Alfred Hitchcock Reveals The Secret Sauce for Creating Suspense

Speaking at an American Film Institute seminar in 1970, Alfred Hitchcock revealed the essential ingredients that went into making his films. When he stripped everything away, what Hitchcock really cared about was creating suspense films (not mystery films) and getting the suspense element right. In the clip above, the director explains why suspenseful scenes have to simmer for a time and then cool down properly. Things can’t be brought to a rapid boil and then be quickly taken off the stove. Hitchcock once made that mistake in his 1936 film, Sabotage. (Watch the offending scene right below or find the full film here.)

Of course, Hitchcock learned from his mistake, and thereafter shot countless scenes where the suspense builds in the right way. But we particularly wanted to find one scene that pulls off the bomb scenario, and so here it goes. From 1957 to 1959, Hitchcock produced Suspicion, a television series for NBC, and he personally directed one episode called “Four O’Clock”. It features a watchmaker who suspects his wife of having an affair, and so, filled with jealousy, he decides to murder her with a bomb made by his own hands. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when two burglars tie him up in the basement with the ticking bomb. We leave you with the final, climactic scene. You can watch the full episode on YouTube here.

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  • NikkiTaMere says:

    “Hitchcock once made that mistake in his 1936 film, Sabotage.”

    I must be dense, the scene seems to build up the suspense all thru the scene as Hitchcock intended, IMHO.

  • Hannah says:

    I totally agree that Hitchcock seems to get more and more associated with creating ‘mystery’ films. Personally, I think it is because horror films these days are way scarier than back in the day.

    Saying that, there is, and will always be, something about Hitchcock’s films that raise the hairs on the back of anyone’s neck.

    Let me know what you think.

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