9th December 2020
Young Alfred Hitchcock felt so proud. His father, a strict and nervous man, had entrusted his son with a duty that made the infant of four or five feel like a young man.
Hitch ran along Leytonstone High Road, in the East-End of London, to the police station, with no suspicion of the notorious family plot being hatched.
Alfred confidently approached the huge desk and, tiptoeing up, stretched to put the note into the giant hand of the formidable policeman.
The Officer took the note, unfolded it, read it, closed it again, and stared down at the beaming face of the boy. After a moment of silence, he said:
“Come with me.”
How honoured Alfred felt now, a respectable keeper of the peace was leading him by the hand and showing him the inside of the station.
They went up to a cell, which the Officer unlocked and beckoned the lad inside.
Alfred needed no second telling, he gladly entered.
Then the door closed with a heart-stopping crash, and he could hear the metal screeching of the heavy keys turning the locks.
There he stayed, in the terrifying cold of the dungeon, too small to look out of the bars, too scared to scream. He was petrified.
There he stayed for five or ten minutes, until he was finally released. The only explanation were the words that stayed with him for the rest of his life:
“This is what we do to naughty boys.”
Unsurprisingly, many of his films have the theme of an innocent man caught up in something he doesn’t understand or have control over.
Around fifty-five years later, the film ‘Psycho’ was released.
Thirty-four years after that, in 1994, a film student chose it as the subject of his thesis.
Alan Francis had moved up to London to read Film Studies, and shared a bedsit in Leytonstone with three other students. He frequently walked past the petrol station that has been built on the site where ‘The Master of Suspense’ was born.
It was Alan’s contention that ‘Psycho’ was as near perfect as a film could ever get. Rather than being threatened by television, which had devoured Hollywood’s audiences in the Fifties, Hitchcock, acting as his own Producer, had used a television crew, used to tight budgets and tighter schedules, to shoot the film.
But he took time and care when needed. The famous shower scene took seven days to shoot, using seventy cameras for forty-five seconds of film.
Alan also mentioned that the film had cost eight hundred thousand dollars and before the decade had ended, had already grossed over fifteen million.
Over the Summer months, Alan waited with appropriate suspense, for his results. He had had enough with theory, he now wanted to make films. But the chances of breaking into the film business were not good. The best thing, he decided, was not to send off letters or work his way up in studios, but to actually make a film, to show people what he could do.
There were so many ideas stored up, so many theories of cinema to test out. All he needed was a camera. And actors. And film stock. For these, he needed money.
In July 1994, Alan looked for jobs and was accepted by a firm of business consultants. His theories on film would not be required for the post. So he saved his money. And waited.
Till the end of his life, Alfred Hitchcock never forgot the paralysing fear of being locked in that cell. And he was never able to remember what it was that he had done, that caused his father to punish him so.