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Help Support Features Articles Hitchcock's Influences: Part 1
Hitchcock's Influences on Spielberg:
Raiders of the Lost Ark as example
by Arnaud Palisson - posted on September 4, 2006

An obvious characteristic of Steven Spielberg's cinema can be found in his recurrent evocations of his favorite classical directors. Cecil B. De Mille, Howard Hawks, John Ford, Victor Fleming, David Lean,... But the most significant allusions concern by far Alfred Hitchcock. Not only does Spielberg quote Hitchcock more often than any other director, but he does so by three different kinds of references.

  1. Formal Influences
  2. Technical Evocations
  3. Dramatic Evocations

Let's consider such evocations in one film: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Part I: Formal Influences

The Rolling Boulder

The first and best known influence of Hitchcock movies on Raiders of the Lost Ark lies in the rolling boulder, chasing Indy in the gallery of the Peruvian temple,...

Scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

...with reference to a scene of North by Northwest : alone among the corn fields, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is chased and shot by a plane.

Scene from North by Northwest.

In fact, there's no plane chasing Indy in the gallery (there will be one in a tunnel of Last Crusade!), but the editorial script is very similar. Furthermore, a few years later, the influence becomes obvious, in the first scene of Spielberg's Always (1989).

Opening scene of Always.

The "Casquette Game"

The same Hitchcock movie is quoted again in Raiders during the "Basket Game". In the streets of Cairo, Indy is running after Marion, supposedly trapped in a big basket, carried away by two Arabs. When he arrives on a crowded square, Indy discovers plenty of such Arab-carried baskets. Not knowing which one holds Marion captive, Indy overturns in vain every single basket.

In North by Northwest, arriving in Chicago Railroad Station, where he is awaited by the police, Roger Thornhill steals (in fact, buys) the uniform of a luggage porter. Carrying Eve Kendall's suitcases, he escapes the policemen's notice. When the detectives become aware of the subterfuge, they begin to look for Thornhill as a luggage porter, wearing a red cap. Arriving in the main hall of the station, they discover numerous red caps. Not knowing which one is Thornhill's, they check unsuccessfully every luggage porter.

click to enlargeclick to enlarge
Baskets vs. North By Northwest's red caps.

The Blackmail Bond

The Well of the Souls sequence takes place in the same time that Marion's attempt to escape from Belloq's tent. Despite that the events in the original script are completely distinct, Spielberg rewrites the scenes and weaves several subtle bonds between them. Among others, let's note that both simultaneous actions refer in parallel to the same Hitchcock movie, Blackmail (1929).

One scene of this british movie takes place in the workshop of a painter who attracts his potential conquests by asking them to pose for him. When he does so with Alice White (Anny Ondra), he gives her a white dress and asks her to put it on. As she undresses behind a folding screen, the man tries to look at the girl through a slit.

click to enlarge
Scene from Hitchcock's Blackmail
compared to scene in Raiders.

When she's back, the man tries to make her drunk in order to seduce her. But she repulses him and decides to leave. She goes back to the folding screen, get rid of the dress but the man takes her clothes. As she tries to get them back, he pulls her against him and tries to kiss her. She defends herself and a rumble begins. She fortunately gets a knife on a table and stabs the man to death.

Women with knives: Blackmail vs. Raiders.

Later in the movie, a guy who knows that the girl killed the painter tries to blackmail her. But he finally happens to be considered by the police as the killer. Becoming briefly a typical Hitchcock hero (the wrongly accused guy), and about to be arrested, he seeks refuge in the British Museum. Surrounded by policemen on a platform at the upper level of the Egyptian gallery, he escapes down to the ground thanks to a chain hanging from the ceiling. During his descent, he passes in front of a huge egyptian statue.

Statue descents: Blackmail vs. Raiders.

Fire and Gasoline

Let's finish with one of the most interesting part of Spielberg's art of directing : his ability to shoot very complex scenes that seem extremely clear and simple on the screen. Where numerous classical (and modern!) directors show one action in one scene, Spielberg manages magnificently to tell several stories at a time.

In the Flying wing scene, Spielberg depicts 4 different events PLUS a reference to a classical Hitchcock movie. And the scene remains perfectly clear and breath-taking!

  1. Indy rumbles with the German mechanic
  2. Marion is trapped in the flying wing
  3. The reinforcements arrive
  4. The kerosene is spread under the flying wing and runs towards the fire.

The fourth event refers to the explosion of the Bodega Bay gas station, in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Unless this Raiders scene is much more complex, the editorial script shows considerable similarities with this 1963 sequence.

The Birds Raiders of the Lost Ark

Catch a thief, if you can

At last, let's point out another parallel (mentionned to me by Rasmus Borowski, filmmaker from Hamburg).
Hidden in the german submarine base, Jones is trying to dress with the uniform of a soldier he just knocked out, when the legs of an officer appears in the foreground.

Raiders vs. To Catch A Thief

This shot is a carbon copy of a picture taken from To Catch A Thief (1955), on the beach in front of the Carlton hotel in Cannes (French Riviera).

Part II: Technical Evocations >>


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