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New class studies Alfred Hitchcock’s work

By Benjamin Lynn
On September 26, 2012

Despite his passing over 30 years ago, director Alfred Hitchcock is still making his presence felt even at UT.

Robert Turley, a professor in the English department, is teaching a new online seminar this semester devoted to the master of suspense.

In an email interview, Turley said he chose Hitchcock because of his innovative filmmaking.

“I think to appreciate his contributions, one need only look at how he has inspired other directors and screenwriters,” he said. “Anyone interested in the history of filmmaking can’t afford to overlook Hitchcock’s role and contributions.”

The chance to examine the filmmaker’s influence and style attracted 21 students to register for the course.

“I registered simply because I saw that famous face,” said Jeanette Clint, a senior BSA major.

Hitchcock is credited for directing between 50 and 60 films, including films classics like “The Birds,” “Vertigo” and “Rear Window,” among others. However, much of his work was initially panned by critics.

Briana Ickowicz, a senior majoring in health care administration, said she’s always enjoyed Hitchcock’s work.

“My first Hitchcock experience was ‘Psycho’ when I was 10 years old,” she said. “I had nightmares for weeks after, but I knew, even at that age, that his work was something unique and special.”

Eventually, Hitchcock’s work was recognized as groundbreaking, and he received the title of “auteur,” or a filmmaker with a distinct style and creative drive.

“Hitchcock was phenomenal in taking the common person and placing him/her in situations that could be beyond or out of their control,” Turley said.

Some of Hitchcock’s other trademarks include the use of point-of-view camera shots and suspense to draw in the audience, according to Turley.

“I’m not necessarily a fan of horror films, but I do appreciate how Hitchcock explored the realm of suspense, psychological mind games, suspicion, paranoia …” he said. “I think his contribution is more in how he developed and used suspense rather than horror to get the audience involved in the theme of a film.”

Turley cited the famous shower scene in “Psycho” as an example of Hitchcock’s unique skills.

“In Hitchcock’s films, point-of-view shots force moral culpability onto the audience; in most contemporary slasher films, the images exist only to gratuitously display gore,” he said. “No moral order exists in most of these films, except perhaps the suggestion that having sex in the woods on a dark night may be a bad idea.”

Ickowicz said the class also gave her a greater appreciation of Hitchcock’s influences on contemporary films.

“His works have impacted my life by further developing my love for film,” she said. “I owe a large part of my obsession with movies to him.”

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