The Architecture of Suspense

This week's review analyzes the architecture in Alfred Hitchcock's films, offering insights into the thought process behind his world building and work with production designers and architects.

The Architecture of Suspense: Architecture, Landscape, Urbanism, and Design

French, Christine Madrid. Virginia, 2022
274p bibl index, 9780813947662 $69.50, 9780813947679 $29.50, 9780813947686 $29.50

The Architecture of Suspense: Architecture, Landscape, Urbanism, and Design book cover.

The Bates Motel may be the most iconic movie set ever built. For director Alfred Hitchcock it was a character in its own right. Throughout his career Hitchcock paid particular attention to location and architecture. French (an independent scholar) has undertaken to write about this understudied aspect of Hitchcock’s films, especially those of the 1950s–60s: RopeRear WindowVertigoNorth by Northwest, and The Birds as well as Psycho. She considers the role played by these films’ production designers, many of them graduates of USC, and the architects who inspired both them and Hitchcock himself. The book is illustrated with color photos and drawings, and the author includes descriptive excerpts from the scripts and the books on which some of the films were based. She writes knowledgably about architectural styles and their history: for example, she includes an interesting history of the American motel, and she recounts the histories of many of the actual buildings Hitchcock used in his films—e.g., the hotel in Vertigo and the 1870s schoolhouse that was slated for demolition until The Birds turned it into a tourist attraction. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, this book is a gem.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers
: W. A. Vincent, Michigan State University
Subject: Humanities – Performing Arts – Film
Choice Issue: Sep 2023

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