Posted by Jeff Stafford on December 29, 2007
While it seems surprising today that more directors aren’t heavily involved in the creative process of producing the trailer for their film, it was unusual for a director like Alfred Hitchcock NOT to use the opportunity for some shameless and highly entertaining self-promotion. In fact, audiences looked forward to these extensions of his personality with each new film and I’ve listed ten favorites examples of his sardonic wit and perverse glee on display in what is not your typical movie preview.
For a movie so thoroughly disturbing and misogynistic, Hitch takes such a lighthearted approach to his film here that you might think it was a black comedy. Notice how he seems to relish the opportunity to play a possible murder suspect in a staged scene where he retrieves his necktie from a nude female corpse. He also parodies one of the movie’s more memorable murders by appearing in front of the Covent Gardens marketplace and discovering a leg sticking out of a barrel of potatoes – “I’ve heard of a leg of lamb…a leg of chicken, but never a leg of potatoes.”
This is interesting for its opening interior studio shot of Hitchcock on a crane as it lowers him into a position to introduce his new movie. The running gag here is all about the use of the word SEX and in his repeated insistence that the film is about more than that, the trailer begs to differ with its voyeuristic treatment of Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery, both of them served up like hot appetizers.
This teaser trailer is justly famous and is fascinating for its informal tour of the Bates Motel and the Bates mansion, with Hitch casually poking around in Mrs. Bates’s bedroom! He also can’t resist annoying the censors with his appearance in Janet Leigh’s bathroom and his joke about the murder evidence being hidden in the toilet. (At the time, showing a toilet or hearing it flushed in a film could earn you a condemned rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency).
This is the re-release trailer which was created after the huge success of Hitchcock’s PSYCHO even though REAR WINDOW was originally released in 1954. “See it! If your nerves can stand it after PSYCHO!” the trailer proclaims. James Stewart appears here briefly, addressing the viewer directly after we’ve been introduced to some of his more colorful neighbors. You have to wonder if Hitchcock wrote the pulp fiction-like narration.
Probably the most unique trailer in the bunch, this one opens with a couple on a park bench saying goodbye to each other and we soon realize that the young man we are seeing is the murder victim in ROPE who is never developed onscreen as a character. It’s as if we’re seeing a lost or missing scene from the film.
A very droll lecture on birds by Hitch culminates with the director sitting down to a dinner of roast chicken while confessing that he feels much closer to the bipedal vertebrates after his research on them. Like the PSYCHO teaser, he can’t resist closing without a parting shock cut from the film, although the scene chosen – Tippi Hedren announcing “They’re here, they’re here” – may not have actually appeared in the completed film.
THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY
This trailer follows the same tongue-in-cheek black humor approach of the film and at first appears to be a cheerful travelogue on the beauties of a New England fall….until the narrator can no longer ignore the presence of a dead body in the middle of a bucolic setting.
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
Compared to the movie previews Hitchcock made later this one is rather straightforward and conventional except for its front and center presentation of the film’s plot which was exceedingly perverse for 1951 and Robert Walker gives you the creeps in his few brief but well chosen scenes here.
THE WRONG MAN
This is Hitchcock at his most sober and even though he narrates most of the trailer he avoids making any jokes about Henry Fonda’s grim fate…possibly because Hitchcock’s own paranoia about policemen and jails was based on a childhood fear and very real.
MR. AND MRS. SMITH
An Alfred Hitchcock romantic comedy? This teaser trailer is unique in that it shows no clips from the film, using only stills, a few static cartoon panels with dialogue balloons and lively big band jazz behind the narrator.
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