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Hitchcock: Suspense, Humour and Tone (2000) by Susan Smith

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The author's treatment of the works of the most subtle of all film-makers analyzes the key elements of suspense, humour and tone across the whole of the director's career. Arguing that all three are central to our viewing experience the book aims to demonstrate how Hitchcock's integration of these elements is the key to his success as a filmmaker. Films such as "North by Northwest", "The Birds", "Shadow of a Doubt" and "Notorious" amongst others are examined in detail. The book discusses the idea of the director as a sabateur and the importance of the avoidance of cliche in Hitchcock's narrative.


1 — A cinema based on Sabotage

  • 'The avoidance of cliche' (page 7)
  • Reaffirming contract (page 10)
  • Who Killed Cock Robin? (page 11)

2 — Suspense

  • Murder!: practising the art of suspense (page 16)
  • Forms of address (page 18)
  • Patterns of suspense (page 25)
  • Suppression and surprise (page 35)
  • Suspense and surprise (page 39)
  • Rereading the text (page 43)

3 — Humour

  • Humour and suspense (page 49)
  • Counter voices in Rope (page 59)
  • Framed by irony (page 63)
  • A notorious form of humour? (page 69)

4 — Mise en scene

  • Setting the scene (page 76)
  • The point-of-view shot (page 82)
  • Objects (page 92)
  • The cameo device: Hitchcock, hunger and the single set film (page 100)
  • Music (page 104)

5 — Tone and meaning in The Birds

  • A very avian form of sabotage (page 125)
  • Seeing--feeling--knowing (page 127)
  • A bird's eye view (page 132)
  • Multiple perspectives, multiple readings (page 135)
  • Conclusion (page 153)