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Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut (Aug/1962) - Part 3

Part 3 of the 25 part French radio broadcast of the Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut interviews from 1962.


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The next picture was the next “Hitchcock picture” – “Blackmail”.

But... I’m trying to think when the–– of course, my experiments with the “Blackmail” picture – it was started as a silent picture.

And certain scenes were then shot over again for sound?

Well, the interesting, slightly romantic side of that is that I was asked to prepare the last scene only – the last reel in sound. Because, in those days, when talk first came in, they used to advertise it as “part sound” and they made a novelty of the sound starting in the middle of the picture.

You see, when I knew that they were going to make the thing into sound, there was–– I was shooting silent. I prepared in my own mind to make the whole film in sound and I knew where certain talking scenes went in. But, of course, it, to me, that shows today – if you look at the film today, it’s still a silent film and practically with the people speaking titles.

It looks like that, it’s a...

I saw it at the cinémathèque but I don’t remember if it was sound–– there are two versions, aren’t there? Are there––

Possibly, yes.

It seems to me I saw the sound version. There was a piano scene I think that was remade with sound.

Well, the whole thing was sound at the end.


Because I had that famous use of sound when the girl has committed the murder and she goes home and there’s a scene at a breakfast table of her family and there’s a talkative neighbour from next door. And the neighbour is talking about the murder around the corner and “What a terrible thing to kill a man in the back with a knife.” The woman said “If I were committing a murder, I’d hit him over the head with a brick, but I wouldn’t use a [with emphasis] knife.”

And, as her dialogue went on, it became a sound of talk, talk, and the talk became less clear, except one word: “knife... knife”. And I played it on the girl’s face... and you hear this neighbour–– and it dies away and it goes a long way away. All you can hear is, “[mumbled words] KNIFE! [mumbled words] KNIFE! [mumbled words] KNIFE!”

Suddenly, the voice of the father, “Pass the bread knife would you please, Alice?” – normal voice. And she has to pick up the same [type of] knife as she committed the murder with. But it was the contrast of the [makes repetitive noises to represent the beat of the word “knife”] to the normal voice coming back. That was the first experiment with sound.

Aside from that, were you pleased with the script–– with the scenario?

It was a simple yarn. It was a simple story. I never really did it the way I wanted to. It–– I was probably using “The Lodger” form. I was showing in the first reel the technique of an arrest.

[ to be completed! ]


In general, the transcriptions made by the Hitchcock Wiki attempt to match the English parts of the interview, with the following caveats:

  • occasionally Hitchcock, Truffat and translator Helen Scott spoke across each other without adding to the conversation and this is marked as "[crosstalk]"
  • quick verbal corrections mostly ignore the words that the speaker was correcting — for example, Scott occasionally has to modify her translation of Truffaut
  • Hitchcock occasionally has to repeat words to allow Scott time to translate and these repeatitions are generally not included
  • audio dropouts in the recording are marked as "[tape dropout]" — if the missing words can be guessed confidently, they are included
  • occasionally Hitchcock responded in French directly to Truffaut — if this is simply a repetition of words already spoken in English by Hitchcock, they are generally not transcribed
  • occasionally Hitchcock understood Truffaut without the need for Scott to translate — in these instances, the statement is prefixed with "[FT]" to indicate that it is Truffaut speaking and not Helen Scott and only limited attempts have been made to transcribe the French words and phrases
  • where it is unclear what is being said, entire words or phrases are replaced with "[???]" and dubiously transcribed words are appended with "[?]"
  • where the meaning of a statement is unclear or ambiguous, additional information in square brackets is added to clarify the meaning
  • if the speaker seems to be addressing a specific person, it is marked as "[to AH]", "[to FT]" or "[to HS]" to indicate Hitchcock, Truffaut or Scott respectively
  • "——" is used to represent a speaker being interrupted or for when the speaker decides to change what they were initially going to say
  • pauses in mid-sentence are generally not indicated, as Hitchcock often pauses to allow Scott to translate into French and Scott often begins translating Truffaut before he has finished his sentence — where they are included, they are shown as "..."
  • in general, the transcripts attempt to follow the flow of dialogue whenever possible

Notes & References