c.a. funderburg

It’s the sinister little secret of The Pink Smoke that we don’t much care for Alfred “Torn Curtain” Hitchcock. And while we certainly have zilch-o interest in debating the merits of a filmmaker that everyone can agree is “the greatest of all-time and you’d have to be some sort of malcontented and willful iconoclast to disagree,” we are interested in a strange phenomenon: while we don’t adore the man himself, we have a tendency to love Hitchcock knock-offs.

From William Castle’s lazy copy-catting to Francois Truffaut’s loving pastiches, there’s a chance that if a film shamelessly apes the master of suspense, we’re really going to enjoy it. Brian DePalma, Jonathan Demme, Stanely Donen; the list of great filmmakers who tried their hand at a Hitchcockian shtick is extensive and hugely appealing to explore – and honestly, we’ll take either “French Hitchcock” over the real thing any day, whether you consider the mantle to rightfully belong to H.G. Clouzot or Claude Chabrol.

In this series, we’ll look at parodies, assiduous imitators, and off-brand “Hitchcock-like Film Product” in order to dig into just what it is that we love so much about these movies. Sure, you’ll blanche at the suggestion,* but we think these films are Better Than Hitchcock.

previous entries in the series:

henri-georges clouzot, 1955.

“The chaste woman loves to contemplate dawn, doesn't she?”

In my previous piece in this series (on Claude Chabrol’s Masques), I mentioned that there’s some uncertainty about who, exactly, is the “French Hitchcock.” The mantle is just as likely to be applied to Les Diaboliques director Henri-Georges Clouzot as avowed Hitchcock acolyte Claude Chabrol. “Who is the real ‘French Hitchcock?’” is a funny question to consider because by all accounts Clouzot despised the description but I can imagine he was equally annoyed at giving it up to one of the Cahiers du Cinema critics-turned-filmmakers at the forefront of the Nouvelle Vague.

In his (brilliant) essay on Les Diaboliques written for the Criterion Collection edition liner notes, Terrence Rafferty suggests that the Nouvelle Vague critics, specifically Truffaut and Godard, were an impediment to the career of Clouzot - that the revolution of young filmmakers in France rejected the “Tradition of Quality” to which Clouzot belonged and torpedoed his already unstable career.

The idea that the French New Wave critics were to blame for Clouzot’s travails in the 60’s is interesting, if only because they were usually so direct and so viscous in their condemnation of what they perceived as bad art, that their vacillation between praise and criticism in regards to Clouzot represents a kind of tepidity and indecisiveness that isn’t regularly found in their bombastic, self-certain writing. The New Wave critics themselves seem hesitant to connect him to what they derisively called “The Tradition of Quality:” staid literary adaptations, tasteful and unadventurous respectability. They don't go to bat for him, but they also don't try to take. him. down. (Which was their usual mode of operation.)

Clouzot never fit in squarely with his peers, quickly developing a reputation for devilish contrarianism - he was one of the few French directors blacklisted for his work during the German occupation, although the worst he was guilty of was working for a German-controlled production company.* The absurdity of the scorn directed at Clouzot’s 1943 provincial thriller Le Corbeau can be summed up this way: there were directors who made actual Vichy propaganda films who weren’t censured when Clouzot got the big black “X.”

The real reason his fellow countrymen came down so hard on him and his film wasn't that he had provided material support to an enemy, but that at the height of the occupation he had made a poisonous and cynical film skewering provincial Quintessential French Folks. 1943 might not have been the correct moment to make a deeply ironic black comedy pointedly pasquilizing all of the aspects of French culture and tradition most taxed in relationship to the German occupation.

If Clouzot belonged to the filmmaking generation propping up the “Tradition of Quality,” it was only as a counterpoint, an iconoclast caught within a cinematic culture to which he never truly belonged. As Rafferty points out, he made only a single boringly tasteful literary adaptation (Manon - pictured above) and almost entirely eschewed drawing room comedies and melodramas. The notion that he's a Traditional filmmaker rests on Clouzot like an ill-fitting suit - there’s a level on which the damage the Nouvelle Vague did to Clouzot’s career was merely collateral, an unfortunate talent caught up in a system they had made up their minds to wreck wholesale.

As I mentioned, what’s fascinating to me is that the New Wave critics didn’t lay into Clouzot the way they did with their favorite punching bags - for example, Truffaut offered a qualified rave for Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques follow-up, The Mystery of Picasso, calling it “a tour de force” and “naturally the best” of the French films presented at Cannes in 1956. Later in the review, he picks nits, offering suggestions for how Clouzot might’ve improved his film if he had changed the score or “treated his film as a documentary.”

As detailed in the film L'Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot, Clouzot responded to the challenge of the Nouvelle Vague by attempting to out-innovate them and set about making a free-wheeling, sensual, psychological thriller that tossed into the mix every visual invention Clouzot could conceive of. Clouzot, long plagued by ill-health, had a heart attack while filming a lesbian love scene and the film eventually fell apart. It’s easy to sense a battle going on between Clouzot and the New Wave (that’s definitely the historical consensus), but it’s difficult to pin down the "whats" and "hows" of that battle, easy to feel like the enmity is being overstated.

What can you make of it that Clouzot’s plans for L'Enfer were later picked up by Nouvelle Vague filmmaker Chabrol, who in 1994 adapted Clouzot’s screenplay into a film starring Emmanuelle Béart? Was it meant as an insult or an homage that Chabrol, a careful student of film history, returned to finish the work that had killed Clouzot’s career and almost killed the man himself? In a 1994 interview with Positif magazine (another notorious institutional enemy of the Cahiers du Cinema filmmakers), Chabrol has this to say about L'Enfer and Clouzot:

“Clouzot and [Jacques] Becker were the two people who were genuinely kind to me when I was starting out. We played bridge together while Clouzot was in pre-production on L'Enfer, and so I saw him again, and his then wife Vera, with whom I was great friends. Making L’Enfer was fun, it was pleasant. I tried to make something personal out of a screenplay which was not originally for me and which I had not originally chosen to do.”

That’s about all he ever has to say about the film. Maybe there's a kind of a dig there - he almost makes it sound like he was somehow forced to do the project? He’s typically a dispassionate, even passive, presence in interviews so expecting him to say something more controversial would be unlikely, but that certainly doesn’t sound like a guy caught up in some decades old aesthetic-ideological fight with a sworn enemy.

But that’s what it is: the battle between the New Wave and Clouzot is elusive and the victor inconclusive - Clouzot’s reputation survived the ensuing decades intact. Any non-jabroni-dipshit rightly regards him as one of the greatest French filmmakers of the 20th century and knows his twin masterpieces Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques (made back-to-back in 1953 & 1954) are as good as cinema gets. I think the effect of the New Wave on Clouzot’s career can be found in comparing the reputation of Clouzot to the reputation of Hitchcock - the contrast between a great filmmaker who was lightly dismissed by the most influential critics in the world and one that they propped up at every opportunity without compunction.

Apart from working in the same basic genre, the idea that Clouzot might be “The French Hitchcock” comes from two concepts. The first is that both men repotedly ran their sets the same way. Rafferty describes Clouzot’s working methods like this: “He was not renowned for his personal warmth or for his openness to suggestions on the set; his films were smooth-running, precisely designed machines, and only he, he clearly believed, knew how to build and operate them properly.” That’s the same gag you hear about Hitchcock all the time, the puppet-master devising diabolical machines to prod cattle-ish actors or what have you.

The second source is the (likely) apocryphal tale surrounding Clouzot “stealing” the rights for Boileau-Narcejac’s novel Celle qui n'était Plus out from under Hitchcock’s nose. The story goes that a mere hours before Hitch could get his hands on it, Clouzot secured the rights and went on to adapt it into the smash-hit Les Diaboliques. Hitchcock then (supposedly) responded by bringing in the writing duo of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac to have them work on Vertigo (adapted from their book The Living and the Dead), even going so far as to screen Les Diaboliques for them so they would understand exactly what he wanted.

Most of the preceding paragraph is probably not really true, or at least characterized in a way that has been disputed. In my piece on Masques, a few readers bristled at my characterization of Hitchcock/Truffaut as being “celebratory and theoretical with dozens of unsupported assertions - it’s a book that’s fun and engaging and packed with ideas that are easy to poke holes in.” But the part of the book where the filmmakers discussion of the inception Vertigo is exactly what I’m talking about. There’s this delightfully ridiculous exchange:

F.T.: Vertigo is taken from the Boileau-Narcejac novel D’Entre les Morts, which was specifically written so that you might do a screen version of it.

A.H.: No, it wasn’t. The novel was out before we acquired the rights to the property.

F.T.: Just the same, the book was especially written for you.

A.H.: Do you really think so? What if I hadn’t bought it?

F.T.: In that case it would have been bought by some French director, on account of the success of Diabolique. As a matter of fact, Boileau and Narcejac did four or five novels on that theory. When they found out that you had been interested in acquiring the rights to Diabolique, they went to work and wrote D’Entre les Morts, which Paramount bought for you.

And Hitchcock lets this assertion waft in the air. Narcejac denied this characterization of events, just as he denied as down-to-the-wire tussle between Clouzot and Hitchcock to secure the rights to Les Diaboliques’ source novel. Truffaut, a third party with no inside knowledge, is pushing a story that everyone involved denies: Boileau-Narcejac wrote Vertigo for Hitchcock because he had missed out on adapting Les Diaboliques.

There’s just enough truth at the margins of the idea - Hitchcock had wanted to adapt Les Diaboliques, Boileau-Narcejac were looking to cash in on their success after that film, they did want to work with Hitchcock - that what Truffaut is insisting sounds plausible even after Hitchcock begins the discussion by flatly denying it. It’s one of the many instances in the book where Truffaut says something dubious and after some mild resistance Hitchcock sidesteps burying a myth.

This is all sets up an important aspect of the “French Hitchcock” question: Clouzot saw Hitchcock as the one ripping him off, films like Vertigo and especially Psycho aping a his style to a ridiculous extreme. It’s not just the tales of Vertigo’s origin that support his grievance: in an interview with Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier, Psycho author Robert Bloch confirmed Les Diaboliques’ influence on his work, calling it his “favorite horror film of all time” and “the epitome of what the horror film should bee [sic.]”

There’s a strange thing that happens with Hitchcock where his influence is widely cited, even in films where it’s a phantom presence, but his influences are rarely discussed, to a degree that you might be forgiven for thinking he invented the wheel when it comes to suspense cinema. Part of it is that Hitchcock began his career way back in the silent era and transitioned through several iterations of Modern Hollywood cinema, until he lost the thread sometime in the mid-60’s. Beginning at the beginning, as it were, the idea that he’s only an influencer and not influenced is easier to swallow.

But it’s impossible not to see echoes of Clouzot’s work in Hitchcock - not just from Les Diaboliques and Le Corbeau which unquestionably impacted Hitchcock’s work (Vertigo and Psycho stand out somewhat from Hitchcock’s body of work, but either one would make sense in Clouzot’s filmography) but also more minor Clouzot films like The Killer Lives at 21 (1942) and Quai des Orfèvres (1947) which both have a lightness of tone that mixes with twisty, delectably perverse plots. All four films have a psychological dimension and Jean Renoir-esque messiness that Hitchcock begins to persue in earnest in the early 50's.

Hitch even has a dry-run of Rope, Under Capricorn and Stage Fright (1948, 1949 & 1950), a trio of subpar films unsuccessfully attempting to follow the path freshly blazed by Clouzot's approach to the thriller format. It's in that stretch from 1948-1950 where Hitchcock seems to trying on a new (for him) approach to psychology in his work - before then, he mainly stuck to spy films (1934-1946 is his Golden Age of 39 Steps, Sabotage, Notorious, Foreign Correspondent, The Lady Vanishes, Secret Agent, Lifeboat-type moives - it's basically all he does during his reputation-making British Gaumont period, 1934-1937) or psychological thrillers so embarrassingly thin they're little more than a collection of forgettable scenes arranged around a central gimmick (e.g. Spellbound and Suspicion.) Shadow of a Doubt might belong to this category but is elevated by Joseph Cotton's breath-taking performance.

Even if you can't say for certain Clouzot's work had an impact, something changes in Hitchcock almost immediately after Clouzot's work points a new direction forward for the thriller genre, something changes in Hitchcock's work after Clouzot's films add an unexpected human unruliness and psychological thorniness to the mystery format.** At any rate, I find it interesting that Clouzot's name doesn't even come up in Hitchcock/Truffuat - both men don't seem to even want to utter it at moments when it would be logical. Is his body (of work) the influence they've dumped in a swampy pool, both men afraid that a mere mention might dredge up something they'd rather choose to pretend didn't exist?

Interestingly, Hitchcock’s fondness for showy gimmicks like the dream sequences in Spellbound, the single-take Rope, the claustrophobic 3-D of Dial “M” for Murder, the proscenium for voyeurism of Rear Window or the setting of Lifeboat are something that Clouzot would eschew until his own failed attempt at extreme stylization, L'Enfer. I think that’s the difference between Hitchcock and Clouzot, something I can only describe as their opposing preferences for “style” versus “atmosphere.”

Hitchcock, of course, has an affinity for set-pieces: silent chair-fight of the original The Man Who Knew Too Much, the holed-up shoot-out at the end of The Lady Vanishes, the crop-duster attack in North by Northwest. Apart from Wages of Fear, which quickly becomes a Hitchcock-esque suspense set-piece drawn out to impossible length, Clouzot rarely created scenes like the one following the bomb on a bus at beginning of Sabotage, a sequence that features almost no context and characters that exist only to be disposed of. It is a sequence that functions as its own object, a diorama of suspense divorced from virtually any concern but "will the bomb go off and blow up this poor little boy and his doggie?"

You could argue it's "dark" or "challenging" that the answer to that question is "yes," but it's the kind of cheap awfulness that Clouzot had no interest in. By contrast, Wages of Fear is also all about milking the audience's fear that some poor folks are going to get blowed up, but the fear is derived from the characters, rooted in their relationships and struggles. How they respond to a fear of getting blown up, how they present themselves and reveal new facets of their inner-lives over the course of their heart-stopping journey creates the depth and value of the film. It's a cheap gag to blow up a Jack Russell terrier. So what? Watching oil-soaked Charles Vanel getting his legs crushed by a truck is enough to give you an existential crisis.

The suspense of Clouzot's films tends to be about psychological conditions, about the interplay of toxic relationships pulsing towards inevitable if entirely unpredictable conclusions - he builds towards emotional/psychological confrontations and relies almost entirely on the personalities and relationships of his characters to create terror and tension. His films are undoubtedly full of twist endings and skin-of-their-teeth plots, but none of his suspense sequences function as discrete units that exist for their own sake - each whisky bottle full of poison means far less than the character delivering it. By contrast, can you even remember who was behind the famous airplane attack in North by Northwest, let alone the identity of the real Saboteur? Even his admirers would admit that Hitchcock is more than happy to solve the questions of his MacGuffins by waving them off and saying "you know, some spy shit."

If the truth behind Quai des Orfèvres' murder mystery is difficult to recall, it's only because Clouzot puts so much emotional heat behind every possible resolution - the love and lust and jealousy and humilation that courses through the film is so searing that you could be forgiven for thinking "it doesn't matter who did it - anyone could have." What makes the notorious climax of Les Diaboliques unforgettable isn't just the simple shock of being tricked, a sudden and jarring jerk of the narrative like the esrtwhile protagonist being killed off in Psycho or the lying POV-flashback in Stage Fright. What leaves an audience shaken by Les Diaboliques' resolution is that it forces the veiwer to reconsider every relationship in the film, to reconsider the intense bonds forged by lust and outrage and diabolical righteousness - the twist shifts once more your sympathies and leaves you gutted. Les Diaboliques makes you feel like a fool, not for having been tricked, but for not having seen the (philosophical, logical, emotional) truth of what really happened.

The film featured an end credits plea that audiences not spoils the ending - "Don't be a devil!" - but the reason wasn't that here we had something unique: a mystery film playing tricks about poison and tenacious detectives and missing bodies, as mystery stories had done since their inception. The admonition against devilish spoilers came because of how deftly the film manipulated an audience's sympathies. If it were as simple as a shocking reveal, then secrecy wouldn't be so important - but the entire film relies on how the relationships between the three main characters are perceived. This is a sharp contrast to something like "Raymond Burr really is a killer!," a plot-point that if known in advance doesn't have much of an effect on Rear Window. In the words of the great Luc Sante, "And whereas Hitchcock’s pictures tend to be set, for good or ill, in the world of archetypes, Clouzot always seems bent on recreating life itself with all its contradictions."***

Because he doesn't build stand-alone set-pieces, Clouzot consequently doesn’t favor clever images for their own sake: the dress spreading on the floor like blood in Topaz, the unmoored shot of the tumble down the stairs in Psycho, the assault of process shots in Champagne. Hitchcock loves moments that stand on their own as moments, like the endless, ominous note caused body on the organ in Secret Agent or procession of model shots in The Lady Vanishes. Hitchcock’s films have an abundance of style: he uses his stylistic gestures to intensify his suspense set-pieces. Frequently, an entire set-piece serves to amplify the impact of a single clever shot or striking image - the entire scene in Topaz is building to the clever shot of the dress spreading and the content of the scene is secondary to setting up the shot. Too frequently, he builds to nothing beyond a gasp-inducing shot of someone hanging off of something for dear life. It's hard for me not to think at the end of Rear Window "That's it? He hangs from a ledge and then the police rush in? Case closed?"

By comparison, Clouzot’s compositions and editing are almost plain and maybe that's for the best - when he attempted Hitchcock stylization with L'Enfer it nearly killed him. What Les Diaboliques does have in spades is an accumulation of atmosphere-building details: fetid water and sour wine, grimy bathtubs and rotten salads. We're introduced to the central boarding school by the rain dripping from the sign atop its decrepit gate; one of the first tense set-pieces of the film revolves around the villainous headmaster forcing his wife to eat rotten fish in front of a lunchroom full of students as proof of her fidelity to both him and the school. The accumulation of details is the foundation for story, character development, exploration of relationships and the white-knuckle scenes. The headmaster is cheap (so he forces rotten fish on the students and faculty), he's cruel and authoritarian, he manipulates his wife emotionally and psychologically - a poor woman choking down stomach-turning fish isn't just an harrowing moment, but one that sharply sketches the characters and furthers the plot.

There are dozens of these kinds of moments, both big and small throughout the film - the murder by drowning of course, but also a more fleeting beat of suspense when the abused wife is trying to recover her shoe from under her sleeping husband's hand (it had been tossed aside during her rape.) The recovery of her high heel isn't just about making the audience fear she's going to wake up a "bad guy" who may do something way worse than spy shit to her, but but an expression of the dynamic between a desperate woman and the wretched man whose boot she is being crushed under. When Clouzot has Simone Signoret hide her black eye under sunglasses, it’s not in service of a clever (and gasp-inducing!) reveal, but to further Clouzot’s idea that the brutality and misery of his heroines existence is just barely papered over by a brittle gaudiness. A respectable prep school concealing rot and authoritarian cruelty. An ornate pool hiding a corpse. Stylish sunglasses over yellow-black bruises.

It would probably be unfair to say that Hitchcock uses his style as the same kind of integument as Signoert's sunglasses, flair as a cover for something unseemly, but there’s a reason accusations of ugliness and misogyny plague his reputation even as the praise for his clever genius piles up. Later in his career, when the stylistic tricks begin to fail him (as in Marnie and Frenzy) that ugliness is all we are left with to consider. Worse: without the ugliness to consider, we’re left with entirely empty films like Topaz and Torn Curtain, sad arrangements of exhausted set-pieces draped in a cinematic fashion completely out of vogue.

One of the reasons that Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques has aged so well is that the ugliness is the idea, the misery is the object on display (not the secret hidden in the darkness.) Truffaut and the other New Wave critics’ trick with Hitchcock was convincing audiences there was something there, even when there wasn’t, that the set-pieces and trick shots were in support of something more interesting than playing around with push-zooms, train models and phony flashbacks.

Maybe the reason they couldn’t bring the hammer down on Clouzot even as they refused to embrace him was that his his work dared viewers to dislike it, smilingly asked them to embrace something repulsive and unseemly, and they didn’t want to take the bait. Or maybe they saw how frequently their beloved Hitchcock aped Clouzot’s most imitable gestures and couldn’t devise a criticism of him that wouldn’t also ensnare their idol. Anything good you can say of Vertigo or Psycho you must say of Les Diaboliques. As contraptions for delivering sustained, tense thrills, North by Northwest and Rear Window have nothing on their predecessor Wages of Fear.

Naturally, you’ve predicted my twist ending, the one where I tell you that Hitchcock should be known as “The Hollywood Clouzot.” I don’t think he could live up to the mantle, though. It’s probably unfair to limit any great filmmaker to context of another giant of le cinema. How about from now on we agree just like there’s no "Hollywood Clouzot," there’s no "French Hitchcock," either?

~ JANUARY 17, 2017 ~
* This is your opportunity to tweet something coolly dismissive of the very concept! Do it! You’ll be an internet hero for your brave defense of the much-maligned Alfred Hitchcock! Take this bold stance now - sneer, snark and shrug in a gesture of dismissive superiority! "People write some crazy stuff on the internet," you'll tweet and you'll put a little whattayagunnado emoticon next to it and everyone will think "Well there's a guy who knows movies. Not like those guys who think Torn Curtain and Suspicion are terrible." I just hope someone out there has the courage, integrity and intelligence to take this stance. Our willfully provocatively iconoclasm would be empty without an establishment orthodoxy to stick it to!
Or just, like, accept that not everyone likes the exact same films and filmmakers that you do, even ones as endlessly venerated as "The Master of Spy Shit & Gross Father Figures" (that was his nickname, right?) It happens. The fact of the matter is, we know our opinion on Hitchcock will be unpopular and we'd just like to move past it. If you think our assessment of him is indefensible, just know we have no desire to defend it.
* Characterizing Continental Films is a touch tricky. They were probably the major player in the French film industry during the war and while they were German-controlled, their ownership was part French and they were entirely integrated into the French film industry as a "native" organization. In his essay on Le Corbeauhistorian Alan Williams writes that while the head of Continental Films, Alfred Greven, was ordered by Joseph Goebbels "to produce mindless trash for the French public, Greven wanted to make 'quality' works of the sort typical of Hollywood studios, including some films of real artistic ambition" and posits that Greven saw his company as a French version of MGM. They weren't a propaganda company and attempted to position themselves as legitimate venue for de-politicized artistic expression, their basic function was to provide reasonable facsimiles of all the now-banned American movies. Many people would (and have) argued that any company headed by a Nazi (as Greven was) and acting on the orders of Goebbels cannot be affored the self-deception that they were an apolitical entity.
Further complicating the issue is that many of the films made by Continental contained subtle anti-Nazi and anti-Occupation themes or gestures - in fact, there's a very reasonable defense of Le Corbeau and Clouzot's his first directing job, L'Assassin habite au 21, that sees them as belonging in this category. On the other hand, Continental made plenty of films that were plainly pro-Vichy. I think the most reasonable critique of Clouzot is this: by agreeing to work for Continental, he was being morally opportunistic - he made films that were on a surface level imitations of the banned Hollywood cinema, although the usual arguments about normalization (of Nazi rule) apply. Ironically, what got him in trouble were the subtle, difficult politics of Le Corbeau that examined the deleterious effects of the Occupation. Career-wise, he would have been better off staying completely away from any whiff of political meaning.
Personally, I think it's a good thing that the vibrant and massively important French film industry wasn't entirely handed over to Vichy-loving toadies and that some measure of the French resistance to the Nazis was evidenced in a cinematic culture which refused to be entirely hijacked by Nazi rule.
** There are, of course, a ton of things happening in the Mystery/Thriller genre in the 40's, both in cinema and in literature. Film noir breaks out just before Hitchcock's work begins to change and writers like Donald Henderson and Patricia Highsmith emerge virtually simultaneously with Hitchcock's new-found interest in "psychological" thrillers. The genre was changing, so it's natural that the work of a journeyman like Hitchcock would follow suit. What there is no denying, is that Clouzot was ahead of the curve and his success ensured his films were an influence on all that followed - even if you balk because I don't have conclusive proof that Hitchcock was influenced by Clouzot, you have to admit that Hitchcock was behind the pack when it came to psychological complexity in the thriller genre - if he didn't follow precisely in the footsteps of Clouzot, he inarguably followed in the footsteps of those who did. Although Truffuat and Chabrol would be more than happy to argue he didn't.
*** In his excellent essay on Quai des Orfèvres, Sante also makes note of the complexity with which Clouzot portrays the film's lesbian character, including a moment of sympathy from the story's gruff lead detective "that would be breathtaking even if the movie had been made four or five decades later." In pointing this out, he inadvertently makes reveals another major difference between Clouzot and Hitchcock: there's a virulent strain of homophobia running through Hitchcock's films, where characters with an implied homosexuality are almost always murderous psychopaths and deviants (Strangers on a Train, Rope, Murder!, North by Northwest) and "sissy" characteristics are continuously used to denote villains (such as Norman Bates being a soft-spoken "momma's boy.") There's also an extremely striking contrast between Quai des Orfèvres' treatment of its lead detective's mixed race son and Murder!'s "ew, he's part savage - that explains it!" treatment of its "halfcast" murderer.