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Earlier this year, I watched the 1927 silent film "The Lodger," which is widely considered the first "real" Alffed Hitchcock film (after he found his mojo), as well as the first filming of The Lodger, which was remade, in various guises, no less than four times, this being the third of five that I know of. Although this is a remake, Hitchcock had nothing to do with this: It was produced by Robert Bassler and directed by John Brahm, For those who don't know, Jack the Ripper was active in London during 1888 in Whitechapel, a district in the East End of London, in the borough of Tower Hamlets (there are (as of 1965) 33 "local authority districts" in London: 32 are boroughs, and, the 33rd is the "City of London" itself). A "district" is an unofficial, loose term for "neighborhood" - "borough" is an official term, and the district of Whitechapel is inside the borough of Tower Hamlets. If you read the Wikipedia entry for Jack the Ripper (above), it's really quite a grisly tale - the most troublesome fact? The Ripper was never caught. Since this takes place in 1888, I did some financial conversion for you to put the figures in 2016 dollars: Mr. Slade (played by Laird Cregar, an American actor) offers 5 pounds a week for room and board, which equates to 595 pounds today, or $731.85 - a considerable weekly sum for the rooms he was renting, and the meals he would be served. Mr. Robert Bonting (played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke) originally started his tea-broker business (in 1868) with 100 pounds, or $12,423 in 2016 dollars. Kitty Langley gave Annie Rowley one Sovereign: a gold coin worth about one Pound Sterling, i.e., one Pound. Since 1957, they've been minted again, but are used as gold bullion (they're certainly worth a lot more than one pound in 2016 - they're gold, and weigh slightly over one-quarter ounce (as of this writing, gold is trading for about $1,130 an ounce, so today's Sovereigns are worth $250-300)). Interestingly, and tragically, Laird Cregar went on a crash diet (which included prescribed amphetamines) to obtain the part in this film, and that caused a strain on his system that would eventually kill him this very same year, in December of 1944. Vincent Price delivered his eulogy, and Cregar currently has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Cregar died at age 31, and could have conceivably become much more well-known than he currently is - I suspect most of you reading this haven't heard of him. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** This may, or may not, be a major spoiler, so I advise you to skip this paragraph entirely until you've finished the film, even if you read the rest of the Spoilers Section: it is a known quantity, in advance, that "The Lodger" in Hitchcock's 1927 film turned out to be innocent in the end. However, the reason for that was because the big-name star of that film, Arthur Chesney, did not want his reputation sullied by being associated with Jack the Ripper (whom a certain percentage of viewers still remembered). I say this only because, if I remember correctly, there was some controversy about what Hitchcock really wanted (or am I thinking of "Suspicion?"), and given that there are so many remakes of the 1927 version, it seems highly unlikely that "the lodger" will end up being innocent in every single version. We're about to see ... How coincidental that the lodger's name is Mr. Slade. Robert Bonting, the landlady's husband, was a tea-broker on Mincing Lane, which was, in the late 19th century, the world's leading center for spice and tea trading. There are almost exact similarities between Mr. Slade turning the pictures of the old actresses (in his bedroom) around so he couldn't see them, and with what Arthur Chesney did in Hitchcock's 1927 film. For a moment, I thought the part with the two shrews in the tavern (playing the concertina) could be an upcoming sign of dullness, but it only lasted for a minute or two, and it had a dramatic reason for existing. I'm over halfway through this film, and am really enjoying it, even more than the Hitchcock version (which was, of course, silent). Speaking of which, the techniques Hitchcock used in his silent film were so vastly different, that they make for a fascinating study. For example, to create tension when The Lodger was descending the stairs, he couldn't use footsteps (there was no sound), so he had to show a close-up of a hand, sliding down the railing. Hitchcock, himself, admitted that footsteps would have made for a more-effective buildup of tension, and he would have used them had the technology been available. It's too bad he wasn't around for more color films, which have a very different strategy than filming in black-and-white. Look at this cinematography - what an imposing shot this is: *** END SPOILERS *** Listen to what I say here: Even if you don't think you like silent films, watch Hitchcock's 1927 version of "The Lodger" first, *then* watch this version. They make wonderful companion pieces, even though this is a remake - this is a splendid picture that stands on its own; it's better still when watched after the original: You'll love them both, and watching both makes both of them better: Even though these two films were made independently of each other, they are best viewed as a diptych, making sure to go in chronological order. Whaam!
"The Lodger - a Story of the London Fog" (1927) is the first silent Hitchcock I've seen - I saw it because I heard him describing some of his techniques in an interview. I've read that Hitchcock had a "thing" for blondes, and was sort of (I don't want to misquote, because I don't exactly remember) "kinky-dominant" - if true, that trait comes right out at the beginning of "The Lodger," as a murderer known as "The Avenger" kills only young blondes, and only on Tuesday evenings. At around the 4:27 mark, when the word "MUR DER" is alternating in color between blue and white (I'm watching the film on YouTube, as shown below), the piercing music sounds very related to the opening theme of "Psycho" - clearly it was influenced by this, at least partially, although I have *no* idea if this is the original score - it sounds awfully modern. As a side note, it's remarkable how modern silent films can seem when they've been digitally renovated - with the use of color filters, and modern music (this may or may not be modern music), it's not much more of a "foreign experience" than watching a "foreign film with subtitles," and (as you'll see if you watch the film below) really feels almost contemporary to today. If this is the original score, then it's really compelling - the part where the lodger asks to have the photos removed is accompanied by a sort-of hybrid between Ravel's Bolero and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scherazade - it's definitely an "Arabian" theme, and seems to get more intense as time goes by. However, at the 23-minute mark, it becomes acutely, painfully obvious that this is a modern score, and while this score may appeal to a younger generation, opening up access to this classic suspense-thriller to a certain segment of a younger audience who might not finish it otherwise, it probably repels more viewers than it reels in. The comments in the YouTube video (below) reveal a depth of scorn for this particular moment that is almost universal. The score was okay, even powerful and very good, up until this point; but this is where it really jumped the shark. And my goodness, 27-minutes into the movie, and we're suffering through the same music. Let it end, please. One night, near midnight, the landlord, Mrs Bunting, is awakened by the sound of the lodger descending the stairs, and it's a Tuesday night. I saw an interview with Hitchcock where he said he used the lodger's hand on the rail to show that he was descending the staircase (it's shot from a high, top angle), and with sound, he would have probably chosen to use the sounds of footsteps instead. He went on to say that he favored color over black and white - this was a confident director who did not resist change; he embraced it, and went with it. There was one scene, lasting only a few seconds, that showed the lodger pacing back-and-forth, and the landlords down below, looking up at the ceiling, hearing the pacing. Hitchcock had a glass floor constructed so the viewer can "see" what they were "hearing." This near-obsessive level to detail is the difference between good and great. The landlord family begins to strongly suspect - and for good reason - that the lodger is The Avenger, and is terrified that he is forming a romance with their daughter, Daisy. The next Tuesday night, the lodger and Daisy sneak away on an unannounced date - of course, this *had* to be on a Tuesday. The entire family is thrown into a panic. Joe, Daisy's ex-boyfriend who cared for her *much* more than she cared for him, hunted them down, and confronted the lodger. This backfired in more ways than one, as we would soon find out. Joe, officially assigned to investigate The Avenger, shows up with two police officers and a search warrant, and goes through the lodger's room, including a locked cabinet. When they find a bag, filled with incriminating evidence, things go from bad to worse, and the lodger escapes, with handcuffs on. He ominously tells Daisy to meet him under "the lamp." Several minutes later, Daisy sneaks out to meet him, and the terrified family realizes she's gone. The lodger had an alibi, but people refused to believe it, and he was in big, big trouble - especially as a mob of people went after him, and he became stuck on an iron fence in his handcuffs, getting beaten. For the proper ending, it's best if you watch the film for yourself. I loved this movie, and in many ways it showed an immature Hitchcock, who, in my eyes, is an immature genius. Why this film isn't more famous is beyond me, and I'm *so* glad I saw it. Yes, it's somewhat straightforward, in Hitchcock terms, but it's still a great movie. I would *love* to hear some opinions of others who have seen this film. It's probably available with the original score, but if you can tolerate the periods of modern music, this version is not bad at all. And it's free!