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"Psycho or Psychic? Hitchcock, Dead Again, and the Paranormal" - by Ina Rae Hark





Were a court proceeding to be conducted on the issue, the Dead Again attorneys would have to stipulate that there are Hitchcockian echoes in that film. On the DVD commentary track, director Kenneth Branagh speaks of the film’s evocation of “a bit of Hitchcock black Gothic” and admits that the film throughout was infused with “a lot of Hitchcock and Welles.” Composer Patrick Doyle modeled his score on those of Bernard Herrmann, who worked with both these directors. On her track, producer Lindsay Doran remarks that the importance of objects in the film reflects Hitchcock’s theories about “plastic material.” A Google search of reviews of the film and its DVD release turned up over five hundred which noted Hitchcockian elements in Dead Again.

Specific nods in Hitchcock’s direction include extended riffs on Rebecca (1940), Spellbound (1945), Dial M for Murder (1954), Vertigo (1958), and Psycho (1960). The Strauss mansion was envisioned “à la Manderley” Branagh says, and it houses a hostile housekeeper in conflict with her employer’s second wife. He also thought of Spellbound’s “big dramatic score, the Salvador Dali designs, the dramatic lighting” (Hartl). Moreover, “Grace’s” amnesia and memory flashes to a murder have a corollary in “John Brown’s” emotional collapse in that film. The identity of an apparently sympathetic therapist as the actual killer links Dr. Murchison to hypnotist Franklyn Madson. The Strauss murder weapon is a pair of scissors, as it was in Dial M; screenwriter Scott Frank had wanted that Hitchcock film to play on Inga’s television as she told Mike the truth about Margaret Strauss’s death, but the rights would have been too steep for the budget to accommodate. “Grace’s” apparent possession by a dead woman and her fright at the sight of a nun allude to Madeleine Elster’s supposed fixation on Carlotta Valdes. Mother-obsessed Madson seems a nod to Norman Bates, and the more generalized “traditionally pernicious” assignment “of murder, violence, and blame to the figure who conjures up the spectre of same-sex sexuality” (Fischer and Landy 18) recalls such sexually ambiguous Hitchcock villains as Handel Fane, Alex Sebastian, Bruno Anthony, Philip Vandamm, and Bob Rusk, whom audiences and critics are all too eager to read as “murderous gays,” in Robin Wood’s punning formulation (336).