Tag: Alfred Hitchcock

Classic Visual Effects


Films have always relied on visual magic, on camera and laboratory tricks, never more than today. Special photographic visual effects existed for a century before the advent of computer-generated imagery, and often play a part in our fondest memories of favorite movies. There were few electronically created effects of any kind before the Eighties, and we’ll eventually get to the CGI era, but first, a guide to the classic processes and trade secrets that made the magic that most of us loved, from Metropolis through 2001, from Inside the Third Reich through Back to the Future. It’s the story of a distinctive twentieth century craft that still has relevance today.

Every history of special effects starts with George Melies, who was a fairground illusionist who brought trick photography to audiences in Paris. Other early films mostly ignored effects, except for a perennial fantasy favorite, ghosts, easy to do with a double exposure. Silent films began using glass shots: painting an elaborate setting on a sheet of glass and filming through it. Simple, but if you’ve ever seen the YouTube clip of Charlie Chaplin roller-skating in a department store, getting “dangerously” close to a “sheer drop”, you’ve seen how good it could look, even back then, if you lined it up right.

Rob discovers he got COVID for Christmas, and finds himself living in a Hitchcock film — in his head.


ACF Special Podcast: Hitchcock Anniversary


April 29 is the 40th anniversary of Hitchcock’s death, so I thought I’d share our podcasts on his wonderful movies. The conversation, however, will be a commemorative free-for-all — come one, come all! What are your Hitchcock memories, questions, and praise for the remarkable poet of a modernizing America? If you’re looking for a recommendation, mind you — the wonderful French director Eric Rohmer wrote a book about Hitchcock.

Bullitt: The Car Chase


What was the greatest car chase scene of all time? I don’t really know; but, if I had to pick one – I’d pick the chase scene from the 1968 movie Bullitt. There were car chase scenes in the movies long before Bullitt (lots of ’em), and there have been even more car chase scenes in the movies since Bullitt. But, Bullitt is a dividing line — car chase scenes after were and still are measured against the Bullitt chase scene. That full scene (a little over ten minutes in length) is below. I should note that when I started to put this post together it took a while to find the complete scene (at least in a form that could be pasted here on Ricochet), which was a little surprising.

ACF Anniversary Edition: Terry Teachout on Vertigo


Friends, the American Cinema Foundation movie podcast is on its first anniversary. To celebrate, the celebrated Terry Teachout joins me to discuss Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It’s a pleasure to have him join and I am even more pleased to announce we will be doing such conversations in future, with whatever regularity circumstances permit. I’m also glad to return to Hitchcock, who was on my mind last year, when the podcast was just getting started–I was preparing for my journey to America, to become a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute, and at that time, thinking about Hitchcock’s reflections on American society–I did several podcasts that I thought revealed the power of tragedy: Psycho (with a discussion of the moral teaching of the art on display in the movie), The Birds, and later Rope. That was when I conceived a book on Hitchcock’s movies from 1948 to 1963–his analysis of the post-war transformation, which mirrors his own change from the thriller to the horror. Listen and share, friends–I hope you will be delighted with this conversation and find some insights!

ACF#25: Rope


So the ACF podcast is giving you more Hitchcock! Eric and I talk about Rope (1948) on its 70th anniversary. This is unusual by Hitchcock and genre standards: A thriller that lets you know the murderers from the opening scene and never lets them out of your sight! Hitchcock brings a lot of art to this idea to make the moral question urgent and its deep implications, for America and humanity, palpable. At the same time, we’re not worried about spoiling the plot talking about this and you can be sure you’ll love the movie at least as much after listening to our conversation!

ACF #4 — “Psycho”


Welcome to the fourth episode of the American Cinema Foundation movie podcast! Today, I am joined by my friend and Ricochet compeer @stsalieriericcook. Eric Cook is a history teacher in a charter school in North Carolina, an organist in a church, and a builder of pipe organs, actually. One of Ricochet’s eccentric scholar-gentlemen, with an all-American upbringing in the working classes of Western Pennsylvania and a sometimes nostalgic, sometimes angry respect for the dignity of work, which is not faring well in our times. He also scores silent films–this is his BluRay of the 1922 movie Timothy’s quest–and leads the Ivy Leaf Orchestra!

Save or Kill – Ricochet Edition


save or killThis past weekend, I did a pop-culture post based on a game Collider uses on its website called “Save or Kill.” The premise is that you are presented with two icons, both threatened with being wiped from existence forever, and must choose which of the two to save; you cannot save both. The game works best when you really love both icons, so it becomes a real Sophie’s Choice.

That first post didn’t get as many responses as I’d hoped — though my thanks to those who did participate, and there’s still time to jump in! — so I’m tailoring the game in this post with options better-suited to the interests of the Ricochetti.

So, read the list of the choices below and — in the comments — post which of the two icons you’d save for each of the ten choices. There’s no obligation to explain your reasoning, but I think it’ll be more fun with it. The criteria you use for judging is entirely up to you: you can do this based exclusively on personal preference, or on which option you feel is more important to society. Also, if you’re not familiar with both options in a scenario, feel free to abstain from that particular scenario.

Underwhelmed By Greatness?


RearWindowHave you ever had this experience? Have you ever sat down with a book, a film, an album, what have you, that you’ve heard from time immemorial was a classic and thought…eh? Maybe you would have liked it if you had come to it cold, but it just couldn’t bear the weight of its own legacy.

I’ve always been a big Alfred Hitchcock fan. Vertigo is one of my favorite films of all time. The episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents entitled “Breakdown” is one of the most gripping 30 minutes of television I’ve ever seen (you can find it on Netflix or Amazon). While I’ve worked my way through most of the Hitchcock corpus, I had, until recently, somehow failed to make the time for Rear Window, considered one of the director’s all-time classics. Finding myself with some unexpected free time on a recent Sunday, I popped it up on Netflix. And, well…eh.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid film. The acting is stellar, confining the action primarily to Jimmy Stewart’s apartment was clever (it’s essentially the movie equivalent of a bottle episode), and there are some moments of genuine suspense. Overall, however, I came away underwhelmed. Without giving too much away (although, to be fair, the film is 60 years old, so a spoiler alert is an act of charity), the tension in the plot runs as follows: one of the main characters either did A or did B. In the end, it turns out he did B. Not exactly white-knuckle stuff.