As we swing into late October and November, people often look for thrills and chills. One of the masters of this format as a director was Alfred Hitchcock. Sometimes his films are viewed as horror stories, while other times they’re recognized as noir and thrillers. For this week’s Binge Watch I’m going to look at nine of his films through the lens of three screen partnerships.
If you’re looking to check out some Hitchcock films, you can find a number streaming on The Peacock, HBO Max and Amazon Prime.
Jimmy Stewart Collaborations
About: This one is filmed in real time and done elaborately to look like a single tracking shot. It’s about a pair of wealthy bachelors who commit a murder to see if they can get away with it and stuff the victim in a trunk in their apartment just before hosting a dinner party. The guilt begins to gnaw away at one of them, and their former professor (Stewart) gets suspicious. This one is based on the stage play and shot very much in that fashion, providing a taught 80 minutes on screen.
Rear Window (1954)
About: This one is a classic, starring Stewart as a professional photographer stuck at home recovering from a broken leg. It’s based on a short story and sees his L.B. Jefferies passes the time by spying on the neighbors across the way. That’s all fine until he sees something he shouldn’t, and then has to figure out how to get justice without becoming a victim himself. Stewart gets the assist from Grace Kelly, while Raymond Burr is the menacing man across the way. This one has been re-made, but it’s well worth coming back to the classic.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
About: This is the second film by this name made by Hitchcock. Much of the plot has changed, and Hitchcock himself once said, “Let’s say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional.” The “final version” features Stewart and Doris Day as an American couple on vacation in French Morocco with their young son. Soon they find themselves pulled into an elaborate assassination plot and spy craft that puts their family in jeopardy. This one is a bit of a fun thrill ride and another solid pairing with Stewart.
About: This is another classic, and another pairing with Stewart, who stars as a detective that becomes embroiled in the case of a mysterious woman (Kim Novak) that plays on his fear of heights, vertigo, and a traumatic event that haunts him. This is based on a novel and shot in San Francisco, which is a big part of the story. Stewart is great here and this is one of Hitchcock’s most famous films for a reason. It’s well worth checking out.
Cary Grant Collaborations
About: Grant is another big actor of the time period who had some famous films with Hitchcock, including “Notorious.” This is regarded as one of Hitchcock’s best, and also one that sort of took him into new territory. It stars Grant as a spy who recruits Ingrid Bergman’s Alicia, the American daughter of a convicted Nazi Spy, to infiltrate Nazis living in Central America after World War II. This is a beautiful black-and-white film that features good performances and an interesting story.
To Catch A Thief (1955)
About: Grant reunites with Hitchcock for this thriller about a smooth operator and former thief, John Robie (Grant), who is living the good life on the French Riviera. When a new thief begins striking the area, police suspect Robie, who has to fight to clear his name. The film co-stars Grace Kelly and has some fun settings and moments. This is a little lighter than some of Hitchcock’s fare but it it’s plenty engaging.
North By Northwest (1959)
About: This is probably Hitchcock’s most famous pairing with Grant, and one of his best films. It’s one of my favorite of Hitchcock’s films, too, and one of the most famous films in American film history. It’s a spy thriller that starts with mistaken identity. Grant plays an advertising executive pulled into a plot because he’s mistaken for someone else. As he’s trying to flee and clear his name, he meets a woman (Eva Marie Saint) who is more than she appears. This is a fun and fast-paced adventure, and a must see for film fans.
Tippi Hedren Collaborations
The Birds (1963)
About: A lot has been said about Hitchcock and his collaborations with Hedren, which were the subject of docufilms in the past. I won’t belabor that here, but rather focus on the two films, which were part of Hitchcock’s later period. “The Birds” is again set on the coast of Northern California and is a horror/thriller about birds turning on humans and beginning to attack. As someone who lived on the coast of California growing up, this was a movie that shook me when I first saw it and is one that I still enjoy to this day. I think “North by Northwest” is Hitchcock’s best, but this one might be my favorite.
About: This was the second collaboration between Hedren and Hitchcock, and this one is a little weird. It also stars Sean Connery. Based on a novel, it stars Hedren as a woman with a past that haunts her who becomes a thief. When a wealthy man (Connery) she works for catches her, he blackmails her into marrying him. This one has a high-profile cast, but I’ll be honest in saying I thought it was weird and doesn’t quite work. Hitchcock made some great films, but this isn’t one of them to me.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.