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Create Your Own Film Class With Series Devoted To Hitchcock, Giallo

Two film series complement each other with some film history in October

Photo credit: AGFA

Masked killers are a key element in giallo cinema. Here is one from "Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key."

GUEST:

Beth Accomando, KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast Host

Transcript

October and Halloween are just around the corner and that means some fun film programming. Angelika Film Center hosts its month-long Hitchcocktober fest while Digital Gym Cinema features "A Giallo Affair," a giallo film series.

San Diego filmgoers have a unique opportunity to treat themselves to a personal course in film history by sampling films from two local venues.

October is the month that Angelika Film Center always devotes to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. This year its Hitchcocktober series will highlight five classic titles beginning with "North By Northwest" on Oct. 3 and continuing with "Notorious" (Oct. 10), "Vertigo" (Oct. 17), "Rebecca" (Oct. 24), and "Psycho" (on Halloween night).

The line up showcases Hitchcock in peak form ranging from his first Hollywood feature "Rebecca" to his shocking 1960 film "Psycho" that laid the groundwork for all the slasher/serial killer films of the '80s.

Hitchcock's films were also highly influential on a genre of Italian cinema known as "giallo." A series of four newly restored 4K digital transfers will be showcased in October at the Digital Gym Cinema and co-sponsored by Film Geeks SD, which I co-program for. The giallo showcased will be "What Have You Done to Solange?" (Oct. 8 and 9), "Don't Torture A Duckling" (Oct. 15 and 16), "Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key" (Oct. 22 and 23), and "Death Laid An Egg" (Oct. 29 and 30).

Most people are familiar with Hitchcock, but fewer people know about giallo cinema. So this month filmgoers have a perfect opportunity to see some classic Hitchcock and then watch some giallo to see how Hitch influenced this Italian genre.

The word “giallo” translates literally as “yellow,” but it became synonymous with a particular style of literary thriller that got its name from the cheap yellow covers of the novels published in Italy in the 1950s and ’60s.

Like film noir before it, giallo has its roots in literature and crime fiction. Giallo also turns to France to draw on the Grand Guignol style of theater for a healthy dose of lurid violence and disturbing themes. You’ll also notice the influence of Edgar Allen Poe, Gothic horror and Alfred Hitchcock in creating an atmosphere of dread and psychological horror.

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Anthony Perkins stars as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's seminal film, "Psycho" (1960).

"Psycho" in particular, with its focus on a serial killer, would help set the themes for Italian giallo and its fascination with gruesome murders. "Psycho" represented a shift in cinema as it killed off its star less than a third of the way into the film and let the psychologically deranged killer take center stage. It was a film that drew on real-life crimes (Ed Gein in this case) as a source of inspiration.

But perhaps it's "Vertigo," with its strange dream state imagery, that proved the stronger stylistic influence. Giallo cinema loves to focus on serial killers as "Psycho" did, but the Italians added their own over the top sense of style and audacious sense of design to the formula to create something new. The visual style of giallo cinema calls to mind a fever dream and in that sense, it is very much akin to Hitchcock's "Vertigo."

These two film series allow you to watch a giallo and a Hitchcock film back to back for four straight weeks. That provides a rare opportunity to not only see the films on the big screen where they belong but also to see how Hitchcock's influence was felt overseas.

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