The addition of five Alfred Hitchcock films to streaming service Stan offers a great introduction to the master of suspense. And although the British director made 50 films during his career - and there are plenty of classics not represented here, notably his masterpiece Vertigo - there is still much to enjoy. So whether it's for the first time, or for a long-overdue re-watch, here's a look at the Alfred Hitchcock collection on Stan.
Based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, The Birds is a film in two parts. The first section plays as a kind of kitschy romantic comedy. It follows San Francisco socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hendren) who becomes smitten with a lawyer named Mitch (Rod Taylor) after a chance encounter in a pet shop. Melanie chases Mitch to his family home in Bodega Bay, but soon things in the sky get weird. It starts with a gull that pecks Melanie and ends with thousands of birds descending on the town in a horrifying avian apocalypse. Hitchcock's creative mastery of special effects is on full display here, and the end result is a premise that's so simple and yet wielded with such great power - and it's more than a little frightening.
Probably the first Hitchcock film that comes to mind for many, Psycho is shocking, unexpected and unforgettable. The film's famous shower scene is one of the most analysed sequences in all of cinema (Bernard Herrmann's iconic score still sending shivers up spines to this day). There's also the startling twist at the film's conclusion. And it all starts with somewhat of a diversion: Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a real estate secretary, is on the run after stealing forty thousand dollars from her boss. After fleeing Phoenix, Marion heads for California but encounters with police unnerve her, so she stops at a motel. The motel is a failing business, a result of it being bypassed by the interstate, the proprietor Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) tells her. Soon after Marion is no longer (see the shower scene) and people show up with questions for Norman. Even after six decades, Psycho is fascinating and chilling.
Another of Hitchcock's best, Rear Window takes as its subject voyeurism. Globe-trotting photographer LB 'Jeff' Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is confined to his New York apartment due to a broken leg, leaving him with little to do all day except look out across the courtyard at his neighbours. The monotony is broken up only by visits from his maid (played by Thelma Ritter) and his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly). Both become concerned with Jeff's new pastime, warning him off it. But Jeff's hooked and when he notices one of his neighbours is missing (a depressed married woman) he feels he must figure out what happened to her. It's a simple story, exploring the idea of what happens when you see something you shouldn't. But the film is shot and staged brilliantly, the suspense built carefully, until everything comes crashing down.
Hitchcock famously declared Rope a failed experiment. Like Rear Window, Rope is set entirely in a Manhattan apartment. It's also meant to resemble one take (impossible because film reels were only ten minutes long, forcing Hitchcock to clunkily conceal reel changes by focusing on jackets and behind chairs). Rope remains, nonetheless, a compelling experiment. The film's grizzly premise is that two young men, Brandon and Phillip (John Darley and Farley Granger), have strangled one of their university classmates. They have concealed the body in a trunk in their apartment and will throw a dinner party, the trunk in plain view. The duo's savage ideas supposedly come from their university professor (Jimmy Stewart), who is the guest of honour at the party. Although flawed, Rope offers a premise so delightfully oddball and macabre that it's still worth a look.
The oldest film in the collection, Saboteur is a fast-paced road movie that sees factory worker Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) wrongly-accused of lighting a deadly fire. Joined by Pat Martin (Priscilla Lane), Barry sets outs to clear his name, a trip that leads him from Los Angeles to New York. A number of strange episodes occur during the cross-country trip, including an encounter with a blind man and time spent with members of a circus freak show. Barry and Pat's mission to escape their tormentors (Otto Kruger plays the chief villain most effectively) sees them make it all the way to the Statue of Liberty for the film's famous conclusion.