Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock) ***

Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, Ivor Novello, June Tripp

Background: Alfred Hitchcock had made 4 films before this one, but none of them stood out in a major way. In fact, his previous outing The Pleasure Garden was a major failure. Attempting to keep his career going, Hitchcock decided to adapt a novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes that was inspired in part by the Jack the Ripper legend.

Story: An older couple rents out a room in their house to a stranger (Novello), who quickly takes a liking to their daughter (Tripp). She's dating a detective who soon begins to suspect that this new stranger may be "The Avenger", a serial killer known for murdering young blonde women.

Thoughts: Very interesting early film from the master. It's clear that Hitchcock already had a great talent at building tension. The terrific central performance of Ivor Novello captures the nuances of the character and really helps with the story's attempts to keep you guessing. What I really liked was that Hitchcock takes time to build the little parts of the story and make each of the characters interesting. There are a couple problems, though. The big payoff sequence just isn't very well done. The editing is a little off and it could be much creepier. Hitchcock would certainly get much better at that later in his career. Also, he was forced by the studio to change the ending of the film. Having heard Hitchcock's original idea for the ending, it is far more interesting than what he was forced to do. Despite the faults, this is still an impressive piece of work from a future legend.

Postscript: The film was almost not released and massive edits were ordered by the studio, who hired someone to take over and present a final cut, although apparently not many changes were really made. The film was a box office success and helped get Hitchcock's career going. His first classic, The Man Who Knew Too Much, would come six years later.

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