One of last night’s dinner party conversion was the topic of everybody’s top three Alfred Hitchcock films. Being largely housebound at the moment I have been watching a few recently, and so some are very fresh to my memory. So, here is a top five.
1, The 39 Steps
For a long time my favourite film of all time. It is a tremendous story (loosely based on John Buchan’s novel) and in Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll has a superb pairing. The supporting cast are wonderful, and as a period piece alone it is a wonderful peak into the world as it was in 1939 (autogyro and all). I guess those not used to black and white and primitive filming techniques may find it a chore, but I think this proves that if you have a good story and great actors you do not need fancy special effects. Favourite scene? Possibly the one where Hannay and Pamela are handcuffed in a guesthouse.
Still scary more than fifty years after it was made. Made on a shoestring budget, this is a fine example of a great plot and fine performances. The shower scene must rank amongst the greatest in cinematographic history – and those violins must rival the Jaws music as being the most simple yet effective accompaniment of all time. Anthony Perkins is really sinister, and Janet Leigh is great. Favourite scene? The shower scene is exceptional – and it manages to convey what is going on without being graphic.
This is the one I watched most recently, and I rate it so highly just because Ingrid Bergman is so entrancing. Gregory Peck is fine too, portraying someone who impersonates the new head of an asylum, who goes on to be convicted for the murder of the person being impersonated. The story does not end there, though, and I shan’t spoil the denouement for those who have yet to see it. Best scene? I am tempted to say every one featuring Ms Bergman, but I will opt for the Salvador Dali dream sequence instead.
4, North by Northwest
I just love Cary Grant’s acting, and this amongst the finest of his performances. The famous crop-duster scene is wonderful staged – I like the unrushed way it is introduced. I cannot recall another film that features Mount Rushmore – but this is as likely owing to a combination of poor memory and not having watched enough movies. This film captures the feeling of the fifties ending and the sixties beginning and as a period piece alone it is worth watching.
5, Rear Window
Having got to number five I realise that there are a number of very good films I have omitted. But Rear Windows is an intriguing idea – a murder uncovered by someone confined by a broken leg to breaking the monotony of his existence by spying on his neighbours. Best scene? Grace Kelly breaking into one of the neighbouring flats – and getting caught in the act. It is a wonderfully claustrophobic film whose story-telling entrances the whole way through.