A thrilling tale of anxiety and moral extremity, Marnie (1964) cemented Alfred Hitchcock's reputation as a master of suspense and the visual form.
Murray Pomerance here ranges through the many tortuous and thrilling passages of Marnie, weaving critical discussion together with production history to reveal Marnie as a woman in flight from her self, her past, her love, and the eyes of surveilling others. Challenging many received opinions – including claims of technical sloppiness and the proposal that Marnie's marriage night is a 'rape scene' – Pomerance sheds new light on a film that can often be difficult to understand and accept on its own terms.
Original and stimulating, this BFI Film Classic identifies Marnie as one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, highlights the film's philosophical and psychological sensitivity, and reveals its sharp-eyed understanding of American society and its mores.
"Blackmail" owes its place in film history to the fact that it was the first major British sound film. It exists in two quite separate versions, one sound, one silent, and is one of the first films to have the Hitchcock touch, as in the chase sequence around the British Museum. Tom Ryall examines the film's unusual production history, and places it in the context of Hitchcock's other British films of the period. This text is part of the "BFI Film Classics" series. Each volume in the series presents a personal commentary on the film, together with a brief production history and a detailed filmography, notes and bibliography.
"The Birds" (1963) was the first film Alfred Hitchcock made after "Psycho". Drawn from a Daphne du Maurier story as well as contemporary newspaper reports of bird attacks in California, "The Birds" featured the icy blonde Tippi Hedren in her first starring role. A film about anxiety, sexual power and the violence of nature, it is quintessential Hitchcock. Camille Paglia draws together in this text the film's aesthetic, technical and mythical qualities, and analyzes its depiction of gender and family relations.
Vertigo (1958) is widely regarded as not only one of Hitchcock's best films, but one of the greatest films of world cinema. Made at the time when the old studio system was breaking up, it functions both as an embodiment of the supremely seductive visual pleasures that 'classical Hollywood' could offer and – with the help of an elaborate plot twist – as a laying bare of their dangerous dark side. The film's core is a study in romantic obsession, as James Stewart's Scottie pursues Madeleine/Judy (Kim Novak) to her death in a remote Californian mission. Novak is ice cool but vulnerable, Stewart – in the darkest role of his career – genial on the surface but damaged within.
Although it can be seen as Hitchcock's most personal film, Charles Barr argues that, like Citizen Kane, Vertigo is at the same time a triumph not so much of individual authorship as of creative collaboration. He highlights the crucial role of screenwriters Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor and, by a combination of textual and contextual analysis, explores the reasons why Vertigo continues to inspire such fascination.
In his foreword to this special edition, published to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BFI Film Classics series, Barr looks afresh at Vertigo alongside the recently-rediscovered 'lost' silent The White Shadow (1924), scripted by Hitchcock, which also features the trope of the double, and at the acclaimed contemporary silent film The Artist (2011), which pays explicit homage to Vertigo in its soundtrack.