Thursday, May 5, 2022

Suspense Spoof

Foul Play (1978) is an affectionate spoof of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers.  Hitchcock had a clear notion of what suspense was.  He famously said:

<blockquote>The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there.  The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor.  The public can see that it is a quarter to one. . . The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about. . .  trivial matters.  There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!</blockquote>  

Let replace the danger of a bomb with the danger of a snake.  We have seen this in many films.  

A Bullet is Waiting (1954) 

A Town Like Alice (1956) 

In Foul Play, a snake is approaching two characters.  The audience sees the snake but the characters don't.  They are having an innocuous conversation.  The audience is worried that the characters won't notice the snake before it attacks them.  But, as it turns out, the snake is a harmless pet, which is something the characters know very well.  So, Hitchcock's suspense premise is turned on its head.  The audience thought they knew something that the characters didn't when, in fact, the characters knew something that the audience didn't.

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