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The Independent (19/Apr/2012) - Want to know the truth about the British? Let Alfred Hitchcock be your guide




Want to know the truth about the British? Let Alfred Hitchcock be your guide

Hitchcock and the Olympics! What could be a more perfect fit? Though it's hard to make an immediate visual correlation between the portly film director and the world of athletic endeavour, Hitchcock's considerable shadow will loom over the Olympics as part of the cultural hors d'oeuvre. Digital versions of his early silent films, with new orchestral scores, will be premiered as the grand finale of the Cultural Olympiad in the run-up to the Games. The organisers claim that the Master of Suspense makes a perfect choice because he came from Leytonstone in east London, a murderer's scuttle from the Olympic Park. But surely he's also the perfect choice to give visitors some insights into British behaviour and attitudes? I suggest they screen his other British films, to familiarise foreigners with some of the attractions of the Big Smoke.

Blackmail. See our heroine stab a would-be rapist to death with a breadknife and get blackmailed by a local petty thief. While you're in town, why not visit the Reading Room of the British Museum, through whose domed glass roof the blackmailer falls to his death at the end of the film?

The 39 Steps. You've heard about our traditional music-hall, where song, comedy and bawdy fun welcome the stranger? Watch this film and you'll discover it was a place where gunshots routinely broke out, where mysterious women invited you home before being murdered, and chaps in the audience could demand information about secret spy organisations from a hapless performer on stage.

Foreign Correspondent. Enjoy the spectacle of Joel McCrae as the visiting American reporter in London being assigned a bodyguard – a Cockney geezer in a bowler hat – who repeatedly tries to kill him. Take a memorial trip to Westminster Cathedral and ride up the tower to the viewing platform where the bodyguard makes a final lunge and falls to his death!

Sabotage. Nervous tourists will be startled to discover that, even back in 1937, a small boy could be sent by a terrorist leader to deliver a bomb, concealed inside a film canister, in Piccadilly Circus Underground station (but the bomb goes off in a bus and kills him). Don't have nightmares when you're riding on the 147!

The Man Who Knew Too Much. Planning a visit to the Royal Albert Hall? Maybe you should see this movie first. It might put you off going to a concert at all. But remember, the assassin's bullet won't be fired until the big cymbals are crashed together in the orchestra pit.

Frenzy. Visit London's trendy Covent Garden, where you can sit in the sun, enjoy a cappuccino and wonder if the handsome gentleman in the marketplace over there has just raped and strangled another victim with his tie. Welcome to London!