It has been said countless times before, but you are unlikely to find a director with as impressive a back-catalogue as Sir Alfred Hitchcock. Over thirty years on from the iconic filmmaker’s death in 1980 and he and his features are still the subject of unabashed fascination. Strangers on a Train, Dial M For Murder, Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho and The Birds, being but a small selection of the films that are still continuously shown on television and in independent cinemas on a regular basis.
It’s rare to meet a filmmaker who does not cite Alfred Hitchcock as a creative influence. The director’s fusion of classic glamour and cool with unexpected thrills and genre-bending narrative twists, set him far above many of his contemporaries – serving as an inspiration to countless filmmakers, from Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma to David Fincher and supposedly M. Night Shyamalan (Thank God that Hitch isn’t around to hear that comparison.) However, one needs to question when a director lovingly paying homage turns into the just plain ripping off of Hitchcock’s work.
So here are ten shameless Hitchcock rip-offs or arguably passionate homages. It is not to say that these films are bad – I am personally a huge fan of all but one of the features on this list - let us just say they may have been a little too inspired by Hitch.
10. Homicidal (1961)
Who would have thought horror maestro William Castle (House on Haunted Hill) would attempt his very own Hitchcockian thriller? That’s exactly what he did in 1961 with the wonderfully enjoyable, Homicidal.
Homicidal follows a mysterious blonde on the run as she arrives at an isolated mansion, with a scheme to collect a vast inheritance. The plot of Homicidal is notoriously hard to explain without tripping up over a barrage of spoilers and since the feature is lesser known the Psycho, it is probably best I avoid these. Let’s just say the suspicious blonde is rather reminiscent of Psycho’s Marion Crane (this time played by the Campy brilliance of Joan Marshall) and the narrative features detectives, vast sums of cash, violence and transvestites.
I would be one of the first to label Castle a cut-rate Hitchcock, but one cannot deny that he masterfully crafts a sense of intrigue and suspense throughout Homicidal. There were also plenty of traditional gimmicks released at the time to stir up some publicity, including ‘The Fright Break’, where viewers had the opportunity to leave the theatre before things got too scary. However, this came at a price – those who left would be humiliated by having to sit in an area dubbed ’Coward’s Corner.’
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