Mathieu Deflem
Purdue University

Websited version of a paper also presented at a panel on
Law and Society Association meeting, Chicago, May 27, 1999.
I am grateful to the panel discussants: Gerald Turkel,
Vanessa Barker, Jeffrey McIllwain, Elizabeth H. Boyle.



This paper analyzes the films of Alfred Hitchcock from a sociological perspective and thematically focuses on the themes of guilt, innocence, consciousness, transference of guilt, victimization, and similar aspects of law. The perspective is inspired by (neo-)Durkheimian cultural studies of ritual and symbolism. This presentation is illustrated with pictures of production stills, movie posters, and Real Player videos of movie segments.
The analysis will rely on some of Hitchcock’s more popular movies, such as Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960), but also discussed are some of his neglected or less known films, including Lifeboat (1944) and Rope (1948), as well as some of his earlier work, such as Sabotage (1936). The discussion will use insights from the ‘auteur’ theory, popularized through François Truffaut’s interviews with Hitchcock, and the notion of ‘pure cinema,’ Hitchcock’s ideal of movie making.



To adequately view these pages I suggest you access the internet through MS Internet Explorer. You will also need to use a heavy-duty computer to experience this paper in all its splendor (Pentium II or higher), with a sound card and Real Player installed, a program which can be downloaded from the web if you don't have it yet (Click here for details on Real Player). I have no technical knowledge on these matters and suggest you consult a computer expert in your area if need be.

STILL PICTURES are mostly inserted into the text and occasionally linked from words in the text, such as this picture from Rear Window and this poster from Dial M for Murder. Pictures should be immediately accessible in just a second or so. Some pictures contain moving images but should also be easily accessible, such as this image of a murder scene in Psycho.

Note that many of the images are linked to sounds, other images, or sites. Some of these images are framed but some are not (when your cursor changes to a hand, click for added pleasure, e.g. image below).

MOVIE SEGMENTS are shown through linked Real Player files and are indicated by the Real Player logo. As an example, you could try the following link to a short trailer for Vertigo () or this short segment from Spellbound (). Also, occassionally sounds are linked from words in the text, such as this radio trailer to The Man Who Knew Too Much (). Accessing a sound should take only few seconds, while accessing a movie scene can take up to a minute, or more depending on your machine. If a picture does not move, click on it. If you have the option, choose viewing from original location.

Please view the above examples first to see if your computer can handle the stills, sounds, and moving pictures linked from this paper. Also, consider that traffic on the internet is considerably less jammed in the morning and weekdays, rather than at night and during weekends.


I have chosen to stylize this presentation with many illustrations. I encourage viewers to scroll through these pages slowly in order to better experience the images, sounds, and movie excerpts. Also, you may want to take a break in between viewing these pages and revisit as you please. A Table of Contents is provided on the next page.

I hope you will enjoy this presentation
and welcome your feedback!
If you want to send me a message about these pages (or anything else), I would love to hear from you.
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Mathieu Deflem
Purdue University
See also... My Home Page.