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Alfred Hitchcock on the “Fright Complex”

What The Little Red Riding Hood has to do with the art and science of suspense cinema.

Last month, we looked at The Power of Nightmares — a provocative BBC miniseries exploring fear manipulation in political propaganda. Today, we turn a different lens on the same subject: Exploiting human fear for entertainment value.

In May of 1964, BBC’s Huw Weldon interviewed iconic film director Alfred Hitchcock for the TV program Monitor. Brilliantly insightful and ever-so-subtly condescending as ever, the great filmmaker shares priceless insights on the social psychology of fear, the gender balance of film audiences, and ratio of intuition vs. calculation in American and English cinema.

It’s all based on Red Riding Hood, you see. Nothing has changed since Red Riding Hood. So what [audiences] are frightened of today is exactly the same thing they were frightened of yesterday. Because this…shall we call it ‘fright complex’…is rooted in every individual.” ~ Alfred Hitchcock

The assembly of pieces of film to create fright is the essential part of my job, just as much would a painter, by putting certain colors together, create evil on canvas.” ~ Alfred Hitchcock

[A good cry] is the satisfaction of temporary pain. And that’s the same thing when people endure the agonies of a suspense film — when it’s all over, they’re relieved.” ~ Alfred Hitchcock

For more of the iconic director, we highly recommend Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection — an ambitious collection of 14 digitally remastered Hitchcock gems, accompanied by fascinating documentaries, featurettes, commentary and a collectible book, and encased in stunningly designed velvet packaging.

Published February 25, 2011




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