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A Tribute: Alfred Hitchcock, Legendary Moviemaker and “Master of Suspense”

If you’re considering a career in filmmaking you’re probably studying the masters. Directors like Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe you’ve heard of him? He created such vintage thrillers as “Rear Window,” “The Birds” and “Vertigo,” but Hitch saved his most outlandish filmmaking tricks for a black-and-white classic called “Psycho.”


Hitchcock wasn’t kidding: Armed guards were posted in theaters to keep stragglers from wandering in after the film had started. Hitchcock felt that if the audience came into the picture too late, they would have no idea what was going on. 

Made in 1960, “Psycho” was the most shocking film audiences of the day had ever seen. And for a long time, it was considered the most frightening movie ever made. Even now, it ranks high on the list of movie thrillers and horror films.

Making Crazy
Considering it’s revered as a classic, it’s amazing to think that Universal Studios (the studio that backed Hitchcock) didn’t even want to make the movie. Hitchcock ended up financing it himself, using the production crew from his television show. Universal provided the set – building the famous Bates Motel and the Bates house on the Universal back lot, where both remain to this day. The film’s production budget? About $800,000 – a relatively small budget for a major picture, even in 1960.

Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is now world-renowned as a Hollywood classic and worth looking into for several reasons. However,”Psycho” is best known for “the shower scene.” Like Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” it’s what the audience doesn’t see that scared the heck out of ‘em.


Hitchcock and crew worked on the famous shower scene for seven full days.

Hitchcock was notorious for pulling the rug out from beneath his audience. He’d lead you down one path and suddenly leave you wondering why you didn’t end up where you thought you were going. But in addition to being a master storyteller, he was also a tireless perfectionist – using 70 camera set-ups to produce the necessary 45 seconds of footage for the shower scene.

Pysche-ing Out the Audience
Hitchcock used other clever tricks to psyche out “Psycho’s” audience too. Like refusing to let anyone into the theater after the film had started, and enforcing this rule with actual security guards who were posted at selected theaters during the film’s first run. (The reason is obvious, once you watch the movie.) Did the unusual approach to taking a film this serious pay off? You bet it did.)

The movie created a worldwide sensation – and a national panic over showering in motel rooms. One concerned parent actually wrote to Alfred Hitchcock and complained that since seeing “Psycho,” her daughter had refused to take a shower out of fear. Hitchcock jokingly replied, suggesting the parents send their child to the Dry Cleaner’s.

“Psycho” is now more than 50 years old and by now, all of its shocks and surprises have been fully integrated into American pop culture. “Psycho” is now considered the parent of every slasher movie to come along during the last five decades. However, in a very real way, Norman Bates remains the scariest slasher of them all, because he doesn’t rely on gore or gimmicks (like Freddy Kreuger or Jason or Michael Meyers). Norman Bates looks like an average person…most of the time. Measured by this standard, “Psycho” is far scarier than any monster movie, because it’s about the real monsters that walk among us.


“And…cut.”

Meet the Masters in Film School
If you’re serious about becoming a filmmaker and learning about the techniques that masters like Hitchcock used to make movies, why not start by going to film school? If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, there’s no better time to learn the craft than now. Tools like Final Cut Pro X and After Effects make it easier than ever before to bring your cinematic vision to life. Who knows? You might have what it takes to be the next Alfred Hitchcock.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments