3D Movies Can Be Subtle: Another Lesson from Alfred Hitchcock

After Hitchcock taught me how to frame actors kissing in a romantic two shot, I had no idea I would have the benefit of his tutelage again so soon (and about 3D of all things).

Java knows squat about 3D movies. It's that gimmicky format meant to lure audiences away from other passive forms of entertainment and into a public place to wear goggles so that someone can throw random things at your face. It's a pie throwing contest, and you're the target.

Or so I thought.

A few weeks ago, yours truly happened upon The Alfred Hitchcock Geek's 5-part series on why the master of suspense is also the master of 3D movies, using Dial "M" for Murder to set up his points. The author, Joel Gunz, notes that when Margot reaches towards the audience as the killer strangles her, it's a plea for help that draws the viewer in, as opposed to the usual 3D film where that which lunges out of the frame is meant to repulse.  Gunz also points up  items in the foreground (e.g. fences, lines of bottles on the tables, etc.)  used when Hitchcock wants to divide space, or keep the audience at a distance during a crucial moment in the plot.

I found the Dial "M" series very informative, not only about this particular movie's machinations, but also about 3D movie tropes in general. Hitchcock uses the process subtly, - no spear throwing, snakes lunging or cars jutting out over a precipice -  a simple point that I had assumed wasn't possible without making  the 3D format superfluous in a movie.

Fast forward and I am at the cinema watching a film in 3D. I'm not thinking about  Dial "M" until there's a random row of flowers on a desk spanning the bottom of the screen, tickling my nose. They are directly in front of a character who is about to be murdered in cold blood.

I giggle.

The blooms, coffin-like, are boxing him in (framing him like the lamps and bottles which frame Margot and her forbidden lover in Hitchcock's movie). The guy is already pushing up daises; that's kind of cool. Unfortunately, the movie goes downhill from there, rarely using the gimmicky format for anything but hurling people and shrapnel at you as explosions hit. But for one brief moment, I appreciate a rather macabre, but funny, joke that nicely incorporates 3D.

Professor Hitchcock does it again.


  1. Hey there - and thanks for the kind words about Alfred Hitchcock Geek! Just one question: What 3D movie are you referring to at the end -- where the victim is framed in funereal flowers?

  2. Joel,
    I'm referring to an early scene in The Green Hornet (2011) featuring a cameo by James Franco (the soon to be dead guy).


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