Alfred Hitchcock is known as “the master of suspense,” and his films are bringing suspense to a whole new generation thanks to the Hitchcock Series at The Athena Cinema. The series, which has been running since Jan. 27 and will continue through March 25, brings a new Hitchcock movie to the big screen every Sunday and Monday at 7:00 pm.
The Hitchcock Series first came to The Athena alongside Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock”, a documentary about the making of “Psycho.” The timing was fortuitous, According to Chris Iacofano, executive director at The Athena, as Hitchcock’s individual movies had been remastered just in time for the release.
“They had digitally remastered all of the films he’d done recently, so we were able to get probably eight of the most well-known films he’d done through this distributor,” Iacofano said.
While the most recent film in the lineup—1972’s “Frenzy”—is now 41 years old, Iacofano said Hitchcock’s filmography remains relevant today mostly due to the influence it has had on the development of film as an art form.
“For us, playing these films here is really just going back to the start of all of the film grammar,” Iacofano said.
Junior and graphic design major Zachary Finn, a self-professed film enthusiast, believes that Hitchcock movies are in many ways better than the contemporary films they lent their influence to.
“I personally don’t like horror films that much, but I like Hitchcock films,” Finn said. “Especially since a lot of horror films borrow details from Hitchcock films, especially with the suspense.”
To contextualize the films, Iacofano asked local experts to introduce certain showings. For example, Gordon Briggs, a graduate student in film, spoke before the showing of “Vertigo” on Sunday, Feb. 10.
“(Gordon) has used “Vertigo” in particular in a lot of the classes he’s taught and has written extensively on it, so he jumped at the opportunity,” Iacofano said.
Iacofano said the addition of these guest speakers adds an intellectual edge to the Hitchcock films—films that are already filled to the brim with in-jokes and references to psychoanalysis. The films’ greatest educational content, however, lies in what they can teach other aspiring filmmakers, according to Finn.
“With the film students, you’d think they’d want to learn from the master,” Finn said.
The Hitchcock Series is just one step in a progression toward extended series The Athena has made recently. Iacofano said the decision to re-release the Hitchcock films over the course of three months has had a positive effect on ticket sales.
“In the past, we probably would’ve shown all these films within the course of a week or two,” Iacofano said. “We’ve probably gotten a better turnout by making it an every-Sunday-and-Monday kind of series.”
With the success of the Hitchcock Series, The Athena has introduced other extended film series, such as Science on Screen, a series that uses film to promote discussion of scientific principles. One installment of Science on Screen—a free showing of “The Hunt for Red October” with commentary by submarine expert and OU mechanical engineering professor David Bayless—arrived at the theater on Thursday, Feb. 21.
The Hitchcock Series will continue until March 24, with a new movie every Sunday. As the Alfred Hitchcock films make their return to the silver screen, Iacofano is proud to bring the theatre experience even to older films.
“I believe that when you watch a movie with an audience, you see things and you understand things differently,” Iacofano said. “Having that sort of focus on one event in the film is something that you don’t get when you’re watching a movie on your computer or in your living room.”