Perhaps no other filmmaker in history was as good at feeding our appetite for “thrills and chills” as Alfred Hitchcock. Born on this day in 1899, the “Master of Suspense” brought a distinct visual style to American movies, captivating us over and over again with powerful films built on mounting anxiety and haunting realism. “There is no terror in the bang,” he once said, “only in the anticipation of it.”
An expert manipulator, Hitchcock was interested in more than shock value, however. His films have stood out for their delicate balance of terror and humor—ordinary and absurd. Behind many blood-chilling scenes lay undercurrents of comic relief or bizarre irony. “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”
Tonight, in honor of Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday, why not take a break from the heat with some creepy chills inspired by the master of the macabre? Here are seven recommendations:
- Notorious: In this 1946 spy thriller, Ingrid Bergman plays a women recruited by a government agent (Cary Grant) to spy on a group of her father’s Nazi colleagues in Rio de Janeiro. What won’t she do to complete her mission?
- North by Northwest: An ad man, Cary Grant, and a beautiful blonde (Eva Marie Saint) go on the run in this classic 1959 drama (sometimes comedy) about mistaken identity. (Would Don Draper have these problems?) The unforgettable climax at Mount Rushmore is just one of this movie’s many charms.
- Rear Window: In this 1954 whodunit, James Stewart stars as a wheelchair-bound photographer who spies on his neighbors during a summer heat wave and sees something he shouldn’t have. Or did he?
- To Catch a Thief: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly team up in this 1955 romantic thriller about a reformed cat burglar who must prove himself innocent when a string of jewel thefts plagues the beautiful and rich along the Riviera.
- The Birds: Thinking of following your love to a beautiful seaside town in California? Don’t. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) does just that in this 1963 horror classic, and soon after she arrives the once-peaceful birds of the area begin to attack. Psst…Pay special attention to the man who leaves the pet shop with two white terriers.
- Rebecca: Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier star in this 1940 film adaptation of the fantastic gothic novel by Daphne Du Maurier about a woman tormented by memories of her husband’s first wife.
- Vertigo: Don’t let the dizzying close-up montages scare you away. This 1958 psychological suspense thriller will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. James Stewart stars as a police detective with a fear of heights and an obsession that he can’t shake.
Now, just to make things interesting, let’s up the ante on this Hitchcock celebration with a contest. We are giving away one official first day souvenir. Issued on August 3, 1998, the souvenir (which is sealed) includes a pane of 32-cent Hitchcock stamps, as well as an Official First Day Cancellation. To enter to win, all you have to do is answer the following question correctly:
Famous for his dry, outrageous comments, Alfred Hitchcock made cameo appearances in nearly all his own films, often with a funny twist. In Blackmail (1929) a boy bothers him while he reads in the subway, and in The Paradine Case from 1947, Hitchcock can be seen leaving a train with a cello case. In what memorable movie does Hitchcock’s silhouette appear through a window—wearing a cowboy hat?
Send your answer to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. One winner will be selected at random from those who answer correctly. The deadline for entries is noon EDT on Friday, August 16. Good luck!