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What is Alfred Hitchcock's Best Film?

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by Geraldine Massey (subscribe)
I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
In this age of special effects, wizardry and CGI it's often difficult to find a film with real life suspense. You know, that edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting, heart-pounding, please-put-me-out-of-my-misery kind of suspense. The kind that doesn't need special effects, the kind perfected by the Master of Suspense - Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock by Jack Mitchell - image from wikipedia

In recent years many exhibitions of his work have been held around the world, including Queensland Gallery of Modern Art's Alfred Hitchcock: A Retrospective so now seems as good a time as any to examine his extraordinary film-making legacy and try to decide on his magnum opus.

While Hitchcock pioneered new camera angles, continuous shots and other new filming techniques, his real art lay in his ability to pick an intriguing story and have us identify with both his heroes and villains in often everyday situations. I mean, who hasn't felt just a little sympathy for Psycho's Norman Bates?

As a long-time devotee I find it quite difficult to pick a favourite, but among my front-runners would be Hitch's own favourite, Shadow of a Doubt, the slick and stylish North by Northwest, the unnerving Strangers on a Train, and the classic spy story, Notorious. You may prefer Psycho, Dial M for Murder or Vertigo. Here's some information to get you thinking about your favourite from among the Hitchcock masterpieces.

Shadow of a Doubt
The story of small town girl, Charlotte "Charlie" Newton and her increasing suspicions about her beloved uncle Charlie Oakley, this was Hitchcock's own favourite. Released in 1943 it stars Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten, the latter in one of his most memorable performances as the possible "Merry Widow" murderer. It's a taut thriller that provides a counterpoint to the tension through the innocent and hilarious exchanges between Charlie's father, Joe and his next-door neighbour, Herb, who are battlling to create the perfect (hypothetical) murder.

North by Northwest
The story of the wrong man in the wrong place was a perfect vehicle for the urbane Cary Grant and the cool Eva Marie Saint. This 1956 movie has everything - romance, suspense, action and comedy. It contains a smooth villain in James Mason and two of Hitchcock's most famous scenes - the crop-duster attacking Grant's advertising executive Roger Thornhill, and the chase scene over Mt Rushmore.

Strangers on a Train
In 1951's Strangers on a Train Hitchcock introduces the baby-faced and usually affable Robert Walker as the psychotic murderer, Bruno Antony. Walker's chilling portrayal is the movie's highpoint - for me the most disturbing villain Hitchcock brought to the screen. Once again the film's hero (Farley Granger as tennis pro Guy Haines) is a man whose life is spiralling out of control, this time through a chance meeting with a stranger.

Hitchcock favourites Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman share top billing in this 1946 release. It chronicles the tale of Alicia Huberman, beautiful bad girl and daughter of an American Nazi convicted for treason. She is enlisted by government agent, T R Devlin to spy on Nazi sympathisers in Rio. Bergman, Grant, Claude Rains and Hitchcock are all at the tops of their games in this one.

But that's enough of my Hitchcock favourites. What do you think is his best work?
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strangers on a train.
mostly because of it's great idea.
Rear window, because it's beautiful to watch
By bitaa - reader
Friday, 7th of October @ 12:55 pm
North by Northwest- without any doubt.
By Anonymous
Tuesday, 11th of October @ 10:01 am
Vertigo, the Universal Studios (LA) backlot studio tour is great!! Hitchcock's dressing room and a demonstration of the 'vertigo' effects
By Stephen de Jager - senior reviewer
Thursday, 13th of October @ 02:01 am
The Birds. Classic Hitchcock. My favourite by far, effects for its time where very special. However, Hitchcock never did anything not worth seeing.
By Dan Berryman - senior reviewer
Thursday, 13th of October @ 02:54 am

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