Features Leytonstone

The best of Hitchcock

As the borough gets its only cinema back, complete with an Alfred Hitchcock themed bar, the Echo asked readers what their favourite films by the Leytonstone-born director are…

A still from Lifeboat, 1944, Credit: 20th Century Fox

Lifeboat (1944)

This wartime Hitchcock movie is lesser known but it really shouldn’t be. From a John Steinbeck novella, shot entirely in a studio, set in one location with nine shipwrecked on a lifeboat, adrift in the Atlantic, battling to survive the elements and each other.

There’s conflict, suspense, morality and humour with a great cast of characters and glorious dialogue – notably from Tallulah Bankhead – one of Hollywood most outlandish stars.

Hitchcock described it as the “story of a goldfish bowl” as the camera never leaves the boat, a remarkable cinematic challenge that only he would have attempted.

– Marcus Shepherd, Stow Film Lounge co-founder

The 39 Steps (1935)

Poster for The 39 Steps, 1935 Credit: Fox Film Corp

My favourite Hitchcock film has to be The 39 Steps (1935).

I’ve seen it several times since I was a child. Gently-spoken Robert Donat is just superb as Richard Hannay, a soldier-spy forced to go on the run for a murder he did not commit. You’re left scared for him throughout the film. For my money it is by far the best of several film versions of John Buchan’s novel. It’s a totally absorbing adventure that is full of twists and turns.

A young John Laurie – later to appear in classic comedy sitcom Dad’s Army  – is here in a small but memorable role as a very unsympathetic angry husband. However the eventually revealed real villain is a complete surprise…

For anyone who has an aversion to black-and-white films, watch this and if this does not convert you then I’m afraid nothing will.

Ibrahim Zeid – Walthamstow resident

Rope (1948)

Shot on a single set with very long takes, Hitchcock wove this film together with just four noticeable cuts. It’s Hitchcock’s first technicolour film and one where he used suspense more subtly than in his later films such as Vertigo, Psycho and North By Northwest.

Rope was road testing both technically and artistically what would become his signature cinematic work.

This film is also known for casting James Stewart against type and, of course, strongly suggesting homosexuality [between the two leads] at a time when it was less accepted.

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– Nick Bertram, Stow Film Lounge co-founder

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Mark Allnutt poses next to a mural dedicated to Hitchcock film Rear Window at Leytonstone Station

It feels a bit like a Bond film; he travels around a lot and there’s a lot going on. There’s also a fantastic scene where the plane crashes into the sea and you see it in the cockpit, and you see the sea coming towards the windows and the water bursts through.

It’s just genius how he shot it because the camera’s with them right down to impact. There’s also a lot of humour and it’s just thrilling from start to end but it’s one of his most overlooked films.

– Mark Allnutt, Leytonstone resident

Psycho (1960)

I first saw this film on TV in 1978 when I was 14-years-old. When the [infamous’ shower scene happened, I hid behind the settee; it was the most frightening thing I’d ever seen. I had nightmares for a few months afterwards. When you watch a film like that you lap it up and think, ‘Oh this is terrific, I want to have more’; it’s like drugs.

Psycho was the greatest gamble of Hitchcock’s career. Paramount didn’t want to put it out when he first pitched it to them because the lead Janet Leigh was going to be killed off and there was a suggestion of nudity in the shower scene. So, he put $800,000 of his own money into the film to get it approved.

Gary Lewis poses next to a Leytonstone Station mural dedicated to The Wrong Man

At the time [of Psycho’s release], nobody had ever seen something so genuinely terrifying. Back then, it was groundbreaking that the leading lady was being killed off but now nobody would bat an eyelid.

The special effects are amazing for its time. You think it did, but the dagger [that killed Janet] never touched the body. What you’re hearing [when the knife comes down on her] is the sound effects of a knife actually hitting a lump of steak and a watermelon and what you think is blood is actually chocolate sauce going down the plughole.

A lot of the time Janet Leigh wasn’t in the shower either; she had a body-double [Playboy model Marli Renfro]. People were so traumatised by the shower scene that they didn’t notice it wasn’t Janet. [Hitchcock] really was the master of suspense and the creator of illusion.

Gary Lewis, film fanatic who runs Hitchcock talks and tours around Leytonstone. Book a tour here

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