Give Yourself Vertigo Plunging Into Hitchcock’s Cinematic Obsessions

To celebrate Alfred Hitchcock’s 114th birthday, two Guardian designers come up with an infographic inspired by the iconic credit sequences of Saul Bass.

There are a sizable number of morbid obsessions that tend to recirculate through the films of that great, wry, roly-poly master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock: domineering mothers, icy blondes, plunging spiral staircases, the wrongly accused man, erotic train tunnels, and, of course, good, old-fashioned murder. To celebrate his 114th birthday, Guardian designers Adam Frost and Zhenia Vasiliev put together this infographic, quantifying all of Hitch’s inimitable idées fixes into one handsome chart.


Visually inspired by the credits designed by Saul Bass for Hitchcock films like Vertigo and North by Northwest, “Charting Hitchcock’s Obsessions” breaks the filmmaker’s oeuvre down into eight individual sections. The first, “A Dying Fall,” shows all of the characters from Hitchcock films that have plunged to their deaths, along with how many meters. According to Vasiliev, this was the most complicated part of the infographic to pull off. “Besides expressing the spiral movement as a nod to Vertigo, I also had to create lots of small illustrations to show what objects characters were falling from!” Vasiliev tells me. “It was tricky.”

The next section, “The Longest Journey,” traces Hitchcockian protagonists’ journeys across a map, Indiana Jones style. A third chart breaks down the percentage of blondes in Hitchcock movies compared to other great artists, while “One Bad Mother” attempts to objectively quantify exactly how malevolent, psychotic, and Freudian Hitchcockian materfamilias actually are. “The Leading Man” breaks down Hitchcock’s favorite actors, James Stewart and Cary Grant, by statistics including lifetime gross, critical popularity, and number of DVDs sold.

There’s more. “The Ultimate Hitchcock” identifies all of the director’s 15 most common recurring themes and gives an overview of which combination of motifs pops up in each film. The Thirty Nine Steps incredibly makes off with every single box ticked, making it perhaps the most Hitchcockian of all Hitchcock films. The chart ends on a rather traditional note with “The Greatest Hitchcock?” putting the proper perspective on the popularity of Hitchcock’s most enduring works.

That so many different data sets come together so masterfully isn’t just a testament to the chart’s design, spearheaded by two of The Guardian’s most talented data visualizers. It’s also a testament to the remarkably ordered obsessions of cinema’s most famous mayhem maestro himself.

[Image: Alfred Hitchcock via Flickr]