Alfred Hitchcock first made a name for himself in early British cinema, directing features such as Blackmail, The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps. In 1940 he tried his luck in Hollywood, at first being rejected, but soon landing a contract with producer David O. Selznick. There were immediate successes with Rebecca, Suspicion, Lifeboat, Spellbound and Rope, and Hitchcock established himself as one of the finest filmmakers in the game. He also soon earned a autheuristic reputation for putting psychological murder mysteries on the agenda.
Sexual themes became an undercurrent in Hitchcock's movies in the early 50s, notably with the somewhat homoerotic Strangers on a Train (1951). Not unusual for Hitchcock's movies, Strangers is a movie about a man believing he is about to commit the perfect murder. This was a theme Hitchcock was going to return to more often than not in his heyday, the 50s and early 60s, and he followed this tradition in the classy Dial M for Murder (1954). His early movies had been of a more dramatic nature, but in the 50s he turned to frequently more luscious psychological mysteries.
In 1954 he scored one of his greatest masterpieces with Rear Window. It's themes and characters are typical Hitchcock, but the films form and effect were groundbreaking, making the viewer into voyeurs. It might seem bold claiming that Hitchcock anticipated the nature of reality television fifty years in advance, but it underlines Rear Window's uniqueness. Even more impressive was how he shot it in one location only.
Hitchcock then signed a few films that only achieved moderate success, before directing the extraordinary Vertigo, his visually most accomplished film and also one of his most psychological complex. As with Rear Window, his favourite leading man, Jimmy Stewart had to solve a well-kept mystery. Vertigo was followed by North by Northwest, a unanimously hailed thriller of audacious propotions and high octane with a somewhat lighter thematic nature.
The following year, however, Hitchcock made a small, unambitious film entitled Psycho. In retrospect he claims it was merely made as a joke, and he also had trouble financing it, but some forty years later, Psycho stands as perhaps the one movie that most people associate with Alfred Hitchcock. It is more of a horror movie than any of his previous films, and it includes some of the most memorable scenes in film history.
Hitchcock's post-Psycho films weren't necessarily of his best, but they were still successful. Films like The Birds, Marnie and the British production Frenzy rounded off the carreer of a filmmaker that dedicated a lifetime to making movies, and received in return a reputation of almost embodying a genre and a type of movie. He was, without a shadow of a doubt, the master of suspense.
The 39 Steps (1935)
"This suave, amusing spy melodrama is directed with so sure a touch that the suspense is charged with wit; it's one of the three or four best things Hitchcock ever did." - Pauline Kael
"Magnificent romantic-gothic corn, full of Alfred Hitchcock's humor and inventiveness." - Pauline Kael
"Yet, with all the obvious ingredients for success, Spellbound is a disaster." - Pauline Kael
Under Capricorn (1949)
"A Hitchcock stinker" - Pauline Kael
Strangers on a Train (1951)
"Alfred Hitchcock's bizarre, malicious comedy, in which the late Robert Walker brought sportive originality to the role of the chilling wit, dear degenerate Bruno; it's intensely enjoyable—in some ways the best of Alfred Hitchcock's American films."
Dial M for Murder (1954)
"A mystery darker than any propounded in the film: Why did Hitchcock persist in using actors as unattractively untalented as Robert Cummings?"
"At times Dial M for Murder seems staged and bumpy, but Frederick Knott's brilliant script together with Hitchcock's schemic direction cover all the films weaknesses and makes way for a highly joyous and stylish thriller of typical hitchcockesque brand." - Fredrik Fevang
Rear Window (1954)
"One of Hitchcock's most stylish thrillers"
- Leonard Maltin
"(...) the master of suspense manages to implement a narrative that functions on more levels than perhaps any of his movies." - Fredrik Fevang
"Hitchcock's murder set-pieces are so potent, they can galvanize (and frighten) even a viewer who's seen them before!"
- Leonard Maltin
"There is a dreadful story that I hate actors. Imagine anyone hating Jimmy Stewart... or Jack Warner. I can't imagine how such a rumor began. Of course it may possibly be because I was once quoted as saying that actors are cattle. My actor friends know I would never be capable of such a thoughtless, rude and unfeeling remark, that I would never call them cattle... What I probably said was that actors should be treated like
About Dario Argento and his film Profondo rosso (1975): "This young Italian guy is starting to worry me."
"I was an uncommonly unattractive young man."
On directing Charles Laughton: "You can't direct a Laughton picture. The best you can hope for is to referee."
"The paperback is very interesting but I find it will never replace the hardcover book -- it makes a very poor doorstop."
"Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders."
"I am a typed director. If I made "Cinderella," the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach."
"A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it."
"In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director."