Sunday 14 April 2013

A to Z - The Lodger

Wow, we're onto 'L' already! I couldn't not choose this 1926 silent classic by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ivor Novello. The film is based on a 1913 novel by the same name by Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes, and concerns a hunt for a Jack the Ripper style serial killer in the London fog. This killer, known as the Avenger, favours blondes (much like Hitchcock himself) although he opts for strangulation as opposed to ripping. The idea for the novel actually concerns that of a landlady who comes to believe one of her tenants is Jack the Ripper - incidentally, the artist Walter Sickert stayed in a room which his landlady believed had been let to the Ripper previously. (There's also a conspiracy theory that he painted the Camden Town Murders paintings about the case, and people think he was the Ripper himself). In the film, Ivor Novello plays the suspected lodger.

I'm being very good to you today because I actually found the full film on YouTube (see below) and I really do recommend watching it. Silent films can be a difficult watch for modern audiences since we're so used to the majority of plot being delivered via dialogue, so strip away the speech and the handful of cue cards aren't enough to convey story. Instead, we have to read the whole film, include facial expression, set design, and even the soundtrack, to get the story. Personally, I love silent films (which is one reason why I almost did The Artist for 'A') and I think there's a lot to be said for them, but I understand why they're not everyone's cup of tea.

Thing is, you really get to see the 'birth' of Hitchcock's creativity in this film. My favourite scene occurs when the landlady and her family are crowded in a downstairs room, listening to Novello pace back and forth upstairs. But how do you convey the sound of pacing footsteps in a silent film? Easy, you employ visual trickery to show it. Hitchcock might have been a rotter towards his leading ladies but the guy was certainly inventive with cinema. It also demonstrates the start of Hitchcock's themes to which he returned throughout his career. The wrong man? Check. The icy blond? Check. Ineffectual police? Check. Violence against women? Check. It's a landmark film for so many reasons.

There have been other adaptations over the years but I highly recommend this one! Sit back, relax, and enjoy an hour and a half of good filmmaking...


Tony Noland said...

Thanks for the embed, Icy. Will check it out!

Bevimus said...

Never seen this but I'm a huge Hitchcock fan. Thanks for finding the film, I will definitely be watching it!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Tony - I'm so good to you!

Beverly - I once saw this in the cinema with a live pianist providing the accompaniment. It was amazing.

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