Today would have been Alfred Hitchcock’s 114th birthday, and it’s only right that we honor the Master of Suspense with a quick look at some of his lesser known films. The director is obviously famous for classics like Psycho, Vertigo (recently overtaking Citizen Kane as the best film of all time in Sight & Sound’s 2012 poll), North By Northwest, and The Birds, but he’s also responsible for popularizing some of cinema’s greatest storytelling devices, most notably the MacGuffin. Are you familiar with the dolly zoom? Yep, that was Hitch’s handiwork as well, used for iconic shots in Vertigo.
But while you’ve likely seen most of his classics (and if you haven’t, definitely do yourself a favor and check them out), I wanted to take a look at what I consider to be three underrated Hitchcock movies in his filmography.
Discussed in film classes and not many other places these days, Rope is best known for Hitchcock’s stylistic choice of shooting as much of it as possible in long continuous shots. In doing this, the director created the effect of seeing the action play out in real time, even though he had to cut on a few occasions because technology wasn’t advanced enough to shoot the entire film in one take. James Stewart gives a solid performance as a professor who discovers some of his former students have tried to commit the perfect murder, and the film is a great example of Hitch’s talents, especially his patience and knowledge of the perfect times to dole out just the right amount of information.
This is Hitchcock’s first American film, and counts as one of the five times he was nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards. (If the fact that he never won doesn’t make you think twice about the relevance of the Oscars, I don’t know what will.) Based on Daphne du Maurier’s gothic novel about a young woman swept away in a romance with a wealthy widower. But things don’t go quite as she hopes, and the specter of her husband’s dead wife hangs over their lives and corrupts every aspect of her existence. In typical Hitchcock fashion, there’s also a murder mystery element at play here, and even though this film actually won the Oscar for Best Picture (which should mean it’s not underrated at all), I almost never hear people talk about this film when they mention the director’s work. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a dark, brooding, character study. Watch out for Mrs. Danvers, though…
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
If you saw and enjoyed this year’s Stoker from director Park Chan-wook, then you absolutely need to seek out Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. Stoker drew heavily from the niece/uncle relationship that plays out in this film, and the setup of whether or not young Charlie’s uncle is actually a serial killer (and what happens when that information is revealed) is the primary source of suspense in this Hitch joint. Like many of the director’s films, it’s a great psychological examination of stretching the limits of humanity. How far would you go to protect a member of your own family? Hitch can’t know the answer to that question for all of us, but he can (and did) provide a captivating situation for us to watch here so we could try to answer it for ourselves.
What are some of your favorite underrated Alfred Hitchcock movies? Let us know in the comments below.
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