Hitchcock Series Brings ‘The Birds,’ Arch Campbell

Photo | Universal Pictures Alfred Hitchcock poses with one of the mechanical birds from “The Birds.”

Photo | Universal Pictures
Alfred Hitchcock poses with one of the mechanical birds from “The Birds.”

What do Alfred Hitchcock, Arch Campbell, and the Arts Barn have in common? A new Art Night Out Film & Brew Party series, which debuts on Friday, Oct. 13 with “The Birds.” Courier film critic Mike Cuthbert caught up with Campbell to discuss the master of suspense before the Hitchcock series gets underway. Campbell will host the screening of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” on Jan. 26.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” recently appeared in polls as one of the best movies of all time. The film will be shown and discussed on Jan. 26 at the Arts Barn as part of a three-film series entitled “Art Night Out Film & Brew Parties,” hosted by longtime DC film critic Arch Campbell. A recent conversation with Campbell quickly revealed his regard for the film that nobody liked—at first.

“It’s not the same old thing,” he pointed out. “Many films find their life after their first run. Cable, DVD, websites—all allow audiences to change their attitudes over time.” Campbell admitted to seeing “Vertigo” at least a dozen times. “Every time I see it, I see something different.”

He insisted that there are two kinds of Hitchcock audiences. “There’s the ‘Rear Window’ fans and the ‘Vertigo’ fans. I’m a ‘Vertigo’ fan,” he said. Campbell laughed and referred to his new adventure in podcasting with The Post’s Ann Hornaday, “At the Movies with Arch and Ann” (http://chatterstudio.libsyn.com). “Ann is a ‘Rear Windows’ type.” He’s laughing again.

Ranked with “Vertigo” for Campbell are “The Maltese Falcon” and “Being There.” For all three pictures, Campbell pointed out, “You know they wouldn’t make them today.” That is one of the factors that he dislikes about many of today’s films: They have to fit a formula or they don’t get made, which makes what we see so often seem like something we’ve seen before and didn’t like.

One of the famous techniques developed by Hitchcock and his director of photography for the film, Robert Burks, first appears in “Vertigo.” Now called “the vertigo effect,” its formal designation was “dolly zoom.” It appears several times in the film and consists of a dolly movement away from the object while the camera zooms in on the object. The effect is still startling and upsetting. Viewers will see it in the famous bell tower scene. The bell tower is one reason Campbell feels that the change in setting from Paris to San Francisco was perfect. (The novel “From Among the Dead” by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac that was the basis for the adaptation was set in Paris.) “San Francisco makes the film more American and more believable.” It helps that it’s also hillier than Paris, giving Stewart more chances to suffer from his acrophobia. Viewers of the film today who suffer from a fear of heights may feel a bit queasy when Stewart dangles over a long drop in the opening scenes, only to have a policeman offering to help him slip and fall all the way down.

Campbell recommends the audience for the film consider the colors of it, particularly green and red. A digitalization of the film in 1996 made the colors vivid again and increased the film’s impact on new audiences. As the colors impact the audience so, too, does Bernard Herrmann’s music. “His music,” Campbell pointed out, “becomes another character in the movie, it’s so effective.” That it also reflects the theme of the piece—a constant spiraling between hope and despair—is part of its effectiveness.

Tickets for the Art Night Out Film & Brew Party screenings are $5, available at artsonthegreen.ticketfly.com and there will be a cash bar on scene. The Arts Barn Pub opens at 6:30 p.m., discussion at 7 p.m., and movie at 7:30 p.m. Look for “The Birds” on Oct. 13, “Vertigo” with Arch Campbell on Jan. 26, and “Rear Window” on June 1.