KPBS film critic Beth Accomando looks at FilmOut's Hitchcock Marathon.
Related Story: Hitchcock Marathon
The Master of Suspense returns to the big screen on Saturday with a marathon of 4 classic Hitchcock films at the Birch North Park Theater. The event is sponsored by FilmOut.
HITCHCOCK: How do you do, my name is Alfred Hitchcock.
Few directors in Hollywood have turned their name into a brand the way Alfred Hitchcock did. The Hitch label became synonymous with stylish suspense and clever thrillers that made you scoot to the edge of your seat or reel back in terror. His jowly profile, rotund figure, and perversely soothing voice were and still are readily recognizable to audiences.
HITCHCOCK: Here we have a quiet little motel, tucked away off the main highway…
And with films like “Psycho,” he changed the face of horror by moving us away from the supernatural and into the cold light of modern day serial killers.
HITCHCOCK: Well the murderer you see crept in here very slowly of course the shower was on there was no sound and ah… scream.
With “Psycho,” Hitchcock might have caused an entire generation of filmgoers to opt out of taking showers. He also unnerved them by killing off the film’s star Janet Leigh in the first 30 minutes. That was unheard of and deeply unsettling because it meant that anything could happen. The delicious thrill of seeing that film for the first time in 1960 can’t be repeated because films and audiences have changed. But the glory of Hitchcock’s craft can be enjoyed on the big screen again thanks to FilmOut programmer Michael McQuiggan. He’s a big fan of the Hitchcock brand.
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: I like Hitchcock personally because it’s a slow build and so it’s not like bam, bam, bam, action, action, action, he takes his time and the pay off’s always incredible.
CLIP: They’re coming, they’re coming.
For this Saturday’s Hitchcock Marathon, McQuiggan has chosen 4 of the master’s best: “The Birds,” “Psycho,” “Rear Window,” and “Vertigo.”
TRAILER: Vertigo, a feeling of dizziness, a swimming in the head, figuratively a state in which all things seem to be engulfed in a whirlpool of terror as created by Alfred Hitchcock in the story that gives new meaning to the word suspense.
Just last year, “Vertigo” displaced “Citizen Kane” as the top film on the British magazine Sight and Sound’s prestigious critics poll of the top 100 films in the world. It was European critics that first recognized Hitchcock as a master filmmaker and not just an entertaining master of suspense. “Vertigo” was a box office failure when it came out in 1958 and it even fell out of distribution for a number of years. McQuiggan says he has newfound appreciation for “Vertigo.”
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: I was amazed by the art direction and the color schemes relating to the characters and it’s a pretty deep film. So I think if people pay attention and watch specifically the colors from the beginning to the end and see how they evolve then you’ll pick up some nuances that you may have overlooked especially seeing them on the big screen.
Some may question why FilmOut, the organization that puts on San Diego’s LBGT film festival, is hosting a Hitchcock marathon. But the answer is simple for McQuiggan who has programmed 4 genre marathons in the past.
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Each film that we screen is bringing in different people. now they are aware of FilmOut and hopefully they will want to see what we’re about for the actual festival too, so my goal is to bring all different types of film to San Diego through FilmOut.
These marathons not only broaden FilmOut’s audience but also expose their core supporters to cult and classic cinema that they might not know. McQuiggan also hopes that the familiar Hitchcock brand will draw a big, appreciative crowd. Seeing “Rear Window” on the big screen is an opportunity that should not be missed. James Stewart plays a wheelchair bound photographer who spies on his neighbors to combat boredom.
TRAILER: At first I watched them to kill time but then I couldn’t take my eyes off them just as you won’t be able to.
Hitchcock does a devilishly good job of trapping us and Stewart in that wheelchair and turning us into voyeurs who can do nothing but watch passively as a killer goes about his business.
CLIP: Screams… Jeff!... What should we do?
Hitchcock is a master at manipulating his audience, leading us exactly where he wants us to go – sometimes making us squirm, sometimes making us scream, but always delivering a spellbinding cinematic experience.
Beth Accomando, KPBS News.