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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

THE LODGER (1927)

There’s something peculiar about the lodger who’s just taken a room at the Buntings’ home in London. Always pacing. Or going for stealthy midnight walks. And why has he taken all those paintings of golden-haired beauties off his walls? Now he’s stealing the affection of the Bunting daughter from her detective beau! Should they be worried? Nah, ‘He’s not that sort,’ as an inter-title puts it, ‘queer, but a gentleman.’ If only his characteristics didn’t match up so closely with that Jack-the-Ripper guy making the neighborhood rounds!! Alfred Hitchcock’s third feature, a very German Expressionist silent, was the first film he’d take full ownership of. Rightly so. A dreamy sort of thing, with wonderful visual trick shots and a stronger sense of dread than suspense. It’s a kick to see Hitch find his directing form, less in showy shots, like an isolated hand sliding down a bannister or a ceiling of glass that reveals the pacer above, than in simpler psychologically realized mise-en-scène as when our dashing lodger (Ivor Novello) dashes to ‘rescue’ the daughter from the handcuffs of her teasing cop boyfriend. With astute angles, framing that delineates character & a bumped up pace, suddenly Hitchcock controls & reveals narrative and subtext thru his visuals. Just the sort of touch to mark Hitchcock as a master in the making. (NOTE: Beware Public Domain dupes! An M-G-M licensed DVD listed as ‘Premiere Collection’ could be bettered, but is more than acceptable.)

DOUBLE-BILL: Hitch always seemed a bit embarrassed about DOWNHILL/’27, his Novello follow up, but it’s an excellent meller about a young man kicked out of school after covering for a friend. OR: 1944's THE LODGER, a fine, ultra-foggy B-pic from director John Brahm with Laird Cregar & George Sanders, all warming up for the even better HANGOVER SQUARE/’45.

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