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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Sunday, March 10, 2013
5:00 p.m. Lifeboat
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1944)

Imported 35mm print!
Watch the trailer


Hitchcock called Lifeboat “a microcosm of the war.” As if to emphasize the “micro” amid the magnitude of World War II, the action never leaves the titular boat, adrift on the Atlantic after a German sub sinks an Allied freighter. Tossed together are an assortment of English speakers—including a worldly reporter (Tallulah Bankhead), a German-American with the emphasis on American (William Bendix), a hot-headed seaman (John Hodiak), a humanitarian industrialist (Henry Hull), and a black steward (Canada Lee)—and one dangerously competent German sailor (Walter Slezak). Critics berated the film for depicting the German as some kind of Übermensch; more alarming is the implication that the Allies may be saved not by democratic idealism, but by mob ruthlessness. The perturbed propagandists at the Office of War Information bluntly called the deadpan and brutal climax “an orgasm of murder.”

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Ben Hecht, Jo Swerling, from a story by John Steinbeck. Photographed by Glen MacWilliams. With Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson. (96 mins, B&W, 35mm, From BFI/NFTVA)

Preceded by: 
Bon Voyage
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1944) Imported 35mm print!

Made for the British Ministry of Information, this short tells of an RAF pilot’s escape from Vichy France—a journey that may have unintended consequences.

(26 min, B&W, 35mm, From BFI/NFTVA)

Total running time: 122 mins