I got a chance to take a sneak preview of The Suspenseful World of Thrillers, and as someone who enjoys the genre (old Hitchcock movies are some of my favorites), I found the first installment of the new series really interesting.
The special starts off with trying to define what really constitutes a Thriller--my favorite definition? The ideal thriller "confirms your paranoia of the world."
Novelist Ken Follett, who wrote some truly splendid Thrillers that translate well to the screen, keeps it simple, saying a Thriller is basically any work about people in danger.
Of course, Alfred Hitchcock was the early master of film thrillers. As actor Kenneth Branagh puts it, Hitchcock had a clinical, "almost soulless objectivity" which made his thrillers work.
One plot device that Hitchcock especially liked was known as a Mcguffin. A McGuffin was intended to further the story, and keep the suspense going as long as possible by throwing an obstacle into the path of the main characters, who were usually just normal people suddenly plunged into extraordinary circumstances.
In Thrillers, a common McGuffin is that the characters cannot go to the police for help. In the classic Hitchcock movie North by Northwest, for example, police suspect Cary Grant himself of the crime he is trying to solve (and you see that now in movies all the time, the unfairly accused protagonist trying to find the real criminal).
Another observation I found interesting from tonight's special was the fact that Hitchcock frequently used blondes in his movies, at a time when brunettes were often cast as "vamps," but he gave them secrets and made them, though gorgeous, tough as nails (think Grace Kelly in Rear Window).
Of course, tonight's special doesn't just go into Hitchcock thrillers. I don't want to ruin it for you by going into too much detail, but rest assured that The Suspenseful World of Thrillers takes you right up to the present day, exploring themes like Thriller villains (a good villain, in my opinion, is *essential* if a Thriller is going to work!), Thrillers during war time and the changing role of women in Thrillers.
Which reminds me that if you have never seen Eye of the Needle, a classic Thriller based on a Ken Follett book that I myself only saw recently, you really should! It's a great movie that incorporates pretty much all of those themes I just described. Really gripping.
And it is part of the lineup for TCM's Thriller series!
That's right, with tonight's airing of A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: THE SUSPENSEFUL WORLD OF THRILLERS serving as the kick-off event, TCM will set aside each Friday primetime lineup in October for a different style of thriller.
Here is the complete schedule of TCM’s salute to thrillers (all times shown are Eastern). You might want to print this out and stick it on your fridge or by your TV remote so you don't miss any of the fun. You can watch most of these movies with older kids, too. Thrillers are perfect for settting that Halloween mood!
TCM's SALUTE TO THRILLERS
Friday, Oct. 2 – Thrillers and Hitchcock
8 p.m *A Night at the Movies: The Suspenseful World of Thrillers (2009) – premiere.
9 p.m. *Rear Window (1954), James Stewart and Grace Kelly.
11 p.m. * Night at the Movies: The Suspenseful World of Thrillers (2009) – encore.
Midnight Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright.
Friday, Oct. 9 – Political Thrillers
8 p.m. The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh.
10:15 p.m. The Parallax View (1974) Warren Beatty and Hume Cronyn.
Midnight The Boys from Brazil (1978), Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck.
Friday, Oct. 16 – Crime Thrillers
8 p.m. The Narrow Margin (1952), Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor.
9:30 p.m. *A Night at the Movies: The Suspenseful World of Thrillers (2009) – encore.
10:30 p.m. Lured (1947), George Sanders, Lucille Ball and Charles Coburn.
12:30 a.m. The Lodger (1944), Merle Oberon and George Sanders.
Friday, Oct. 23 – Gothic Thrillers
8 p.m. The Night of the Hunter (1955), Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish and Shelley Winters.
10 p.m. Dragonwyck (1946), Gene Tierney, Walter Huston and Vincent Price.
Midnight *Rebecca (1940), Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson.
Friday, Oct. 30 – Psychological Thrillers
8 p.m. *Gaslight (1944), Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Angela Lansbury.
10 p.m. Night Must Fall (1937), Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell and Dame May Whitty.
Midnight *Psycho (1960), Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Martin Balsam.
*Listing highly recommended by me, Viv, personally!