written by Alfred Hitchcock, Walter C. Mycroft and Alma Reville, based on a novel by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson
I could barely keep my eyes open for this one. The titular murder happens off screen in the first few minutes of the film. When the police arrive, they find Diana next to a dead body and a murder weapon. Sir John ends up serving on her jury and is the only person to think she's innocent. He caves to the pressure from the other eleven jurors and votes with them that she is guilty. After the trial, he's struck with doubt and guilt over this decision and sets out to investigate the murder and exonerate Diana.
Most of the film follows Sir John's investigation of the murder. It's quite dull. It's a bit like an unending interview scene from a Law & Order or C.S.I. or one of those million other police procedural shows. Sir John talks to someone who may know something about the murder, then stares wistfully out the nearest window, pondering the implications of this new info. Repeat and repeat. Eventually, he determines that Fane was the real culprit, who killed the woman so she wouldn't reveal to Diana that he was a "half-caste." Apparently, this meant he had a black ancestor in the recent past, which apparently meant that he was undatable. He was also a transvestite, but this wasn't a secret and didn't seem to have any baring on his eligibility for romance. Go figure.
Though I'm not a fan of the plot, this was the first Hitchcock film that felt like a real movie to me. That is, the technology has finally settled in a form similar to what I'm used to watching. In addition to sound, we've got foley effects for the first time. There are footsteps when people walk, background noises and all of the little sounds we've come to expect on a film soundtrack to flesh out the world we're observing. There's also Hitchcock's first use of an interior monologue used when Sir John is mentally freaking out about the trial while shaving. The camera is more fluid than it has been since the silent era. We get some tracking shots around the sets that are nice. There's a great POV shot when Fane is swinging from the trapeze where we follow his swinging.
Well, I can't say I'm looking forward to rewatching this movie in German next. (6/10)
Watched the region 1 DVD released by Lionsgate in 2007 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock: 3-Disc Collector's Edition. Nice print and transfer for the most part.
23 November 2008