In one of the numerous Tarantino biographies that proliferated after Pulp Fiction, I read that Quentin, in his video store days, dismissed Hitchcock as “Fanboy Film Geek 101.” (And yet he loves Brian de Palma, who spent his early career aping “the Master’s” every move. This, I will never understand…) He was an egotistical bastard, sure, and he could also be a bit showy, but I think what Q.T. was saying was that his problem was not actually with Hitch or his films, but with people who endlessly extol his virtues. It’s like me and cats: I don’t hate cats—but I often hate cat people, droning forever about their pet’s likes and dislikes and habits.
I don’t know if people were talking about Hitchcock much twenty years ago when Quentin was working at that video store, but I can guarantee you that right now there are a whole bunch of exactly the kind of “Fanboy Film Geeks” he was talking about, sitting around at USC arguing about whether North by Northwest is better than Vertigo. And Hollywood obviously thinks he’s still ripe for the picking: Disturbia has made $55 million in three weeks with a trailer that had hecklers nationwide hollering “Rear Window Jr.” at the screen.
Over the years, I have mostly agreed with Q.T. about Hitch, despite having a special fondness for the death scene in Torn Curtain (1966). However, one shouldn’t avoid the work of an artist based on a prejudgment. Each work of art must be considered on its own terms and in the larger context of the artist’s oeuvre. It was in that spirit that I took in a recent viewing of Frenzy (1972), Hitchcock’s second-to-last film, and his final bid at serious spine-tingling. It had moments of surprising brutality, some very ‘70’s casual nudity, and made absolutely brilliant use of shifting protagonists so that we begin to root for, or against, different characters as the narrative continues.