30 Days ’til Halloween, 2014: The Horrible Secret Of Dr Hichcock (1962)


So this is my third year doing this “horror film festival” blog and, I have to say, it was somewhat difficult this year sticking to the rules I set for myself previously. It’s becoming tough to find new horror movies on Youtube that are not already celebrated or well known by the general horror or cult film fan. Well, I mean, they’re there…but I also have to find them of good quality, important, or interesting for SOME reason…and that’s been a battle. As usual, however, I’m breaking the rules here and there to keep the ball rolling and to serve my personal obsessions of the moment. Never think twice about breaking the rules when serving your personal obsessions.

That’s the opposite of what many classic horror films want you to think, of course. They’re full of obsessives breaking the rules and paying the price. Ironically, the directors of such films quite often break the rules of cinema and it certainly pays off for THEM nicely…so one must consider where the filmmaker’s heart obviously lies. One could argue that the punishment of onscreen horror villains are a conservative warning to keep us in line with social norms. On the other hand, one could argue that horror villains are like (a backward) Christ in that they take on the consequences of aberration so that we may celebrate transgression without fear.

I suggest indulging in whichever interpretation provides balance to your life.

Consider your own transgressions. Think of the most horrible aberrations buried deep within yourself. What terrible secrets are YOU harboring? Try meditating on those while watching THE HORRIBLE SECRET OF DR. HICHCOCK. You may feel better about yourself before the movie is over…a little more free. Of course you also might just feel dirty and ashamed. There’s something to learn from the experiment in any case, I promise.

I’m into gothic horror this year. Like all classic “gothic horror” films, THE HORRIBLE SECRET OF DR. HICHCOCK can be a little slow by some folk’s standards. It has aged amazingly well, however, and it has “atmosphere” in spades…as well as strange stylistic quirks and editing irregularities that suggest one reason why its director, Riccardo Freda, was cited by the great Dario Argento as having the most influence upon his own films.

Watch for how Freda frames and lights objects and rooms so as to emphasize the juxtaposition of realism and artifice. In the first scene the camera suddenly appears to fall downward on its mount only to cut, jarringly, to the same image framed slightly more tightly. It looks like an accident…but it feels like psychological truth. It is startlingly original cinematic expressionism. The film is filled with these kind of eccentric details that flit by almost imperceptibly between gothic set pieces so stunning that you will want to pause the movie just to soak up the beauty.

As in many of Argento’s “classic” films, Freda enters into a kind of postmodern dialogue with the visual language and themes explored by Alfred Hitchcock. This is not homage or plagiarism, it is a deliberate and beautifully crafted attempt to take Hitchcock further…to logically extend Hitchcock into new cinematic territory.

I can’t think of a better film with which to kick off the holiday season and I hope you enjoy it!

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