Interview with Stephen Whitty, Hitchcock Film Critic

By Collin Delade, Contributing Writer

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Stephen Witty in the presentation hall at the first Alfred Hitchcock screening.
Collin Delade | The Montclarion

On Oct. 29, 2017, The Film Institute at Montclair screened the first of a four-part colloquium series of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. Stephen Whitty, film critic, writer and author of “The Alfred Hitchcock Encyclopedia,” will discuss the iconic work of Hitchcock at each of these screenings. Whitty is a two-time former chair of the New York Film Critics Circle and a writer for the New York Daily News, The Star-Ledger and nj.com, and many other websites, newspapers and national magazines. Collin Delade, a contributing writer, sat down with Whitty to talk about his interest in Hitchcock’s work and how he is a prominent figure in the film industry.

Q: When did you begin your fascination with Hitchcock’s films?

A: Around 9 or 10, I became fascinated with Alfred Hitchcock. The first film of his that I watched wasThe Birds,” which was followed by “North by Northwest.” I distinctly remember the local theater showing older movies one summer. Not only did those old movies introduce me to Hitchcock, but also the idea of movies, directors and studying them.

Q: Why do you think Hitchcock’s work has withstood the test of time?

A: Hitchcock understood the way movies work in terms of editing. He knew how to use music, silence, close-ups and traveling shots, and figured out new special effects, so there is also that technical side. There are dark themes bubbling up underneath about guilt, innocence, voyeurism, obsession and relationships along with the weird twists that they can take.

Q: How have Hitchcock’s techniques influenced modern films?

A: I think it’s hard for anybody to make a mystery or thriller today without thinking about a Hitchcock film and wondering how he would have done it. In some cases, you may end up trying to do the same techniques as Hitchcock, but other times you may do the exact opposite way than how he would have done it. In any case, I don’t think you can come to that genre of suspense without considering Hitchcock’s influence.

Q: Some students will be introduced to Hitchcock’s work for the first time through your Sundays with Hitchcock series. What should they expect when watching these classic films?

A: If there is anybody out there who is lucky enough to have never seen “Psycho,” “The Birds,” “Vertigo” and “Rear Window,” I urge them not to ruin the wonderful surprises in them before watching it. I think to see a Hitchcock movie, you really need to open yourself up to a master storyteller who is going to delight you with images, ideas, themes and terrific storylines.

The screenings and post-film discussions for Sundays with Hitchcock will be held in the School of Communication and Media’s new 197-seat Presentation Hall. The event is free and open to the public. Below are the scheduled dates and time for each of the three remaining screenings, which will be followed by a post-screening Q&A.

Nov. 5 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.The Birds” (1963)

Nov. 12 2 p.m. 5 p.m. Rear Window” (1954)

Nov. 19 – 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Vertigo” (1958)

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