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Shot length distributions in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, 1927 to 1931

In an earlier post I mentioned I was looking at the distribution of shot lengths in the two versions of Blackmail (1929), along with several of Alfred Hitchcock’s late-silent and early sound films, and today’s post is the first draft of that paper. The abstract is below, and the pdf can be download here: Nick Redfern – Shot length distributions in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, 1927 to 1931.

Shot length distributions in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, 1927 to 1931

The shot length distributions of the silent and sound versions of Blackmail (Alfred Hitchcock, 1929) are analysed in to determine if the introduction of synchronous sound technologies led to a difference in film style. The two versions of this film are then analysed along with four of Hitchcock’s silent films prior to the filming of Blackmail and four of his early sound films. The results show that there is no significant difference in the shot length distributions of the two versions of Blackmail at any point (Kolmogorov-Smirnov: D = 0.07, p = 0.19). Putting Blackmail into the context of Hitchcock’s late silent and early sound films from 1927 to 1931, there is no significant difference in the median shot lengths (Mann Whitney: U = 4.5, p = 0.12), but there is a significant difference in the interquartile ranges (Mann Whitney: U = 0.0, p = 0.01). Closer inspection of this change in the dispersion of shot lengths reveals that there is no significant difference in the lower quartiles of these films (Mann Whitney: U = 10.0, p = 0.66) but there is a significant change in the upper quartiles (Mann Whitney: U = 0.0, p = 0.01). The impact of sound on Hitchcock’s style can, therefore, be seen in the increase in the dispersion of shots above the median rather than in the distribution overall. Comparing the interquartile ranges for the ten films it is possible to sort them into three groups: the late sound films, the two versions of Blackmail, and the early sound films. The results show that there is no difference in the distribution of shot lengths between the two versions of Blackmail due to the unique circumstances of production and that as silent-sound hybrids they represent a transitional phase between Hitchcock’s ‘pure’ silent pictures and his ‘pure’ sound films.