Alfred Hitchcock: 24 Frames Baker’s Dozen

As  kind of my own personal wrap up for the CMBA Hitchcock Blogathon I am listing my own baker’s dozen of Hitchcock favorites. Like any list, at least of mine, it is never set in stone as additional viewings and new insights tend to change the order with only a couple of exceptions. A couple may suprise some, at least in the order they are in. The top three seem to always remain in those same positions.  

…and feel free to submit your own list.  

1 – REAR WINDOW

3 – PSYCHO

3 – NORTH BY NORTHWEST

4 – NOTORIOUS

5 – STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

6- VERTIGO

7 – SUSPICION

8 – THE 39 STEPS

9 – REBECCA

10 – DIAL M FOR MURDER

11 – SHADOW OF A DOUBT

12 – FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

13 – THE LADY VANISHES

About these ads

19 comments on “Alfred Hitchcock: 24 Frames Baker’s Dozen

  1. I can’t argue with your top three, though I would probably put Psycho as my number one.
    Some don’t like Vertigo because of lapses in logic, but to me, the good far outweighs the bad.
    I haven’t seen Shadow of a Doubt or Foreign Correspondent, so I’ve still got some work to do.

    • John Greco says:

      CHris,

      I cannot argue with you selecting PSYCHO for your top spot. I think each of the top 10 are interchangeable for many. They are all great works that deserve praise.

  2. Dave Crosby says:

    I guess I put my request about Hitch’s “The Wrong Man” at the wrong place, with your explication of “Notorious” and all the comments from fans of the blog. I hope you’ll get a chance to read it. My only quarrel with your list is placing “Vertigo” at number 6. Perhaps some day you’ll see it again and admire it for its spellbinding look into the notion of the romantic ideal and its eventual and tragic unraveling. But isn’t it wonderful to choose among so many truly great and excellent films?

    Always,

    Dave Crosby

    • John Greco says:

      Ranking Hitchcock is tough. There are just so many brilliant works that placing one over another is difficult. I know many consider VERITGO his best and I cannot quarrel with that. I suspect others would rank it higher also. I do plan on taking another look at it again as I do with many of his works, that there is no doubt of. It is a brilliant film of idolized love and as you said, “its tragic unraveling.”

  3. Sam Juliano says:

    John, here is my own dozen favorites in some kind of order:

    1. Vertigo
    2. Psycho
    3. Rebecca
    4. The Lady Vanishes
    5. Rear Window
    6. Notorious
    7. Strangers on a Train
    8. I Confess
    9. North by Northwest
    10. Shadow of a Doubt
    11. The 39 Steps
    12. Blackmail (1929)

  4. Dave Crosby says:

    Just a brief comment, John. I want to mention that I consider “North by Northwest” one of the greatest of Hitch’s films. I don’t need to say why, I think or hope. It is actually the granddaddy of all adventure/action films. After this came all of those Bruce Willis movies and so many, many others, featuring ‘splosions galore and car chases and gun battles and all sorts of falls from skyscrapers, etc., etc.,. But the odd thing is that when such films end the viewer is left feeling utterly empty. “North by Northwest” engages the attention precisely because there is interest in the people, no matter how melodramatic the plotting. Hitchcock plays on shots of Cary Grant’s hands as evidence of his growing anxieties and suspicion. By the time the girl embraces him in the
    Chicago hotel, his hands are up in the air as the camera embraces them. His suspicion is utmost now. And Hitch deals with politics (“Maybe you’d better start losing some cold wars.”) and espionage and romance and the cynicism of government and a great deal more and does it all with great style and humor. Much copied, never even close.

    Dave

    • John Greco says:

      Dave,

      No arguement for sure. MBNW is satuarated in well developed characters which is a major factor in what make this film work so. Without resorting to gimmicks of any kind AH gives us a gripping tense thriller. Thanks again for you wonderful comments.

  5. Dave Crosby says:

    Just another comment. I loved this Hitchcock blogathon. I gained a good deal from all the commentary, yours and the others, and it has stirred up a good deal of thinking about A. H. films I might have forgotten about. The contributors had really fascinating insights and I’m so pleased to know that Hitch continues to be relevant. I hope your next blogathon involves W. C. Fields. He saved my sanity. I went through a hideous depression and I felt so nearly at the end of my rope by evening that I had to do something. And Fields was it. I have all his features and some of the short subjects and so I had a Fields therapy session nightly. His genius, his sense of comedy within a small town and all its oddball characters, brought me out of my dark moods. I admired his work so fervently that this passion awakened me and brought me to life again. I couldn’t stop talking to friends about him. Anyone who hasn’t seen his work is in for a grand time. And thanks again, John, for a wonderful time with the Hitchcock blog and your continuing excellent work. It has meant a great deal to me.

    Dave

    • John Greco says:

      Dave,

      I am glad you enjoyed the blogathon and I am sure all the other bloggers appreciate your infomative comments and enthusiasm as I do. I don’t know what we will be doing next but Fields would certainly be a great subject, ah yes! What’s next is still in discussion. Thanks again!

  6. Troy Olson says:

    I’d have to go with the following:

    1) Vertigo
    2) Psycho
    3) Rear Window
    4) North By Northwest
    (I could rearrange those 4 in just about any order and be happy with it…essentially 1a through 1d)
    5) Notorious
    6) Rebecca
    7) Strangers on A Train
    8) Shadow of a Doubt
    9) The 39 Steps
    10) The Birds
    11) Spellbound
    12) Suspicion
    13) The Trouble With Harry

    I need to rewatch a lot of his earlier films — I saw them many years ago but they are no longer fresh in my mind.

    • John Greco says:

      Troy,

      I definitely understand how you could easily want to rearrange some. I love making list but they are never absolute. Thanks!!!

  7. It is interesting for me to consider the Rear Window/Vertigo split. Much like a good friend of mine John, you’ve opted for Rear Window as the best Hitchcock movie, whereas for myself it is Vertigo. My own impression is that Rear Window tends to appeal to the minimalist, self-reflexive, keenly patterning mind, it’s a perfectly formed cinematic exercise in tension and is almost an entirely authentic experience, toying with the passivity that the filmgoer experiences whilst watching the film. On the other hand Vertigo is an overblown, outlandish, obsessive work, that is at times rapturous and horrifying, but lets a lot hang out around the edges also. It’s probably Hitchcock’s most manipulative film and also demands that the viewer follow it into its Romantically dark, almost gothic, places. I love both films, but tend firmly toward the expressionism of the latter. For what it is worth, here would be my Baker’s Dozen:-

    1) Vertigo
    2) Rebecca
    3) The Trouble With Harry
    4) Rear Window
    5) North by Northwest
    6) Notorious
    7) The 39 Steps
    8) The Lady Vanishes
    9) Psycho
    10) Strangers on a Train
    11) Rope
    12) Shadow of A Doubt
    13) The Birds

    • John Greco says:

      Rohan, the reasons you put forth on REAR WINDOW are exactly the reasons I like the film. Film watching is passive and RW is almost a film within a film with Stewart’s character viewing his courtyard “screen” passively watching lives of others playout. I have to say I love your description of VERTIGO, it does make me want to see ti again. Looking at your list, the only surprise is THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, a film I could never warm up too.

  8. Dave Crosby says:

    John, all these comments by various people point out that the opinion of a number of writers for Hitchcock scripts and of many critics that he doesn’t understand character development or human psychology is just nuts. Time and again contributors (and you as well) argue that what holds his films together is our involvement with the reactions of the characters to psychological and moral problems. Even with what could have been a superficial action film in the hands of others, ‘North By Northwest’, all the suspense has to do with the developing political, moral and emotional twists and turns in the characters. Love, trust, exploitation, cynicism, and on and on— all aspects of the characters and their situations. And on top of that, as if that ain’t enough, NBNW happens to be an essay in the existential dilemma of the individual in society. And this is done in a far more entertaining way than any of the existentialist philosophers manage.

    One further comment. I believe that a major function of Hitch’s use of film technique (the subjective camera— montage involving point of view shots and and cuts to reactions of the characters) and story construction is not only to emphasize moral problems (in the very broadest sense) but also to subvert our own moral positions in order to make us realize our own reactions are not always the purest. From one film to the next we have a coherent picture being put together. And that’s why we continue to find his films cogent and entertaining.

    It’s good to read so much intelligent commentary by truly interested film fans. You’ve benefited us all.

    • John Greco says:

      I am with you Dave, Hitchock clearly understood human psychology and developed it clearly in his characters. i think Hitchcock’s use of the camera (the angles, the positioning) seduces the viewer into his web taking you along for whatever ride he had in mind. A good example of this the cropduster scene in NBNW. thanks as always for your insight!

  9. Dave Crosby says:

    John, it’s interesting that you should use the word “seduce” because, first, I agree completely with your notion, and second because I think primarily Hitchcock’s art is motivated by his libidinous instincts which were so much repressed during his life as a very heavy man who was not altogether the handsomest. Of course, one can follow the development of this artistic method of montage form through his early years in Germany and England, but right away as a director he seemed to understand that the frame, the image, is capable of being manipulated such that we are in his control. The dynamism of his scenes derives from that underlying urge to seduce us, and I think that in a film such as ‘Notorious,’ for example, more a conventional drama rather than chase thriller, we may not notice how thoroughly we are being seduced into his web, as you so nicely put it. The reception scene is a good example of this. For much of it there is little dialog, but we know what each character is thinking or feeling at every moment because of subjective camera technique. This reflects what I conceive of as an urgency born of underlying psychic motivation.

    That this dynamism is more apparent in, say, ‘Psycho’ than in ‘Notorious’ is perhaps caused by the nature of the material. While ‘Notorious’ has certain dark psychological aspects in the story, the latter film is almost a radical descent into the realm of the id and is therefore far more completely and noticeably constructed through editing, or, if you wish, montage. But I do not mean to stress the relativity of content because I think his desire to seduce the audience is fundamental to his very conception of the art of film and because I believe he was a very serious artist who consciously wore the disguise of a popular filmmaker.

    • John Greco says:

      Dave,

      I always found his use of the camera, very seductive. “Notorious” is filled with seductive scenes (sexual and non-sexual), the opening reception scene, which you refer too, and later the scene where Grant and Bergman kiss and kiss and kiss. True, the stop and go kissing was in reaction to the censors not allowing a kiss for longer than X amount of seconds but Hitchcock used that to his benefit making the scene more sexually erotic than it otherwise would have been had they just did one long kiss. It’s brilliant filmmaking and I am totally on board with you with your last statement which I copied below.

      ” he was a very serious artist who consciously wore the disguise of a popular filmmaker.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s