Commentators have generally agreed with Hitchcock as seeing Waltzes from Vienna as ‘the lowest ebb’ in his career, before he began the series of 1930s thrillers that would make him seriously famous – but the film is far stronger and more significant than this suggests.
Based on a successful stage musical about the composition of the Blue Danube Waltz, it is his purest melodrama, in its root sense of music-drama: he exuberantly exploits the chance to dramatise an intense father-son conflict between the two Strausses, and an intense triangle drama between the son and two rival women. And he takes here the first step towards the sustained co-ordination of music and visuals that would culminate in the great series of collaborations with Bernard Herrmann a quarter of a century later.
This film is screening as part of The Genius of Hitchcock: Part Two. A full retrospective of Hitchcock’s 52 surviving films is taking place at the IFI from December 2012 to March 2013.
A six-week Evening Course, Shadow of a Genius, will look at the work of directors influenced by Hitchcock and will take place from February 5th to March 12th.