In suspense films characters frequently deceive one another. But can the camera
tell a lie? This is one of the questions that Hitchcock takes up in Stage Fright
(1950), and his answer has puzzled, infuriated, and delighted audiences ever since its initial release. Stage Fright
is one of only two films Hitchcock made in Great Britain after he moved to America in 1940 (the other is Frenzy
, his late masterpiece). It is also his only picture to star Marlene Dietrich, whose character's allegiances are even more ambiguous than usual.
Years after making Stage Fright, Hitchcock claimed that because the villains were just as frightened as the heroes, the film did not carry the requisite quota of menace. But it has received a good deal of attention in recent years and is worth a fresh look. The director did admit that he was proud of the movie's most astounding plot twist, though no commercial filmmaker since has been bold enough to let the camera lie so eloquently. --Raphael Shargel