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SPOILER! Janet Leigh takes a shower
Worth it? Alfred Hitchcock knew plenty about twists — the final shocker in Stage Fright prefigures The Usual Suspects in its use of an unreliable narrator — and he knew that the best ones come from playing with audience expectations. He also knew that those expectations start way before anyone steps foot in the theater, and so when he killed off marquee name Janet Leigh in the film’s first act, it was a masterful move of misdirection. Add to that the revelation that the killer matriarch was a bewigged Anthony Perkins, and you understand why they had to put up signs in the lobby asking patrons not to spoil the movie for others. The gambit worked: Not only was the film a box office success, Hitchcock’s trick stands as one of the greatest in cinema history. —Keith Staskiewicz
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