Friday, January 12, 2024

HITCH 20: Mr. Blanchard's Secret (s2e1)


This is a great new documentary series called HITCH 20 that I have been a "guest expert" on (season 1). The series looks at the 20 TV episodes directed by Hitchcock and here is the first episode of the second season, which looks at the importance of specifics on screen (and on the page, or it never gets to the screen). This new season is without me. I was juggling too many things and thought I'd squeeze it in, but just didn't have the time. But I'm still be featuring it here, because it's a great show.

Mr. Blanchard's Secret... we can discuss the episode in the comments section, and maybe I'll add some commentary on the episode here.

I decided I would write this *before* watching the episode, so that I wasn’t influenced by what the others said (just as if I was part of this episode)...

The big lesson in this episode for me is ABLA, Always Be Leading the Audience. Just as the director frames the shot to draw the audience’s eyes to some object, you want the story to draw the audience’s minds to some conclusion... show them the information and allow them to make the jump. You create the misdirection. In a mystery, you don’t just throw a bunch of suspects into a room and let the audience pick the most likely suspect (who ends up not being the killer), you *point to the most likely suspect* so that everyone watching the mystery thinks the same person is the killer, that way there is a twist when the real killer is exposed. How a twist works is by misdirection, and just as a magician draws attention to one hand while palming something with the other, when we tell a story we will draw attention to one thing in the story so that the audience focus on that thing... and doesn’t notice the other possibilities. We want to always be leading the audience.

This is a story about storytelling, and the protagonist, Babs Fenton is a writer. A storyteller.

It’s kind of a comedy version of REAR WINDOW.

Babs is the audience surrogate *and* the leader in this episode. She gives us the information... it’s all filtered through her, the way a movie is filtered through the camera’s angle and movement and framing. She has never seen new neighbor Mr. Blanchard’s wife, so maybe he has murdered her? Now that we have been lead in this direction, all of the things we see add further evidence to this scenario. Our vision has been narrowed so that we only see things that fit that possibility. When Babs bumped into him at the grocery store (a husband doing the shopping?) he acted strange when she asked about his wife.

Babs makes a sandwich in the middle of the night... and sees Blanchard peeking through her window! She decides this is a good reason to throw on a robe and knock on his door... and when no one answers and the door is unlocked, she pulls a Grace Kelly and enters the house! Now we get a nice little suspense/dread scene as she pokes around in the house. More evidence! The house is decorated for function rather than beauty, obviously a man’s work. And upstairs, Mrs. Blanchard’s bedroom is suspiciously immaculate. But there is a photo of the Blanchards. When Babs looks in the closet, it’s filled with nice clothes...

And that’s when Blanchard pops up behind her... and startles her. Then escorts her to the front door and out of the house.

Even though her husband John acts as the voice of reason, and keeps telling her this is all her imagination in overdrive and there is obviously some logical explanation. The audience may even know that he’s probably right... but look at this evidence! Look at how weird things are! The fascinating thing about John is that he forces the audience to take a position. We dig in... John offers no explanation for the strange things happening at the Blanchard house.

The next place the story leads the audience is to the idea that Mrs. Blanchard is a prisoner in her own home due to some dark secret... maybe she’s a drunk? That Blanchard lost his well paid university professor job and became a teacher at the high school because of his wife’s drunken scandals. This new theory also fits the evidence, the way a new suspect might in a mystery. Instead of just having some vague scandal, we are pointed in the direction of a specific scandal. That leads to Blanchard killing his wife...

Which is when Mrs. Blanchard shows up at the door. After being lead in one direction, twist! When Babs invites her in and goes to get some coffee (the story is still leading us with the coffee), Twist again as Mr. Blanchard pops up to take his wife home.

And that leads us back to the prisoner in her own home scenario.

Until, in the middle of the night, Blanchard leaves the house carrying a heavy duffel bag... filled with Mrs. Blanchard’s body?

Again, husband John says all of this sounds like her imagination at work... but offers no explanation for the duffel bag in the middle of the night.

And then Mrs. Blanchard shows up again for coffee. Explains that she and her husband had a fight and he threw some clothes in a duffel bag and left. He’ll be back for dinner.

Now we get some nice misdirection: as Babs and Mrs. Blanchard have coffee and a smoke, we are lead to think about the Blanchard’s relationship which is being discussed rather than an important clue that happens right before our eyes. Magic!

When Mrs. Blanchard leaves, she steals the ornate cigarette lighter.

When Babs discovers the ornate cigarette lighter is missing, she knows the Blanchards’ secret: Mrs. Blanchard is a klepto! This explains why he lost his university job and why he keeps her locked up in her room.

Now we get a new twist that leads the audience in a different direction: A woman fitting Mrs. Blanchard’s description has been found murdered. Beaten to death. Babs is sure that when Mr. Blanchard discovered that his klepto wife has stolen again, he went crazy and killed her. Husband John says she’s imagining things again, and insists they go down to the morgue so he can prove to her that this *isn’t* Mrs. Blanchard. Again, we have been lead by the story: the focus is on that dead woman in the morgue. The audience only thinks of: will it be Mrs. Blanchard or not? The audience is not allowed to think of other things, only what the story has focused on.

When Babs opens the front door on the way to the morgue... there are Mr. & Mrs. Blanchard with the ornate cigarette lighter, which Mr. Blanchard has repaired as a housewarming gift. Twist! The end.

By leading the audience the story makes them think about what the writer wants them to think about, rather than the other thousands of possibilities. This way we can perform the magic of storytelling, creating suspense and twists and a fun experience.

Now I’m going to watch the new HITCH 20 episode and see what everyone else said.

Of course, I have my own books on Hitchcock...



Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!


Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

(links actually work now)

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.



Click here for more info!


We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?

Contained Thrillers like “Buried”? Serial Protagonists like “Place Beyond The Pines”? Multiple Connecting Stories like “Pulp Fiction”? Same Story Multiple Times like “Run, Lola, Run”? This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock’s 53 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others.

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

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