Constructing the Eerie World of Rebecca

For his Hollywood debut, a chilling adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock made full use of his newfound access to big-studio resources. With a keen eye for detail developed during his stint as an art director in England in the 1920s, Hitchcock blended opulent production design, dreamlike cinematography, and a wealth of innovative special effects, crafting a gothic setting that stands among the most unsettling visions in his entire filmography. This elegant psychodrama takes place at a baroque ancestral mansion called Manderley, the haunted home of a wealthy man (Laurence Olivier) and the young woman he has recently married (Joan Fontaine). Hitchcock conjured the look of this lavish estate on studio sets, using a combination of miniatures and matte paintings that create a sense of scale, texture, and mood. For a supplement on our new edition of the film, Oscar-winning visual effects artist and film historian Craig Barron (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) offered his insights on the effects techniques used throughout the film. Watch the excerpt below for a close look at the construction of Manderlay and the meticulous work that went into executing one of the film’s most dramatic moments.

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