Who can you trust?

I had to do some driving today and, as usual, had the local NPR station on while driving–in this case, “On the Media,” catching part of a discussion of horror films, followed by a discussion of Psycho with a “film critic and author,” who has a book out about Psycho. (I’ll leave out the critic’s name, although it’s not hard to find…)

Part way through, the interviewer mentioned the film being in black & white and how this had to do with the sheer amount of blood and likelihood that all that red would send the censors around the bend.

In amplifying this point, the critic said that most of Hitchcock’s films prior to Psycho had been in color.

To which I said:


I’m no Hitchcock expert, never will be–but I have seen 18 of Hitchcock’s pre-Hollywood films. All of which were in black & white.

Still, I thought, maybe he made a whole boatload of color flicks between the time he moved to Hollywood and when Psycho came out.

So I visited IMDB…and did a little tallying, including only feature-length films for which Hitchcock actually received credit as a director (and ignoring oddities such as a German version of a British film). Since all of the shorts, uncredited stints and oddities were b&w, this would bias the tally toward color, if anything. (If you included television episodes, it gets worse, since Alfred Hitchcock Presents was entirely b&w. I didn’t include TV.)

Here’s the total prior to Psycho:

  • 36 Black & White.
  • 10 Color.

As far as I can tell, the only way you could say “Most of Hitchcock’s earlier films were in color” is if you entirely ignore all the films he made in the UK…which is a view of Hitchcock’s career in which “ignor” is the key part.

Now, if this film critic was only incidentally aware of Hitchcock, maybe you’d say “Hey, American film critic, never heard of UK productions, what d’you expect?” But he wrote a book about one Hitchcock movie; you’d expect him to have a passing acquaintance with the director’s career. And, any way you count them, most of Hitchcock’s movies were in B&W–in all, as far as I can see, 37 B&W (Psycho the last of them) and 16 color.

No deeper meaning here, except, of course, “Trust but verify”–even if you’re dealing with NPR discussions by experts in a field.

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