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Podcast Episode 123: TCM Spotlight On Alfred Hitchcock

TCM and Ball State partner for another online course

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock on the set of "Vertigo" with star Kim Novak. (1958)

Episode 123: TCM Spotlight on Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock is a filmmaker who has left an indelible mark on cinema. His career spanned the silents and talkies, black and white, Technicolor, and 3D, plus film industries on both side of the pond. To celebrate Hitchcock, I speak with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and Ball State University’s Richard L. Edwards. You can sign up for their online course about the Master of Suspense until July 14 and enjoy the films on TCM all month.

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Transcript

Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, Hitch — however you want to refer to him — is a filmmaker who has left an indelible mark on cinema. His career spanned the silents and talkies, black and white, Technicolor, and 3-D, plus film industries on both side of the Pond. Now TCM and Ball State are offering an online course about his work.

He worked primarily in the suspense-thriller genre but found great diversity and nuance within it. Hitchcock's 1960 film "Psycho" is often cited as the first slasher film and the granddaddy of all the Freddies, Jasons and Michael Myers. And five years ago his film "Vertigo" knocked "Citizen Kane" off the top slot of Sight and Sound’s list of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

James Stewart and Kim Novak star in Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (1958). The film recently knocked "Citizen Kane" off the top slot of Sight and Sound's list of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time.

Although he made his last film, "Family Plot," in 1976 and died four years later, his influence on movies and viewers is still felt today. As a testament to that TCM is once again partnering with Ball State University and Richard L. Edwards to present an online course about the master of suspense. Plus, TCM will be screening a nearly complete collection of his films including some silent for viewers to enjoy in July.

Whether you grew up with Hitchcock’s films or his TV shows or the various spoofs or homages that came later, you probably know something about his work.

Maybe it is the notion of the MacGuffin, that thing or character that could set a Hitchcock film in motion and keep the plot in motion although it ultimately proves to have no real significance. Or maybe it is the theme of the wrong man as Cary Grant so deliciously played in "North by Northwest." Or maybe it is just the staccato strains of Bernard Herrmann’s score for "Psycho" that still sticks in your head.

Hitchcock’s genius was his ability to blend his meticulously executed craft and artistry with a business savvy that kept his films popular for decades. Even a film like "Vertigo" that he considered a box office failure made back its money. It just did not turn the big profits of "Psycho," "Rear Window," and "North By Northwest."

A Hitchcock film always brought you to the edge of your seat or in some cases hiding under it.

He made you feel the frustration of Henry Fonda as a falsely accused man in "The Wrong Man," or the tension of a wheelchair bound Jimmy Stewart watching his girlfriend encounter a killer in an apartment across the courtyard in "Rear Window."

Hitchcock could also engross us in the activity of a killer and make us look for every drop of blood along with Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates in "Psycho" as he cleaned the bathroom murder site.

That was key in all of Hitch’ films — the level of engagement he had with the audience. He always hooked us, always made it so we did not want to turn away from the screen for fear of missing something. He could be a bit of a sadist, putting us through agony as we watched characters we liked go through extreme and dangerous situations. But we loved him for every agonizing second.

To celebrate Hitchcock, I speak with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and Ball State University’s Richard L. Edwards. You can sign up for the course until Friday and enjoy the films on TCM all month.

That was TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. The last time I spoke with Richard Edwards it was about the film noir class he did with TCM. So before we get into Hitchcock, I wanted Edwards to talk a little about his partnership with TCM for these online film courses.

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