Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ivor Novello, Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, June, Malcolm Keen
Written by: Eliot Stannard, based on a novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 100
Date: 02/14/1927

The Lodger (1927)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Fog Prints

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Hitchcock's third film is his first suspense movie, and thus the first real "Hitchcock" movie. Ivor Novello was a big star at the time, and his presence is probably responsible for the film's lengthy running time and its focus on affairs of the heart rather than affairs of the knife. He plays the titular lodger, who checks into a room just as the weekly activities of a Jack-the-Ripper-type killer come closer to that same neighborhood. People begin to suspect, but not before the daughter of the house (June) falls in love with him. Hitchcock uses a few stylish gimmicks, such as a see-through glass ceiling and superimposed flashbacks over a footprint, but it's clear that he was still learning; the story vaguely resembles his beloved "wrong man" formula, but not yet refined. Regardless, there's a lot of good stuff here.

The film has been available in shoddy public domain DVD copies for years, but Fox/MGM released a good, high quality DVD in 2009, complete with two different music scores and other extras. In 2017, the Criterion Collection topped it with a bright, appealing new transfer that makes the film look much better than I remembered. A new score is by Neil Brand, performed by the Orchestra of Saint Paul's and presented in uncompressed stereo; Brand also provides a video interview. There are plentiful extras: new interviews with film scholar William Rothman and art historian Steven Jacobs, vintage interviews by Peter Bogdanovich and Francois Truffaut with Hitchcock, and a radio presentation of The Lodger. Best of all is an entire second Hitchcock feature, Downhill (1927). The liner notes booklet includes essays on both feature films by critic Philip Kemp.

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