Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easy Access to Hitchcock and Scripture

The first Hitchcock film I watched, I didn’t get to see all the way through. Torn Curtain with Paul Newman played on some network’s Movie of the Week, but I was sent to bed not very far in to the film. I eventually watched it on channel 7, which showed movies weekdays from 3:30 to 5 in the afternoon. Those afternoon movies were heavily edited for time and content, so I’m not sure how much of the movie I saw.
Channel 2 showed The Birds quite frequently. Often enough that I even began to look during the moments that my older brothers and sisters warned me were gory and gross. I don’t know if I was more interested in the avian carnage or the Bodega Bay location filming (I was excited every time my hometown of Santa Rosa was mentioned) but I watched whenever it aired.
In the seventies, I made a special effort to see the other Hitchcock film filmed locally, A Shadow of a Doubt. When I noticed this film was going to be playing on channel 44, I knew we couldn’t pick it up in Fulton with our rabbit ears, so I asked a friend in Wikiup, where they had cable, if I could watch the movie at her house. (She let me).
Sometime in high school I decided that I would see every Alfred Hitchcock ever made. Well, I didn’t actually figure I would see every Hitchcock film, because the silent films of Hitchcock never seemed to play on TV or at the revival theaters. So my hope was to see all of the Hitchcock “talkies”.
I read film books and biographies about Sir Alfred, learned how he started in a small English studio writing title cards for silent films. He met his wife, Alma, at the studio, the woman he remained with after he came to America and throughout his long career and life. I read about how he pioneered the genre of suspense. Hitch made a distinction between horror and suspense. If you film a family around a table and suddenly a bomb goes off, that is horror. If you film a bomb under a family’s table and show them going on with their meal, that is suspense.
I would scout the TV Guide. CBS had, for a time, screened a series of films including Rebecca, Notorious and The Paradine Case on Friday nights at 11:30, so I made a point of getting home from the football games and pizza to watch for the Master of Suspense.
Sometimes I would set the alarm for the middle of the night so I could get up at 3 in the morning to watch Stage Fright or Sabotage. The best times of all were when the revival movie theater in Petaluma would have a Hitch Double Feature such as Strangers on a Train with Suspicion -- and I’d be there.
I was making real headway on the list, but it still seemed like it I might never achieve the goal. For every North by Northwest that screened on TV frequently, there was a Mr. and Mrs. Smith that never seemed to screen anywhere.
Then something changed. The VCR came along. Initially, only a dozen or so films were available for the machines, and they were so expensive only the most dedicated of gadget collectors had them, but in a few years the machines got cheaper and the film catalogs grew.
Not only could I see Hitchcock films, I could own Psycho and Vertigo.
It’s a different world today. I stopped by the library and saw The Man Who Knew Too Much in their DVD collection. I could check it out and watch it at the time of my choosing in the next three weeks, instead of carving out the time a TV station programmer choose.
Those silent Hitchcock films I thought I would never see can be purchased at Amazon. (One collection of twenty early Hitchcock films is available for $7 at The online service Hulu has a number of Hitchcock films such as The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps available for immediate and free viewing.
It is a different world for the film viewer, with incredible opportunities. These amazing leaps in technology led me to think of the incredible leaps for the Bible reader.
One thousand years ago, the only Bible readers would be found in monasteries. The average Christian could not read Scripture. The average Christian probably could not read. They could, perhaps, hear Scripture when they attended Mass, if they lived close enough to a church that had at least portions of the Bible.
With the Reformation and the printing press, the world began to change. Men like John Hus were martyred for their efforts to translate the Bible from Latin into the common languages of the people. After hundreds of years, the Bible became more accessible. Many Christian homes had a Bible, perhaps the only book in their house.
And now, of course, the Bible is more accessible still. There are dozens of English translations. You can choose between translations that adhere closely to original language and idioms or versions that emphasize contemporary vernaculars.
You can listen to the Bible on your CD or MP3 player. You can look up Scripture online at such places as You can read Scripture on your Kindle or your iPhone.
Or you can just get a free Bible from the Gideons, still doing the work of getting Bibles in the hands of students and hotel guests.
We are blessed in a way that Christians of previous centuries could not imagine. We should not let this great gift go to waste. We should not neglect our access to the Word. We should use the advantages of technology and religious freedom to read God’s Word.
And then do something more. We need to learn it. Psalm 119:11 reads, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
In these days when there are so many ways to access God’s Word, we cannot neglect the tool of memorization that has existed since the Word became flesh. It is still the most important tool.

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