There is a sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1956) in which an absent-minded doctor walks through the countryside reading a book: so engrossed is he in the words on the page that he twice trips over Harry’s outstretched corpse without realising it. The first time, he does not notice the corpse at all; the second time, he apologises to it. Most of the recent academic commentaries on Hitchcock’s films have strongly resembled that absent-minded doctor. There have been polysyllabic studies of the director’s supposed voyeurism, fetishism, anti-feminism, homophobia and self-reflexivity (usually published by university presses), which have had much more to do with the latest methodological line in haute culture than with the corpses in the movies. The feeling I get from these studies is that the authors cannot forgive Hitchcock for scaring them so much; the only way for them to exorcise the demon is to theorise him out of existence.
I met Hitchcock once, when he came to introduce a screening of Shadow of a Doubt (1943) in Cambridge, shortly after his epic interview with François Truffaut had been published. The question-and-answer session with ‘the master of suspense’ revealed the usual Hitchcock contradictions: the accent, a mixture of Leytonstone and