Sep 132006
 
Authors: Jeff Schwartz Collegian

Deciding which of Alfred Hitchcock’s films are the best is a little like trying to determine Michelangelo’s greatest work of art. But during the 1950s, Hitchcock hit his peak, and much of his best work comes from this era.

Rear Window (1954)

Jimmy Stewart stars in this thriller about a photographer who, while injured and subjected to peering out his rear window one night, thinks he sees his neighbor commit murder. This is one of Hitchcock’s most suspenseful films, but, as with most of his best works, “Rear Window” has equal doses of humor and romance to counteract the bare-knuckled suspense. The film is also a fascinating look at voyeurism, a theme that is ever-pertinent in our reality-TV-obsessed world.

You might enjoy this film if you liked.”Phone Booth” or “Collateral” (specifically the scene in the office at the end of the film)

North by Northwest (1959)

The granddaddy of modern spy and action thrillers is also one of Hitchcock’s breeziest and most out-and-out fun films. The always-suave Cary Grant is at his charming best here, playing a man mistaken for a spy. Though the film has some choice opinions about America’s involvement in the Cold War, “North by Northwest” is not as complex as some of Hitchcock’s later work. The emphasis here is on Grant’s evasion of the various authorities that are after him, all of which culminates in the often-referenced and parodied scene where Grant outruns a crop-duster. A wonderful souffl/ of a film.

You might enjoy this film if you liked.”The Bourne Identity,” “Minority Report” or the James Bond films

Psycho (1960)

Even if you’ve never seen this film, its impact on horror movies and pop culture is enormous and inescapable. And yet, despite how many times this film has been referenced and spoofed, it still has the power to raise hairs on the back of your neck. Anthony Perkins stars as Norman Bates, whose nervous laugh and eager-to-please mannerisms mask a deep psychosis that leads him to cover up for his “mother’s” unseemly behavior. A word about the shower scene: It’s still terrifying. From the rapid-fire cuts, to Janet Leigh’s piercing scream, to the quiet finale as blood swirls down a drain, this is one of the best-executed scenes in all of Hitchcock’s work.

You might enjoy this film if you liked.”The Sixth Sense,” “Halloween” or “The Silence of the Lambs”

For the More Adventurous Hitchcock Viewer:

Rope (1948)

Hitchcock’s take on the themes of “Crime and Punishment” is also an ambitious film experiment that seems to unfold in one, continuous shot. In addition, this was the first Hitchcock film to star Jimmy Stewart.

Vertigo (1958)

Perhaps the strangest of Hitchcock’s films, this one starts out as a mystery, but ends as an unsettling look at isolation and moral ambiguity. “Vertigo” also features one of the most surreal dream sequences ever put to celluloid.

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

This black comedy takes place in a small Vermont town where a corpse (the eponymous Harry) turns up in the woods. Some of the townspeople believe they may be to blame for Harry’s death, so they conspire to hide the corpse. Though not a commercial success, this was one of Hitchcock’s personal favorites.

Staff writer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at verve@collegian.com<

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