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November 1999, Week 1

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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Ken Mogg <[log in to unmask]>
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Tue, 2 Nov 1999 04:38:30 +1100
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William Lingle wrote:

>  But
> we don't want to get too bogged down in author intentionality, do we, or
> we will have to cast off some of our most ingenious ideas about
> Hitchcock's work.

Quite so.  I hope that Mike Frank may be big enough to tell a story against
himself in this respect!  He once insisted to me that the '8 miles per hour'
sign outside Gavin Elster's shipyard in VERTIGO must 'mean' something, because
Mike had never seen such a sign in real life and, besides, 'nothing in a
Hitchcock film is without meaning'.  I replied that Hitchcock was perfectly
capable of incorporating unmediated local detail into his films - precisely
for its value as local detail caught 'unawares' by the camera - and I even,
via my website, found someone in Canada, I think it was, who had indeed seen
such a sign in a rural timber yard he remembered from his childhood.  But Mike
couldn't accept this, and repeated his question to a VERTIGO discussion group,
whereupon one Richard Ducar (who calls himself 'MisterVERTIGO' in his email
address, and who has his own 16mm print of the film) told Mike how the sign in
the film happened to be already on the Paramount lot ...

Over to you, Mike!  (In fairness, I should add that someone else on the same
VERTIGO discussion group has recently detected the numbers '16' and '24' on
the crane derricks seen through the window of Elster's office in the scene
that follows the one with the '8 miles per hour' sign, suggesting some sort
of  numerical progression archly planned by Hitchcock.  Does Mike buy this?)

- Ken Mogg (author, 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story').
http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~muffin

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