Wednesday, February 20, 2013

#919. The Lodger (1927)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Ivor Novello, Marie Ault, June Tripp

Trivia: This is the first film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in which he makes one of his trademark cameo appearances

Despite the fact he had already helmed two other pictures (The Pleasure Garden in 1925 and The Mountain Eagle in 1926), Alfred Hitchcock once told Francois Truffaut that he considered 1927’s The Lodger his first “true” film. Loosely based on the Jack the Ripper murders, The Lodger marks the director's introduction to suspense, which he builds to a fever pitch as we try to determine whether or not the tenant (Ivor Novello) who’s recently moved into a London flat is the elusive killer known as “The Avenger”, who, for the past several months, has brutally murdered a number of blonde-haired women.

To be sure, this new lodger has been acting a bit peculiar. The night he moved in, he asked that all the pictures, most of which were of pretty ladies with blonde hair, be removed from his room, and his strange habit of pacing the floor for hours at a time has become a real nuisance. Still, he’s paid his landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Bunting (Arthur Chesney and Marie Ault) a month’s rent in advance, and has even taken a liking to the Bunting’s daughter, Daisy (June Tripp), which doesn’t sit well with her steady boyfriend, Joe (Malcolm Keen), a police inspector recently assigned to the “Avenger” case. By following the trail of bodies left behind by “The Avenger”, Joe and his fellow officers have determined the murderer is somewhere in the vicinity of the Buntings’ neighborhood. This, combined with the lodger’s bizarre behavior, has Joe and many others convinced he's the psychopath they’ve been searching for. But is the lodger truly a cold-blooded killer, or simply a victim of coincidence?

Along with the suspense, The Lodger also features several other Hitchcock trademarks, including the possibility that an innocent man has been wrongly accused of a crime, something he would return to throughout his career in pictures like The 39 Steps, The Wrong Man and North by Northwest. In unison with this soon-to-be-familiar theme, the famed director also gets an early chance to flex his creative muscles, resulting in a number of memorable images. In one scene, the lodger is pacing the floor of his upstairs dwelling as the Buntings sit in the room directly below, anxiously staring up at the ceiling. Seeing as it was a silent film, the only way Hitchcock could convey the lodger’s agitation as he nervously walked back and forth was to show him doing so, which was accomplished by replacing the floor in the lodger's room with plate-glass and shooting the scene from the perspective of the Buntings, who, at this point, are convinced they’re unwittingly harboring a killer. A clever way to build tension, this was also one of the first examples of the “Master of Suspense” doing what he does best: utilizing his impressive imagination to create a work of art. And that's exactly what The Lodger is.


Unknown said...

Wasn't this the one where he basically said "that's what she said " to one of the actresses during shooting? (I think it was something like, 'Said the Bishop to the girl....?)

DVD Infatuation said...

@Matty: Thanks for the comment, and sorry for the late reply.

I'm not sure, as I hadn't heard that story before, but you may be right!

Thanks again!