Superimposed Images, Dissolve Transitions, Double Exposure in Hitchcock Movies

Early in his career Hitchcock experimented a lot with superimposed images, creative dissolve transitions (gradual transition from one image to another).


DISSOLVE: In film editing, a dissolve is a gradual transition from one image to another. In film, this effect is created by controlled double exposure from frame to frame; transitioning from the end of one clip to the beginning of another. (Wikipedia)


Double Exposure Shot in The Wrong Man


Alfred Hitchcock on the double-exposure scene in The Wrong Man: "If you take a real case, then you are restricted and bound. As a matter of fact, I think I made an error myself when I made that little film, The Wrong Man, in which I had to follow everything that happened in the actual case. I put in certain shots which I shouldn't have. For example, I wanted to show, at the moment when the real man is discovered, that he and the wrong man looked very much alike. I did it by taking a close-up of Henry Fonda whispering a prayer to the figure of Christ on the wall, and then over that big head I double-exposed a real street in Queens - and there's a man walking towards us. He gets closer and closer and comes right into close-up, and I fitted his face over that of Fonda. Fonda's face disappeared and the man turned and went into this general store and tried to hold it up. That's how he was really caught. He was knocked down by the little man who owned the store, while the wife phoned for the police. Now, I should never have done the double-exposure scene, because that never happened in the real story. I was introducing creative elements into a story that didn't need to be improved upon." (Sidney Gottlieb: Alfred Hitchcock Interviews)


The Ring (1927)

Hitchcock: The Ring. Double exposure

Seeing the opponent superimposed on a punching ball.

The main character is boxing superimposed on a billboard.

Sabotage (1936)

The ticking clockwork double exposed on the bomb (Sabotage, 1936).


Young and Innocent (1937/1938)

The eyes of the murderer (George Curzon) is superimposed on Erica Burgoyne (Nova Pilbeam) and Old Will (Edward Rigby).

Shadow of a Doubt (1942/1943)


Dissolves characterizes the editing in Shadow of a Doubt.

Spellbound (1944/1945

Double exposure in Spellbound: Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman

Spellbound has one of the most beautiful double exposed shots in film history when an endless number of doors are opened as Gregory Peck kisses Ingrid Bergman.

Strangers on a Train (1950/1951)

Double exposure: “I said I could strangle her!” Guy Haines (Farley Granger)

“I said I could strangle her!” Guy Haines (Farley Granger) shouts as the scene dissolves to the next scene which opens with an extreme close-up of Bruno’s hands.

Psycho (1959-1960/1960)

Norman and Mother is one.

Psycho has a lot of double exposed shots. The soft transitions are a contrast to the shocking brutality of the story.

Vertigo (1957/1958)

The first dissolve transition in Vertigo appears when we go from the scene in Gavin Elster’s office to the first scene at Ernie’s restaurant. Scottie is now entering a dreamlike world of deception and existential insecurity.


Dissolve transition Vertigo

The scene at Ernie’s dissolves into the first scene when Scottie follows Madeleine to see where she goes.




Vertigo dissolve transition

In the cemetery scene only regular cuts are used between the shots, but when the scene ends a dissolve transition takes us back into Scottie’s car as he continues his investigation. (24:20)


Dissolving transition in Vertigo

Dissolving transition takes us to the museum scene.




Vertigo double exposure

Not a dissilve transition between scenes but a regular double exposure: Scottie reads about Carlotta Valdes and “sees” Madeleine from the scene at Ernie’s restaurant.


Vertigo flashback

The flashback sequence in Vertigo starts with a dissolve transition from Judy’s face to the bell tower at San Juan Bautista.