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Hitchcock Annual (1994) - The Films of Alfred Hitchcock




Review of "The Films of Alfred Hitchcock" - by David Sterritt


The Films of Alfred Hitchcock. David Sterritt. New York: Cambridge University Press. 165 pages. $11.95 paper.

Reviewed by CHARLES L.P. SILET

Most series books are limited in their scope by the purposes of the series and David Sterritt's The Films of Alfred Hitchcock for the new Cambridge Film Classics is no exception. The book provides an Introduction to some of the basic concerns of Hitchcock's oeuvre followed by individual chapters that focus on six of his most important films: Blackmail, Shadow of a Doubt, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds. Though clearly designed as a text for classroom use, I suspect that it was also intended to serve as a general overview of Hitchcock's work for professionals in cinema studies.

In his Introduction Sterritt describes Hitchcock as a filmmaker who wanted to direct films with a genuine popular appeal which would also garner "high culture" critical approval. In order to do this Hitchcock worked primarily in the "thriller" genre and repeatedly dealt with such themes as "the ambiguity of innocence and guilt, the transference of guilt from one individual to another, the fascination with the guilty woman, the therapeutic function of obsession and vulnerability, and the equation of knowledge and danger" (7). Sterritt stresses the importance of recognizing in the films the tension between order and chaos, which he sees as a fundamental concern of modern art and which helps to explain Hitchcock's obsession with controlling all aspects of his films: "his compulsively precise camera and editing styles," his "catt...

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Charles L.P. Silet teaches courses in film, contemporary fiction, and American culture at Iowa State University. He has completed editing a collection of essays on Hitchcock's Psycho.