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New Left Review I/35, January-February 1966


Lee Russell

Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock, of course, is a household name. His first film was made in 1921, his first sound film (Blackmail) in 1929, his first American film (Rebecca) in 1940. He has come to dominate completely the suspense thriller genre; his silhouette on publicity posters is enough to chill spines in anticipation. But he is not only a household name; his films are also, arguably, the pinnacle of film art. At least three serious and extremely interesting book-length exegeses have been devoted to Hitchcock’s work: Rohmer and Chabrol’s classic Hitchcock (Paris, 1957), Jean Douchet’s Hitchcock (Paris, 1965) and Robin Wood’s recent Hitchcock’s Films (London, 1965). All these books contain exhaustive accounts and theories of Hitchcock’s principal themes: Wood’s book, though not the most brilliant, is perhaps the best. The critic, therefore, who now chooses to write about Hitchcock is not, as is usually the case with auteur criticism, starting ex nihilo; there is already an established area of critical agreement and a number of embryonic critical debates are under way. On the other hand, there is still an important task of popularization of this critical debate to be accomplished. Perhaps the next step should be, as far as space allows, to sketch out the main themes which have been discerned in Hitchcock’s films—particularly his recent films—and then, in conclusion, to make some general and synthesizing remarks about their implications, connections and importance.

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