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Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, The


Stars: Ivor Novello, Malcolm Keen, Miss June, Arthur Chesney, Marie Ault, Reginald Gardiner, Eve Gray

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Hindsight is an invaluable critical tool since it enables films such as Sunset Boulevard, which was greeted with hostile reviews on its initial release, later to be hallowed by film critics and to be endowed with well-justified classic status, to be re-evaluated. Another example of hindsight at its most obvious is the strange case of Roger Corman who for years was dismissed by the British Film Institute’s ‘Monthly Film Bulletin’ as a maker of low-budget box-office-driven double feature B movies before hindsight kicked in and he was (rightly) hallowed as an auteur.

Is it possible, then, that hindsight, inspired by his unique catalogue of classics, could affect subsequent evaluation of all of Alfred Hitchcock’s films?

It’s really difficult to see how this could not be the case, especially since now Vertigo has supplanted Citizen Kane in the current ‘Sight and Sound’ list of the greatest films ever made.

Hindsight obviously played no part in the contemporary review of The Lodger (in the 18th September, 1926 edition of the ‘Cinematograph Exhibitors’ Association of Great Britain and Ireland Film Report”) which rightly recognised Hitchcock’s then nascent talent, noting the film was “interesting, cleverly handled with the mystery element well developed … the direction is skilful and original…”

Hitchcock (uncredited) and Eliot Stannard co-wrote the screenplay, based on Marie Belloc Lowndes’ best-selling 1913 novel “The Lodger", based on a series of Jack the Ripper style murders in London and the subsequent stage adaptation Who is He? Here, with a serial slayer known as ‘The Avenger’s murdering blonde women (blondes were to become something of a Hitchcock fetish in subsequent films) in fogbound London, the eponymous lodger, Novello, is suspected by his landlady and her husband and police officer Keen of being the killer…

Hitchcock described the film as ‘the first true Hitchcock movie’. This beautifully restored print– the original tinting of blue nighttime sequences and amber colouring has been perfectly replicated – vividly shows the director’s early mastery of pacing, creation of growing suspense and fascinating ingenuity, most memorably exemplified by the insertion of a ‘glass ceiling’ so that observers in the room below can see the Lodger pacing on the floor in his quarters. The cinematography by Baron Ventimiglia and (uncredited) Hal Young is effectively atmospheric and (with Hitchcock having recently returned from working in Germany) clearly influenced by German Expressionism, notably in peculiar shadow casting which appears to have been inspired by films like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

And Nitin Sawhney’s evocative new musical score is a considerable asset, too.

Hitchcock stated, ““I took a pure narrative and, for the first time, presented ideas in purely visual terms” and The Lodger brilliantly marks his success in achieving that aim. The narrative never flags, in spite of Novello’s stagy matinee-idol-driven performance in the title role, and the supporting performances are satisfactory within the context of the storytelling. Hitchcock himself can be seen (looking eerily ’slim' compared with his subsequent screen appearances, in what was to become his trademark cameo personal appearance. (Alma Reville, whom Hitchcock married in 1926, is credited as assistant director and also makes an uncredited appearance in front of the camera).

On the evidence here (even with hindsight) The Lodger definitely earns its status as a classic of both British and Hitchcock cinema.

Alan Frank

UK 1926. UK Distributor: BFI Distribution. Black and white.
91 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 06 Aug 2012