“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
Hitchcock leading Ladies
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the Hitchcock blonde is that they went against many of the popular female stereotypes of the 1940s – 1960s. It is important to notice that some of the most famous blonde actresses of the era were not ever cast in a Hitchcock film. Sultry sex-symbols such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were far too overt in their sexuality for The Master of Suspense.
Film critic Roger Ebert once observed that Alfred Hitchcock’s leading ladies, “reflected the same qualities over and over again: They were blonde. They were icy and remote. They were imprisoned in costumes that subtly combined fashion with fetishism. They mesmerized the men, who often had physical or psychological handicaps.” Something that Ebert did not mention is that the Hitchcock blondes were true lead characters; never did he relegate one of his beautiful leading ladies to arm candy for the handsome male lead. They were dynamic, and were not afraid of taking action. This is what possibly creted suspense, the women were irratic, mysterious and you never knew what they were to do next.(This is shown in Vertigo and Madeline jumping off of the church tower, also in psycho where Marion runs away with the money)
Alfred Hitchcock was once famously quoted as saying, “Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up bloody footprints.” Misogynistic quote aside, what makes Hitchcock’s blonde leading ladies so potent is that beneath their prim suits and flawless hairdos are women with inner determination and boldness. It is that powerful combination of external beauty and haughty polish with a genuine person on the inside that makes the Hitchcock blonde such an enduring legacy.
Audience as voyeur
Further blurring the moral distinction between the innocent and the guilty, occasionally making this indictment inescapably clear to viewers one and all, Hitchcock also makes voyeurs of his “respectable” audience. In Rear Window (1954), after L. B. Jeffries (played by James Stewart) has been staring across the courtyard at him for most of the film, Lars Thorwald (played by Raymond Burr) confronts Jeffries by saying, “What do you want of me?” Burr might as well have been addressing the audience. In fact, shortly before asking this, Thorwald turns to face the camera directly for the first time.
suspense through objects
In Vertigo, the staircase in the church bell tower plays a crucial role in the plot.
In Psycho, several staircases are featured prominently: as part of the path up to the Bates mansion, as the entrance to the fruit cellar, and as the site of Detective Arbogast’s murder.
In Rear Window, an entirely nonfunctional staircase adorns James Stewart’s apartment, in addition to the numerous fire escape staircases seen each time we follow Stewart’s gaze out of his window.
He also places great focus on the creation of set pieces where he is able to exercise his talent for detail and suspense.
MACGUFFIN- motivator of the protagonist
According to Hitchcock’s own definition of the “MacGuffin”, it is “the term we use to cover all that sort of thing: to steal plans or documents, or discover a secret, it doesn’t matter what it is. […] The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever” (Truffaut, pp. 111-112). And here is another definition: “The ‘MacGuffin’ – my own term for the key element of any suspense story – has obviously got to change. It can no longer be the idea of preventing the foreign agent from stealing the papers. It can no longer be the business of breaking a code. And yet these very same elements, disguised to fit the times, must still be there” (Gottlieb, p. 124).Read less