Picture Parade (BBC, 05/Jul/1960)
Mr Hitchcock, why do you always make "mystery" films?
Well, life is a big mystery, isn't it... and always has been. I think people are intrigued by mystery – to find out about things they don't know anything about. That's a mystery!
But surely not as sensational as you make it seem?
Life is more sensational. I would say that... how does one describe drama? Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.
Do you regard the mystery – the form of mystery – in a film as a kind of escape for yourself, in any way? An escape, possibly, from your own fears?
Well, it might have started that way. I suppose it must have all started when I was in my mother's arms, at the age of six months. And she said to me "boo!", and scared the ...something out of me, you know!
Can you remember any specific instance when you were frightened as a child?
Well, I have a vague recollection of being scared by a policeman. I think that when I was probably about four or five years of age being sent with a note to the local police station and being shut in a cell as a punishment for some... mishap, or... I don't... I think, I don't even know what it was for, but I was probably unjustly incarcerated at the time. But, you see the psychiatrist will always tell you that if you have a fear that is rooted in you and comes from something in your childhood, the moment you can go back to it and release it, all is well. It doesn't apply to me – I'm still scared of policeman.
Would you say you were a very timid man?
Utterly timid. I'm scared of everything.
Is there one rule, above all others, that is indispensable to a director who wants to frighten an audience?
I think he should understand the psychology of audiences. He should also know that audiences love to enjoy the very thing that they have built in, and that's fear that all started when the mother said "boo!" But for some inexplicable reason, they like to – how shall I say it – put their toe in the cold water of fear to see what it's like. That's why they go for rides on switchbacks and scream, and scream, and then get off giggling. Girls go on swings that go higher and higher, and suddenly, when they get too high, they get scared and come down again. They're all trying it out.
Your new film is called "Psycho", can you tell me something about it?
Well, "Psycho" is my first attempt at a "shocker". In other words, it has, in it's content, certain episodes which do shock. In some sense it could be called a "horror" film, but the horror only comes to you after you've seen it – when you get home... in the dark!
But can you be more specific? Is it about kind of...
...well, the broad idea is a young man, played by Anthony Perkins, who runs a small motel of about 12 units – a rather cheesy affair really – and in an old house, behind the motel, is his mother and she, I'm afraid, is homicidal. He should put her away, but he loves her too much. So, you can imagine what happens to the guests at the motel.
You once told me that actors were cattle to be shoved about... I wonder if you would care to enlarge on that?
You mean you want to make them larger cattle than they are?
Well, I don't... that's really a joke. But, erm, they're children you know, and invariably the problem one always has with actors is coping with their ego. But they have to have the ego and they have to be ultra-sensitive otherwise they wouldn't be able to do what is asked of them.
You invariably appear in your own films, Mr Hitchcock. Have you ever been tempted to become an actor yourself?
Nothing so low as that.
Mr Hitchcock, thank you very much.