03 November 2008

Hitchcock | The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926)

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926)
written by Eliot Stannard, based on the novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes

Now I really wish The Mountain Eagle could be found so I could see the transition between The Pleasure Garden and this film. Reading the description in The Alfred Hitchcock Story, it sounds like TME was more in TPG's vein than The Lodger -- melodrama, romance gone bad, etc. -- but maybe it had some visual touches linking it to the later movie?

Visually, The Lodger shows the effect that hanging out with Murnau at UFA had on Hitchcock. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's an expressionistic film, but it certainly has touches of that style. You can see it in Ivor Montagu's wonderful titles filled with geometric shapes and dancing lights. It's apparent in some of the lighting Hitchcock uses: there's a shadow of a cross over the lodger's face at one point as well as some interesting shadows cast upon the walls of the apartment at night. The way he lights faces in this film is also quite striking. Daisy seems to glow angelically, the lodger appears as bright, white ghost and Daisy's boyfriend's face is bordered in angry shadow.

Hitchcock comes up with some of his own really cool visual tricks. The famous see-through ceiling is one example. I love that shot. It's a great example of working around the limitations of no sound using images; it efficiently shows that the family can hear -- and picture in their minds -- the lodger obsessively pacing in the room above.

Hitchcock always called this his "first film." It does have the most hitchcockian plot thus far, with the first appearance of a "wrong man." There are some, though, who think that maybe the lodger really was the Avenger (as he was in the novel). Maybe the man they caught "red-handed" at the end of the film was a copycat? You can't really see what's happening at the lodger's sister's party... maybe he killed her when the lights went out? I don't know. I don't think I can buy this angle. The scariest part of the movie aren't the murders; it's the mindless mob chasing the lodger at the end of the film. If he were really guilty, the mob is suddenly not so unjustified, nor the policeman's jealousy-fueled suspicions. Did Hitchcock really want us to sympathize with the mob and the brutish detective? (7/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Fox in 2008 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection. The transfer is beautiful on this disc.