I was looking forward to this (expensive) book, and came to it after reading Sidney Lumet's highly entertaining "Making Movies". But what a difference ! It's such a pity that critics, such as the present writer, tend to get wordy and grand when they talk about film-directors -when the directors themselves often aren't grand at all.
Maybe this almost humourless book isn't really intended for general readers who simply enjoy Hitchcock's melodramas. It is for people who are seriously committed fans of Hitchcock, who maybe look on him as a genius, and for whom everything said about Alfred Hitchcock is catnip.
Yes it's interesting that, for example, Hitchcock went to the town of Santa Rosa to use real exteriors and interiors for "Shadow of a Doubt", but the author proceeds to go on, and on, embroidering the point. For die-hard fans, I imagine this may be fun; for people who just enjoy his films the point was made. For example, I'm not too interested in several paragraphs about an insignificant shot of a local extra's FEET, that eventually WASN'T included in the movie (!) For me this sort of thing is for 'insiders' only !
I was disappointed that some of the most enjoyable of Hitchcock's films are given almost no attention (e.g. "Rebecca" and "Spellbound"). So this book isn't a complete survey of the director's career.
It is interesting to read about the tortuous development of screenplays, e.g. for "Notorious" (where different writers are invited to have a go at it), but I found this sort of detail becomes repetitive. It was of interest that the fascinating but flawed "Paradine Case", an almost-masterpiece, was probably undermined by Selznick's meddling, and that Hitchcock couldn't control the end-product in those days.
It is very often said that before his films were actually shot, Hitchcock finalised every angle and detail in advance using storyboards. Hitchcock himself usually implied this. The author suggests that this theory is an exaggeration, and that on-set improvisation, in the usual way, was also important. After making this point and illustrating it, he repeats it, and keeps referring to it again and again, and actually it becomes the leading theme of the entire book.
The illustrations are interesting, and the book is printed on good paper. Unfortunately the reproduced frame-stills from Hitchcock's later colour films turned out badly (mainly a fuzzy shade of orange), and it would evidently have been more sensible to use black and white for these stills, even if the film was in colour.
This wordy and sometimes technical book was disappointing. I often felt I was watching the author perform an intellectual high-wire act designed to impress. I learned a little about Hitchcock, but had expected the book to be more enjoyable. I found it to be expensive for what it is, inflated in material, and sometimes pompous in tone.
Frankly, Sidney Lumet's fascinating book 'Making Movies' was tons more enlightening on what it means to be a Director at work on a movie.
This is a sumptuous volume, which contains lots of detail about Hitchcock's production methods, using original production notes, storyboards, etc; the book really does give a sense of how Hitchcock worked. However, for anyone interested in Hitchcock's early British career, this book may not be for you; it contains only a brief resumee of his early work (though there is a complete filmography), there is nothing in the book relating to Hitchcock's TV productions. The book concentrates on Hitcock's Hollywood movies, most with a section of its own, his greatest works have quite lengthy sections. There are numerous photographs and some movies stills, in fact the plates could be bound as a picture book in its own right. The book also contains lots of trivia about Hitchcock's stars (e.g. film history's longest kiss - between Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman - was really a series of kisses) This is the sort of book you can dip into at any time - if you want to read just about Vertigo you can. This will interest the general reader and not just a fanatic. A book to enjoy for a long time and not just for a single read - truly a book to treasure.
My admiration for 'Hitchcock at Work' is huge. To get really close to the creative mind of Hitchcock, read this book after François Truffaut's classic interview with The Master, called simply 'Hitchcock'. (Then turn to 'Hitchcock on Hitchcock' edited by Sidney Gottlieb.)