The Lodger (1927)
Genre: Silent Crime Thriller Drama (UK)
Starring: Ivor Novello (Downhill), Malcolm Keen (The Manxman)
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Strangers On A Train; Frenzy)
Overview: The Avenger has already killed seven women. When a strange fellow takes up residence in a London home all too close to the last killing, suspicion and doubt abound!
Acting: Alright, so this is the first film I've watched in my exploration of the 'cock (might as well get THAT joke out of the way right now) and the third movie he directed. Um, yeah. If you're a diehard fan like me, watch it. If you like stuff like The Sheik, do it because you love the tragically overzealous portrayals by all. I'm talking "Oh! *Swoon* Woe is me!" [hand on tilted-back forehead]
Cinematography: The best shot of the whole film was when the lodger moves in. He enters encased in rolling fog, and soon after the symbol of his caustic presence is made ever so clear as he walks about upstairs. The shot is of the family looking at the ceiling where we see someone walking, as though the ceiling were glass. That was cool. The lodger himself was so boldly pale however, that he looked like he belonged in some Keaton Slapstick. All other shots were all too rote. I was disappointed. Perhaps the print quality is to blame.
Script: Silent films have three kinds of scripts: minimalist, poetic/comic, or explanatory. Minimalist scripts intentionally include very little writing to leave more room for pace and action. The poetic/comic script attempts to enhance with character-building descriptions, gags and even illustrations. Then there's the straight up "this is what's happening" explanation type. What happened here I'm not sure, because it's this ugly mess of all of the above, where there was Avant-garde elements in the beginning, there weren't explanations when they were needed and from time to time it was all too obvious nothing needed to be said. Failure.
Plot: I'm sure to piss off a lot of Hitchcock fans right now, but I found the plot disappointing and predictable. When you invite a red herring in the house, you should dumb him down a little bit, rather than reinforcing his innocence in every over-the-top scene. When a director spends so much time making someone look this guilty from the introductory shot on, you know there's far, far more going on. Luckily, there actually WAS far more going on, but there are story elements that are left completely unresolved, leaving behind a bitter taste, almost like the budget was running out and they had to wrap everything up right away. This had real potential, yet the end moved too quickly. Not nearly enough suspense or clues along the way.
Mood: The man who played the lodger was just so far out there weird. All pale and gaunt, he's blatant in his effect, permeating too greatly the entirety of the film, and if it's anyone who understands the degree of allowable excesses in silent film, believe you me, I'm that guy. I know when something is Expressionist and I know when something is overdone. This was more of the latter. There WERE other characters, but only one had a focus so intense. It was too much of an attempt to manipulate the viewer.
Overall Rating: 54% (Got Caught In My Throat)
Aftertaste: Alright, so this is the first film I've watched for my October Hitchcockathon. I was told that this was relatively classic, that this was his best silent work, that though this may not sit in the realm of Psycho for its fame and grandeur, it would still be awesome, especially to a silent film fan. Yet, at the same time, I expected a real stinker. When I kicked off this night with three guests, we turned it off after twelve minutes. I stuck it through and though the ending was decent, the quality of the print suffered far too greatly for true appreciation. I'll be glad to hit the films that actually LOOK good. It's too bad, I was really looking forward to this one.