Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: A Review of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”

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What better way to brighten up our days with a little catharsis?

I hope you all are doing well during these difficult times and I wish you a much better year. I hope the Jet Fuel Review blog will keep you company as we move quickly into February and to new horizons. For Spring 2021, my “Cinematic Syntax” will take a similar approach to what I have done in previous semesters. I will use a mixture of my in-class material and my own choices to construct pieces that reflect my judgement and taste in the form of reviews and analysis papers on film. For this semester, I am currently enrolled in two film courses: The Horror Film taught by Dr. Simone Muench and Classical Hollywood Cinema taught by Dr. Christopher Wielgos. My writing will most likely be from either of these classes, or I may change it up on occasion with films outside of these boundaries. If you are new to my blog, take a look around! I hope you enjoy of foreign cinema because that is my favorite. I make it my mission to give you well-reasoned and enjoyable material that gets you to think critically about the film we all watch. In addition to that, I curate other blogs for Jet Fuel Review and will continue getting content from a few bloggers to you all on a weekly basis. To that end, here is my review of Hitchcock’s horror-thriller classic, Psycho

*Spoilers Ahead*

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Adaptation Analysis: Rear Window and “It Had to Be Murder”

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, an adaptation of Cornell Woolrich’s “It Had to Be Murder,” is an intermediate adaptation that transfers Woolrich’s short story into a film that is classically Hitchcock while maintaining its basic story and development. The auteur theory, or film theory that claims the director’s place as the “author” of the film, would categorize Alfred Hitchcock as an auteur because he developed a signature style throughout his career. Whether it be themes, characters, cinematic elements, there is a certain feeling that Hitchcock films evoke, which later was encapsulated by the term: “Hitchcockian.” As a Hitchcock film, Rear Window explores voyeurism, obsession, illusion vs. reality, and an uncertain romance. The film includes the male gaze or the depiction of women through a masculine perceptive that sexualizes and objectifies them. Like the short story, there is a POV through the eyes of L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies, played by James Stewart. Although Hitchcock does not entirely make the film in Jeff’s perspective since the POV is third person compared to Woolrich’s first-person, there are certain instances that we gaze through Jeff’s eyes out the window. Hitchcock’s mise-en-scene seems to be playing with the other worlds with the windows that are portals to other lives which Jeff, and his companions, stare into. When looking through different windows and what is inside, the composition in some of our frames has us stare as though we are peering into a viewfinder into another. Hitchcock’s use of sound also seems to provide subtext to the subject matter; the constant flourish of sound invading Jeff’s apartment is as intrusive as his obsession with Thorwald and the murder. The adaptation strategy that best fits how Hitchcock develops the story into Rear Window is the interweaving strategy. 

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: The Birds

The Birds movie

The Birds is a 1963 American horror-thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Actors, Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren play as the movie’s lead characters, Mitch and Melanie. The movie begins with Mitch and Melanie meeting in a pet story where Melanie is picking up a bird she ordered while Mitch looks for love birds for his sister. After this interaction, Melanie decides, as a sort of joke, to get the love birds and ends up taking them to Mitch. After taking a two hour boat ride to his house located in Bodega Bay, she is attacked by a seagull, which is one of six attacks. After this first incident, the frequency of the attacks start to increase, along with the number of birds involved. Hitchcock got his inspiration from the 1952 horror story called “The Birds,” written by the British writer Daphne du Maurier. In this blog post I will identify the differences between characters, as well as draw parallels between the movie and short story.

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“Whip It” and Director Cameo

Photo from

Last Friday, my sister and I took a break from our backwards run-through of Wes Anderson’s filmography to watch a film about roller derby. Because Ellen Page.

That film was Whip It, and it’s really more than a movie about roller derby. It’s also about being a teenager and feeling trapped in your hometown and feeling burdened by parental expectations and finding something you love and a place to belong. It’s really a fun movie. But none of that is the subject of this post. No, what interested me most about Whip It is that it was directed by Drew Barrymore, who also plays a role in the film.

This got me thinking about directors who also act (or actors who also direct, whichever you prefer). There’s a history of this happening way back through the timeline of filmmaking, and it doesn’t just stop at one person taking on two professional roles, there are also directors who make fun little cameos in their movies. That’s actually one of my earliest memories about film.

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