10 March 2009

Hitchcock | Jamaica Inn (1939)

Jamaica Inn (1939)
written by Sidney Gilliat, Joan Harrison and J.B. Priestley, based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier

Right off, once I realized this was set a century in the past, the film felt off. Hitchcock normally works in the present; this costume drama thing doesn't feel right for him. The movie was barely reconizable as a Hitchcock picture. Was this just one last paycheck before heading for Hollywood?

Part of the reason the film feels off is that wasn't really Hitchcock's film. Charles Laughton's ego weighs heavily throughout. He's broad and cheeky and often unintelligible and probably has far too much screentime for what the character requires. His character seems to be all over the place, going from arrogant semi-nobleman to suicidally insane in the course of ninety minutes. I liked Laughton as a similar character in The Old Dark House, but here he see-saws the tone of the film too much. Am I supposed to take him seriously? If not, he's an oddly funny character in the middle of some grim subject matter.

Anyway, Hitchcock boiled the movie down himself: "You can't direct a Laughton picture. The best you can hope for is to referee."(5/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Kino in 2003. Fuzzy transfer of a beat-up print with inexplicable windowboxing throughout. Nearly as bad as the public domain silent films. But, this is the only R1 DVD not missing 8 minutes of footage from the middle of the film, so there's that.