Although perhaps not as well-remembered as Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, or Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious is one of his most brilliant films, presaging the director’s immediately recognizable visual style that would flourish in the 1950s. Interestingly, it is also one of the earlier films in which Hitch employs a romance as bait to lure audiences in with his characteristic irony.
Like his earlier masterpiece Rope (1948), Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder is based on a play (by the English playwright Frederick Knott), and it’s not difficult to see that it was originally intended as a theatre piece. Not only is the bulk of the film set within the confines of an apartment—as also in Rope—but the cast is small and the action is built around a single dramatic climax. However, Dial M differs from Rope in the position of this climax, and therein lies the former’s greatest weakness.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat may begin with a torpedic blast, but it rapidly enters a maelstrom of sanctimony, dime-store impromptu romances, and heavy-handed propagandizing. It’s hard to believe that this rudderless tale about the sinking of an Allied freighter by a German U-boat during World War II was helmed by the same “master of suspense” who produced the gripping small-town drama Shadow of a Doubt only a year earlier.
Foreign Correspondent is notable for being only the second film Alfred Hitchcock made in Hollywood; it’s also one of the Master’s tauter, more cerebral thrillers. Though a relatively unheralded work, its multilayered tale of international espionage makes it a worthy forerunner to the cineaste-revered classics of the 50s such as The Man Who Knew Too Much and North by Northwest.