What Does Alfred Hitchcock's Average Shot Length Say About His Movies?

Alfred HitchcockCredit: New Republic
The master of suspense... and shot lengths. 

Alfred Hitchcock knows how to peer into the hearts of men and women. The original master showman, before Spielberg took the crown, Hitchcock loved toying with the audience and having his movies cause visceral reactions. 

But what does his shot length have to do with all that? 

A recent tweet from Vashi Nedomansky went into the details of Hitchcock's shot length in some of his movies. Other directors were mentioned in the tweet, and we're going to look at each director individually, but this article obviously focuses on Hitchcock. 

Hitchcock worked across many genres, but obviously preferred mystery and thriller movies. Those movies tend to have slower edits and to creep around, so let's take a peek at what kinds of shot pacing Hitch's movies had. 

Credit: Vashi Nedomansky

First, I like to look at what has the longest shot length. Even though the tone of Shadow of a Doubt is riveting, it was shot in 1943 and thus was part of a studio system that valued editing less than we do in the modern era. Therefore, I don't know if I put too much credence into the fact that Shadow of a Doubt, Rebecca, and The 39 Steps all fall along the longer side. 

I tend to think it's rather interesting that Hitchcock didn't have that much variance movie to movie. It's really a two-second difference, and that margin can be explained away by North by Northwest's action scenes and the frenetic cutting in Psycho.

The pacing in Rear Window always amazes me when I watch it. Remember that long take drifting around the neighborhood that sort of lulls you into place? It's interesting to see it almost in the middle here, defining how Hitchcock can put you at ease in a movie before striking, like he does with the cuts when the flashbulbs go off during Rear Window's final confrontation. 

Vertigo is a movie that I thought would be down in the nine-second range, so seeing that on the shorter end also surprised me a bit. It shows how adept Hitchcock is at using varying shot lengths, even in a movie that's so stylized. 

What were your main takeaways from this list? Let me know in the comments.      

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