Blood-curdling screams, sinister shadows, a mystery revealed in a heart-shattering moment...for those with a preference for terror-filled thrills, Alfred Hitchcock is the man to turn to. This master of suspense has kept a whole generation of cine-goers at the edge of their seats with his cunning and skillful unraveling of tantalizing tales.
Rear Window (1954)
Professional photographer, L. B. 'Jeff' Jeffries (James Stewart) is laid up in his apartment due to a broken leg. Confined to a wheelchair he takes to spying on his neighbors in the apartment buildings opposite his own, through his camera lens. His casual voyeurism takes on a dangerous turn as Jeff starts suspecting his neighbor (a salesman) of having murdered his bedridden wife. With help from his sophisticated high-society girlfriend, Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly) Jeff begins to unravel the mystery behind the presumed murder. Hitchcock keeps us enraptured by the plot as we are introduced to different characters simply by their lives unfolding through their open windows - a frustrated spinster, a middle-aged couple with a dog, a newly-wed couple who can't seem to get enough of each other, an attractive dancer who has a steady stream of men visiting her, and a depressed songwriter. The sets are picture-perfect and the characters are endearing and totally identifiable, as Hitchcock's camera moves from one character to the next with all their joys, sadnesses, and quirks. Grace Kelly with her breathtaking wardrobe adds glamour and grace. The plot moves at a quick pace leading to a gripping climax where it appears as if the audience, and not Jeff, is watching through the camera lens. This movie received 4 Academy Award nominations and is considered one of Hitchcock's cleverest movies.
Police detective John 'Scottie' Ferguson (James Stewart) discovers his acrophobia (fear of heights) while chasing a criminal over the rooftops of San Francisco. When a fellow police officer, in his attempt to help Scottie, falls to his death Scottie is ridden with guilt and retires from the police force. His college friend, Gavin, hires Scottie as private investigator to follow his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) who he believes is possessed. While trailing her, Scottie falls in love with her and in his attempt to help her decode her nightmares lands at Mission San Juan Bautista. At the mission, Madeleine in a panic, starts running up the staircase of the bell tower. Due to his acrophobia, Scottie is not able to follow her fast enough and Madeleine falls from the top killing herself. Just as the viewer is waiting to exhale at this dramatic turn of events, Scottie bumps into Madeleine's lookalike. The rest of the story is a series of twists and turns which keep the viewer ever-guessing but never able to discover the suspense. Considered one of the most intense psychological thrillers of all time, Vertigo is an unusual romance complete with breathtaking visuals, glamour, and masterful story-telling. One of the film's posters has a vertigo-like spiral effect with a couple in the center - this is perhaps symbolic of the film which traps the viewer into a spiral of tightly-wound tension.
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), tired of waiting for her lover Sam (John Gavin) to marry her, flees town with $40,000 given to her by her employer for a bank deposit. Seeing this cash as the golden opportunity to start a new life, Marion heads to her lover in California. Getting caught in a thunderstorm, en route, Marion stops for the night at the Bates Motel, an isolated lodge with no guests. She meets the motel owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) who seems to be mild-mannered and eager to please. There is an ominous-looking house next door with the silhouette of an old woman in the window which Marion assumes is Bates' mother. She later hears the mother chiding Bates for offering Marion a meal, suspecting them of having a roaring affair. The heart-stoppingly chilling shower scene, the iconic music score, the dramatic sets, the dark mystery surrounding timid Bates and his domineering mother, the light and shadows of the black-and-white film, all contribute to an unforgettable cinematic experience. Incidently, Hitchcock shot the movie in black and white to keep costs down and also because he didn't want the red blood in the shower to appear gruesome. The climax unfolds so cleverly and suddenly, that it completely blows away any guesswork on the part of the viewer.