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Sequence (1949) - Lindsay Anderson: Alfred Hitchcock




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Alfred Hitchcock

Lindsay Anderson

As, geographically, Britain is poised between continents, not quite Europe, and very far from America, so from certain points of view the British cinema seems to hover between the opposite poles of France and Hollywood. Our directors and producers never — or rarely — have the courage to tackle, in an adult manner, the completely adult subject; yet they lack also the flair for popular showmanship that is characteristic of the American cinema. It is significant that the most widely celebrated of all British directors should be remarkable for just this quality. So much so indeed that, when his powers were at their prime, he emigrated to Hollywood; and today, when he returns to work again in a British studio, he carries with him the pervasive aura of Hollywood success, and stays at the Savoy Hotel.

Alfred Hitchcock's long career has been intimately bound up with the history of the cinema. He began in the early twenties, title writing, then joined Michael Balcon's first production company, first as assistant and art director, then directing on his own. Between 1925 and 1929 he made nine pictures, and established himself as the foremost British director of the day. His Blackmail was the first British sound film. During the thirties he went on to perfect his grasp of technique, win a Hollywood contract and the opportunity to exploit the finest technical resources in the world. Essentially he is a man of the cinema — one who has approached the film as an art through the film as an industry.

His first two films are remarkable for their evidence of an immediate ease, an instinctive facility in the medium. The Pleasure Garden (1925) is a novelettish story — a good-hearted chorus girl befriends a vixenish young dancer, and ends up eight reels later menaced by her drunken husband, who believes himself incited to murder her by the ghost of his native mistress (whom he has drowned in the lagoon). The most enjoyable passages are at the start: the first shots of chorus girls hurrying down a circular iron stair, then out on to the stage, gyrating enthusiastically in the abandoned fashion of the period. The Mountain Eagle, another romantic melodrama, was set equally far from home, among the hillbillies of Kentucky; one is not surprised to find The Bioscope commenting that "in spite of skillful and at times brilliant direction, the story has an air of unreality."

Both these films were produced by Balcon in Munich; in 1926 Hitchcock returned to Islington to make his first picture in Britain, and the first opportunity to work on the sort of subject most congenial to him — the story of uncertainty, suspense, and horror amid humdrum surroundings. The Lodger was again a melodrama, but biased this time towards violence rather than romance. One winter evening, in a London terrorized by a homicidal maniac known as The Avenger, a handsome stranger arrives at a Bloomsbury lodging-house. He behaves strangely, creeping from the house at night, removing from his wall the portrait of a beautiful fair-haired girl (The Avenger attacks only blondes), and gradually the suspicion is built up that he is The Avenger himself. The Lodger is by no means a perfect thriller; it creates its suspense too often illegitimately: the innocent young man behaves like a stage villain, arriving out of the night heavily muffled and mysteriously silent. Playing chess before the fire with his landlady's attractive (blonde) daughter, he remarks with sinister emphasis, "Be careful, I'll get you yet," and picks up the poker — only to poke the fire vigorously on the entrance of a third person into the room.

This improbable development of the plot is partially disguised by the conscientious realism of its locales and characters: the authentic middle-class decors and homely atmosphere of the Buntings' house in Bloomsbury, the mannequins' dressing room at the couturier's where Daisy works, the flirtatious progress of Daisy's affair with Joe, the detective in charge of the case. Most remarkable, though, is the rapid, ingenious style of narration. From the opening — the close-up of a man's pale hand sliding down the bannister rail as he slips quietly out of a dark house — the camera seizes on the significant details which convey the narrative point of the scene. The result is a compression which gives the film continuous excitement.

For this compression, some credit is evidently due to Ivor Montagu, who was called in by the distributors when they found themselves dissatisfied with the first copy of the film. After specifying certain retakes, which Hitchcock shot, Montagu reedited the film and produced a version which the distributors accepted with delight. In view of later developments, however, there is no mistaking Hitchcock's primary responsibility for The Lodger, and for the ingenuity of its style in particular: A series of rapidly superimposed close-ups show alarm spreading as a new murder is reported; as the Buntings listen suspiciously to their lodger walking up and down in his room above them, we see a shot of the ceiling with his feet superimposed, walking to and fro, as though the floor were made of glass.

This inventiveness and visual dexterity was to form the basis of Hitchcock's style; they are the characteristics of a born storyteller, of one who delights to surprise and confound expectation, to build up suspense to a climax of violence and excitement. Strangely enough, though, the success of The Lodger did not lead Hitchcock to concentrate on this kind of film. He followed it with a return to romance, Downhill, which again starred Ivor Novello, as a noble boy who takes the blame for a chum's offense, is expelled from school ("Does this mean, sir, that I shall not be able to play for the Old Boys?"), and progresses downhill to the docks of Marseilles. There are interesting patches of technique: a delirium sequence as the hero is carried home on a cargo boat — scenes from his past superimposing and dissolving over shots of a gramophone playing in his cabin, the ship's engines turning over, the whole a powerful visual equivalent of discordant sound; and a daring subjective sequence as he lurches through the streets on his way home, the camera tracking and panning unsteadily to recreate his feverish impressions.

Three years, and six pictures, passed before, with Blackmail (1929), Hitchcock was able to find a story which suited as happily as The Lodger; in between there came a version of Noel Coward's Easy Virtue (which must have been almost as prodigious an achievement as Lubitsch's silent Lady Windermere's Fan), a boxing melodrama, a version of The Farmer's Wife and a couple of novelettes. Then at last Hitchcock hit on Charles Bennett's play, prepared a screenplay of it in collaboration with the author and Benn Levy, and shot it as a silent film. It was released, however, as Britain's first sound film, in part reshot and in part dubbed; it is thus of double interest — both for Hitchcock's uninhibited ingenuity in dealing with a new medium, and as a second example of his primary excellence in melodrama.

Blackmail is not as satisfactory as The Lodger; in construction it is less concise, less inevitable in progression. The connection of the first reel (the police at work) with the rest of the film is not well established; the scene in the artist's studio, in which Cyril Ritchard sings sub-Coward songs and attempts to seduce Anny Ondra is ludicrous in writing, setting, and handling; the famous chase, ending up with the blackmailer's fall through the dome of the British Museum, is too obviously tacked on to provide a spectacular climax. Also the film is weakened by the happy ending Hitchcock was forced (not for the last time) to substitute for the ironic fade-out he had planned.

Much of Blackmail, though, is excellent and survives in its own right. The everyday locales — a Corner-House restaurant, the police station, the little tobacconist's shop where the heroine lives with her parents, empty London streets at dawn — are authentic; the characters are believable; and at least one scene, between the blackmailer, the girl, and the detective, in which the detective does not know the guilt of the girl, the girl is too frightened to confess to it, and the blackmailer tries to play on the nerves of each, is worked up to a most successful tension. As in The Lodger, Hitchcock develops his story with a succession of felicitous, striking, or revealing touches, particularly remarkable in this instance for the ingenuity with which they exploit the new dimension of sound. The portrait in the artist's studio, for instance, of a malevolently smiling jester is used as a sort of dumb commentator on the story — the last shot shows the picture carried away down the passage of the police station while the walls re-echo to the sound of ironic laughter. Sound is used throughout with extraordinary freedom, for the period: to support continuity, as where the heroine, wandering in the streets after knifing her seducer, sees a man lying in a doorway, his hand dangling like the dead artist's; she opens her mouth to scream, and we cut to the scream of the landlady discovering the body of the murdered man. Two famous, and very effective, examples of the distortion of sound to convey a subjective impression of tension and near- hysteria occur as the girl sits miserably over breakfast the next morning. A garrulous neighbor is discussing the news: "I don't hold with knives... No, knives isn't right... now, mind you, a knife's a difficult thing..." Gradually all other words are mixed together in a monotonous blur, the word "knife" alone stabbing clearly out of the sound track over a close-up of the girl. "Cut us a bit of bread," says her father. The camera tilts down to a close-up of the knife; the girl's hand reaches out. Suddenly "KNIFE!" screams the voice, the hand jerks sharply up, and the breadknife flies into the corner of the room. A similar use of distortion and sudden crescendo conveys the girl's alarm at the sudden ringing of the shop bell: Instead of dying swiftly away, the sound of the bell is held for some four seconds, swelling up to a startling intensity.

Again like The Lodger, the films which followed Blackmail presented in the main a series of disappointments. Juno and the Paycock is straightforward filmed theater, well and respectfully handled; it is memorable however not so much for Hitchcock's contribution as for its perpetuation of some fine performances — in particular Sara Allgood's Juno, a figure that one sets beside Jane Darwell's Ma Joad for its grandeur and humanity. Murder, which followed it, is an odd mixture, with some effective sequences — a midnight murder in a sleepy village, an exciting climax in a circus tent, with the murderer (Esme Percy as an epicene trapeze artist) hanging himself from the big top. Amongst the enterprising uses of sound are one of the first uses of an overlaid track representing the thoughts running through a character's head while he shaves, and a not altogether successful experiment in expressionism — an impatient jury chanting in chorus against its one dissenting member. Long stretches of the film, though, are theatrical in the extreme, clogged with dialogue and dominated by an excessively stagey performance by Herbert Marshall.

None of Hitchcock's remaining films for British International (the producers of Blackmail) achieved much success. In 1933 he left to direct an unhappy excursion into musical comedy, Waltzes from Vienna. His career seemed to have reached its nadir when, with his infinite capacity for surprise, he rejoined Balcon at Gaumont British, renewed his assocation with Ivor Montagu (associate producer) and Charles Bennett (scriptwriter), and directed in a row a series of films which were to mark his most memorable and enjoyable contribution to the cinema.

The team of Hitchcock, Bennett, and Montagu remained in collaboration for three years, during which, with Balcon as producer, it was responsible for The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Secret Agent, and Sabotage. In 1937 Balcon and Montagu left Gaumont British, but Bennett remained to write Young and Innocent: In 1938 Hitchcock made his last good British film, The Lady Vanishes, from a script by Launder and Gilliat. All these films are melodramas — stories of violence and adventure in which the emphasis is on incident rather than on characters or ideas. Hitchcock had himself come to realize that this was the form ideally suited to his talent and his temperament. In his autobiography, Esmond Knight quotes an illuminating cri de coeur on the set of Waltzes from Vienna: "I hate this sort of stuff," groaned Hitchcock; "melodrama is the only thing I can do."

Melodrama does not, of course, preclude common sense; with the exception of The Lady Vanishes, with its Ruritanian locale and its deliberate light comedy accent, these films gain a particular excitement from their concern with ordinary people (or ordinary-looking people) who are plunged into extraordinary happenings in the most ordinary places. This gives them immense conviction, and enables Hitchcock to exploit to the utmost his flair for the dramatic value of contrast. Instead of dressing up the Temple of Sun Worshippers — which covers the headquarters of the gang in The Man Who Knew Too Much — he presents it as a drab little nonconformist chapel, bare and chilly, with a typically shabby congregation of elderly eccentrics. In The Thirty-Nine Steps, the head of the organization lives in a solidly respectable country house, and entertains the [gentry of the] County at cocktails after Sunday morning service. Verloc, the secret agent of Sabotage, runs an unpretentious suburban cinema. The pursuit in Young and Innocent winds up at a the dansant at a seaside hotel. Similarly the people are conceived in common-sense, unglamorized terms; the leading players (one hardly thinks of them as stars) dress with credible lack of extravagance, get dirty, behave like average human beings — neither brilliant nor foolishly muddled. And supporting them are a multitude of equally authentic minor characters, maids, policemen, shopkeepers, and commercial travelers. This overall realism makes it all the more thrilling when the unexpected occurs — as it inevitably does: pretty maids lie to the police without blinking an eyelid, harmless old bird-fanciers are revealed as sabotage agents, old ladies who are playing the harmonium one minute are whipping little revolvers from their handbags the next.

The plots of these films are less important for themselves than for the way they are unfolded. They are all stories of violence and suspense, five exploiting in one way or another the excitements of espionage and political assassination (of these, The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Man Who Knew Too Much are perhaps the most completely successful and continuously exciting), the sixth (Young and Innocent) centering on the pursuit of a murderer by the young man accused of his crime. In most of them the tensions of mystery and intrigue erupt in a climax of public violence: The agents in The Man Who Knew Too Much are exterminated in a street battle which recalls the historic battle of Sidney Street; The Thirty-Nine Steps winds up with shooting during a Crazy Gang show at the Palladium; The Secret Agent has a train crash, Sabotage a timebomb exploding in a crowded bus, and The Lady Vanishes another gunfight, between the agents of a foreign power and a party of Britons stranded in a railway carriage in a central European forest.

These set pieces are not, however, isolated delights; the films are continuously enjoyable for the brilliance and consistency of their narration — a technique which shows the value of experience with the silent cinema and the necessity of unfolding a story in visual terms. Hitchcock has freely acknowledged his debt to Griffith; his own style, at its best, has always been firmly based on cutting. In a famous article on his methods of direction, published in Footnotes to the Film, he states his credo specifically: "What I like to do always is to photograph just the little bits of a scene that I really need for building up a visual sequence. I want to put my film together on the screen, not simply to photograph something that has been put together already in the form of a long piece of stage acting..."

Besides being an admirable instrument for the building up of tension within the scene, Hitchcock's cutting contributes to the boldness and ingenuity with which his plots are developed, with continuous speed and surprise. (His scripts are preplanned, his films edited in the camera rather than the cutting room). We are precipitated at once into the middle of events — Young and Innocent, for instance, starts brilliantly, at the climax of a murderous quarrel. With a few happy strokes a locale is sketched in, an atmosphere established; the stories proceed with a succession of ingenious visual, or sound-and-visual, effects (the Hitchcock touch) as the celebrated continuity from The Thirty-Nine Steps [the chambermaid discovers the body and screams, but we hear the screech of a train emerging from a tunnel in the next shot]; or the ominously sustained organ note in The Secret Agent (a film packed with ingenious touches, and Hitchcock's favorite of the series), which announces the death of the Allied agent, strangled in the lonely little Swiss church.

Hitchcock's best films are in many ways very English, in their humor, lack of sentimentality, their avoidance of the grandiose and the elaborately fake. And these qualities were threatened when, in 1939, he succumbed to temptation and signed a contract to work in Hollywood for David Selznick. He was ambitious to make films for the vast international audience which only Hollywood could tap; also no doubt he was eager to work with the technical facilities which only Hollywood studios could provide. It was particularly unfortunate, however, that Hitchcock chose the producer he did; for Selznick is a producer who has always relied on pretentiousness, the huge gesture, the imposing fagade, to win success {Gone with the Wind, Since You Went Away, Duel in the Sun). Almost in advance Hitchcock was committed to all that is worst in Hollywood — to size for its own sake (his first picture for Selznick was 2,000 feet longer than any he had directed previously), to the star system for its own sake, to glossy photography, high-toned settings, lushly hypnotic musical scores.

The negotiations with Selznick were carried on while Hitchcock was working on his last British film, Jamaica Inn, a dully boisterous smuggling adventure with Charles Laughton. It was curious and unhappily prophetic that his first film in Hollywood should also be an adaptation from a Daphne du Maurier bestseller, Rebecca — a less boring book, but equally Boots Library in its level of appeal. Rebecca is a very skillful and competently acted film: numerous imitations employing the same theatricalities of suspense — the great house dominated by a mysterious figure, the frightened girl, the sinister housekeeper — emphasize the smooth plausibility of Hitchcock's handling. But the film as a whole is not recognizable as the work of the Hitchcock of, say, The Thirty-Nine Steps; it is at once bigger and less considerable.

The films which followed it in the next four years are of uneven quality, and represent no progression, no real acclimatization. Suspicion (the next-but-two) was an attempt to reproduce the high-class tension of Rebecca, again with Joan Fontaine; it succeeds only in ruining a fine thriller by Francis lies, the story of a sensitive, unattractive girl married and murdered for her money by a handsome wastrel. By dressing her hair with severity and intermittently fondling a pair of horn-rims and a book on child psychology, Miss Fontaine effected the conventional compromise between glamor and realism successfully enough to win an Academy Award; but the film lacks excitement or conviction. The English backgrounds (Hunting, Church) are pure Burbank; and the ludicrous happy ending — neither written by lies nor desired by Hitchcock — sets the seal of failure on the film.

Suspicion was preceded by a comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (of which one would welcome a revival), and a thriller, Foreign Correspondent; after it came another reminiscence of the Gaumont British period, Saboteur. The earlier of these, written by Charles Bennett in collaboration with Joan Harrison, has excellent sequences embedded in a diffuse and vexatious story. The assassination of an elderly statesman in Amsterdam is brilliantly staged: rain drizzling, the square thronged with umbrellas, the news camera which fires a bullet, the assassin's escape through the crowd of bobbing umbrellas. There is a pleasantly sordid scene many reels later in which the kidnapped diplomat is grilled in a Charlotte Street garret, while a terrified German girl (in thick-lensed spectacles) sobs in terror by the wall; and the climax is worth waiting for — a transatlantic airliner shelled and nosediving into the sea (seen entirely from within the plane), water crashing through the pilot's window, passengers fighting hysterically, and finally a handful of survivors clinging exhaustedly to a floating raft.

Saboteur is even more an affair of sequences, and is remarkable for its barefaced pilfering from almost every film Hitchcock had ever made. Its handcuffed hero and heroine (limp derivatives from The Thirty-Nine Steps) are pitched from one exotic location to another, individual episodes are directed with enjoyable virtuosity — the aircraft factory fire at the start, a gunfight in a cinema, the final megalomaniac climax on the Statue of Liberty — but the film as a whole has the overemphasis of parody.

It was not until 1943 that Hitchcock made a film which might be construed as an atttempt — his last — to justify himself as a serious director. Before writing the screenplay of Shadow of a Doubt, he and Thornton Wilder went to live for two months in the little Californian town of Santa Rosa, where their story was to take place. Most of the film was shot there. As a result it has an everyday realism that is reminiscent of earlier days; and in its opening stages, a subtlety of characterization distinctly superior to them. Its central character is Charlie Newton, handsome and debonair, who lives by marrying and killing rich widows. Hard-pressed by the police, he comes to Santa Rosa to stay with his sister (who idolizes him) and her family: her quiet, respectable husband, her beautiful adolescent daughter, who feels that there is some special, secret bond between her and her uncle, and two smaller children. The film is at its best in its first half, establishing the family and their town, the impact of Uncle Charlie's arrival on each of them; experimenting once again with sound, Hitchcock adopted for these scenes a technique similar to Orson Welles' in The Magnificent Ambersons, superimposing one conversation over another, dovetailing, naturalistically blurring and distorting. The strange bond which seems to unite Young Charlie (the niece) with her uncle is subtly conveyed; the acting is excellent: Joseph Cotten as Charlie, bitter, arrogant, his smooth charm concealing a spirit wounded and festering, the exquisite Patricia Collinge, his sensitive, overstrung sister, Teresa Wright as Young Charlie, youthful and mercurial, waiting for love. In its later reels the film falls away; there is not the progression and development necessary to a serious study, and as a simple thriller (which is all perhaps Hitchcock would claim for it) it fails to sustain excitement and surprise. It remains, all the same, his best American film.

After Shadow of a Doubt Hitchcock completed one more picture in Hollywood, then ventured across the Atlantic to make his contribution to the Allied war effort. This came in the form of two short French-speaking films for the British Ministry of Information, Adventure Malagache and Bon Voyage. Each tells its story — the former of resistance activity in Vichy-dominated Madagascar, the latter of underground work in France — economically (most scenes are played in a single set-up), tastefully, and not very excitingly. A project for Hitchcock to direct a film about German concentration camps, for which he viewed a large quantity of documentary material, eventually came to nothing. This visit to Britain inspired no renaissance of style, no return to reality.

Almost, in fact, it appears to have precipitated his flight from it. From 1945 onwards the quality one associates with Hitchcock films is neither their excitement, nor their power to entertain, but their technical virtuosity. The trend had indeed already started in 1943, when he followed up Shadow of a Doubt with Lifeboat. For an hour and a half the camera remains in a lifeboat carrying eight survivors from a sunken Allied ship and one German, who turns out to be the captain of the U-boat which attacked it. The virtuosity of the direction is undeniable, and in a theatrical way the film is effective; but the attempts to build the story into a propagandist allegory, stressing the feebleness of a democracy in comparison with a dictatorship, were as unconvincing as (at this stage of the war) they were unnecessary.

One remembers Lifeboat chiefly for its reintroduction of Tallulah Bankhead, and for some suspenseful episodes — a grim amputation carried out by the German with a clasp-knife, a realistically contrived storm.

Spellbound, with which Hitchcock returned to Selznick in 1945, also contains its entertaining passages of exhibitionism; its psychiatric background is futile and its Dali dream sequence merely pretentious, but one can enjoy the acid observation of the psychiatrists' common room, and some facile patches of melodrama revolving around razors, glasses of milk, and the like.

It is unfortunate that even these are marred by a tendency to overplay, to inflate, a tendency which in Notorious swelled to an obsession and produced a film which shares with its successors, The Paradine Case and Rope, the distinction of being the worst of his career. In these films technique — lighting, ability to maneuver the camera in hitherto unimaginable ways, angles — ceases to be a means and becomes an end in itself; Notorious is full of large and boring close-ups. For hundreds of feet Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant nuzzle each other in medium close-up, a sequence of embarrassing (because so thoroughly fake) intimacy. The Paradine Case, maimed from the start by Selznick's creaking script and a heavy roster of stars, is lit with magnificent but inexpressive artifice, contains further nuzzling by Ann Todd and Gregory Peck, and moves at a pace slower even than that of Notorious. And with Rope, a debilitated version of Patrick Hamilton's play, which abandons all the resources of cutting and lighting on the pretext of an experiment in technique, we come pretty well to a full stop.

Different though the results are, the experiment of Rope resembles the stylistic elephantiasis of Notorious and Spellbound in its preoccupation with technique, to the detriment of the material. The films, as a result, are neither good nor entertaining. To such highbrow accusations Hitchcock has a ready answer. To quote from an acutely critical article by Lawrence Kane (Theater Arts, May 1949): "Spellbound cost $1,700,000 and grossed $8,000,000. Notorious cost $2,000,000 and had enough love in it to take in $9,000,000." "Beyond that," said Alfred Hitchcock in a 1946 interview, "there's the constant pressure. You know — people asking. 'Do you want to reach only the audiences at the Little Carnegie or to have your pictures play at the Music Hall?' So you compromise. You can't avoid it. You do the commercial thing, but you try to do it without lowering your standards. It isn't easy. Actually the commercial thing is much harder to do than the other..."

Disregarding the latter irrelevant (and untrue) argument, the critic can only comment that Hitchcock's career in America has suffered from more than compromise with commercialism (a compromise to which he has been no more exposed than any other director of equivalent status). He is a director, in the first place, who depends considerably on his scripts; in the last ten years he has found no writer to give him what Bennett gave him at Gaumont British. It is not a coincidence that his collaboration with Thornton Wilder resulted in his best Hollywood film.

But Shadow of a Doubt hints at a more crippling limitation. When Hitchcock left Britain, it was, at least in part, because he felt that a chapter in his career was ended, and he was ripe for further development. And in certain directions, it is true, Hollywood has offered him vastly greater opportunities than Shepherd's Bush; there are sequences in Foreign Correspondent and Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt and Lifeboat which outstrip anything in his earlier pictures for virtuosity and excitement. What these films lack is the wholeness of their predecessors. The Gaumont British melodramas succeed as works of art (however minor) because they attain a perfect, satisfying balance between content and style; the enlargement which Hitchcock's style has undergone in Hollywood has been accompanied by no equivalent intensifying or deepening of sensibility or subject matter.

Hitchcock has never been a "serious" director. His films are interesting neither for their ideas nor for their characters. None of the early melodramas can be said to carry any sort of a "message"; when one does appear, as in Foreign Correspondent and Lifeboat, it is banal in the extreme — "You'll never conquer them," Albert Basserman wheezes on his bed of torture, "the little people who feed the birds." In the same way, Hitchcock's characterization has never achieved — or aimed at — anything more than a surface verisimilitude; which, in a film where incident and narrative are what matters, is perfectly proper.

The method, though, appropriate to The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Lady Vanishes, is inappropriate to Suspicion and Shadow of a Doubt. In these the more deliberate pace, the constant emphasis on the players (dictated by the star system) directs our attention to the characters; their emptiness becomes apparent, and the dramas fall apart. Suspicion is not a failure simply because of its outrageous volte face at the end; the characters have never begun to live, so there is nothing really to destroy. In Shadow of a Doubt an atmosphere and a complex of relationships of some subtlety is established — only to dwindle conventionally instead of developing. Notorious presents an unpleasant but by no means uninteresting situation, which is thrown away largely because characterization is sacrificed to a succession of vulgar, superficial effects. In films like these, in Rope and The Paradine Case, even the old skin-deep truthfulness has been lost; Hitchcock's attitude towards his characters (as towards his audience) would seem to have hardened into one of settled contempt.

Hitchcock's progression from The Pleasure Garden to Rope is aesthetically pleasing; on the graph it would appear a well-proportioned parabola. But he does not oblige us by bringing his career to so satisfyingly geometric a close ("I am interested only in the future," he says). At the time of writing he has a period barnstormer, Under Capricorn, already completed, and a modern thriller, Stage Fright, almost finished. What is to be expected from these? Prophecy is always rash, but it is safe to assume that neither will present a dramatic reaction from the standards of showmanship which he has set himself in his "International" period; at their worst they will be heavy, tedious, glossed, at their best, ingenious, expert, synthetically entertaining. They will make a lot of money. Which, Hitchcock would reply, "is why they were made!" But at this point the wise critic resists the temptation to enter once again the vicious circle, and withdraws.

(c) Lindsay Anderson / Sequence