, is herself in a library reading-room, and as the camera cranes up and away from her the effect is to establish her own 'fallen' condition: her complicity in a knowledge of the world's estate which Uncle Charlie, rightly or wrongly, characterises as 'a foul sty'. (I'm not sure, by the way, whether 'sty' in this context doesn't refer to both a pigsty and an inflammation of the eyelid.) Many years ago I wrote to critic Robin Wood about this scene, citing a passage from Kierkegaard and the scene itself as a very specific reference by Hitchcock to Original Sin. (Wood didn't reply - I think my brash tone may have offended him. Which is understandable. Mea culpa!) Now let's come back to Blackmail. Clearly, that is another Hitchcock film, like the earlier The Ring (1927), which is very much about Original Sin. The recurring image of the sardonic jester - he of the decaying and missing teeth - pointing directly at the audience, should be enough to establish that much. But so, too, should the premise taken from Charles Bennett's original play (suitably starring onstage the worldly Tallulah Bankhead) where the events of the unfolding drama are all propelled by the initial tiff between Alice and Frank and the former's less-than-innocent encouragement of the dashing artist, Crewe, who is so different in temperament from the more dogged Frank. (Here are also the seeds of many later Hitchcock thrillers that begin with a state of boredom, a conceit that Hitchcock took from adventure writers like John Buchan but whose underlying psychology has perhaps best and most comprehensively been accounted for by the philosopher Schopenhauer - who, an atheist himself, often used the metaphor of Original Sin to characterise how the world goes. Interestingly, Schopenhauer was also, in his writings at least, a notorious misogynist.) That will do for tonight - more later.

March 20 - 2002
Here's one, at least, of the two announcements I said yesterday I'd be making here. Al Chafin's ever-expanding Hitchcock memorabilia site (Hitch2001) is now offering for sale VHS and DVD copies of the silent version of Blackmail (1929) - and what a fine film is is! Tonight I watched the tape that Al sent me, and was enthralled. Like the sound Blackmail - from which it differs in small but significant ways (elaborated by Charles Barr in an article for 'Sight and Sound' in the 1980s, and in his book 'English Hitchcock') - the silent Blackmail is a masterpiece. I'm not going to review it here but shall simply make a few, almost random comments. For a start, I was struck by how this is the only Hitchcock film besides Juno and the Paycock (1930) and Psycho (1960) to feature a major scene set in a 'parlour'! In this case, the parlour is the one adjoining the London tobacconist's shop run by the parents of Alice White (Anny Ondra). Outside, brilliant morning sunlight provides an ironic contrast to both the sordid events of the previous evening and the intense 'crucible' (pressure-cooker) situation building in the parlour once the blackmailer Tracy (Donald Cathrop) takes it over, cocky with his knowledge of Alice's guilt. The scene is a tour de force, anticipating the brilliant 'Mousetrap' episode in Murder! (1930) where a killer is unmasked in a sudden reversal of his earlier confidence. Of course, Tracy is only a blackmailer, but the film has already shown that it can make us feel at least momentary sympathy for a villain: there's one shot in the studio of the artist Crewe (Cyril Ritchard), as he waits languidly for Alice to change into the fluffy dress in which he intends to paint her - and then seduce her - that anticipates the moment in Psycho where a hunch-shouldered Norman waits in long-shot while Marion is undressing to take a shower ... Both moments are based on sexual frustration and sexual anticipation, and invoke ambivalent feelings in the viewer. Then there's the superb use in Blackmail of the recurring image of a pointing jester that prefigures the scene in The Birds (1963) where an accusatory mother tells the camera, 'I think you're the cause of all this!' In other ways, too, Hitchcock is already able to make us sense a parallel with our own situation, as in the restaurant scene where Frank (John Longden) tells Alice that the movie they're going to see is about Scotland Yard - just like Blackmail itself! But finally the film's emphasis is on the couple (or what critics would later describe as Hollywood cinema's making of the couple). Alice's despondency and feelings of guilt, not so much for her accidental murder of Crewe as for her and Frank's letting Tracy take the blame, are powerfully established: note the transition from a close-up of her face to an image of the circular Reading Room in the British Museum (where Tracy is on the run) which seems to literally envelop her. After Tracy's death she tries to confess everything to a fatherly senior policeman at Scotland Yard but ends up making the confession to Frank alone. It's like the ironic equivalent of a marriage vow or - more exactly - the bonding that follows the wedding night. The film ends with a joke about how 'lady detectives' may one day work at Scotland Yard - another ironic moment. As countless later Hitchcock films will imply, a 'feminine principle', where compassion for all humankind is given free rein, remains an anomaly in this fallen world of ours.

March 19 - 2002
Tomorrow, I'll have a couple of announcements to make here, including about how - at last! - a video of the silent version of Blackmail (1929) has become available. But for today, let me just quote from some emails sent to me by Bill Krohn prompted by yesterday's "Editor's Day" item on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Here's the first: 'Thankee, Ken - There's a line [in 'Hitchcock at Work'] on how MacPhail and AH worked out the plot that refers to a pattern that looks like the work of Fate, or words to that effect, bringing everyone together at the Albert Hall. It is so obviously the subject of the film - Godard, mentioning the lyrics to "Que sera, sera", says: "This time, like it or not, it's in the text!"' Bill continues: 'I've been helping a friend put together a melodrama series lately, and it's made me think about how important melodrama is to AH's stories - I Confess is classic melodrama, in the stage version and even more in the film. In fact, that interweaving of many human destinies, with coincidence and other devices, is one reason AH had little truck with the critics he called "the plausibilists." Despite the surface realism, which is very much part of the game, his art is shot through with melodramatic devices from the start, and much of the meaning inheres in his use of them.' And Bill adds: 'It's a commonplace that AH focuses everything thru one character, which would be Jo [in The Man Who Knew Too Much], but the melodramatic tendency cuts in the opposite direction: everyone's connected, everyone's part of a huge cosmic "ballet." That larger pattern of interconnection - [in the case of I Confess] Father Michael, the murderer, the murderer's wife, Michael's ex-girlfriend, her rich husband, the prosecutor etc. - keeps the films from being as subjective and solipsistic as they are often thought to be.'

March 18 - 2002
I know that comparisons are odious, but in my forthcoming extended book review in 'The MacGuffin', I have chosen to do exactly that by comparing and contrasting Bill Krohn's 'Hitchcock at Work' (Phaidon) with Steven DeRosa's 'Writing With Hitchcock' (Faber). Here now is a further passage from the review, related to the ones quoted above (March 12, 13), where DeRosa (cf his analysis of The Trouble With Harry) again seems to me to ignore a film's most fundamental level. In The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), we're told, 'it is by pure chance that Jo (and later Ben) arrives at the site of the assassination attempt' (p. 279). In basic story terms, that's true enough: Jo and Ben head for the Albert Hall simply because they need to contact the senior policeman, Mr Buchanan, who is attending a diplomatic affair there. But of course their son has been kidnapped by the would-be assassins to silence them - all along, both have 'known too much' about the planned killing, if not its intended victim. (FOOTNOTE) Besides, there is something very satisfying about the seemingly fortuitous way everything comes together like this. Given the London setting, there's a Dickensian sense of the power of melodrama to touch the ineffable - Hitchcock's (and Angus MacPhail's) very next film, The Wrong Man (1957), would capitalise on just such a sense (and its psychological/epistemological mechanisms).
(FOOTNOTE) Moreover, Hitchcock has been careful to introduce into his film a thematic underpinning (what Krohn calls a 'fatalistic tinge, which is reversed in the last scene' - p. 178) that gives a further dimension again. The matter of 'knowing too much' becomes finally the already-cited question informing so many Hitchcock endings: what belongs to Man and what to God? In other words, in what sense, if any, can we talk of Free Will?
(FOOTNOTE) Here are the contents of the three footnotes to this passage. In the first, I write: 'Hitchcock and Hayes and MacPhail could easily have had [Jo and Ben] guess [the assassination victim] by reading a newpaper ("Important Dignitary Visits London Today"). But as Hitchcock once said, "[Explanations are] the easiest part, so why bother?"' In the second footnote, I refer the reader to 'MacGuffin' #20, where I quote Dickens's biographer, John Forster, on the satisfaction Dickens always felt in contemplating how our lives are constantly and invisibly connected in a myriad of ways. And I add that this is a case of Kant and Schopenhauer meeting Blake and Dickens! In the third footnote, I write: 'Cf Krohn, p. 178: Jo's singing of "Que sera, sera" at the embassy "becomes, in spite of the words, an expression of human will triumphing over adversity" - but thereby (I would add) only fulfilling an even greater "Will"?'

March 13 - 2002
(late) Yesterday we printed Bill Krohn's 'Original Sin' interpretation of the lyrics of the hymn heard in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). In a further excerpt from a review of books by Krohn and Steven DeRosa, in the next 'MacGuffin' (out this month), we find a different reading ... 'The hymn', [DeRosa] says, 'warns of the greater stakes in the two musical sequences to follow at the Albert Hall and at the embassy.' (p. 277) He continues: 'The first verse, growing darker with earthquakes and the sun hiding in shame, is a foreshadowing of the Albert Hall sequence and its ... "Storm Cloud Cantata." The second verse foretells Mrs Drayton's rebellion against her husband at the embassy - "Let sin no more my soul enslave/ Break now the tyrant's chain" - when she decides to help Ben escape with Hank and stands up to Drayton, saying, "You've got to let the boy go!"' It needs only brief reflection to see that these two readings are not incompatible. The childless Draytons are like a 'shadow' version of the McKennas, and both couples are representative after their fashion of how things may go for us in this not exactly best of all possible worlds. (Cf, say, the situation in I Confess, with its two socially-contrasted couples, the Grandforts and the Kellers: note that Mrs Keller finally stands up against her by-now corrupt husband in a way that foreshadows Mrs Drayton's protest in the later film.) Accordingly, Mr Drayton may finally 'represent' the Original Sin in all of us, which is consistent, I think, with what I suggested above about how a Hitchcock film may lead the viewer to a decisive moment (the culmination of several in each film) where essential matters become focussed, offering us finally at least a glimpse of what belongs to Man and what to God. Note, however, that Krohn's reading is fundamental, DeRosa's less so. (In studying History, one is taught to distinguish between underlying and immediate causes, and something like that distinction seems to apply here.) You could jettison DeRosa's structural reading without greatly affecting the film's meaning, but Krohn's reading has a bedrock quality. I would add that Krohn's reading proceeds from the literal text (and texture) of the film, whereas DeRosa's looks more opportunistic and even to be 'read into' the film. On the whole, these distinctions seem to me to hold for the authors' respective books generally.' (Again, comments from our readers are invited.)

March 12 - 2002
A new issue of 'The MacGuffin' really is coming out this month, or early next month. (You wouldn't believe how many aspects of publication have to be attended to!) Much of the issue consists of a long review of Bill Krohn's 'Hitchcock at Work' which is compared more than favourably with Steven DeRosa's - not negligible, by any means - 'Writing With Hitchcock'. Tonight and tomorrow, I'd like to print here an excerpt from the review, dealing with how both those authors treat an aspect of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). (The excerpt is a draft version only.) Here it is:
Especially interesting are both authors' comments on the so-called 'Portents' hymn heard in The Man Who Knew Too Much, sung by the congregation at the Ambrose Chapel. In this matter, prima facie DeRosa has delved more deeply. Krohn tells us (p. 178) that the hymn 'seems to have been written specially for the film to avoid paying royalties for an existing hymn' - but DeRosa says (p. 277) that the lyrics 'appear to date back to 1791 from a volume entitled Psalms and Hymns of Magdalene Church'. Consistent with the tentative phrasing used by both authors here, they even quote the lyrics slightly differently! Not only that, but - fascinatingly - they offer quite divergent interpretations. Here are the lyrics (as given by Krohn):

From whence these portents around

That heaven and earth amaze?

Wherefore do earthquakes cleave the ground?

Why hides the sun in shame?

Let sin no more my soul enslave

Break now the tyrants' chain.

Oh save me whom thou canst to save,

Nor bleed nor die in vain.

And here is Krohn's reading: 'The person uttering these words, who is present at the Crucifixion, knows that the earthquakes and darkness are portents of his salvation. In the second verse he prays to the dying Christ to free him from the tyrant, Original Sin.' This sounds incontestable (in which case, note that the plural construction of the line, 'Break now the tyrants' chain' needs altering - which is in fact how DeRosa renders it). Such a reading goes with the arguable tendency of many Hitchcock films, including this one, to lead the viewer to a point where he/she is offered (limited) redemption - that is, if the viewer is ready for it ... Appearing to ignore - or overlook - this reading, DeRosa interprets the role of the hymn differently. (Continued tomorrow. Comments invited.)

March 11 - 2002
My thanks to a couple of recent correspondents. Dr Alain Kerzoncuf tells me that Oskar Sala, co-inventor (with Remi Gassman) of the 'trautonium' that produced the electronic sounds heard in The Birds (1963), has died in Berlin, aged 91. And Dennis Perry, who teaches English at Brigham Young University, Utah, and whose book on Hitchcock and Poe will be published next year, wrote to share a surprise he had recently when watching an episode of '77 Sunset Strip', the long-running TV series about a firm of private eyes (205 episodes, from 1958-1963). 'I saw an early episode [of the series] on a nostalgia channel that was a variation on Dial M for Murder', writes Dennis. 'Julie (Creature from the Black Lagoon) Adams played Margot Wendice [the Grace Kelly character in Hitchcock's film] and Richard ('The Big Valley') Long played Tony [played in the film by Ray Milland]. Typically 1950s TV, there is no adultery - Tony simply finds an old, pre-marriage love letter from Jeff Spencer (one of the private eyes) and mistakes it for a current affair and so plans to kill his wife. She ends up killing her attacker with a gun shot and Tony doctors up the crime scene à la film and play. But then Margot and Jeff are arrested for conspiracy. The other detective figures out what probably happened, and, like Mark Halliday [Robert Cummings] in the film, proposes that Tony confess. The changeroo comes when Tony's guilt is sealed as the police and the PIs wait for Margot to find the key on the stair - which she doesn't, proving her innocence. Tony makes a dash for the door where Kookie Burns is standing guard and lip syncs, "Ehhh - what's up, Doc?" The episode was called "The Fifth Stair" and credit is given to [Frederick] Knott in terms of "based on a play by" (it is not named). I was shocked and amused by the way the whole thing was translated into the TV language of regular weekly detective show, with its swanky sax backgrounds, etc. Shows how popular the play was. The set was similar to the Hitchcock film - but no attempt [was made] to copy Hitchcock's shots. (In fact the murderer is driven right up to the apartments in a taxi - now that's realism!!)'

March 5 - 2002
[Anthony Lee Moral today writes for us about "The Man behind Marnie".]

When I started research for 'Hitchcock and the making of Marnie', I began at the beginning with the man who wrote the book, Winston Graham. I had no idea if Graham was still alive, but with the help of the Royal Society of Literature where Graham was a fellow, I was delighted to find that he was alive and well and living in Sussex. At first a telephone call, and then a meeting, set me on the road to unravel the secrets behind the elusive figure of Marnie.

As I drove to Sussex to meet with Graham, I wondered what kind of mind could have created that of a frigid, man-hating kleptomaniac who releases her sexual inhibitions by riding horses? The man who I met was 90 years old, very genteel and was the unlikely source behind a story of sadomasochism and marital rape. He was born in Lancashire in 1910, and his story-telling prowess developed at school where he read aloud or invented stories for a coterie of boys. When Graham was 14, his family moved to Perranporth, Cornwall, and the county formed the inspiration for many of his stories, which were novels of suspense rather than thrillers, six of which were translated into feature films. He became most famous for his 'Poldark' series which was adapted by the BBC. Graham told me that he conceived the character of Marnie from a combination of two women he knew in Cornwall. The first was a tall, good-looking young woman named Christine, who took care of their youngest child when Graham and his wife were in London. 'She seemed alright except that she was constantly taking baths, about three a day usually,' Graham remembers, 'and she was in constant communication with her mother. The second woman was a young mother of three children who came down to Cornwall with other evacuees during the war. Her husband was at sea, and she decided that doing her part for the country was offering herself to any soldier that happened to take a fancy to her. Graham observes: 'She looked the absolute epitome of perfect behavior. She used to walk along the road with her legs curiously together all the time, and nothing could suggest that she would ever part them. Apparently, if the soldier wanted and knew about her, he’d come to the window and tap. She had her youngest child with her in bed and she’d take the child out and put him in a cold bedroom next door. Then she’d open the window and let the soldier in.'

The incident had further repercussions. After the war, the youngest child began to steal, and it seemed curious to Graham whether it was a consequence of the mother’s deprivation. He derived the idea for Marnie's stealing from this real-life event, together with an article he had read in the 'Sunday Express' about a girl who kept stealing from her employees and reappearing in various guises: 'She took jobs in restaurants or theatres and absconded with about £500 each time.'

'I don’t think I necessarily approved of what Marnie did, but every author worth his name must have some feeling of sympathy for the person he is writing about, particularly when writing in the first person,' claims Graham. 'I may be an instinctive feminist, but I think women on the whole have had a pretty rough deal. I like women, I like their company: apart from anything else, I like to take them out to dinner. I’ve had a lucky relationship with women, they’ve always been charming, intelligent and nice. If a feminist slant was in the book, it was instinctive rather than purposeful.'

Graham himself had never been in psychiatry, so in preparation he read standard books on psychology such as 'Deep Analysis'. He also consulted a Home Office pathologist-friend on the habits of women thieves. With the psychology and neuroses of Marnie firmly imbibed, Graham wrote the book over a relatively short period of 14 months. All of his novels were handwritten in journals which the author then had transcribed.

'Marnie' was published in the United States at the beginning of 1961. When Graham returned to England, he heard from his agent that a Hollywood director was interested in buying the film rights for his novel. Graham was also urged to double the asking price to $50,000. Of course, Graham was delighted when he heard six weeks later that it was Alfred Hitchcock, the famed Master of Suspense, who was planning to make a motion picture from his novel. A number of Graham’s novels, especially his earlier works, had 'Hitchcockian' elements in them, namely the explosion of the unusual upon the commonplace. Graham's insight into women and thorough preparation later encouraged one New York female critic to proclaim that 'Marnie' was the best book about a woman written by a man.

March 4 - 2002
Editor's note. Who better than someone trained in zoology as well as psychology - though there can't be many of them! - to write a book on Hitchcock's great, if controversial, Marnie? Anthony Lee Moral fits the bill perfectly, and I've given him extra space for two "(Guest) Editor's Day" pieces this week on his forthcoming book from Manchester University Press and Scarecrow Press. Hell, maybe we'll now get a definitive explanation of the film's reference to flatid bugs! Tony Moral's first entry here is called, after his book, "The making of Marnie".]

I first watched Marnie ten years ago as an undergraduate in Zoology and Psychology, and Hitchcock’s study of 'two very interesting human specimens' made a tremendous impression on me. When I started reading about the film I was struck by the conflicting production histories. Why did Donald Spoto’s account so drastically differ from John Russell Taylor’s? Were the back-projection and the painted backdrops part of Hitchcock’s intention to create the feeling of a disordered psyche as Robin Wood suggests? Or were they sloppy aberrations, proof of Hitchcock’s laziness and personal disinterest in the project after Tippi Hedren rebuffed him, as Spoto claims? Indeed, that the film’s so called deficiencies are attributable in part to behind-the-scenes tensions during its making has passed into movie legend. In 1999, my career in documentary television led to a two year contract with 'National Geographic', thus allowing me to relocate to California and in my spare time conduct research for the book I had long wanted to write - the truth about Marnie.

Marnie’s tumultuous production was fortuitous in one respect - three top screenwriters worked on the project at some stage during the three years it took to adapt the screenplay from Winston Graham’s book. I had the pleasure of interviewing all of them - Joseph Stefano, Evan Hunter and Jay Presson Allen - who all spoke of Hitchcock’s genius and mastery of cinematic grammar. Hitchcock had said to Truffaut he wanted to make the film because of the fetish idea, and implicitly, the controversial rape scene. Joseph Stefano, screenwriter of Psycho, was in analysis himself when he wrote the original treatment for Marnie and had knowledge of the New York sadomasochistic art scene. After each week’s therapy session, Stefano would travel to Hitchcock’s office and his confessions intrigued the director.

Other important collaborators who spoke to me about their work for Hitchcock were production designer Robert Boyle, unit manager Hilton Green, and storyboard artist Harold Michaelson. Together they helped me uncover the truth about those pesky back projections and that ship which Hitchcock once referred to as 'A rotten piece of set painting'. Boyle spoke of Hitchcock as a subjective director who was most interested in feelings and that Marnie was the greatest testament to that.

The greatest controversy surrounding the production of Marnie lies in Hitchcock’s relationship with Tippi Hedren, who was engaged to her agent Noel Marshall at the time. Tippi Hedren spoke frankly about her dichotomous feelings towards Hitchcock, a man who was both her director and drama coach. During the filming, Hitchcock tried to control Tippi Hedren’s life on and off the set, which led to their eventual bust-up. Supporting actress Diane Baker speaks of the director’s ability to create a mood that allowed him to maintain control over his actors. Jay Presson Allen was one woman who became especially close to Hitchcock: 'He always liked women who were assertive, but at the same time, I think there was no question in his mind that he thought in subtle ways he could control their assertiveness.' Throughout his life and career, Hitchcock had many female friends and enjoyed the company of women. Wardrobe mistress Rita Riggs and hairstylist Virginia Darcy mention his generosity and humour. As well as the interviews I conducted, Hitchcock’s production files held at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills formed the cornerstone for my research. Patricia Hitchcock graciously allowed me to quote extensively from them, including unpublished material from the Hitchcock-Truffaut interview. These and the taped Marnie story conferences reveal how Hitchcock intended the film to be a showcase for one of his most psychologically believable characters . I also detail why Marnie was rejected by critics at the time of release but was later rediscovered by artists, including the recent stage adaptation by Sean O’Connor and work by contemporary artist Stan Douglas.

Rather than being a brutal misogynist as popularised by Donald Spoto in his controversial biography 'The Dark Side of Genius', I propose that Hitchcock was deeply empathic to feminine feeling, a consequence of the surfacing of his own femininity. His preoccupation with sexual relationships evolved into a ruthless examination of gender expectations that lead to violence against women in our society. My book shows how Hitchcock’s empathy with the Marnie character had its roots in his own upbringing in Victorian London and the abjection of women in society.

['Hitchcock and the making of Marnie' will be published on August 28th 2002 by Manchester University Press in the UK and Scarecrow Press in the USA.]

February 26 - 2002
Tonight I was mainly going to prattle about how the above note on Hitchcock's playing with notions of interchangability, deceptive appearances, things turning into their opposites, 'eternal return', and the action of the life-force generally, confirms my assertion that he was a Schopenhauerian/Nietzschean. That's to say, Hitchcock, too, had seen to the bottom of things, at least in this phenomenal worlds of ours (as opposed to the vaster noumenal world). But, as so often, a note from Bill Krohn has opened up a much more interesting box of spiders! Bill read yesterday's entry here, and responded as follows. 'I was struck by the triad Suspicion-Shadow of a Doubt-Strangers on a Train [with their respective signature-tunes] "Vienna Blood", "The Merry Widow" (both descriptive titles) and "The Strawberry Blonde", which as you say has a descriptive lyric linked to the merry-go-round. The other thing is the erotic-eerie-melancholy tonality of these waltzes in the context of tales of murder and suspicion/fear. The irony of gay music/dark doings has become a cliche, like much else that Hitchcock did, but I'd say from the progression (1944-50) that for about five years he was really exploring something with this motif.' Bill added: 'Odd cross-reference: I believe [James] Cagney was considered by the Warner hierarchy for Bruno's Dad, when it was looking like a substantial part - or [even to play] Bruno! We'll probably never know which.' I cheekily replied: 'On the Cagney thing, if true, I bet it was to play Bruno. After all, he'd just sat in Ma's lap in [Raoul Walsh's!] White Heat [1949] before departing the (top of the) world with one last spectacular gesture - prefiguring Bruno's exit in Strangers [the collapsing merry-go-round].' The other thought I had on all of this was that once again it shows Hitchcock's obsession with ensuring that literally everything in his films is fully functional and fully relevant. He saw his films as like a dam whose every breach in every wall must be plugged lest audience emotion escape and be dissipated. There are typically no 'outs' in a Hitchcock film!

February 25 - 2002
Just my whimsy? The merry-go-round (carousel) music we hear in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) turns out to be about another type of whirligig, that of lovers. The tune is the popular 'Strawberry Blonde' (or 'The Band Played On'), and it features in the film of that name made by Raoul Walsh in 1941 - in which a turn-of-the-century dentist (James Cagney) wonders if he married the right girl. So popular was the tune and its lyrics that the film reprises it after the end-credits for the audience to sing along! The lyrics are apt ('For Casey would dance with a strawberry blonde/ And the band played on'), especially when we notice that in the end 'Casey' appears to lose the blonde to a rival named 'Biff Grimes'. (The film itself was sufficiently popular to be remade by Walsh in 1948 as One Sunday Afternoon, the title under which it was originally filmed in 1933 - obviously another instance of something going round and round and coming full circle!) Also, when Strangers on a Train was being made, the celebrated Max Ophuls film, La Ronde (1950), had just been released - a film whose classic subject, and its very title, refer to a circle of infidelities in turn-of-the-century Vienna! And, speaking of things French, let's note that the use of Francis Poulenc's composition 'Perpetual Movement', Number 1, in Hitchcock's Rope (1948) is hardly fortuitous: it's a composition for piano by a gay composer which is played in the film by a gay pianist (Farley Granger) who, with his partner (John Dall), find themselves trapped in a closed circle of evil, a folie à deux, while life goes on around them, as the film's final moments remind us. In Rope, then, life's 'perpetual movement' is the equivalent of 'the band played on' in the lyrics of 'Strawberry Blonde' (and the paradigm idea of worlds-within-worlds, or of a temporarily closed, hothouse world existing within a less heated, saner one, is the basic paradigm of any number of Hitchcock melodramas from The Mountain Eagle, The Lodger, and DownhilltoThe Wrong Man, Vertigo, Psycho, and Marnie). Coming back to Strangers on a Train, let's remember that Hitchcock in another way had invested a lot of thought (and money to buy the rights) in the merry-go-round climax: as Richard Valley first pointed out, it comes from the novel 'The Moving Toyshop' (1946) by English comedy-mystery writer 'Edmund Crispin' (Robert Bruce Montgomery). (The novel's title refers to how the toyshop in question appears to shift mysteriously from one end of town to the other: clearly, once again nothing is static and everything is mutable - or portable!) And as in the film The Strawberry Blonde, the hero does shift allegiance from one woman to another, and marries the latter. But he in turn seems to be fancied by the gay villain, Bruno (who dies when the merry-go-round spins out of control and crashes). So in this film everything is also 'criss-cross', as another of its motifs has it. Nothing is quite what it seems, or lasting. The quote from Kipling glimpsed over an entrance to the Forest Hills tennis stadium - 'If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/ And treat those two impostors just the same ...' - has its own point to contribute. But then, as Hitchcock said of yet another (but related) motif in this film, 'Isn't it a fascinating design? You could study it forever.' More tomorrow (naturally!).

February 22 - 2002
Apologies to regular readers. I just haven't been able to write up "Editor's Day" this week. KM.

February 18 - 2002
Another potential 'Odd Spot' item. Getting it wrong! Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) is often said to contain 'The longest kiss in the history of cinema', but as Bill Krohn's 'Hitchcock at Work' (2000) points out, the scene in question, between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman on a balcony in Rio de Janeiro, 'is in fact a series of kisses which never exceed the three-second limit laid down by the Production Code. The shot, however, lasts two minutes forty seconds.' (p. 83) So is a recent book, 'Film Facts' (2001), by Patrick Robertson, correct in claiming the longest on-screen kiss to be that between Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in Norman Jewison's The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), lasting 55 seconds? Not according to Leonard Maltin. Have a look at his 'Movie & Video Guide' (any edition). There, the entry on Lewis Seiler's You're in the Army Now (1941) says that the kiss between Regis Toomey and Jane Wyman, 'clocked at 3 min., 5 sec', is 'the longest kiss ... in screen history'. So where were the policemen from the Production Code while this was going on? We don't know, but we have a feeling that Hitchcock saw the film (for what it's worth, he cast Toomey soon afterwards in Shadow of a Doubt and Spellbound), and stored the scene away in his memory until he could try to top it, in Notorious. And we suspect that people in Brazil are happy to think of Hitchcock's film as the one that has the longest kiss. Hence an event we saw reported in the press a few years ago (but which may be an annual event, for all we know). Brazilian authorities had just organised a 'Kissathon', with cars as prizes, surely inspired by Notorious. After 62 days, two couples were both announced winners!

February 13 - 2002
Promises! Promises! Further thoughts on Hitch and melodrama, Hitch and logic, Hitch and the nature of reality (little things like that) are deferred for today. Instead, I'm just going to throw together a few items that have turned up, and pass them on for the delight or bemusement (as the case may be) of my fellow Hitchcockians. Here's one, a piece of welcome news. The latest 'Hitchcock Annual', of 200+ pages and with a handsome new cover design, is now at the printer's and should be out within a month. I'm not sure if the subscription details printed at the foot of this page still apply. I'll check and report back. [Those details have now been revised, and are accurate - KM.] By the way, among the articles included is Richard Allen's definitive new study of The Lodger. Now here's an equally pleasing piece of news. Charles Barr's monograph on Vertigo for the BFI will be out soon. The author has put a lot of effort into coming up with fresh things to say about Hitch's great film. He tells me that he often wished, during the writing, that he had been given a more manageable and less written-about film! But this new publication, too, has a fine cover, which can be accessed via the Amazon.com website. Speaking of Vertigo ... If you are such a fan of this film that you fervently desire for your lounge-room wall (or workplace, perhaps?) an original 3-sheet poster for the film, featuring Saul Bass's design, and have roughly $US 4,000 to invest, here's your opportunity. Such a poster recently turned up in a private home in New York, and is being offered for sale here before (if necessary) going to public auction. The owner is Patrick Barrington, who lives in the Albany area, and whose email address is Decks44444@aol.com. The above-named figure is about what he expects to be offered, and he can send you a photo of the poster if you like. He has given me this further information: '[The] poster is in near mint condition. with no rips, tears, scuffs or fading; it does have several (maybe 10) very small staple holes in the border. This poster has been viewed by two gallery owners and a professional linen-backer, and all have agreed that it is the finest example of a 3-sheet Vertigo any of them has personally seen. As I am very concerned that unfolding and refolding of this poster will cause fold damage, I am having the poster linen-backed (Funny Face productions, North Hampton, MA). With the exception of rolling the staple holes closed during the linen-backing process, this poster requires no restoration work.' Dear reader, hurry! To further encourage you to purchase, I should mention that I informed a 'MacGuffin' subscriber, Richard Ducar, about the poster's availability. Richard (whose own email address begins 'MisterVERTIGO@ ...') reported back as follows: 'The $4,000 price tag is ... just about right for anyone who really wants this size poster. Especially when you take into account that only 300 3-sheet and 6-sheet posters were ever printed for a film compared to over 1,000 copies of the more popular 1-sheet size.' Thanks, Rick.

February 12 - 2002
I see that there's a new book out by Stephen Toulmin, called (deceptively) 'Return to Reason'. The aging (he's 80 this year) mathematician and philosopher was born, like Alfred Hitchcock, in London. Unless I miss my guess, he might be a man after Hitchcock's own heart. For one thing, he's sceptical about the ability of professional philosophers (especially in the fields of morals and science) to deal adequately with, and even to grasp, the nature of reality and what is important. Such philosophers are, as a class, too narrow, arrogant, and merely self-referential, Toulmin says. Like the American thinker Richard Rorty, Toulmin would observe: 'There are lots of things you can't [rationally] justify that are important. Your mother, for example.' His new book repeats his earlier claims that, historically, Cartesian Dreams of Certainty and Method in the 17th century led to the rise in the 18th century of disciplinary specialists whose descendants now exert a tyranny over us. A reviewer of Toulmin's book, Steven Shapin, observes cogently that when rampant specialisation combines 'with the tyranny of abstraction, and when [methodological] elegance trumps pertinence, then things have got out of control'. And he adds: 'Toulmin is most consistent, sure-footed and passionate in his celebration of prudence, practical reasoning, and good old-fashioned English probabilism and empiricism.' [To read the full review, in 'The London Review of Books', click here: LRB | Steven Shapin: Dear Prudence.] As I say, that sounds like Hitchcock to me! As a matter of fact, Hitchcock's anti-Cartesian position may have pre-empted Toulmin's. Back in 1963, Hitchcock granted an interview to top Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci who observed that his films were 'illogical'. Hitchcock responded memorably, as follows: 'Agreed. But what is logic? There's nothing more stupid than logic. Logic is the result of reasoning, reasoning is the result of experience, and who's to say whether our experiences are the right ones? My dog doesn't understand music, Bach bores him to death. Does that mean my dog is illogical? It only means that his experiences are different from Bach's. I don't attach any importance to logic. None of my films is based on logic. Give me a [time-]bomb: and Descartes can go boil his head. There's nothing like a good bomb for creating suspense. Suspense, not [mere] surprise.' Incidentally, Hitchcock's dog's detestation of music by [the 17th-century composer] Bach is consistent with Hitchcock's own preference for [19th-century composer] Wagner! QED. But more tomorrow!

February 11 - 2002
I wrote on February 4, above, how the original 1902 melodrama on which I Confess is based showed 'a sense of human susceptibility spanning various walks of life from the clerical to the political, and a sense, too, of the interconnectedness of people's lives'. The 'gimmick' of the play (and the film) is of course the priest's bondage to the inviolable law of the confessional that forbids him to divulge the murderer's guilt, even when his own life is under threat. (Many stage and film melodramas of the time had a similar 'suffer in silence' motif: one that also involved a priest was the Australian novel, play and film, The Silence of Dean Maitland - actually twice filmed, in 1914 and 1934.) But the underlying themes described above are what provide the play with a certain 'dignity of significance' (to use Goethe's phrase), and they are themes, I have suggested, inherent in much melodrama. I would go further and suggest that they are also themes inherent in the nature of things generally - what Schopenhauer called the world's 'Will', and which he saw represented aesthetically by 'the Sublime' - though of course they need to be realised (in all senses of that term) by the individual artist and the individual work before they can be fully effective in an artistic sense. Hitchcock, I have further suggested, repeatedly achieved exactly that, and was able to do it almost 'with his eyes closed'. In other words, he thoroughly understood the respective natures of the forms (e.g., melodrama), genres (e.g., crime and/or suspense thriller), and mediums in which he worked, and the inter-connectedness of them all - where 'mediums' includes the ubiquitous, or immanent, Will itself. Big claims, but ones that can be demonstrated, I think. For a start, the credits sequences of any number of his films (Spellbound and The Birds, for two) are perfect analogues of Will and mutability. So, too, are many of the films themselves (e.g., The Trouble With Harry and Marnie). Apropos Marnie, compare Adrian Martin's comparison (January 15, above) of it with some of Alain Resnais's work, itself a form of melodrama once likened by critic Jean Domarchi to the working of 'an anonymous and abstract force that strikes where it likes ... and whose will cannot be determined in advance.' Further, when Hitchcock in such undervalued films as The Paradine Case, Rope, Under Capricorn, and Stage Fright seeks to show the inter-connectedness in each case of the film's characters (however much those characters may chose to deny it) and how, finally, we're all 'merely players', he is effectively reminding us that we're all subservient to Will (which is what Schopenhauer taught). I believe that is how Hitchcock saw himself - as the director of a (melo)drama, not of life itself - but who thereby 'came to life' (compare Thornhill's line in North by Northwest, 'I never felt more alive!'). Interviewed by Tom Synder on the 'Tomorrow Show' in 1973, Hitchcock was clearly excited to have become recognised (quite literally) around the world not because of publicists' ballyhoo but from 'doing my job' ( a modest construction that echoes the 'merely players' idea). Most importantly, by knowing his field of crime and suspense melodrama so well, Hitchcock was able on any number of occasions to bring his films 'to life' by adding details and 'touches' that made their inherent themes artistically meaningful ...

February 6 - 2002
Apropos the entry here the day before yesterday (February 4), some of which derives from information supplied by Bill Krohn about the 1902 French stage melodrama on which I Confess was based, Bill has emailed me in apologetic vein: 'I couldn't have been more wrong about [Paul] Anthelme/[Pierre] Bourde's politics. His book about the Paris Commune [,an eyewitness account, published in 1871,] was a reactionary tract [not a leftist one].' Bill adds: 'I'm digging a bit more into Bourde/Anthelme's history to see where the sympathetic portrayal of the Socialist politico [in 'Nos deux consciences'] might have come from; notwithstanding the sympathetic portrayal, the point [of the play] seems to be a religious one: Good actions without the Church are pointless, and even destructive. [In the play, the well-intended actions of the politician, like those of the Anne Baxter character in the film, only further jeopardise the priest - who goes to the gallows.] That is essentially how Bourde saw socialism ... I quote (and translate): "Men, some from conviction, others from ambition, go around spreading socialist and egalitarian ideas ... [but these ideas] have an effect exactly contrary to their stated aim ... So, these are ideas which must be destroyed, and the men who spread them must be combated. That is the task of the endangered class: the bourgeoisie." (Preface, "Les membres de la commune et du Comite Central" by Paul Delion/Pierre Bourde, Paris 1871.) Come to think of it, that is exactly what is shown to be the effect of the sincere Socialist's act of conscience in the play, and Anne Baxter's act of love in the film. Maybe AH kept the irony because it was meaningful, and not just as a plot twist.' Thanks, Bill. What you say jells with the kind of thoughts about Hitchcock's use of melodrama that I began to set down above (February 4). For a start, there's again an 'irony' or two (Hitchcock's own word) at the end of The Wrong Man (1957): Manny prays 'for strength', and immediately afterwards the guilty ('right') man is apprehended. Hitchcock described that to Truffaut as 'an ironic coincidence'! Also, when Manny's wife is institutionalised, he complains to a nurse that he had been 'hoping for a miracle', and the nurse replies, 'Miracles do happen - but they take time'. Time and mortality, and trying to 'overcome' them, are, of course, important themes of The Wrong Man, as they are of The Trouble With Harry (1955) and Vertigo (1958). Now compare what I said above about much good melodrama being effectively a memento mori. Hitchcock could draw on such inherent themes of his material, tweak them a little (e.g., by underlining an irony or an ambiguity), and add suitable emphasis - all with his eyes closed! That's a difference between his films and those of a director like Andrew L. Stone, whose Last Voyage (1960) I mentioned above. Competently-made as the latter is, it lacks nuance and is unrelenting in its grim unfolding. Hitchcock would not have made his 'Titanic' film that way! More next time (if still neither of our anticipated 'guest-editors' has shown up!).

February 5 - 2002
I trust that everyone has noted the addition (printed in colour) to the entry for January 14 above, concerning 'Alfred Hitchcock's favorite story'. The story was in fact authored by Roald Dahl (1916-90). Further details are now emerging about this. Firstly, I had forgotten that I was tipped off a year ago by Sidney Gottlieb that a 'fascinating' hour-long interview exists in which Hitchcock tells his 'leprosy story' (as Professor Gottlieb called it). The interview was made in 1973 for the NBC 'Tomorrow Show' hosted by Tom Snyder, and has been shown in recent years at New York's Museum of Modern Art during their Hitchcock Retrospective, and elsewhere. But I only heard the story recently when a friend, another professor, arrived back in Melbourne after she had spent some time researching in the Hitchcock files at the Margaret Herrick Library (of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) in Beverly Hills, California. Because the story, in Hitchcock's telling of it, is set in the Australian desert, my friend was naturally keen to pass it on! (Dahl, though, had set the story in Egypt, as noted in a handy paraphrase that is on the Web: RoaldDahlFans.com - "The Visitor". I thank AP of UCLA for alerting me to this.) And yesterday, by a nice piece of serendipity, a videotaped copy of the Tom Snyder interview arrived in my letterbox, sent by Al Chafin in Florida. Thanks, Al! (Readers wishing to obtain their own copy of the interview should visit Al's website, mentioned on our Links page. For convenience, I'm putting the URL here: Hitch2001.com.) Interestingly, Hitchcock makes no mention that the story is by Dahl, though of course he knew Dahl's work well and had filmed several Dahl stories for 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', including the classic "Lamb to the Slaughter". Which adds fuel to the belief that Hitchcock disliked sharing credit with others (though I prefer to believe that this was often more a case of a good showman's reluctance to add 'distracting' details - part of an oral tradition of storytelling, really). With its 'twist' or 'shock' ending, the story is typical Dahl - and typical Hitchcock (pace the AHP shows generally). For what it's worth, let me add that I once taught Dahl's 'Tales of the Unexpected' to Year 9 students (aged about 12) in a rather 'tough' high school in Melbourne. Fellow teachers told me that Dahl was one of a small band of authors that you could be reasonably sure a majority of the students would like - and, yes, the students did take to Dahl (though "The Visitor" wasn't on the syllabus, you understand!). This was before the days of J.K. Rowling and her 'Harry Potter' stories. Mind you, not all adults appreciate a story like "The Visitor". Out of gratitude for technical help rendered, I last week forwarded 'Alfred Hitchcock's favorite story' to an acquaintance, a computers expert, in Tasmania (I thought he'd appreciate the 'Australian' content). He emailed me back, as follows: 'Sorry, Ken, a bit sick for my taste. That has ruined the start of what looked like a nice day.'

February 4 - 2002
Hello all, this is Ken, returned! Confusingly, I'm really filling in for a couple of 'guest editors' who indicated a willingness to write something here but have now gone missing! Ah well, as you know, this 'column' is for 'thoughts-in-progress', rather than nicely worked-out, cut-and-dried ones. So I take to the keyboard again, confident that you won't jeer and boo me for the poor-but-honest notes I may put up here tonight. The fact is that I've been thinking about film and melodrama lately. The indefatigable Bill Krohn recently located in the Warner script files at USC the translation that Alfred Hitchcock commissioned in 1948 of 'Nos Deux Consciences' ('Our Two Consciences'), a stage melodrama written in 1902 by 'Paul Anthelme', that became the basis of I Confess (1953). The film made thoughtful and sometimes ingenious changes to the original, but it retained something that (from Bill's description) was strongly present in the play, a sense of human susceptibility spanning various walks of life from the clerical to the political, and a sense, too, of the interconnectedness of people's lives. (The playwright, whose real name, I gather, was Paul Bourde, was himself a politician and a writer on political subjects - apparently from a leftist standpoint.) If nothing else, such a theme has a certain gravitas, I think you'll agree. Lately, too, I've found myself noticing how many films have been made, or planned, about fateful voyages of ocean liners: such films as Robert Milton's Outward Bound (1930, from the play by Sutton Vane), Frank Borzage's History is Made at Night (1937), Hitchcock's unmade 'Titanic' film of the late 1930s, Jean Negulesco's Titanic (1953), Roy Baker's A Night to Remember (1958, from a script by Eric Ambler), Andrew and Virginia Stone's The Last Voyage (1960), Ronald Neame's The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and James Cameron's Titanic (1997). These all lend themselves to the same sort of theme I've just noted in I Confess. The 'disaster film', a form of melodrama, is effectively a memento mori (cf. the very title A Night to Remember), but so is much good melodrama. (I'm aware, too, that there's a connection with other 'genre' melodramas of the 1930s, such as films set on trains, or even dirigibles, and a possible link to world events such as the 'Crash' [!] of '29, and increased world tension foreshadowing, yes, disaster!) So what has this to do with Hitchcock, really? Simply this. I think he always sensed the inherent 'dignity of significance' of melodrama, and knew instinctively how to make it work for him. For instance, the scene on the aircraft clipper in Foreign Correspondent (1940) has a line about how nice it would be to just keep on flying forever - which very likely came straight from the Sutton Vane play mentioned earlier, an allegory of finding oneself suspended between heaven and hell, and a very popular play in its day.

January 21 - 2002
[We begin the week with the last of Australian critic Adrian Martin's valued contributions inspired by the 'icy ... reality' he detects in certain films of both Resnais and Hitchcock. Adrian is now on his way to Rotterdam as a guest of the Film Festival there.]

The 'icy dramatisation of a stark reality' in The Birds assuredly has as much to do with its radical soundtrack as its unusual framings, spatial arrangements and travelling shots. This came home to me last year at the splendid special screening of the film at the Brisbane International Film Festival ­ in the presence of no less than Tippi Hedren herself, who unforgettably both raised her eyes and lowered them to hell in one brisk movement as she saluted Hitch, 'wherever you are'. We all know that the 'music' of the movie is comprised of bird noises ­ and that those sounds were produced electronically. However what the critic-theorist Nicole Brenez would call the 'figural logic' of Hitchcock's experiment here has never been, I feel, fully grasped. The Birds is a remarkably prescient ­ and again highly modernist ­ example of what I think of as 'drama without melos', literally without (extra-diegetic) music, in a tradition that extends forward to the films of the Dardenne brothers in Belgium (Rosetta, 1999) and Tsai Ming-liang in Taiwan (What Time Is It There?, 2001). Where these directors create their own 'naturalistic' flow (however stylised) from music-less drama, Hitchcock insists precisely on its disconcerting absence in a Hollywood context. The 'cold' or 'clinical' aspects of the film ­ and what so many critics take as its scorn for the nuclear family unit ­ surely has much to do with the fact that the conventional embraces (between lovers, or parents and children) deliberately have no accompanying 'swell', only a stark silence (or a muffling blanket of quotidian noise). In conventional film melodrama (i.e., most narrative film), music cues the characters' emotional 'release' or free expression. In The Birds, on the other hand, there is no such 'humanist' release: only frozen, mute, strangled postures where no vocal sound comes forth, those 'silent screams' that chill us. No voice, and no music either to act as a surrogate voice ­ for it is the birds who, in this nightmare, have taken control of 'melos' in its modern, steely,technologically rendered and mediated form. But, to my surprise, I find that this was not Hitchcock's first crack at the disconcerting effects possible from drama-without-melos: for the entire ten minute length of the fairground murder sequence early in Strangers on a Train, Hitchcock keeps the score 'on hold', and trusts an interplay of voices, noises and grindingly repetitive fairground muzak to carry the suspense and horror of the unfolding action. This magisterial lesson in film style will be echoed in the creepy soundscapes of Polanski or of Bela Tarr's Satantango (1993), with its accordion tune that goes around and around inside a loveless bar that recalls the besieged diner of The Birds.

[Editor's note. That's all for this week. Another 'guest editor' - critic Philip Kemp - will write here soon. Then the regular "Editor's Day" will resume in early February ...]

January 16 - 2002
[Film critic and scholar Adrian Martin today writes further of the 'stark reality' onto which the films of Hitchcock, Resnais, Bunuel, and others, open.]

By a happy coincidence, after raising the Hitchcock-Resnais connection in yesterday's entry, I stumbled upon some fascinating recent remarks by the French filmmaker Jean-Claude Brisseau (Noce blanche, 1989), author of a fine appreciation of Psycho published in 'Projections' some years back. In a discussion of his favourite films and directors, Brisseau comments: 'One of the things which most interests me in Renais is his manner of filming reality and its flatness, as if it were a suspense movie - using travelling shots which can recall Hitchcock's mise en scène in the first part of The Birds. This gives in Resnais the feeling of an icy dramatisation of a stark reality, a dramatisation which opens onto an anguish'. Such a style, with its powerfully disquieting effect, can also be found (in a droll key) in the work of Luis Buñuel, as well as (more dramatically) in that of the prolific François Ozon. The latter's latest, Under the Sand (Sous le sable, 2001), is a film of 'philosophical suspense' ­ in the sense that the highly talented and articulate Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar (The Others, 2001) has recently defined suspense, as a character's constant, gradually unfolding questioning of his or her identity, place and understanding of the world. Ozon's film invests the most everyday, familiar sights ­ especially those of the natural world, like waves on a beach, or insects under a rock ­ with a poetic sense of mystery, strangeness and occasionally even menace. But Under the Sand is not (like The Others) a horror-melodrama; it is ultimately a film of wonder, tracing a reawakening to the life-force. Like Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead (1999), Under the Sand investigates the experience of an individual (superbly played by Charlotte Rampling) who is led by loss and grief into an subtly heightened 'netherworld', seemingly suspended between life and death ­ with acts of sexuality and sensuality registering most powerfully as the 'bridge' between these realms. Isn't this, too, a Hitchcockian theme or ambience, embodied most richly (if discreetly!) in Vertigo? Here, too, Brisseau's observations can fortuitously guide us. For he adds immediately after his comment on anguish: 'I have always felt that Resnais' films were an attempt to go and see the other side of reality, the side of death, as if he were basically anxious and afraid. That's not pejorative. It's anguish in the Pascallian sense'.

January 15 - 2002
[Adrian Martin lives in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of a study of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America for the BFI Modern Classics series. For the same publisher, he is writing a book on Terrence Malick. In his first piece below, Adrian puts his finger on one of the many bold, and disturbing, effects in Hitchcock's great film Marnie. As for Adrian's suggestion of an analogue to be found in Hitchcock's films - their expression of blind 'Will', as the philosopher Schopenhauer called the cosmic life-death force - with an aspect of the films of Alain Resnais, I am grateful for the comparison. I'm reminded that Resnais managed to have the English director appear in a couple of his own films - Last Year at Marienbad and Muriel - by the expedient of using life-size cardboard cut-outs of Hitchcock's famous figure!]

I never cease to be fascinated with the 'experimental' or 'art cinema' aspects evident in Hitchcock's great '60s films, The Birds and Marnie. The first ten minutes or so of the latter film are quite remarkable in this regard: the directness of the shots and their immense mystery; the time ellipses; the rigorous use of 'inserts' (shots of objects such as the purse) and unusual 'de-framings' of Marnie's body until the marvellous shot when her face is at last revealed to us. Watching this opening - for me one of the most sustained passages of swooning, 'pure' cinema in all Hitchcock - for about the hundredth time recently, I realised one reason why it is so sensational: Hitchcock eschews the traditional Hollywood punctuation of fades or even dissolves, and opts boldly for straight cuts. Some years ago, researchers uncovered the traces of Hitchcock's interest in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni; to my eye, Marnie's attenuation of recognisably Antonioni-esque elements (vibrant colour schemes, architectural planes turning characters into figures) anticipates future works by Chantal Akerman (Les Rendez-vous d'Anna, 1978, in particular) and even Straub-Huillet (such as Class Relations, 1984). And, just as these two Hitchcock films can seem uncannily 'modernist' to us in retrospect, many modernist films of the period can look, complementarily, quite Hitchcockian: Antonioni's The Red Desert (1964), Robbe-Grillet's L'Immortelle (1963) or Godard's A Married Woman (1964) are some examples of films that (in Bill Krohn's words) 'display the erotic paradoxes of classical cinema (Hitchcock's cinema, not Eisenstein's) and reflect its extinguished brilliance at quirky angles, and with a lunar pallor' ... But I wonder if the beginning of Marnie does not have a very specific inspiration: the opening passage of Alain Resnais' masterpiece Muriel (1963), with its flurry of luminous, enigmatic, crisply cut images. The Hitchcock-Resnais connection deserves further discussion: after all, doesn't Jean Domarchi's comment on Hiroshima mon amour (1959) - 'the world presents itself like an anonymous and abstract force that strikes where it likes, anywhere, and whose will cannot be determined in advance. It is out of this conflict between individuals and a totally anonymous universe that is born a tragic vision of the world' - evoke the Schopenhauerian Hitchcock so richly illuminated in these very web pages?

January 14 - 2002
[Editor's note. Our 'guest editor' this week will be Adrian Martin, Australian film critic with an international reputation. Adrian's first piece for us will appear here tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's something that might unofficially qualify as one of Alfred Hitchcock's 'stories they wouldn't let me do on TV'. ]

Somewhere in the files of the Alfred Hitchcock Collection held at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, California, is a single typed piece of paper headed "Alfred Hitchcock's Favorite Story". The story, which is slightly risqué, goes something like this ... Visiting Australia, a young American playboy decides to see the outback at first hand, and hires a Land Rover to venture alone into the hot and dusty interior. One day, after driving for several hours, he reaches a particularly lonely stretch of desert where he is amazed to come upon an enormous mansion surrounded by trees and watered lawns. From the road, he can just see the mansion at the far end of a long straight drive. It stands two stories high and is so vast that he can only guess at the number of rooms it must contain. Impelled by curiosity, the young man pushes open a pair of iron gates and drives in. It takes him a minute or so to reach the house, but eventually he finds himself knocking at the front door. Almost immediately, the door is opened by a kindly-looking, well-dressed, middle-aged man who proves to be the owner himself. After asking his visitor to come inside, and learning that he is an American tourist, the man invites him to stay for lunch and to meet his wife and daughter. Both of the latter are extremely beautiful. Over an excellent meal, the man explains that the house uses artesian water pumped from a couple of wells nearby. He adds that life has favoured him, that he is very wealthy, and that to reside in seclusion from most worldly cares, surrounded by his family, holds great appeal for him. Nonetheless, he is always looking for ways to practise benevolence and to repay what he feels he owes the world. For instance, would the young man care to stay for a day or two? The house contains a well-stocked library, an equally well-stocked pantry and wine cellar, and much else of interest. Besides, his wife and daughter would both welcome the young man's company, as they only occasionally these days manage to travel to Sydney to be with friends. Having already taken a liking to his host and family, the young man accepts. That night, he retires early. As he lies in bed, pondering the hospitality that has been shown him, he suddenly becomes aware that someone has entered the room and has slipped into his bed. He starts to exclaim, but a woman's voice hushes him and he feels a finger pressed to his lips. For the next few hours the two people make passionate love. Then, towards dawn, the woman suddenly departs. And next evening, exactly the same thing happens! Afterwards, the young man is still uncertain who his partner has been. Every time he had started to speak, she had hushed him! His attempts during the day to subtly hint to the two women of the house that he is grateful for the nocturnal favours shown him meet with no acknowledgment from either of them. It is only on the third day that the young man learns the truth. Conversing with the husband in the library, he asks his host to tell him more about his family and why they all lead so isolated a life. Looking faintly embarrassed, the older man tells him that there is something he hasn't mentioned so far. He has a second daughter, whom he loves dearly, and who is living in the house. Unfortunately, he adds, she is a leper.

January 10 - 2002
[Dan Auiler discusses Hitchcock's own sexual attitudes.]

Hitch and sex. From out of the percolator, more of my random thoughts on this topic ...

• As a young man (very young man) I read John Russell Taylor's book on Hitch (still for my money the best biography to date on the director) and I recall being intrigued by a bit of information promised on the jacket but never discussed within: that Hitch had been celibate since the birth of his daughter. During the Hitchcock centennial year, I had an opportunity to talk about this with Taylor - but somehow he sidestepped the issue, so I'm still not sure if it's true (or how one could even possibly know one way or the other unless you were Alma). Perhaps Patrick McGilligan's book will shed some light on this. [Editor's note. Whoah, Dan! Hold those horses! I'm almost certain that Hitch eludes to this matter on the Truffaut tapes, to which you have at least partly listened (see below), even if the published transcript omits most, or all, of what was said. I'll do some checking. Meanwhile, perhaps some of our readers can confirm that the matter is on the tapes, which are now widely circulating since being aired on French radio a couple of years ago.]

• Hitch's films are filled with what I tend to think of as schoolboy ideas of sex and women: the fascination with women's undergarments, the mussing of the beautiful blondes, the Hitchcock hero's attitude of general unknowing when it comes to women. From the Truffaut tapes and other resources at the Academy, you get the impression that Hitch was just a large middle-school boy when it came to women. This sort of fascination and juvenile picking-at in his films is accompanied by the absolute absence of interest in detailing homosexuality. Hitch had many opportunities to really examine this side of the sexual coin, but he passed. I think this is to his credit. Films from the period that show any interest in the topic are usually insulting to gays and downright farcical in representation - imagine, for purposes of illustration, a camped up Rope! The only exception was with Hitchcock's unmade Frenzy - here he seems to have been working through some ideas on the topic, as the research files contain a number of 'gay' publications (as well as clippings on hippies and the youth movement). That film, interestingly enough, would also have contained another post-coital bedroom scene with some nudity (later transposed into the 1972 Frenzy - a quite different film, apart from the title - when Babs gets out of bed in the hotel and goes to the bathroom).

• There is I think a single exception, concerning sex, in the Hitchcock canon - namely, Family Plot. In this almost pastoral comedy/thriller, the lead characters appear to share healthy sex lives. This actually seems to sap a lot of tension and energy from the film. Hitch should have kept to the sexual hitches!

January 9 - 2002
[Dan Auiler suggests why Vertigo has a special appeal for gays. Note: the editor invites readers to make comments - we'll be happy to publish them on this page.]

Yesterday, I ended by suggesting that Vertigo may be an essential film for understanding the regard that many gay men have for Hitchcock's films. Actually, their empathy extends to the director as well - further proof that the many-faceted Hitchcock put much of himself into his art. And I suspect that, if you were gay, Hitchcock was a very comfortable man to work for: after all, many key players in the Hitchcock list were gay and were loyal to him for years. But on to Vertigo. There are so many threads in this rich tapestry that I confess I spent all evening wondering which to discuss here. Consider: Scottie's confirmed bachelorhood, his residence in San Francisco, his representing 'new' San Francisco as opposed to Gavin Elster's 'old' San Francisco (in turn raising masculinity issues - as in Rear Window, Stewart is again emasculated by a physical problem, something which Elster takes advantage of - though Vertigo is richer than Rear Window in precisely the degree of Stewart's psychological emasculation), his carefully decorated apartment, etc., etc. These are all wonderful incidentals. However, what makes Vertigo essential in this context is Scottie's troubled relationship with women. We are never told why Midge broke off her engagement with Scottie - but she was wise to do so. Scottie is incapable of a sexual relationship with a woman who is real. He is only capable of sex with his idealized woman - whose icon Madeleine is. Oh, Scottie's a great pal - note the continuing friendship with Midge - but when it comes to dragging the ol' boy into the bedroom, the woman's gotta be made up like Rita Hayworth or Lana Turner. This may not seem like much of a distinction to my 'straight' readers, but, believe me, it has incredible significance for the gay viewer: in the gay community there is a short list of 'women' we'd switch for and invariably these are icons that match in every way the careful construction of Madeleine in Hitchcock's film. Indeed it is this careful constructing of the icon that engrosses Scottie, so much so that I'm tempted to imagine Scottie in Vertigo II as a drag queen! Okay, that's over the top and meant to get a cheap laugh, but it has some truth. And Scottie's obsession with creating the woman with whom he can finally have sex leads us back to Hitchcock, who certainly seems to have had similar obsessions. The following pattern is constant in Hitchcock's films: that of seeing women only iconically and then, in the course of the film, subverting that iconic status. Hitch's schoolboy interest in tearing down female icons seems to me to point to arrested heterosexual development, which means that he was as he appeared, a confirmed heterosexual. So we may differentiate Hitch's handling of the feminine icon from George Cukor's - Cukor would never have dreamed of mussing poor Novak's Madeleine after all that work! Tomorrow: some notes on Hitch and sex from the oddbins.

January 8 - 2002
[Editor's note. Hitchcockians are indebted to author and teacher Dan Auiler, who lives in Los Angeles, for his insightful and assiduously researched first book, 'Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic' (1998), and his massive compilation, 'Hitchcock's Notebooks' (1999). Even more massive, though, is Dan's latest book, on Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, published by Taschen and retailing for $150 US. Other books by Dan are forthcoming. In his guest-pieces for "Editor's Day", he writes about Hitch and sexuality, particularly the director's interest, cinematically, in various aspects of that subject, such as homosexuality.]

Hitch and sex have been on my mind a lot lately! I've been thinking along several lines. A couple of websites and other publications have asked me to write about the director's films and homosexuality, but I have put them off for a bit because I'm not sure what conclusions I'm ready to make here. My thinking is that there are several relevant levels to discuss concerning Hitch and homosexuality - the sexuality of Hitch himself and how it relates to his films, the perceived sexuality of his film's characters, his working relationship with open and closeted homosexual actors and writers, etc. What attracted my thinking recently was this apparent puzzle: Hitchcock's films are ostensibly 'straight' romance classics (I'm thinking here of Rebecca, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, etc.), yet he has a large and very dedicated following of gay men. This goes beyond the stereotypical attachment gay men may have for various divas (Judy Garland, Maria Callas) and Broadway musicals which are typically devoid of any kind of sexual pulse. There is real passion in a Hitch film, and most of them have strong sexual pulses - recall the long or emphatic kissing scenes. But thinking of the kissing scenes led me to thinking about the director's sex scenes. There are of course two 'graphic' sex scenes in the Hitchcock canon (both rapes - Marnie and Frenzy) and then there are three bedroom post-coital scenes. In a subsequent entry here I'll write about the rape scenes, but I'm more immediately curious about the bedroom scenes. The first scene that came to my mind was the opening of Psycho - this is the first obviously post-coital scene in Hitchcock's films, yet what number are we at here: #47? The next one - again at the film's beginning - is in Torn Curtain. The humorous, perhaps unintentional irony in this scene is just how little heat is being generated under the covers by Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. Indeed, that's what struck me when I began to pull these scenes out - just how un-sexy they are. In fact, both of them are a little clunky in construction and dialogue. Finally, I'm led back to an earlier less obvious post-coital scene: that in Vertigo between Judy and Scotty after her transformation (and the famous 360 degree kiss). I suspect that Vertigo may be the key film for understanding gay men and their attraction to Hitch's films - so let's save discussing this scene and trying to understand the other bedroom scenes for tomorrow's entry.

January 3 - 2002
[Co-author of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion', Martin Grams Jr, today writes on Hitchcock and the Golden Days of (American) Radio. This is the second of two 'selected excerpts' from Martin's book. We thank him enthusiastically for making them available to us.]

Whenever possible, the radio adaptations of feature-length films starred the original cast. Producers insisted on this, but more often then not, such stars were unable to appear because of prior commitments, studio contracts that restricted the number of radio appearances, or even because some stars were terrified of appearing before a 'live' microphone. Joseph Cotton was under contract with David O. Selznick and was often called upon as a last-minute casting solution by radio directors. Cotton was an experienced radio actor and Selznick, who saw the publicity potential the electronic medium had to offer, was always glad to lend him to any radio production. Selznick stipulated, however, that an announcement be made, stating that 'Cotton is appearing courtesy of David O. Selznick, producer of the up-coming [movie title]'. Radio proved to be an influence on Alfred Hitchcock, though his appearances on the airwaves were infrequent. As an omnivorous reader of courtroom and mystery stories, Hitchcock became a weekly listener to such programs as 'The Whistler', 'Inner Sanctum Mysteries', and 'Molle Mystery Theater'. The great anthology series 'Suspense' provided more grist for the Hitchcock mill. Although script writers for 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' sometimes adapted stories and even original scripts from the 'Suspense' series, it was Hitchcock himself who chose the stories used on his weekly television series. 'My memory,' he confessed once with boyish modesty, 'is rather valuable.' Hitchcock was indeed a man with a long memory when it came to his kind of story. Once, on a visit to London, he successfully asked Londoners to locate for him a certain book he recalled, 'A Century of Creepy Stories', which had been out of print since 1932 and which he himself hadn’t seen for years. Hitch's keenness was no different when he listened to radio and he was enthralled by many of the dramas and suspense anthologies traveling through the ether. After listening to Louis Pollack’s short story, "Breakdown", on the May 15, 1949, broadcast of 'Prudential Family Hour of Stars', Hitchcock later decided to film that particular story as his first television show. He also decided to use reliable standby, Joseph Cotten, who had worked with the Master before, and who had starred in the radio version of "Breakdown". Patricia Hitchcock also got into radio, which, compared to television or motion pictures, was her favorite medium. She acted in 'masses of radio shows, all different kinds,' both in New York and Los Angeles. She played supporting leads in many popular radio mysteries. One of them still circulating among collectors is an adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ novel 'The Moonstone', aired as a two-part presentation for 'Suspense'. Patricia played a small supporting role in the first of the two broadcasts, aired over CBS on November 16, 1953.

January 2 - 2002
[Editor's note. Martin Grams Jr is already well known to readers of this website. A prolific young compiler of material on the early days of popular radio and television shows, and related subjects, he is the author (with Patrik Wikström) of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion' which was reviewed here last year by Professor Thomas Leitch. Martin has sent us information he obtained while researching the book. Today we print some excerpts pertaining to the Hitchcock magazines and anthologies.]

The history of the published anthologies dates back to the first issue of 'Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine' which premiered a year and a half after the television series premiered. It was dated 'December 1956 (Vol. 1, No. 12)'. There were no numbers 1 through 11, probably because the publisher wanted it to look as if it had begun in January of 1956. The premiere issue hit the newsstands in time for the Christmas buying season. There was a 'message from Hitchcock' on the inside. It gives an account of the magazine’s beginning; the same message was repeated in the second and third issues, verbatim. The 'AHMM' proved to be a perfect source of story material for 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' on TV. Certainly the editors were attempting to buy and publish the same kind of stories that television viewers were already familiar with. So, in a sense, both the producers of the series and the editors of the magazine were profiting from this mutual arrangement. Many fans of the anthologies know or, at the very least, have guessed that the intros were gentle fiction. Hitchcock did not write the introductions for any of the books. The real editors of the anthologies were usually unbilled. Known as 'ghost editors', these people simply compiled a selection of short stories (with sometimes a novella) and composed an introduction to which Hitchcock’s trademark signature (and occasional profile) were added. Among the ghost editors was Robert Arthur, whose stories were also adapted on 'AHP'. Arthur, and David Kogan, another writer, would write, produce and direct the long running (December 5, 1943 – September 16, 1952) radio horror anthology, 'The Mysterious Traveler'. The stories featured on that series were mostly originals, not adaptations of previously published material, and they offered 'EC Comic'-type horror and mystery tales with twist endings. The radio mystery series, 'Murder by Experts', was also produced and directed by Arthur and Kogan, and Alfred Hitchcock himself would host the gruesome murder tales near the end of the series’ run in 1951. The first time Hitchcock ever lent his name to a mystery anthology appears to date back to 1941. 'The Pocket Book of Great Detectives' was edited by Lee Wright and featured an introduction by Hitchcock. It is today considered a very rare collectors' item. We can't be certain whether Hitchcock actually composed the introduction himself, but if he did, it may have been almost the only time during his career. It would be fair to say that this was also the first commercial publication of its kind to attempt to cash in on the 'Hitchcock' name.