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TheRaider.net Features Articles Hitchcock's Influences: Part 3
 
Hitchcock's Influences on Spielberg:
Raiders of the Lost Ark as example
by Arnaud Palisson - posted on September 4, 2006
 

Part III: Dramatic Evocations

Opening Gambit


"I hate snakes, Jock!"

In Raiders, we learn about Indiana Jones' snake phobia at the end of the Hovitos chase. Since Indy grabbed the Idol of the Fertility, he has failed in everything. And the fear he displays, as he discovers the snake in the plane, contributes to introduce him as a non-immaculate-and-always-
winning-serial-movie-hero.

So, until we arrive in the Well of the Souls, we think that this presentation of Indy is just a way to tell us that Jones may not be able to fulfill his next mission: recovering the Lost Ark.

As noticed above, about the flying wing scene, Spielberg uses the opening gambit to introduce many elements (Indy's pragmatism, his whip, his rivalry with Belloq,…) and, among them, the hero's soft spot. On this very point, Raiders reveals another Hitchcock influence.


Vertigo

The british director introduced the weakness of his hero through the same technique, in the first sequence of Vertigo. This revelation takes place at the end of a chase too: policemen are pursuing a burglar on the rooftops. One of the cops, the sergeant-detective "Scottie" Ferguson, fails jumping from one roof to another. He slips on the roof but manages to grab the edge and remains a long moment hanging fifty feet over the ground.

Since this event, he has been afflicted with vertigo . This phobia is the core of the story, but during the first part of the movie, we think that this opening gambit just explains why "Scottie" quitted the police department.


Death of Marion

According to Lawrence Kasdan, the screenwriter of Raiders, he called the female character Marion because "that was a pretty name, it was my wife's grandmother's name."
If that is true (and there's apparently no reason why it would not be), I personally do think that, during the writing sessions with Lucas and Kasdan, Steven Spielberg imagined the death of Marion, because of the character's name. Or we must consider the following as a huge coincidence:

  • In Raiders, Marion Ravenwood, who seemed dedicated to be the hero's companion throughout the whole movie, suddenly disappears (dies?) in the first third of the film, prisoner of a basket, put in the back of a truck which finally explodes;


Marion's supposed death in Raiders.

  • In Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the alleged heroin is Marion Crane, who suddenly dies in the first third of the movie. She then disappears, wrapped in a plastic foil and laid in the trunk of a car which is buried in a swamp.


Marion Crane's death in Psycho.


Sexually-Modest Directors

The famous scene of the kiss in the Bantu Wind cabin of Raiders has nothing in common with the one written in the third draft of Kasdan's screenplay: Spielberg rewrote it. According to some critics, he did so with a reference to a similar scene of Continental Divide (1980), a Michael Apted film, written by... Lawrence Kasdan and produced by... Steven Spielberg.
Nevertheless, a better explanation for such a rewriting can be found in another Hitchcock influence. For Spielberg and Hitchcock, people making love are uninteresting – dramatically speaking. Both directors do prefer the much more suggestive way to the kiss. So, it appeared evident to Spielberg that Kasdan's version of the scene was neither suggestive nor progressive enough.

Spielberg's version can then be obviously compared to the famous scenes of kiss in Notorious, North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief.
Moreover, besides their lacking drama, coitus scenes don't find their way to Spielberg's and Hitchcock's movies, because of these directors' sense of decency

  • Hitchcock admitted it about the first scene of Psycho: when we discover Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin) in their hotel room, they have just finished making love. But Marion is already wearing her bra; Hitch explained that she actually should not at that time .
  • Same modesty with Spielberg: very uncomfortable about the sapphic love scene between Celia and Shug in the novel The Color Purple, he replaced it in the screenplay by a much more decent scene.

In fact, Hitchcock and Spielberg graphically suggest the coition.

In Raiders, between the heroes' kiss and Marion's smile of contentment as she wakes up in the cabin, Spielberg inserts a sexual allusion, showing in the foreground the cock (I'm sorry, but it's a technical term of weaponry!) of Indy's gun.


Sexual allusion between the heroes' kiss and Marion's smile.

Such sexual allusion also appears in the last shot of North by Northwest.

According to me, about the suggested coitus in Raiders, another hitchcockian sexual allusion must be noticed in Psycho.

At the opening of Psycho, the camera penetrates the hotel room through a slit, under the window shades, discovering Marion Crane lying on the bed, under a quite un decent angle...


Sexual allusion at the opening scene of Psycho.

But what's really interesting is the composition of the shots in both scenes, just after the sexual allusion:


Psycho vs. Raiders


Nota Bene as a Conclusion:

Talking about the introducing scene of Psycho, Hitchcock admitted that he tried to consider the evolution of his former young audience. He then gave up his way to the kiss conception and showed Janet Leigh in underwear ...
By the way, let's notice that we all have had to wait for Munich (2005) to see people making love in a Spielberg movie. By doing that, did Spielberg want to please his former young audience? I don't think so. It is clearly an evolution of Spielberg's mentality, but not of his art of directing. When Hitchcock shows Janet Leigh's bra, it is dramatically unjustified. On the contrary, Spielberg stays focused on his dramatic conceptions: the two scenes of coitus in Munich are not gratuitous, but express the psychological evolution of Avner and his wife.

In other words, the pupil has exceeded the master.

 
Bibliography:

- L. Kasdan: Raiders of the Lost Ark (screenplay),revised third draft, august 1979
- T. Crawley: L'Aventure Spielberg, Pygmalion/Gérard Watelet, Paris, 1984
- A. Hitchcock & F. Truffaut: Hitchcock-Truffaut, édition définitive, Ramsay, Paris, 1984

 

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