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Five Films Not Made By Alfred Hitchcock For Alfred Hitchcock Fans

Posted on 7/7/14 by Pete

Alfred Hitchcock made such a mark on the cinematic world that "Hitchcockian" is a word. A word used to describe the kind of suspense noir film with characters in fear for their safety or at least liberty. Hitchcockian films have protagonists trapped in situations they did nothing to deserve, wrongfully accused of crimes they did not commit, and living in a world of paranoia and intrigue.

Whether through intentional tribute or just following form, these films all invoke enough of The Master's spirit that Hitchcock fans will at least get a kick out of them...

Panic Room

Probably the most frequently-cited example. This simple story of a mother and daughter holed up in a house besieged by burglars has a heart-stopping narrow escape per minute. Two smart residents and three almost-as-smart thieves struggle to one-up each other. In classic Hitchcock style, the protagonists walked into a situation they did not create: The previous occupant of the house left a fortune in savings bonds in the house, which the burglars have come for expecting to find a vacant house. Just their tough luck that Jodie Foster has just signed the lease...

Elements in common with Hitchcock films:

  • - Blond female protagonist.
  • - Claustrophobic setting (Rope, Lifeboat).
  • - Staircase chase scenes (Vertigo).
  • - Savings-bond Macguffin (North by Northwest).
  • - Ordinary people thrown into dangerous situations where they suddenly have to fight for their lives (The Wrong Man).

Head Above Water

While this 1996 vehicle for Cameron Diaz and Harvey Keitel is more played for laughs - perhaps a dark comedy - it definitely sweats Hitchcock from every pore. It draws a big comparison with Hitchcock's own 1955 black comedy film The Trouble with Harry; a group of people in an isolated location discover a person has died and all of them strive to hide the event for fear that they'll be accused of murder, even though none of them did anything wrong in the first place.

Elements in common with Hitchcock films:

  • - Blond female protagonist.
  • - Suspicion and counter-suspicion of murder (The Trouble With Harry).
  • - Constantly shifting alliances and double-crosses (Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest).
  • - Bumbling authority figure - Keitel is a retired judge who doesn't trust the justice system he worked for (The Wrong Man, North by Northwest).
  • - Cameron Diaz wins the Perils of Pauline award for the most outrageous damsel-in-distress situations in a movie (Foreign Correspondent, The Birds, North by Northwest).

Duel

Well, if you were driving cross-country through open desert, and a psychopathic truck driver just decided to hunt you down and kill you, what would you do? This feature-length film of the worst case of road rage ever was one of Stephen Spielberg's earliest films. You can see the Hitchcock elements all over the place even as Spielberg looks forward to 1975's Jaws.

Elements in common with Hitchcock films:

  • - Character in grave danger from a big vehicle in open land (North by Northwest).
  • - Ordinary every-man thrust into a deadly situation (Rear Window, Strangers on a Train).
  • - Dramatic irony - at one point, Dennis Weaver stops at a roadside diner only to discover the truck parked outside. Now he goes into the diner, but he has to study the patrons to try to figure out who the driver is. He doesn't dare ask for help for fear of revealing himself to his antagonist (North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much).
  • - Adapted from a short story by Richard Matheson, whose stories also became the basis for a couple of episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: ("Ride the Nightmare", "The Thirty-First of February").

12 Monkeys

Not only is this movie thick with Hitchcock elements, but it pays open tribute to Hitchcock by showing the protagonists holed up in a movie theater that happens to be showing a Hitchcock festival. Now, science fiction thrillers are definitely outside the usual realm of Hitchcock - surely he would have considered time travel to be hogwash he wouldn't dirty his hands with. And the overall "mission to save the world" plot would be outside Hitchcock's usual practice, as his films were far more concerned with the individual looking out to save their own hide. Nevertheless, you just can't miss the Hitchcockian touches here, and the film's creators make sure you don't.

Elements in common with Hitchcock films:

  • - Blond female protagonist - surprise! Madeleine Stowe dolls herself up like the stereotypical ice blond by the end.
  • - Innocent man unjustly locked up - in both jail and the loony bin (The Wrong Man, North by Northwest).
  • - Characters who spend a lot of time having their sanity questioned (Rear Window, Vertigo).
  • - MacGuffin - Two kinds, an activist group suspected of releasing the virus, and the virus itself (North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much).
  • - Dramatic irony - At Stowe's lecture and book-signing, the actual antagonist confronts her and gives her a long creepy speech condemning society, which she blows off. This is the closest the main protagonists and antagonist come to meeting (Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest).

High Anxiety

Well, how could we leave this one out? This is nothing less than Mel Brooks' 1977 parody of Hitchcock films - Mel himself is Dr. Thornedyke, a psychologist who has been assigned to work at a mental institution which has something very, very fishy going on. The title itself is a reference to Vertigo, as Thorndyke also has a fear of heights.

Just some of the Hitchcock canon referenced:

  • - Spellbound and Vertigo - The plot is basically a mash-up of the two stories. The bell tower from vertigo actually gets reused to film a scene.
  • - The Birds - In an icky version.
  • - Psycho: "Here's your paper! HERE'S YOUR PAPER! HAPPY NOW?"
  • - Psycho again: No, not dead, just sleeps with his eyes open.
  • - North by Northwest - Lots of airport scenes.

The Master's legacy lives on! Til next time, film geeks!


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