Alfred Hitchcock
Picture Parade interview


date: 1960

interviewer: Robert Robinson

main topics: mystery, fear, Psycho

link to video: Youtube

Robert Robinson: Mr Hitchcock, why do you always make mystery films?

Alfred Hitchcock: Life is a big mystery, isn't it? It always has been. I think people are intrigued by mystery, to find out about things they don't know anything about. That's a mystery.

But surely not as sensational as you make it seem.

Life is more sensational. I would say that, how does one describe drama? Drama is life with a dull bit cut out.

Do you regard the mystery, the form of mystery in a film as a kind of escape for yourself in any way? An escape possibly from your own fears?

Well, it might have started that way. I suppose it must have all started when I was in my mother's arms at the age of six months. And she said to me: boo!, and scared the... something out of me.

Can you remember any specific instance when you were frightened as a child?

I have a vague recollection of being scared by a policeman. I think when I was probably about 4 or 5 years of age, being sent with a note to the local police station and being shut in a cell as a punishment for some mishap, or... I don't think I even knew what it was for. I was probably unjustly incarcerated at the time. Which, you see, the psychiatrists are always saying to you: if you have a fear that is rooted in your unconscious, or in your childhood, the moment you come back to it and release it, all is well. It doesn't apply to me, I'm still scared of policemen.

Were you a timid man?

Utterly timid. I'm scared of everything.

Is there one rule above all others which is indispensable to a director who wants to freighten the audience?

I think that he should understand the psychology of audience. He should also know that audiences love to enjoy the very thing that they have built in, and that's fear, that all started when their mothers said: boo!. But for some inexplicable reason, they like to put their toe in the cold water of fear to see what it's like. That's why they go for rides on switchbacks and scream and scream and then get off giggling. Little girls go on swings, they go higher and higher, and suddenly when they get too high, they get scared and then come down again. They all traied it out.

Your new film is called Psycho. Can you tell me something about it?

Well, Psycho is my first attempt at a shocker. In other words, it has in its content certain episodes which do shock. In some sense, it could be called a horror film, but the horror only comes to you after you've seen it, when you get home, in the dark.

But can you be more specific? Is it about a particular kind of fear?

The broad idea is the young man, played by Anthony Perkins, who runs a small motel. A rather cheesy affair, really. And in an old house behind the motel is his mother. And she, I'm afraid is homicidal. He should put her away, but he loves her too much. So you can imagine what happens to the guests of the motel.

You once told me that actors were cattle to be shoved about. I wonder if you care to enlarge on that.

You mean you want to make them larger cattle than they are?

No, no.

That's really a joke, but um... they're children, you know, and invariably the problem one always has with actors is coping with their ego. But they have to to have the ego and they have to be ultra-sensitive. Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to do what is asked of them.

You invariably appear in your own films, Mr Hitchcock. Have you ever been tempted to become an actor yourself?

Nothing so low as that.