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Sympathy for a murderer?

Sympathy for a murderer?


Film director Alfred Hitchcock is widely known as the master of suspense, but he is also the master of audience manipulation. Where other thriller movie directors can only shock us (Quentin Tarantino), Hitchcock plays with our minds. Here's an example…

In the groundbreaking Psycho (1960), there is an amazing scene, and I don't mean the shower scene. It's the scene where Norman Bates disposes of the body. By this time in the movie, we know that Bates is either the murderer, or at least is deeply complicit in the grisly deed.

Bates disposes of the body by putting it in the trunk of a car and driving off to the swamp. He pushes the car into the swamp…

The car starts to sink as Bates chews anxiously on a toothpick. Then the car stops sinking – it hasn't gone all the way down. Bates stops chewing; what on earth can he do now? But before he has time to think, the car sinks again, eventually going all the way down leaving nothing behind except a few bubbles.

When the car stops sinking, the audience is gripped. Both Bates and the audience desperately want the car to sink. They almost want it so much that it is their collective will that makes the car go down.

And you know what? Hitchcock has manipulated the audience into sympathizing with a horrific slasher murderer! And that is some feat of filmmaking.

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Beyond that, it's interesting to know how the car trick was done. In fact, the production crew drained the swamp and installed the kind of car lift you find in a repair garage. The swamp was refilled and the car pushed onto the tracks of the lift, which were invisible below the surface of the water. Then it was a simple matter of hitting the start/stop button to make the car pause midway. I don't care to think what state the lift was in after they had finished with it, but it got the job done.

In the remake of Psycho (1998), which is interesting in itself as it is an almost exact copy of the original, and certainly destined to fail since it is copying one of the best-directed films ever made, apparently the swamp scene didn't go too smoothly the first time round. You can see they had to retake it because there is water sloshing around in the tail lights of the car!

Hitchcock wouldn't have allowed that.

David Mellor

Delay and Reverb Effects

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David Mellor