10 November 2008

Hitchcock | The Farmer's Wife (1928)

The Farmer's Wife (1928)
written by Eliot Stannard and an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock, Leslie Arliss, J.E. Hunter & Norman Lee, based on the play by Eden Phillpotts

I wasn't expecting a romantic comedy, but here's one following a rather serious boxing movie, a pair of down-on-their-luck tales and an great wrong man story. Fair enough: how would Hitchcock know if he's any good in the genre or likes this style until he's tried it?

I bet this one had the 1920s crowds laughing pretty well. I cracked a smirk or two at certain points, myself. It's pretty standard stuff, though. It's just a Cinderella / Goldilocks love story. The titular farmer plays Goldilocks, who has to try several women in town before he finds one that's just right. Cinderella is his housekeeper, the perfect woman right under his nose that he never notices. These days, it's all kind of a cliche, which is bit hard to get beyond. There's even the obligatory shot of the woman -- previously mousy and now all dressed up and looking pretty -- descending the stairs to everyone's awe.

As the farmer fumbles about for his wife, you can be sure there are plenty of hijinx to be had. Hitchcock seems to be having a lot of fun. My favorite bits include the farmer's handyman, who's forced to wear too-big pants for a dinner party. Throughout the party, he's constantly fumbling with his waist, desperately trying to serve food and not drop his trousers at the same time. Also nice: a boy arrives at the party and immediately spies a tray of sweets. Hitchcock then zooms quickly from the boy's face to the treats, letting us know immediately what's on the kid's mind. Fun shot. The postmistress' tantrum, after a rather amusing berating by the farmer, is also pretty funny.

"You are the first man who has accepted my sex challenge!" says old Thirza Tapper, after the farmer proposes. One neat aspect of watching movies made when your grandfather was a child are the idioms people used that have long passed out of the language. This one certainly caused my eyes to widen a little. I gather she's not talking about the physical act, but rather her gender. Still, I'm not exactly sure what the heck this is supposed to mean. The farmer's the first to ever propose to her, I guess?

Anyway, if you're going to watch a silent comedy, you're going to want to pop in some Chaplin or Lloyd. Hitchcock's probably not the best selection in the world for such a thing. His talent lies elsewhere. (5/10)

Watched the region 2 DVD released by Optimum in 2007 as a part of the Early Hitchcock Collection. The print they used is in great shape. Unfortunately, their transfer of the film is not what it should be. There are periodic flashes of pale green in the whites of this black & white film... completely unacceptable. It also suffers from some mildly bad compression. I liked the subtle piano score, though.