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Home / TOURNEUR & HITCH: The Films of Jacques Tourneur and Alfred Hitchcock
The Mater of Suspense meets a fellow master of classic Hollywood filmmaking in this series full of noirish intrigue, pulse-pounding tension and silhouetted horror. Join us at the Aero this fall as we pay tribute to Alfred Hitchcock and Jacques Tourneur, two groundbreaking filmmakers who used the Hollywood system as their playground to develop distinctive cinematic styles, driven by similar obsessions, fears and anxiety-laced sensibilities.
Although generally lesser known, Jacques Tourneur directed his fair share of seminal works including OUT OF THE PAST, one of the greatest and most influential film noirs ever made. The film shares a double bill with Hitchcock’s equally beloved NOTORIOUS, a gorgeously shot film noir set in the height of WWII, with a heavy dose of espionage intrigue. Both filmmakers continued to use film noir as a means to watch their real fears play out on the screen, with THE WRONG MAN (Hitchcock) and NIGHTFALL (Tourneur), two films that follow an innocent man falsely accused and on the run for his life. Similarly, Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and Tourneur’s CIRCLE OF DANGER (made for RKO’s UK division) follow two everyday men who find themselves at the center of mysteries involving murder and international cover-ups.
Jacques Tourneur’s most famous contributions to the development of Hollywood film are found in his signature approach to the horror genre in the 1940s. Although commonly overshadowed to this day by his boss at RKO, celebrated producer Val Lewton, Tourneur singlehandedly elevated horror as an artform in this period, employing an unusual visual style (characterized by gothic imagery and startling silhouettes) and atmospheric mood. The most famous example is his 1942 CAT PEOPLE, a film seeping with dread and fear of the unknown just out of frame. It was perhaps not until nearly 20 years later that “B-movie” horror tropes reached such artistic heights with Hitchcock’s seminal PSYCHO.
Of course, Tourneur and Hitchcock’s mastery of horror extends beyond these two films. THE BIRDS, for example, pushes the creature feature formula towards horrifyingly existential ends, much in the same way that Tourneur journeys into the heart of humanity’s fear of the unknown with his 1957 NIGHT OF THE DEMON. Hitchcock’s gothic drama REBECCA, although not a horror film on the surface, is a haunting story of a spectral presence of a deceased wife, which permeates the estate of her newly remarried husband. This domestic ghost story bares resemblance to the central characters’ situation in Tourneur’s Caribbean-set horror I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, which follows a community facing the truth of its cursed past. Tourneur’s lesser seen THE LEOPARD MAN is yet another example of how the supernatural can be used to suggest a far more terrifying reality—in this case the possible existence of a serial killer—which serves as the source of fear in Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT as well.
In their films that depart from each other in terms of specific themes, genres and fears, Tourneur and Hitchcock remain aligned in other, more practical aspects. Tourneur’s thoughtful western CANYON PASSAGE and Hitchcock’s spy thriller NORTH BY NORTHWEST, for example, both render stunning landscapes and naturalistic imagery using glorious Technicolor. There is also plenty of overlap in terms of casting, perhaps most notably via Gregory Peck in SPELLBOUND and in his first film role DAYS OF GLORY, as well as Norman Lloyd in two lesser-known titles, the swashbuckling adventure THE FLAME AND THE ARROW and Hitchcock’s thriller SABOTEUR.
Join us this fall at the Aero Theatre for screenings of all 20 of these films and pay tribute to two master filmmakers of classic Hollywood!
$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)
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