Jaws Vertigoed

Indiewire have recently been running a mash-up contest in light of the recent story about The Artist using music from Vertigo.

If you missed the story, Kim Novak recently took out an ad in Variety to complain about the use of some of Bernard Herrmann’s score in Michel Hazanavicius’s tribute to the silent era.

Press Play then decided to see how it sounded against other film sequences, so they staged a contest called ‘Vertigoed’ with the following rules:

  1. Take the same Herrmann cue — “Scene D’Amour,” used in this memorable moment from Vertigo — and match it with a clip from any film. (You can nick the three-minute section from one of Kevin’s mash-ups if it makes things easier.) Is there any clip, no matter how silly, nonsensical, goofy or foul, that the score to Vertigo can’t ennoble? Let’s find out!
  2. Although you can use any portion of “Scene D’Amour” as your soundtrack, the movie clip that you pair it with cannot have ANY edits; it must play straight through over the Herrmann music. This is an exercise in juxtaposition and timing. If you slice and dice the film clip to make things “work,” it’s cheating. MONTAGES WILL BE DISQUALIFIED.
  3. Upload the result to YouTube, Vimeo, blipTV or wherever, email the link to [email protected] along with your name, and we’ll add your mash-up to this Index page.

Given that they have recently been running an excellent video series on Steven Spielberg, the sequence that immediately popped into my head was this one from Jaws (1975).

Mainly because of the use of the “zoom dolly” shot that Hitchcock made famous on Vertigo but also because there are some interesting connections between the two directors.

Both made significant films at Universal and Hitchcock was also a major shareholder of the studio as Jaws smashed box office records.

Its financial success would have made both men a lot of money, but the two were destined never to meet.

In fact, Spielberg was twice escorted off the set of Hitchcock movies on the Universal lot.

According to a book by John Baxter, as a young man he was thrown off the set of Torn Curtain (1966) and years later an assistant director asked him to leave whilst Hitch was shooting Family Plot (1976):

There’s probably a reason that ‘Scene d’Amour’ has been used so often as a temp track (i.e. a piece of temporary music used before the composer settles on a final score), which is that it lends a haunting beauty to almost any image.

With that in mind here is the scene from Jaws set to Herrmann’s music:

The music accentuates the tragedy of a mother losing her son, whilst with Williams’ score there was a sense of impending dread and brilliantly orchestrated horror.

Note also how the scene in the original version is free of music until the shark appears.

Take a look at the entries over on the Press Play site, which sets the track to various films including Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom MenaceRockyThe Great Dictator and They Live.

> Buy Scene D’Amour by Bernard Herrmann from the Vertigo soundtrack
> Press Play Vertigoed Contest and their Video Series on Spielberg
Buy Jaws on DVD
Buy Vertigo on DVD

The Evolution of the Hitchcock Trailer

Once he was established as a Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock cleverly used his persona as a major promotional tool for his films.

Although he is rightly regarded as one of the great directors in cinema, the marketing of his movies reveal a lot about how he managed to combine his artistic sensibilities with commercial instincts.

Charlton Heston was once quoted as saying:

“The trouble with movies as a business is that it’s an art, and the trouble with movies as art is that it’s a business”.

Perhaps more than any other director, Hitchcock managed to solve this conundrum and we can see his mastery of the movies as both an art and a business by looking at the trailers to several of his films.

For his breakthrough US work Rebecca (1940), the trailer played up the fact that it was a David O’Selznick production as much as an Alfred Hitchcock film and that it was also “the most glamorous film of all time”:

At this point, despite his experience, he was essentially a director for hire and had yet to become the portly icon of later years.

Notorious (1946) goes for the ‘big fonts proclaiming big things’ approach to trailers and Hitch is still nowhere to be seen, although it is worth noting that he is referred to as ‘the master of suspense’.

A sign that Hitchcock was more talented than the average Hollywood director was the ambition of Rope (1948), a film which had the illusion of being mostly shot in one take, although it was actually a string of set pieces cleverly stitched together.

The trailer was partly narrated by Jimmy Stewart’s character and didn’t feature the director, although the form of the film played an important part in establishing his reputation as more than just a director for hire.

The 1950s saw Hollywood embrace all kinds of technical innovations (e.g. Cinemascope, 3D) to stave off the threat of television, but Hitchcock was embracing it both as a form in itself and seizing the opportunity to become a familiar face to great swathes of Americans every week.

In 1949 one million Americans owned TV sets and by the end of the decade this number had sky-rocketed to over 50 million, so here was a director clearly in touch with both his audience and the emerging trends of the time.

By 1955 Hitchcock had his own TV series – Alfred Hitchcock Presents, later to become The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – which became famous for his opening monologues.

This is the first episode, where he addressed the audience in his own inimitable way:

On the burgeoning medium of television during this period it provided invaluable publicity for his career as a movie director.

It was ironic that in an age of chiselled movie stars he would become such an American cultural icon, especially after a childhood in England crippled by shyness and obesity.

But perhaps there was a conflicted showman inside the director.

What else could explain his famous cameos throughout his career, which were a simultaneous expression to stay hidden and be noticed?

By The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), which saw him remake his own film, his reputation was established but for the trailer it was Jimmy Stewart who again who addressed the audience to describe the making of the movie.

The same year Hitchcock made his first notable appearence in a trailer, talking about himself in the third person no less, whilst narrating the outline for The Wrong Man (1956):

A vitally important film for the director both in content and style, it seems appropriate that he would make an early marketing appearance here.

Perhaps his promotional performances every week on TV in front of millions of viewers had convinced the studio bosses he not only had a reputation but could be trusted to sell to the audience directly?

For Vertigo (1958) however, Hitchcock took a back seat to a conventional narration guy.

Was it because the story of an obsessive man who forces a reluctant brunette to become an icy blonde was a bit too personal for him?

After the relative commercial failure of this hypnotic film – which would mushroom in critical esteem decades later – he returned with his most commercial project to date.

North By Northwest (1959) was a pretty big deal for MGM and they let Hitchcock completely take over the trailer, using his dry wit to play up the humour in the material and guarantee they would be in for a ride.

Can you imagine any modern studio or contemporary director approve a trailer like this?

His next film was less obviously commercial, based on a novel with grisly real life influences, and was to be filmed in black and white with his TV crew.

The project began life at Paramount, who were so put off by the material that they originally refused to make it and sold off key rights to Universal and the director (even today it is often mistakenly thought of as a Universal movie).

Psycho (1960) certainly presented a marketing challenge and Hitchcock responded with perhaps his most famous trailer, which was this 6 minute promotional short.

It was a shrewd move as the director’s trademark humour let viewers know that the film wasn’t as dark as they may have heard.

That being said, the sudden climax at the end, complete with Bernard Herrman’s violins hinted that there was something dark and sinister within the main attraction.

Not only did Psycho represent the high watermark of the director’s artistic and commercial career, is also saw him reach a plateau as a marketing genius.

Hitchcock persuaded cinemas not to allow audiences in if they were late, which intensified the must-see factor and also provided the film with valuable extra publicity.

Who did audiences see in the foyer of their local cinema?

The director pointing at his watch and telling them that if they were late they had to attend the next showing of the film.

Whilst the public loved it, critical reaction was decidedly cooler with The Observer’s critic embarrassing themselves by not even staying until the end (I’m happy to report that their current critic Philip French always stays until the end credits of each movie he sees).

For The Birds (1963), the director repeated the trick with another witty short.

Note how the dry humour again deflects from the dark subject matter, which could have proved a commercial turn off.

By this point Hitchcock was a major cultural personality due to both his movies and TV shows, which first aired on CBS from 1955 to 1960, and then on NBC from 1960 to 1962.

This was then followed by The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which lasted from 1962 to 1965 and such was the director’s longevity that even after his death in 1980, NBC and USA Network even revived the show for four seasons in the late 1980s.

If you think of each TV introduction as free publicity for his films, it also ranks as one of the longest and most cost-effective marketing campaigns in movie history.

The Marnie (1964) trailer continued the concept of the director as master showman.

Such was Hitchcock’s elevated status at this point – note how he literally ascends from a lofty position at the beginning – that he could refer to his previous films with the expectation that the general audience would know what he was talking about.

Perhaps one of his most interesting films, the trailer captures the changing social attitudes of the 1960s as Hitchcock is being less coded about sex and uses his dry, comic prudishness to neat effect.

One can almost imagine the team from Mad Men working on the campaign for this movie, and although Cary Grant in North By Northwest is often rightfully cited as an influence on Matthew Weiner’s show, Sean Connery’s character in Marnie seems like a more accurate touchstone for Don Draper.

In retrospect, the film is a fascinating collision of two cinematic icons as the ‘Master of Suspense’ cast James Bond in a major role – the commercial side of Hitchcock’s brain wanted a star in Sean Connery, but the artist knew his screen presence would add an extra dimension to the film.

However, the explosive success of the Bond franchise may have had an adverse effect on Hitchcock’s films as the mid-60s craze for Cold War spy films led him to make two films which saw him go somewhat astray.

Torn Curtain (1966) was beset by production difficulties and reflected the uneasy reality that was dawning on directors like Hitchcock and studios such as Universal.

Stars like Paul Newman and Julie Andrews were becoming increasingly important and the days when the men in suits could order them around like cattle were beginning to change.

This is reflected in the trailer which plays up Hitchcock’s brand name but places greater emphasis on the two leads, violence (‘Shock! Intrigue!’) and the Cold War intrigue which had gripped pop culture.

Topaz (1969) saw the problems of his previous film multiply and is rightly considered one of his weakest.

Again we have a Cold War spy thriller, although this one is even more muddled.

We briefly see Hitchcock at the beginning saying that it is ‘a story of espionage in high places’, before a self-consciously groovy montage of split-screen techniques which seems to reflect the messy, fragmentary nature of the film.

In creating his own worlds he was often a master, but in this period he was less successful in crafting suspense out of the complexities of the Cold War, when actual news stories could be more shocking than anything in his imagination.

Frenzy (1972) saw Hitchcock return to his home country of England and is by far his most interesting later work.

The trailer sees him return to centre stage with a monologue which seems to reference his extended promotional short for Psycho – which is appropriate as both films revolve around a sinister murderer (Mrs. Bates/The Necktie Murderer) and a single location (Covent Garden/Bates Motel).

This film saw the director’s career come full circle, as he returned to the murder-mystery genre after his unsuccessful espionage movies and it was set and shot around Covent Garden, where his father used to make a living as a greengrocer.

It is hard to watch the bit where Hitchcock spots his tie without thinking of the childhood story the director once told about being sent to a police station as a boy, or the William Friedkin anecdote about when Hitch questioned his young apprentice for not wearing a tie whilst shooting the final episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

The trailer for his swan song Family Plot (1976) sees the director make his final appearence in a trailer.

The quality of the film and his customary dry wit seem to betray the fact that he had one eye on retirement.

What do all these trailers say about Hitchcock?

In them we can see the evolution of a director who managed to use the very commercialism of the Hollywood system to his artistic advantage.

By cultivating a showman persona, he enticed audiences into cinemas and once they were there he usually surprised them in strange and imaginative ways.

> More on Alfred Hitchcock at Wikipedia
> The Hitchcock Wiki
> Hitchcock TV

The 180 Degree Rule

One of the basic rules in filmmaking is the 180 degree rule, which prevents audience confusion.

The rule is a basic guideline which states that two characters (or other elements) in the same scene should always have the same left/right relationship to each other.

This video explains it using a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) as an example:

> Other rules in Editing
> Vertigo at Wikipedia

The Hitchcock and Truffaut Tapes

In 1962 François Truffaut carried out a series of extensive interviews with Alfred Hitchcock at his offices in Universal Studios.

Recorded to audio tape, the content was eventually edited down into Truffaut’s famous book Hitchcock.

A landmark meeting of two great directors, the conversations cover Hitchcock’s life and career in great detail as they discuss films such as Blackmail (1929), The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1939), Rebecca (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), The Birds (1963), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North By Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960).

Truffaut did not speak much English, so he hired Helen Scott of the French Film Office in New York to act as the translator for the sessions.

The half hour sessions were subsequently broadcast on French radio and in 2006 Tom Sutpen started posting audio files on his blog ‘If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats‘.

HIGHLIGHTS

FULL LENGTH AUDIO

You can listen to the 25 parts individually below (just click on the relevant links to download as single tracks):

PART 1: Childhood through to his early years in the film industry (26 mins) [MP3]

PART 2: Mountain Eagle through to the end of the silent era (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 3: Blackmail through to a discussion about American audiences (26 mins) [MP3]

PART 4: Rich and Strange through to realism in films (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 5: The 39 Steps through to plausibility in film and film critics (28 mins) [MP3]

PART 6: Secret Agent and Sabotage (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 7: Young and Innocent and The Lady Vanishes (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 8: Final years in Britain through to his move to America (28 mins) [MP3]

PART 9: Rebecca (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 10: Discussion about Hollywood through to Notorious (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 11: Mr and Mrs Smith through to Suspicion (26 mins) [MP3]

PART 12: Saboteur through to Shadow of a Doubt (26 mins) [MP3]

PART 13: Lifeboat through to Spellbound (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 14: Notorious through to The Paradine Case (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 15: Rope (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 16: Rope and Under Capricorn (26 mins) [MP3]

PART 17: Stage Fright through to Strangers on a Train (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 18: Strangers on a Train through to I Confess (28 mins) [MP3]

PART 19: Notorious through to a discussion about suspense (27 mins) [Mp3]

PART 20: Initial discussion about the The Birds through to Rear Window (27 mins) [Mp3]

PART 21: The Wrong Man through to Vertigo (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 22: North by Northwest through to Psycho (26 mins) [MP3]

PART 23: Psycho (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 24: The Birds (27 mins) [MP3]

PART 25: Psycho through to characterisation in films (27 mins) [Mp3]

> Find out more about Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut at Wikipedia
> Buy Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut from Amazon UK