The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
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The Lodger is Arthur Hitchcock's third feature-length directorial effort, and a landmark film for him. It is Hitchcock's first thriller, and establishes his tradition of placing himself in one scene for a brief cameo. The story centers on the Buntings, a middle class London family who have a room for rent while the city is being terrorized every Tuesday by a mysterious Jack-the-Ripper-like serial killer who calls himself "The Avenger". A mysterious, rather Gothic young man (the great Ivor Lovello) rents the room and his odd behavior almost immediately sends up red flags for the suspicious Mrs Bunting (Marie Ault). Things begin to come to a head when Young Daisy Bunting's developing friendship with the new lodger begins to attract the jealous attention of her young police detective lover (Malcolm Keen) and when Mrs Ault notices his mysterious night-time sojourn on a bloody murderous Tuesday. I generally enjoy well-made silent films and consider them a species quite apart from films with sound. Yet even if I were to lump The Lodger in with its louder cousins and proceed to rate it purely on its relative entertainment value, this little gem of a film would still be rated as high as 8. In a talented director's hands the lack of sound is no handicap, and as silent film directors go, Hithcock was very good. I am convinced that his early, formative history in the silent version of the medium is one of the reasons why his later films were so visually dramatic and exhaustingly and meticulously photographed. Silent film acting is also very different from acting in a 'talkie'. not having a voice forces performers to act-out the feeling of each scene with a standard body language. Certain tilts of the head and eye-movements become words for 'please forgive me', 'I like you','leave me alone' and even 'Go away and never come back'. Silent movie actors often learned this vocabulary so well - making several films per year just to keep themselves fed and lodged - that the transition to sound and its much more visually subtle body language became very difficult. The silent performances in the Lodger are very excellent. Lovello is phenomenally ambiguous and creepy, though somehow sympathetic as well - absolutely perfect for this role. His female counterpart is his equal, though she presents herself much more subtly. Daisy Bunting was played by a mystery woman named June whose infrequent appearance in films is hard to explain given her good looks and obvious talent. A young Malcolm Keen, who would make other films with Hitchcock later in his career, does yeoman's supporting work as the not-so-sympathetic police inspector. Recommended for film history buffs and thriller fans with open minds and good attention spans.
Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
Production: Carlyle Blackwell Productions, Gainsborough Pictures
A landlady suspects her new lodger is the madman killing women in London.