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Variety (1960) - Pictures: Films Lost Action When Soundtrack Came In, Asserts Alfred Hitchcock




Films Lost Action When Soundtrack Came In, Asserts Alfred Hitchcock


Alfred Hitchcock, in Germany to push the German openings of his Paramount film "Psycho," pointed out here that "the motion picture lost a lot when sound came in." The director-writer contends that sound actually set the motion picture industry back, instead of advancing it, because film-makers tended to use sound as a substitute for action.

"Sound shouldn't be used to tell the story as it often is," said Hitchcock. adding that all too often industryites cut around some essential action, figuring, "we'll cover that with a line of dialog," and thus — in slicing the budget — also slice out an important element of the film.

Sound, he figures, brought the theatre into films, while it should have been used as a supplement "I am interested mainly in the technique of story telling by pure motion picture. Sound should be used to make silent films more real, as a supplement and not to tell the story. The language of the camera is the substitute for a writer's descriptive powers."

Pioneer in Sound

He also revealed that he was probably one of the first filmmakers to use sound — and that he simultaneously had to do some early-day dubbing. He was making "Garden of Lust" with Anny Ondra In Munich's Geiselgasteig Studios in 1927 at the same time that the first sound stages were being built — so mid-way in the shooting, the film was changed from silent to sound.

The leading lady had a strong Czech accent, so he hired an English actress to stand on one side find speak the words into a mike. It rated as the first English talking Picture and also as the first dubbing that Hitchcock ever did.

"That was a hell of a way to start a sound picture," Hitchcock admitted.

He learned in Germany that several of his "Hitchcock Presents" series had been withdrawn from West German television because of complaints from the church that the shows were too gruesome. He had been told earlier that the films were removed because of shortage of television time.

Defends His Pix

Television in Germany, unlike films in Germany, has no ban against young people watching certain programs, so levies its own censorship by dropping shows that are believed to be too frightening, or unsuitable for youths. But Hitchcock counters that he doesn't feel his frightening films are any more terrifying to the kids than fairy stories.

"Don't forget Hansel and Gretel Pushed the old woman into the oven and cooked her. And what about the cannibalism in "Little Riding Hood?" he asked. He pointed out that the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales — which of course originated in Germany — are probably more filled with cruelty and horror than anything he's ever filmed.

And, he added, "Children are worse than the criminals on the screen. They are very cruel and very professional. They have no understanding of death, so they can be more horrible."

He pointed out that a seven-year-old boy recently asked him. "What did you use in that killing scene in 'Psycho'? 'Chicken blood?"' And the lad was disappointed when Hitchcock answered, "Chocolate sauce."

Terror's Payoff

Terror, he noted, is an international emotion — he cited, for instance, that "Psycho," which is expected to gross from $15 to $20,000.000, is breaking records in Tokyo, and that some of his other scary films have been big money makers — "North by Northwest" will do $12,000,000 world-wide, "Rear Window" did about $8,000,000, "Catch a Thief" $7,500,000, "Man Who Knew Too Much" about $7,000,000 and "Dial M for Murder" from $4 to $5,000,000.

Hitchcock added that even in making a simple horror story, it's impossible to bring a film in for under $1,000,000 dollars currently. Re his next macabre picture, "It's untitled, unwritten and I have no ideas for it yet."