Like every other self-respecting London-based Institution, the British Film Institute is bringing out its big guns this summer, and there are none bigger in the film world than Leytonstone's own master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.
Celebrating the genius of the writer and director, whose career spanned more than half a century and included stage, film and TV, the BFI will be showcasing the genius of Hitchcock through a season dedicated to his films, the iconic ones like Psycho and North by North West, which everyone always remembers, as well as some more unexpected gems. So what was so special about the man, and why do we still enjoy his films?
Time for a shower, anyone?
"He was suspenseful, sexy, dangerous," explains the BFI's Creative Director Heather Stewart, who has obviously spent many happy hours with her team digging in the archives.
"From the very first shot of his very first film (The Pleasure Garden, 1926), he shows a girl's legs coming down a staircase. He's voyeuristic, tantalising. He understood that people always wanted more. You're safe watching it in the cinema, but he's playing with you from the go-get."
And with the censors of the time, too, it seems, who couldn't restrain the twinkle in his eye...
"In Notorious, Hitchcock wasn't allowed to show a protracted kiss. So instead, he had Cary Grant nibbling Ingrid Bergman's ear, talking to her, seducing her. We're completely involved. Sometimes, he even put things in on purpose so the censors had to remove it."
Call yourself a Hitchcock fan? You are indeed, if you can name all these films by the Master of Suspense - answers underneath, just not in the right order...
The Birds, Blackmail, Frenzy, The Lodger, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Marnie, North by North West, Notorious, Psycho, Rebecca, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, The 39 Steps, Vertigo
And it seems even the off-beat, black-and-white stuff has found a fresh audience with younger eyes:
"He was a game-changer, very avant-garde with the way he films, his use of silence, of music... the young people we've shown the films to think he's amazing.
"And audiences today can identify with the longing, the desire, he brings to the screen. He takes his audience with him, so we're always with the protagonist, looking, feeling with his eyes."
Alfred Hitchcock brought out James Stewart's dark side
Hitchcock brought the dark side out in even America's sweetheart, James Stewart, and Thomas admits that Stewart's arguably finest hour, Vertigo, remains her favourite Hitchcock film, despite much-repeated viewings:
"It’s a very strange film, James Stewart is the all-American hero, but here he's obsessed. It’s about love, and has a strange, dream-like quality. I watch it on the big screen, and I see new things every time."
The Genius of Hitchcock is at the BFI from tomorrow. Click here for further information.