The 10 Most Ingenious Techniques Used By Alfred Hitchcock

5. Hitchcock’s Trailers

First of all, while this isn’t actually in a specific movie of his, it was a technique he used to get people to see it and like everything else mentioned here, it’s ingenious! A great Hitchcock trailer is like a short film!

Let’s take the “Psycho” trailer for example. Its six minutes long it’s just Hitchcock talking to the camera giving you a tour of the house used in the picture. Using his dark sense of humor, he sets you up for a scare and urges us to move along with the tour until we see Janet Leigh screaming in the shower. He doesn’t once show you a clip from the film and is literally teasing you into seeing the movie.

Same with “The Birds” trailer. The whole thing is a static shot of Hitchcock talking about facts about birds. There’s only an edit when he sits at a table. It’s brave, but smart, on his part to almost test the patience of the audience with a trailer. He knew he could do it though because by that time he had become a household name with his TV show, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. There’s not many directors who can get away with that today and do it as gracefully and entertaining as Hitch. This is how you do a trailer. It makes you want to see the movie and you get to see the artist behind it.


4. Translucent Ceiling in “The Lodger”

“The Lodger” is a film that Hitchcock, himself, called “The first true Hitchcock picture”. This 1927 silent film was perhaps the start of that theme mentioned earlier of a man wrongfully accused. Here we have a story of a landlady who thinks her new tenant, a lodger, is the man killing the women in town.

There’s a wonderful scene where the landlady first begins to suspect the lodger is one and she and two other folks hear noise going on upstairs. They look at the ceiling wondering what he’s doing. We, then, see a translucent ceiling where we get a glimpse of the lodger pacing back and forth. This was achieved by putting a plane of glass above the camera lens and the actor walked back and forth, creating that illusion of seeing through the ceiling.

What makes this so amazing is, not only the fact that this was innovative for 1927, but also because the audience is, again, involved in the thought process of the characters. Their fear of this man is highlighted in this moment of wondering what he’s doing and what kind of man he is.


3. The Editing in the “Psycho” Shower Scene

I don’t even need to explain “Psycho”. Everyone’s either heard of it or seen it. Of course everyone knows the shower scene even if you haven’t seen but the one thing that stands out the most about this scene is, not only the suspense, but also the editing. The jarring and disorientating cuts work incredibly well. One element that I love about the editing is how every cut happens with every stab of the knife, hence a cut. Not to mention the music compliments the editing.


2. The Cinematography in “Rope”

First of all, this trailer doesn’t do justice to what I’m talking about. You really have to see the movie. Based on a play, Hitchcock uses the cinematography in the film to capture that feeling. The whole film was done in 10 long takes. Though, the way it is put together feels like one take, which captures that feeling of watching a play. It gives you the feeling of being there in the story.

What’s also quite interesting is the use of the spinning painted background that was used to go from day to night. It’s very convincing even in 2014. For a movie that’s place in one location, Hitchcock creates tension and excitement right off the bat with the camera movement. It’s a great technical achievement in cinema that I couldn’t overlook.


1. No Music in “The Birds”

This is something most people actually didn’t notice for a while. That shows how affective it was already. The entire movie has no music. The only thing we hear is the sound of birds. That’s our soundtrack. Music is something in film that I feel needs to be used carefully. It’s certainly something you don’t want to use to manipulate the audience to let them know when to cry, be scared, laugh, etc. It can be used in a very heavy-handed way and can often ruin a good film.

Hitch just throws it all away and uses the sound of the birds themselves to create the fear and tension in the movie. This is why it’s number one here because the film presents itself in a subtle way that you don’t even notice that there’s no music present. It shows that music isn’t always needed to capture an audience.

Author Bio: Chris Esper is a director based out of Attleboro, MA. When he was in his teens, he received his first camera and started experimenting with it. After high school, he attended New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich, RI where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Recording Arts. With several projects under his belt and more on the horizon including, Chris continues to work closer to his dreams.