03 November 2008

Hitchcock | The Pleasure Garden (1925)

The Pleasure Garden (1925)
written by Eliot Stannard, based on the novel by Oliver Sandys

Not bad. I was expecting this to be awful. With the exception of The Lodger, it seems as though people rarely have anything nice to say about Hitchcock's silents. To be sure, it's nowhere near the same league as a Murnau film. It's a melodrama, filled with people falling in love instantaneously, betrayals, acts of kindness and a cute dog. Still, I was interested in the story right up until the end.

I was pleased to see Hitchcock's -- for lack of a better word -- cheekiness present this early in his career. The movie begins with a chorus girl performance at the Pleasure Garden. Despite having a front row seat, one of the old men in the audience pulls out a pair of opera glasses. Hitchcock, of course, allows us to see from the old man's point of view and we voyeuristically observe the dancing legs of the ladies on stage for a few seconds. Right out of the gate, he's both playful and playing with the possibilities of film. There are a few touches like this in the movie: Jill callously tilting her head just enough to burn Prince Ivan's cheek. Seeing the ghost of Levett's murdered lover (nice optical, by the way) through Levett's insane perspective.

Especially interesting was the final shot of Patsy and Hugh embracing. Each having lost their spouse/fiancee to betrayals, they've realized that they were meant for each other all along. Except, Patsy's face during this embrace is not quite happy. It bears just a little bit of worried look. I don't know if this was Hitch's doing, or the actress' or just an accident. It puts a nice spin on things, though. Instead of the standard super-OK-happy ending found in most melodramas, this one's a little more realistic. Sure, Patsy's found love again... but what if the same thing happens? How can she dive into another marriage right after Levett's lying and cheating? Maybe she can't? (6/10)

Watched the region 2 DVD released by Network in 2008. It's tinted correctly, alternating between yellow and blue. Unfortunately, the video suffers from poor compression and artifacts abound. This is essentially the only official release of the movie.