Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze / Edition 1

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No reader of this challenging book will ever view a Hitchcock film (perhaps any film) in quite the same way again. By a close analysis of five representative works and documenting his readings with more than 600 frame enlargements, Rothman shows how Hitchcock composed his films—how each moment bears his imprint and his special demands on the viewer.

It is the seriousness of Hitchcock's reflections on the murderous power of the camera's gaze, and on the larger mysteries of love and murder, that makes him a monumental figure in the history of film. Rothman follows the course of these reflections from the gripping images of the silent film The Lodger (1926) to what he terms Hitchcock's final call for acknowledgment in Psycho (1960). The continuity is traced through Murder! (1930), the most ambitious of the early films; The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), which established a new genre (the "Hitchcock thriller") and gave the world its sense of Hitchcock as the "master of suspense"; and Shadow of a Doubt (1943), the director's cunning demonstration to an American audience of what a Hitchcock film really is.

Rothman's readings immeasurably deepen our appreciation of Hitchcock's individual achievement. At the same time the book is a sustained meditation, philosophically scrupulous, on the medium and the art of film, on the conditions of authorship in film, and on the ways that serious films might be approached in acts of viewing and criticism.

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Editorial Reviews

American Film
William Rothman's Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze is the best treatment of Hitchcock to date. It addresses what is unique about Hitchcock's films...[in order] to establish the centrality of Hitchcock to the art of making films...[The book] consists of detailed readings of five films The Lodger, Murder!, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Shadow of a Doubt, and Psycho, illustrated with more than six hundred frame enlargements...The book rewards the reader by providing pleasures that convey, to a remarkable degree, the exhilarating experience of viewing a Hitchcock film...Most readers, I am convinced, will have the sense that Rothman has really captured Hitchcock, and that he has shown Hitchcock to be more masterly, and more profound, than they ever imagined...Rothman's book, clear, passionate, and witty, neither reduces the films it studies to a set of codes nor is itself written in code.
— Paul Thomas
Perceptive, graceful, illuminating...As a model of how to view a movie it has few equals.
Films and Filming
Rothman's approach is engagingly far from dictatorial; his readings, crammed with useful questions rather than inflexible assertions, should stimulate...Rothman's is the best desert-island reading the Hitchcock fan could wish for.
— Philip Strick
Journal of American Studies
The whole book in fact is richly suggestive--perhaps more fully responsive to Hitchcock's complexities than any previous account--and it deserves to be widely discussed.
— Douglas Pye
Literary Review
Rothman's study is like no other I have read of Hitchcock, or any other director for that matter...The book represents an immense labor of love and devotion.
— Forsyth Hardy
Times Literary Supplement
[An] eloquent, intelligent work.
— Philip French
Worcester Sunday Telegram
This is academic film criticism of the very highest order; the readings are inclusive and illuminating, and the writing is at once polished and congenial.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674404113
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1984
  • Series: Harvard Film Studies
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Willam Rothman is the Associate Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University where he also recieved his doctorate in philosophy.

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Table of Contents


1. The Lodger

2. Murder!

3. The Thirty-Nine Steps

4. Shadow of a Doubt

5. Psycho




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