Interview by Cullen Edwards
This interview with Alfred Hitchcock was recorded in 1957 and comes to us from the Pacifica Radio Archives.
The Animated Transcript
Would you say that your technique has changed essentially, say, since 1932?
I don’t think so, no. I think the cobbler should stick to his last. Know your own limitations. I’ve become a specialist. People expect it. If I did a story or, say, a musical about Cinderella, they would be waiting for the body to turn up. If my name were on the picture. You know the audiences are still looking for the body.
Most of your films have had a sort of strong dose of peril in them for the characters. Why have you made this your speciality right from the very beginning, I believe, isn’t it?
I think it’s probably because I’m very nervous fellow. We all have fear in us and we like to enjoy a vicarious, shall we say, toe in the water of fear. I think audiences like to feel a little touch of fear. After all they go on a roller coaster and scream. They are very near the dangerous point. If a roller coaster didn’t take that curve so easily and went right over the top that would be the end of that.
You know I once made the error of putting suspense into a picture and not relieving it. I did a picture called Saboteur, Sabotage, I beg your pardon, and I had a small boy carrying a bomb across London. I built up the time element of when the bomb was to go off and I even went past the time when the bomb should go off. Eventually I let the bomb go off two minutes after it should’ve gone off and blew the boy and everybody else to bits, and this was a horrifying experience especially for women in the audience. I was never forgiven for it.
You mentioned the relieving the suspense and I think one of the marks of your films is the wry touches of humor that you inject to relieve the…
Well, yes, I believe after all there’s humor in a graveyard. Why not? Which reminds me of a story I think it was a famous comedian, Harry Tate, English comedian died, and was being buried. At the graveside were all his fellow comedians including one very old man named Charles Coburn. A rather brash young comedian, just as the coffin was being lowered into the grave, leaned over to him and said, how old are you Charlie? And this old, old comedian said, oh, he said, I’m 89. The young one said, hardly seems worthwhile going home, does it?
I think the British have a sense of humor especially about the macabre. I think a lot of people object to playing around with bodies and so forth. But actually I don’t think it really matters and sometimes people can’t help, especially certain types of English people, can’t help but make a joke. Whether it’s for their own relief or what. I remember at a fairground once outside London there was a sideshow going on in a tent where a man was biting the heads from live rats and there were two women, blousy sort of women at the back of the tent, watching this scene with fascination but with clenched teeth and horror. But one of them couldn’t help make a joke she had to call out, she said, don’t you want any bread with it?
You haven’t put that in any of your films yet?
Not yet, no, there’s room for it.
How many films in all have you made sir?
I wouldn’t know, maybe 40 or 50. I never look back. You know I think it’s a mistake to look back, you always have to look forward otherwise you’re liable to get old get fashioned or something.
“Hitch” Charles Francois Gounod, Leo Nissim
“Force of Nature” Magnum Opus
“Concealed” Alexander Paul Rudd
“Scared By Shadows” Paul Martin Pritchard
“Resistance Is Futile” Kurt Oldman