The Lodger (1927)


Day 17 of 31

lodger headerThe Lodger  – A Story of the London Fog  (Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller,  1927) (A) D: Alfred Hitchcock W: Marie Belloc Lowndes (novel) P:  C: June Tripp, Ivor Novello, Marie Ault. 1h 8m. UK.

Synopsis : A landlady suspects her new lodger is the madman killing women in london.

A new style of suspense film that kicked off a long line of amazing thrillers from a sinister director. Loosely based around the horrific crimes of the notorious jack the ripper, the villain at large in this fog shrouded London is after a particular female instead, one close to the heart of the equally notorious director.

Taking all of the mystery surrounding Jack the Ripper and balling it together with a whole new list of objectives, this film doesn’t attempt to answer any questions but instead gives an insight into the paranoia that was potentially suffered by Londoners, who can you trust, especially when you’re a landlady who rents rooms to strangers and have a daughter that fits the bill of the typical victim.

the lodgerWhen a landlady (Marie Ault) and her husband (Arthur Chesney) take in a new lodger (Ivor Novello), they’re overjoyed: He’s quiet, humble and pays a month’s rent in advance. But his mysterious and suspicious behaviour soon has them wondering if he’s the killer terrorizing local blond girls. Their daughter, Daisy (June Tripp), a cocky model, is far less concerned, her attraction obvious. Her police-detective boyfriend (Malcolm Keen), in a pique of jealousy, seeks to uncover the lodger’s true identity.

The film is typical for the era in respects that it’s silent and black and white but that is the only similarities, there is a very curious atmosphere that surrounds The Lodger (Ivor Novello) The introduction of the character into the movie is astounding, it looks like it was pulled from Nosferatu (1922). Ivor is literally glides across the screen, only his eyes visible and the long shadows and fierce expressions with crosses cast across them it pure cinematic magic in a very similar vein to Das Kabinett Des Doktor Caligari  (1920) There is also a very usual atmospheric re-creation of Victorian London that is both romantic and terrifying

 Apart from the dramatic intro there are some very interesting scenes all surrounding Novello, he really did carry the movie when intrigue was the key matter. At one point while settling into the room he is repulsed by the paintings of blonde haired girls on the walls and turns them all over then asks the land lady to remove them. It’s a very theatrical scene but one of many to help guide the viewer into finding the identity of the killer.

The film had a lot of setbacks and it’s very different from the Marie Belloc Lowndes novel that has a different conclusion. Some scenes had to be changed due to restrictions on filming in certain areas of London, Hitchcock got around as many as possible but was forced to change the end. It would be very interesting to see how the film would look with Hitchcock’s original ideas.  The restoration of this film includes a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack from the British/Indian composer Nitin Sawhney, and there are various versions with alternative soundtracks but nothing that compares to Vampry (1932).

wpid-man-in-black-ivor-novel-009.jpgIvor is definably the star of this movie, totally outshining anyone. I don’t really want to take all the glory away from his co-stars though as they all gave respectable performances. I did like the ballsy police officer who did look fairly demonic in some scenes; he had the best lines like “When I’ve put a rope round the Avengers neck I’ll put a ring around Daisys finger.” I thought the movie had slipped from London into the Wild West in that scene.

Hitchcock had often referred to this as being his first real movie “This was the first picture influenced by my period in Germany.  In truth, you might almost say that ‘The Lodger’ was my first picture.” and despite the troubles he had getting it onto the screen it is undoubtedly one of his finest films. It’s the first film that he makes a cameo appearance in, I won’t spoil it but have a look, and he is there twice.

Starting an array of themes and story lines that would follow through a lot of Hitchcock’s movies, a man on the run, the chance of mistaken identity, a beautiful blonde and numerous cameos, it’s great to watch these early films for the raw talent and tale tales signs of amazing films to come.

wpid-lodger.jpgDespite all of the connection with Jack the Ripper this film doesn’t really attempt to answer anything so if that’s what you’re looking for, then check out a documentary or two, or maybe From Hell (2001)  If you’ve fallen for any modern Hitchcock movie or are interested in the early European directors such as Robert Wiene and Fritz Lang then this will possibly inspire. As a romantic thriller the films works wonders, obviously there were limits to what could be shown and it’s not Hitchcock’s style to really get into the nitty gritty of horror but it’s always a cerebral experience, this one is very dark on the visual side but deters from the graphic violence of the killings. I stumbled upon this movie only a few years ago and fell in love, it was on at a local indie cinema just after the Christmas period, I popped along as I had nothing much to do and didn’t even twig that it was a Hitchcock movie until the end (I was picking up my popcorn during the opening credits). It’s not only a great thriller, but the use of light and shadows really is hypnotic and the characters are divine, especially Ivor who could easily have been a vampire. The ending is a little bit of a let-down especially when I discovered that Hitchcock had wanted to do something more dramatic and outlandish but couldn’t in fear of damaging Novello’s reputation, but in the big scheme of things it doesn’t distract and glory  from this superb movie.

Rating –  8/10

R: From Hell (2001), 39 Steps, (1935)  Nosferatu (1922), The Box of Pandora (1929), The Ring (1927), The Girl was Young, Time after Time (1979), Das Kabinett Des Doktor Caligari  (1920), Murder by Decree (1979), Hands of the Ripper (1971) A Study in Terror (1965)

5B : Alfred Hitchcock
L:Alfred Hitchcock, Selected black and white movies, 20 of the 1920’s, Jack the Ripper, Serial Killer Flicks
PD : Post Discussion to come

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