Skip to main content

I’m keen on golden hair myself, same as the Avenger is.

The Lodger
aka The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
(1927)

(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s third feature, and the one you’ll hear about as being vital to informing his future style and sensibility. Unsurprisingly, then, it involves suspense and grisly murder. The Lodger finds a Ripper-type killer on the loose – whom we never see – and takes as its main thrust the “Is he or isn’t he?” of the mysterious new tenant in the Bunting house. Since he’s played by Ivor Novello, obviously, he isn’t (at least, that was Hitch’s audience-savvy reasoning), but the scenario allows the director some playfulness along the way to the character’s eventual exoneration.

While there’s a tendency for the silent Hitchcocks to rather “amble” along in narrative, in part due to their predominately melodramatic content, The Lodger has some guts to it. Meaning that, in its own embryonic way, it’s the director’s first suspense picture. Hitch himself referred to it as “the first true ‘Hitchcock movie’”. Based on a novel of the same title by Marie Belloc Lowndes, itself based on the Jack the Ripper murders, Lowndes establishes that Novello’s character (Jonathan Drew) is the killer. In the film version, however, he’s just shady and temperamental and has a thing for blondes (like Avenger himself, the actual killer, who leaves a calling card with that name at the scene of the crime; the first Avenger, if you will).

Hitch didn’t outright say that he wanted the film to follow suit, but he liked the idea of the ambiguity. As it is, it’s easier to look at The Lodger as a precursor of Psycho and Frenzy, but one that, like Suspicion, chickens out when it comes to the crunch.

Hitchcock and Truffaut discussed the stylistic influences on The Lodger at some length (Hitch was particularly influenced by German expressionist cinema at this point). In particular, the signature sequence of the pacing Novello achieved with a glass ceiling and a swaying chandelier. I was more taken by the lodger’s arrival at the door, freaking out Mrs Bunting (Marie Ault), and the later scene in which Ivor is playing chess with their daughter Daisy (June Tripp), a blonde fashion model, and he reaches for the poker. Is he about to clobber her? No, just stoke the fire.

Hitch also has fun with the propensity of the public and press to exaggerate and spin the dangers posed, such as a japester doing an impression while a witness is giving her account of the man’s features (“Tall he was – and his face all wrapped up”). Later, in her dressing room, another girl performs a fake frenzied knife attack. Thick policeman Joe (Malcolm Keen, quite amusing), who is besotted with Daisy and most affronted by Drew’s interest, tells her “I’m keen on golden hair myself” and boasts how he will catch the murderer with “a brand-new pair of handcuffs”).

Everyone has it in for poor Ivor, who is actually on the trail of the killer in revenge for his murdered sister (it was his mother’s dying wish; no, really), thus making this the first of the director’s pursued innocents who must clear their name and solve the crime. Although, in this case, the crime is solved for him, and it’s only left for Joe, a decent sort after all, to save him from the angry mob.

The Lodger features the first cameo by the director (“Extra in Newspaper Office”). The notes accompanying the Network release suggest an incestuous subtext between Drew and his sister, but there isn’t really anything to substantiate this other than wishfully connecting it to Shadow of a Doubt (where the incestuous subtext is also fairly wishful).

That restoration is very nice, with appropriate tinting, and an effective Nitin Sawney score (less effective are several sung pieces). Legend tells how The Lodger became a big success in spite of attempts to quash it by Gainsborough’s jealous star director, but Michael Balcon arranged for it to be shown to the press; it took off, as did Hitch’s career (curiously, Wikipedia has a different account to Neil Sinyard’s, whereby it is Balcon who tried to shelve the picture).



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

I hate natural causes!

Body Bags (1993) (SPOILERS) I’m not surprised Showtime didn’t pick this up for an anthology series. Perhaps, if John Carpenter had made Coming Home in a Body Bag (the popular Nam movie series referenced in the same year’s True Romance ), we’d have something to talk about. Tho’ probably not, if Carpenter had retained his by this point firmly glued to his side DP Gary Kibbe, ensuring the proceedings are as flat, lifeless and unatmospheric as possible. Carpenter directed two of the segments here, Tobe Hooper the other one. It may sound absurd, given the quality of Hooper’s career, but by this point, even he was calling the shots better than Carpenter.

Call me crazy, but I don’t see America coming out in droves to see you puke.

The Hard Way (1991) (SPOILERS) It would probably be fair to suggest that Michael J Fox’s comic talents never quite earned the respect they deserved. Sure, he was the lead in two incredibly popular TV shows, but aside from one phenomenally successful movie franchise, he never quite made himself a home on the big screen. Part of that might have been down to attempts in the late ’80s to carve himself out a niche in more serious roles – Light of Day , Bright Lights, Big City , Casualties of War – roles none of his fanbase had any interest in seeing him essaying. Which makes the part of Nick Lang, in which Fox is at his comic best, rather perfect. After all, as his character, movie star Nick Lang, opines, after smashing in his TV with his People’s Choice Award – the kind of award reserved for those who fail to garner serious critical adoration – “ I’m the only one who wants me to grow up! ”

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.