Posts Tagged ‘Constance Collier’

Hitchcock’s Strangler Trilogy

Posted 01 Jun 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Movies I Got

By Arnold Stead

Shadow of a Doubt, USA, 1943

Rope, USA, 1948

Strangers on a Train, USA, 1951

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Rope is one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces.

Phillip, a budding pianist anxious to know if his debut concert will be a success, asks Mrs. Atwater to read his palm. She grants his request and says: “These hands will bring you great fame.” Her prophesy should please him, but Hitchcock shows us Phillip’s hands, the hands of a strangler, fingers frozen in the posture of their deed; then the strangler’s terrified face. It would seem Phillip already knows that the fame Mrs. Atwater speaks of is, in fact, infamy.

Flanked by Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Strangers on a Train (1951), Rope (1948) serves as the centerpiece for Alfred Hitchcock’s strangler trilogy, a three-part meditation on murder, madness, and reading. In his famous study of Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut remarks that Strangers on a Train, “just like Shadow of a Doubt is systematically built around the figure two.” In both pictures the two central characters “might very well have had the same name. Whether it’s Guy or Bruno, it’s obviously a single personality split in two.” I will argue that Rope fits Truffaut’s schemata, as Phillip (Farley Granger) and Brandon (John Dall) – like Charles Oakley and his niece in Shadow of a Doubt, as well as Guy and Bruno in Strangers on a Train – form “a single personality split in two.” I will further argue that Phillip’s hands, like Charles Oakley’s and Bruno Antony’s, have a will of their own. Hitchcock endows those male hands with a characteristic usually associated with the phallus. To revise an old chestnut: these hands, when aroused, have no conscience.  Read More