My five favourite Hitchcock films 
Saturday, July 7, 2012, 10:53 AM
Posted by Administrator
This post was prompted by a recent Normblog poll – the deadline is July 10th if anyone wants to submit their own list:

“Here's the brief: please let me have the five Hitchcock movies you like best (though you may send fewer than five if you want). Rank your choices or leave them unranked, just as you prefer, but do indicate one way or the other.”

My immediate first thought was Vertigo, and it remains my #1 choice. It’s full of haunting echoes – both internal and external. (I have been writing about its complex relationship with other texts such as ‘The Sandman’ and the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice for my forthcoming book on Allusion and the Uncanny.) It’s full of repetitions – and it occurred to me when I last watched it that the scene in which Scottie takes Judy to try and find the right dress for ‘Madeleine’ must itself be a repetition of an earlier scene, one we don’t see, in which Elster takes her on a similar errand so that she can act as his wife’s body double. Although it’s got an ingenious plot, and is visually stunning, perhaps the element in the film which clinches it as my favourite is the music.

I don’t suppose anyone could take exception to my #1, but my #2 choice, Dial M for Murder, is perhaps less obvious. It seems very stagey, for a start, and less sophisticated, much less ‘arty’, than Vertigo. But – although I’ve seen it several times – I always find it both completely compelling and completely enjoyable.

It probably ranks about equally, for me, with North by North West, although I suppose the latter is the better film of the two by most measures. I can never quite remember how each bit of the plot leads onto the next – it seems like a series of vignettes – but that doesn’t mean the whole experience isn’t always fully satisfying, and Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant are nicely matched.

My #4 was Notorious, a film I haven’t seen for a long time (so must watch again). What I remember most from it is the sense of vulnerability communicated by Ingrid Bergman as the daughter of an American Nazi persuaded into becoming a spy by American agents. Like the ambiguous heroine of Wilkie Collins’s No Name she is put in the unsettling (for her and the reader/viewer) position of being married to the villain of the piece.

Finally, I chose The 39 Steps as #5, simply because it is such fun – particularly the romantic comedy element which most certainly isn’t in Buchan’s original novel.

I am well aware that I’ve missed out some obvious choices. If the poll had asked for the five best or most important Hitchcock films, then of course Psycho would have been there. I just don’t honestly think I like it all that much. Rear Window is another odd omission perhaps – but although the film’s atmosphere, setting and premise are memorable – I actually think it’s a bit boring.

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