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The Alfred Hitchcock Story (New Edition) Hardcover – 22 Aug 2008
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"A magnificent book for any connoisseur of the Master of Suspense" Total Film.
"Lavishly illustrated throughout with rare stills and behind the scenes photos... it is both a treat to look at and a pleasure to read. Book of the Month' Film Review.
"Brilliant... [Ken Mogg] perhaps knows Hitchcock and his milieu better than any other film critic... rich with challenges for readers who think they know everything about Hitchcock" Dan Auiler, author of Hitchcock's Notebooks and Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic
From the Publisher
Acclaimed as the definitive illustrated guide to Hitchcock
"A magnificent book for any connoisseur of the Master of Suspense" Total Film. "Lavishly illustrated throughout with rare stills and behind the scenes photos... it is both a treat to look at and a pleasure to read. Book of the Month' Film Review. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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With well-written contributions by Dan Auiler, Stephen de Rosa, Martin Grams Jr., David Barraclough and others, the concise text combined with lavish illustrations of poster art, lesser know movie stills and related Hitchcock memorabilia, make this one of the most entertaining and useful books to be published on Hitchcock in recent years. Even the most well versed Hitchcock aficionado will be delighted by the many fascinating tidbits, unique insights, and little known background information not found anywhere else.
While such a broad overview might be expected to cover a lot of familiar territory, there is a remarkable amount of new and little known information about each production, (such as the revelation that John Michael Hayes was first approached by Hitch to write North by Northwest, before Ernest Lehman was ultimately assigned the task.) There has been an obvious effort to avoid making the same points found within much of the published literature on the director. Thus The Alfred Hitchcock Story avoids much of the redundancy found in some other recent compendiums. The end result is a highly original perspective on Hitchcock that functions on many levels at the same time, much like the cinema in question.
Mogg has performed the prodigious task of creating an insightful overview showing the many connections and recurrent themes found within the Hitchcock cannon while pointing out the many literary and cinematic precedents that probably influenced him. His thoughtful approach to Hitchcock's work makes each chapter a fascinating read, as he brings a strong knowledge of popular literature, other cinema, and even philosophy to bear in assessing Hitchcock's achievement. He frequently compares elements found within the films to Dickens, another Englishman who achieved great popularity through the unparalleled craft of his novels which no doubt left a lasting impression on the young Hitchcock. The author also draws on other contemporary films and novels that might have inspired Hitchcock to create certain scenes or cast an actor in a similar role.
Typically, each chapter begins with the citing of a seemingly obscure quote or incident from the film, from which Mogg expounds upon to reveal the movie's core theme. For instance, in the chapter of North by Northwest, he points out how Cary Grant's line about, "being lured to one's doom on the Twentieth Century Limited" refers to the overall theme of the difficulty of maintaining one's individualism in the twentieth century. The arrogant modern architecture of the period is noted (the grid-like Mies van der Rohe's Seagrams building during the opening titles) and the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired house seen at the end. Mogg points out the kindred egomania of architect Wright and sculptor Gustave Borglum (the creator of the Mount Rushmore monument) but he leaves it to the reader to observe that as Roger Thornhill finds his own humanity during the course of his cinematic odyssey, the background of twentieth century architecture and art also becomes more humanistic. The film descriptions often point out variations from the source novel or play from which Hitchcock fashioned his screenplays. Mogg discovered that the handcuffing of the hero and heroine in The 39 Steps was inspired by a similar incident in A.B. Cox's 'Mr Priestley's Secret.' Later on, he cites Richard Valley's little known observation that Hitchcock borrowed two of his most dramatic moments from Edmund Crispin. Both the steel safety curtain crashing down on the villain in Stage Fright, and the out of control merry-go-round finale from Strangers on a Train were borrowed from the English mystery writer who shared much of Hitchcock's sensibility. Mogg frequently refers to the theories of German philosopher Schopenhauer to demonstrate how Hitchcock's drama centers on a battle of conflicting egos drawn together by the life force. Occasionally he points to observations made by Spoto, Wood, or Taylor. But for the most part, most of the insights found here are Mogg's own.
The section on the 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' television series complied by J. Lary Kuhns very helpfully ties this overlooked facet of the director's work to the better-known cinematic films. Hitchcock's long held interest in working with the short story format is sited as one of the reasons he agreed to do the show. He ultimately created twenty films for the small screen, all of which are given a brief synopsis and commentary. Martin Grams Jr. contributes an interesting chapter entitled "Hitchcock on Radio," chronicling another little discussed aspect of the director's work.
The only weak chapters within the book are the essays on film technique and "Icy blondes" by Phillip Kemp, which tend to run toward cliche, contrary to the tone set elsewhere by Mogg. Some might find objectionable the title of the chapter chronicling Hitchcock's career after 1965: "Languishing." This is hardly an apt description for a man who created Frenzy and who worked up until the last weeks of his life.
Physically, the large format book is both handsome and well produced. The selection of photographs, posters and publicity material throughout is first rate. Yet it is the small font text which is the real star of this book, more than holding its own against the pictorial feast. The book ends up with a fascinating dichotomy of being superficially attractive and substantially deep, much like Hitch's cinema itself.
For years Mogg has been well respected within the Hitchcock community in his role as Editor of the scholarly journal and Web site, 'The MacGuffin.' He brings the same astute critical analysis and precision (even offering with the help of Dan Auiler a few corrections to Jane Sloan's definitive filmography) to The Alfred Hitchcock Story. The release of this encyclopedic work has been the best tribute to Hitchcock's centennial so far.
Each of the five major sections of this work delineate Hitchcock's life and work in chronological/biographical fashion; however, within each section readers/researchers are provided with a well-spring of historical, personal, technical, philosophical, literary, and psychological ideas. While laid out similarly with film synopses and an essay, every page of this book is full of fresh ideas and fully fleshed out research. One actually begins to feel a relationship with the Master of Suspense as Mr. Mogg brushes the liminal edges of this deeply artistic and creative director. Those who have read Mr. Mogg's previous MacGuffin and journal writings will be delighted with this panoramic view of the life and works of one of the 20th century's greatest directors. Those who have not read Mr. Mogg's work before will be searching the net for The MacGuffin!
"The Hitchcock Story" is a definitive, 5-crown book for anyone who has ever seen a Hitchcock film (and who hasn't?)! Congratulations on a job well done Mr. Mogg!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Obviously I am an aficionado of this distinguished director. I believe that "The Alfred Hitchcock Story" by Ken Mogg is the most comprehensive and insightful book about this legendary man which I have read. The author has compiled hundreds of interesting facts and background information; including many photographs I've not seen in other Hitchcock tomes. The book has been published in an exceptionally professional and beautiful format.
It is now in the No.1 location among our collection of books on this exceptionally creative man in the history of cinema.
Camille Paglia has a brilliant comment on "Faust", about what happens when Faust tries to materialize the spirit of his lost Helen, and it seems to apply to "Vertigo". Paglia notes that Faust retains a repressed feminine side. Accordingly, when he journeys to the supernatural realm of "the Mothers", they frustrate his attempts. In Paglia's words, "The male struggles through his sexual stages, returning to the mother even when he thinks himself most free of her." And "Vertigo's" nun, or mother-superior, is the Great Mother who has the final say yet again.
If THAT'S the kind of stuff you want to read "about" Hitchcock and his movies, you're in luck, because this book is full of it. If, on the other hand, you'd like to know why Janet Leigh had to spend a week soaking wet in order to get the famous "shower scene" in "Psycho, well, I'm afraid you're out of luck.
The book is beautifully designed with lots of pix, and there are interesting digressions dealing with things like Hitchcock's TV series, but otherwise, there is way too much socio-psychological analysis of the scripts/characters and not near enough about what Hitchcock was doing when he was making these films.