Monday, October 31, 2011

Hitchcockian humour, anyone?

Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense who held audiences in prolonged suspended animation with his psychological thrillers, also had a wry, and often whacky, sense of humour. Did you know that? I discovered it quite by accident, while I was looking up quotable quotes on "meditation" and "redemption" for a spiritual newsletter I bring out every month. Things have a strange way of popping up when least expected.

I read Hitchcock's mystery series long before I watched his films. The first 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' book I read, in school, was The Mystery of the Green Ghost. It was a welcome substitute for Math. At the time, I remember thinking to myself that The Three Investigators series, created by Robert Arthur Jr, was better than Enid Blyton, Richmal Crompton and Hardy Boys. There was no comparison.

I see shades of American humourist S.J. Perelman in Hitchcockian wit: both were contemporaries and both had a knack for drop-dead humour. I guess it might
have had something to do with the tumultuous period they lived in.

So here are the ten best one-liners from Alfred Hitchcock:

"The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder."

"Always make the audience suffer as much as possible."

"Television has brought murder back into the home — where it belongs."

"Seeing a murder on television...can help work off one's antagonisms. And if you haven't any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some."

"Some of our most exquisite murders have been domestic, performed with tenderness in simple, homey places like the kitchen table."

"The best way to do it is with scissors."

"There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it."

"This paperback is very interesting, but I find it will never replace a hardcover book — it makes a very poor doorstop."

"Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare."

"There is nothing so good as a burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating."

And a whacky quote to end it...

"These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the manmade sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig."


  1. Robert Arthur also edited no few of the anthologies attributed to AH.

  2. I didn't know that, Todd. I wonder if Hitchcock wrote anything at all.

  3. "The best way to do it is with scissors."

    Dial M for Murder made good use of this.

  4. Hitchcock helped write his own scripts, apparently, and presumably approved the editorials and introductions at least early on in his books and ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE...but the anthologies were no more edited by him than was the magazine. With the arguable exception of AH PRESENTS: STORIES THEY WOULDN'T LET ME DO ON TV, where Hitchcock and the television network censors can be said to have made the story selections jointly. (Patricia Hitchcock was on staff on AHMM for some years, no doubt in part to look out for dad's interests.)

  5. Ms. Abbott: I saw DIAL M... a long time ago. I have been meaning to watch AH movies again and this time I'll keep my ears peeled for the line.

    Todd: I have never seen or read ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. You don't get these vintage magazines in India unless you know where to look. I added the cover of one such magazine to my post. Thanks...

  6. Well, Prashant, if you're willing to pay the mailing costs, you can still subscribe to AHMM, which is still publishing as a stablemate of ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION, and ANALOG:

  7. Sir,
    I remember seeing a copy of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in a railway book stall. I vaguely remember that this magazine was published in India in the late 80s and then abruptly stopped. Can you please throw some light on this?