Alfred was the third and youngest child in the family. He might have gone on to follow in his father's
footsteps as a grocer or develop a career of less notoriety except, perhaps, for a chilling incident in his early
youth. Alfred was just five years old the day he committed some misdeed that convinced his father he
needed a lesson in discipline. His father sent him down to see the chief of police, with a note about what
should be done to teach Alfred the error of this ways. The police chief promptly put him into a cell and
slammed the door shut. Later, Alfred recalled that "the sound and solidity of that closing cell door and the
bolt" never left his memory. He was really only abandoned behind bars for five minutes. Upon his release,
the officer made sure to impress him with the chilling words "that's what we do to naughty boys".
(Shepler, August 15, 1999)
Alfred's fear of authority and punishment was reinforced during his years at the Jesuit school, St. Ignatius
College. At that time, corporal punishment was meted out by ritual beatings on the hands with a hard
rubber strap. Alfred Hitchcock would later recall that those incidents felt to him much like "going to the
gallows." Punishment, and terror of it being unfairly administered by the police to someone undeserving
would later emerge in Hitchcock's movies, particularly "The Thirty-Nine Steps", "I confess", "The Wrong
Man" and "North by Northwest".
Every director makes the choices of what to emphasize and what to play down in a given screenplay.
Hitchcock, throughout his career, always chose to highlight irony, surprises, moral ambiguity, and the
uncertainties of life. I will attempt to illustrate what I think are Hitchcock's best attributes and supreme
techniques as a director; specifically his use of camera angles, sound and ability to use the audience's
Hitchcock possessed a deliberate directorial style and vast technical knowledge. The director was known
for his meticulous planning of every shot - before filming, he would sketch each scene with a list of every
possible camera angle. Hitchcock used a full array of cinematic techniques in addition to montage to
manipulate his audience, including unusual camera angles and carefully placed sound effects. He
meticulously planned each shot in his films and treated the actor as just another object on the set, leaving
the impression that nothing on the screen had arrived there by chance.
Indeed, what makes many of Alfred Hitchcock's movies so compelling is his focus on ordinary people
being drawn into extraordinary and frightening events. There are no great beasts or extraterrestrial beings.
The monsters may well be the neighbors across the way, as in "Rear Window," or inside the psychotic mind
of an otherwise likeable young man, namely Norman Bates in "Psycho". Espionage, terrorism and military
sabotage, genuine fears during the years leading up to World War II and throughout the Cold War, formed
the basis for "North by Northwest," "Secret Agent" and "Saboteur".
A technique that Hitchcock used to build suspense was to get the audience in on the real danger early in the
movies, but leave the characters in the dark. In "Sabotage," he has a delivery boy carrying a package that
contains a bomb set to go off at 1:45pm. The audience knows this but the delivery boy only knows he's
been told to deliver the package to an address in London by 1:30. As he dawdles down the street, distracted
by this and that, tension builds as the clocks keep ticking off the minutes. Finally, he boards a bus to make
When moviegoers refer to Alfred Hitchcock's style, they are usually thinking of his camera work and
editing. Hitchcock's use of language, sound effects, and music is just as essential, distinctive, and masterly.
Hitchcock was an important pioneer of sound techniques: he experimented with expressionistic sound in
"Blackmail" with the interior monologue in "Murder", with subliminal sound in "The Secret Agent" and
with computer-generated effects in "The Birds". Hitchcock has had an abiding interest in finding ways to
incorporate music into the heart of his plot. Indeed, music is an essential component of the story in over
half of his sound films, and eight of his protagonists are musicians. He thus can manipulate the audience's
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