Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Alfred Hitchcock's Silent Features: "The Lodger"

Continuing my irregularly scheduled capsule reviews of Alfred Hitchcock's eight extant silent features, I present The Lodger. Easily, his most well-known silent, The Lodger is a capable, if minor work. The Lodger follows next after The Pleasure Garden, which I reviewed in my previous blog entry. The Mountain Eagle (which is lost) was made before, but released to the general public slightly after The LodgerThe Lodger got a February 1927 general release; The Mountain Eagle got a May 1927 release.

Hitchcock's silents were his training ground; and his later films are that much more visual as a result of his having started in the silent era. His silents are unfortunately either unreleased on VHS/DVD or in unrestored state on poorly presented DVDs. For the best quality/most reliable seller out there, if you are looking for Hitchcock's unreleased DVD titles (such as The Pleasure Garden and Downhill, among others) I recommend this seller.

The Lodger (1926)
A young, blond model falls for the man renting the room upstairs despite the fact that he may be the notorious “Avenger” who is terrorizing London by murdering a fair-haired girl every Tuesday night.

The master of suspense’s first and only suspense film among his nine silent films makes this essential viewing, if only a minor achievement in itself. The narrative is primitive, the titles are flat (“I’m sick and tired of your interference, I never want to see you again.” and “Tell that to the judge.” are examples), and the acting is frequently overly dramatic. Also ineffective are the (scant) comedy moments, usually a highlight in Hitchcock films. The movie does have a few stylish moments however, including the opening close-up of the ‘silent’ scream, the lodger’s pacing in his room seen from below as if looking through a transparent floor, and the handcuffed lodger dangling on a wrought-iron fence onto which he is trapped. Also noteworthy is Hitchcock’s approach to filming Ivor Novello in his first scene, which effectively convinces the viewer that he is the Avenger with no need for titles— particularly when he scans the paintings of the fair-haired girls when he sees his room for the first time. Additionally, nearly every scene is set after dark, which gives the movie a particularly eerie feel. Worthwhile, if limited, to the Hitchcock student/scholar.

No comments: