I've never seen a Alfred Hitchcock movie, which one would you recommend? Check out today's Ask the Critic question and post your own

By Ken Tucker
April 26, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Vertigo: Kobal Collection

Which Alfred Hitchcock movie do you recommend?

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen an Alfred Hitchcock movie. What ones would you recommend? — Sean

Don’t be so hard on yourself, Sean. We live in a world where many people think a piece of sadistically amoral junk like Hostel is a fun thriller for a weekend DVD rental. The pleasures of Hitchcock — who at his best would smoothly envelope you with a sense of dread and suspense, but also frequently summon up an atmosphere of lush romanticism — are unique. If you’re going for maximum startlement, watch Psycho (1960), whose shower scene (poor Janet Leigh!) still shocks, and whose co-star, Anthony Perkins, remains the leading man with both the widest shoulders and most sensitive male demeanor this side of James Dean.

Two pictures Hitchcock did with Jimmy Stewart, Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958) are rich emotional puzzles climaxing with heart-pounding scenes that mirror our own anxieties about being vulnerable to both danger and the fear of losing loved ones.

My favorite Hitchcock, however, is one of his lesser-known efforts, the marvelously low-key and malevolent Shadow of a Doubt (1943), starring Joseph Cotton as a murderous con-man who decides to lay low for a while by visiting his cherished young niece (the radiant Theresa Wright) and her happy small-town family. Featuring a script by Thornton Wilder, Shadow suggests what might have happened had the master of suspense ever overseen a production of Wilder’s most famous play, Our Town.

Start off with these Hitchcocks and you’ll start to develop your own taste for what you prefer in the great man’s vast body of work — his glossy thillers with the likes of Cary Grant, his early English melodramas, or his uneven but interesting late works, such as Topaz (1969) and Frenzy (1972).

(Got a DVD-related question for Ken? Post it here.)

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