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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Relat­ed Con­tent:

16 Free Hitch­cock Movies Online

Alfred Hitch­cock Explains the Plot Device He Called the ‘MacGuf­fin’

The Eyes of Hitch­cock: A Mes­mer­iz­ing Video Essay on the Expres­sive Pow­er of Eyes in Hitchcock’s Films

Alfred Hitchcock’s 7‑Minute Mas­ter Class on Film Edit­ing

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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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