Silent Suspense: The Top 5 Forgotten Hitchcock Films

The name of Hitchcock has become synonymous with intense thrillers, mystery, violence and blockbusters. Alfred Hitchcock made over fifty films over his career; ‘Vertigo’ (1958) being recently named the best picture of all time by the AFI, the production of ‘Psycho’ (1960) is currently  the centre of the new feature film  ‘Hitchcock’ (2013) and countless other groundbreaking scenes have become cemented in pop culture. But what about the other 40 films that have not received critical acclaim and mention in the 21st Century? Some were unremarkable, some unwatchable; however, many were as masterful and entertaining as crowd favourites ‘The Birds’ (1963) and ‘North by Northwest’ (1959). Below is a list of theses top five forgotten Hitchcock masterpieces:

5. I Confess (1953)

Although ‘I Confess’ (1953) stars the legendary Montgomery Clift and Anne Baxter it is odd that as a Hitchcock film it has less longevity. In a plot filled with flashbacks, it tells of a priest Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) who has heard in the confessional one of his followers admit to stealing money and murdering a person. As the investigation of the death increases, Logan becomes implicated but he cannot reveal what he knows without breaking the sanctity of the confessional. It is soon revealed that Logan had a relationship with Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter) who was married and also appears to be involved in the crime. The talents of both Baxter and Clift are obvious in this suspenseful thriller, making it worth watching for both Hitchcock and classic film lovers.

4. The Lady Vanishes (1938)

‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938) marks the second last film Hitchcock made in Britain and another masterpiece introducing little known British actors to the American public. Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood and Paul Lukas star as disgruntled travellers eager to return to pre-World War II England by train. While delayed by an avalanche, a woman disappeared. Some passengers don’t believe she even existed, others believe she was murdered, but as the train restarts the journey, several suspicious travellers investigate and discover a more complicated conclusion then anyone could have predicted. Admittedly, ‘The Lady Vanishes’ is not as mainstream or ‘a blockbuster-ish’ compared to other later Hitchcock films, but it’s an entertaining movie and an important part of the director’s legacy.

3. Frenzy (1972)

Frenzy (1972) was Hitchcock’s second last film and very significant when looking at his collection of works as a whole. Firstly, it is the only Hitchcock film to feature nudity and, secondly, includes the most harrowing and disturbing act of violence to appear in any of the director’s movies. The story focuses around a serial killer (played by Barry Foster) who is raping and murdering young women in London similar to ‘Jack the Ripper’ or ‘The Christie Murders’. It centres on the particulars of the criminal investigation with the blame initially being placed on the real perpetrators friend Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) and his attempts to prove his innocence. Interestingly, out of all the directors films, ‘Frenzy’ features the most unknown cast of actors and yet – even including the shocking scenes of violence – is an entertaining and interesting film.

2. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Probably one of the least “Hitchcocky” films of this list, ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ features neither the ‘cool-blonde stereotype’, sexual tension nor the graphic violence that the legendary director almost meticulously incorporated into his more famous films. However, despite this the movie has the most enchanting and likable heroine – played by Teresa Wright – and a typical heart-stopping mystery that makes it a must watch classic Hitchcock film. It tells the story of the young Charlie (real name Charlotte) who is bored by her predictable life in an ordinary middle class town. Her life is turned upside-down by the arrival of her uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton), to whom she is named, and there intimacy brings her closer to uncovering his secret and the crimes he may or may not have committed.

1. Lifeboat (1944)

Another ‘non-typical’ Hitchcock film, ‘Lifeboat’ (1944) is my personal favourite of all the films on this list and illustrates perfectly the pure talent of its director. The film tells the story of a group of people who, after their ship is sunk, wait for rescue and fight for survival in a small lifeboat. As one of Hitchcock’s great ‘limiting’ films, he proves that a 90 minute movie can still be entertaining and suspenseful within a tiny set and with limited actors. It stars Tallulah Bankhead and little-known Western actor John Hodiack as lead passengers and Walter Slezak as the German captain who causes trouble among the survivors.

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11 Comments

  1. Amanda Duke
    0

    Hitchcock addict here. I haven’t watched I Confess as of yet although I have it in my collection. I may watch it tonight. I will comment again if I do with my thoughts. Always great to see a Hitchcock post!

  2. Mette Marie Kowalski

    An inspiring post!
    My feelings for Hitchcock’s films are quite mixed… I only started watching his films this year, mainly because he’s such a big figure in film history. My journey started out with Psycho, a film I was very impressed by, but the rest didn’t fully impress me. There were always great ideas but in the end I found many of his characters to be very stiff… However, my other favourite of his is Shadow of a Doubt, a great suspense movie that is both stylish and profound. Great to see it featured here, and I’ll certainly check out the rest some time.

  3. Taylor Ramsey

    My favorite Hitchcock film will always be Rope, by I have always had a soft spot tor The Lady Vanishes. Nice article again!

    • Me too! I always knew that I could not possibly be alone! I have been watching it at least twice a year since I was 16. I recently purchased the blue ray box set, and wow, watching Rope in HD, is like watching it again for the first time!

  4. BetterDays
    0

    My favorite has always been Rear Window. Very nice list!

  5. I love Hitchcock’s explanation of suspense. He explains the audience does most of the work for you if you show them all the factors involved in a suspense scene. He used the example of him and another man talking about baseball at a desk and the room explodes. That gives you a good surprise but to build tension have the same scene play out but show the bomb ticking down under the desk and when the audience sees the characters talking about base ball they build up the tension to the explosion. I am paraphrasing a lot here look it up, he explains it way better. By the by my favorite is North by Northwest.

  6. Jordan David

    The AFI named Vertigo #1 too? I knew that Sight&Sound did, but not AFI. Interesting! 😀

  7. Corey Koepper

    I feel as though my life improves when I attempt to see as much Hitchcock as possible. Personally, Sabotage is one of my early favorites.

  8. These are “forgotten” Hitchcock films??? Not even close! How about Foreign Correspondent (1940), which came out at the same time as, and was overshadowed by, Rebecca? Foreign Correspondent deploys all the great elements of a Hitchcock film — suspense, humor, romance (in fact, the shipboard-crossing scene was inspired by real-life crossing by Hitchcock and his future-wife Alma), intrigue, action…

    As far as other more obscure Hitchock films — because I don’t truly believe that anyone has actually forgotten Lifeboat, Frenzy, Shadow of a Doubt, or The Lady Vanishes (and maybe not I Confess, either) — I offer this list:

    Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache (both 1944), two WW2 propaganda shorts Hitchcock made for the Allies.

    Under Capricorn (1949), a period piece set in Australia during the 19th century. Starred big names like Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten, and you’ve STILL never heard of it!

    Jamaica Inn (1939), another historical drama, this one set in Cornwall around 1800, about smugglers. Starred Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara.

    Waltzes From Vienna (also known as Strauss’ Great Waltz, 1934), Hitchcock’s ONLY MUSICAL!!!! A film about Johann Strauss, Sr. and Jr.

  9. It helps to understand a more well-rounded Hitchcock through watching and analyzing these films you mentions. Thank you!

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