There's no shortage of movie classics hitting the big five-oh this year. Consider The Apartment, Breathless (see post below), Spartacus, and Psycho, that mother of modern horror.
Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film updated Gothic terror for a new generation, substituting a stripped-down motel for the haunted house -- and then throwing in a haunted house for the classicists. (Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut that compositionally he liked the vertical block of the Gothic house next to the horizontal block of the motel, a juxtaposition that has the architectural effect of putting 1860 next to 1960.)
The story is simplicity itself: A moral crime (Marion Crane's adultery) is compounded by a felony (a robbery, committed in order to finance her life with her married lover) and as she worries about getting caught by the cops, she gets caught up in someone else's crime. An unsettling aspect of the film is its eerie quiet: Hitchcock described it as a "half-silent" picture, without dialogue for a full two reels.
"Much of its power comes from Bernard Herrmann's music, a score as iconic as the film itself, wrote Rider University professor Jack Sullivan in a splendid piece in last week's Wall Street Journal, where he argues that "The shrieking dissonance of 'The Murder,' surely the most imitated and instantly recognizable film cue, is the cinema's primal scream."