Director’s Spotlight: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

Alfred Hitchcock's The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)Synopsis:

In London, England, the police is on the hunt for a serial killer dubbed “The Avenger” who only kills blonde women with curly hair on Tuesdays. Meanwhile, a mysterious man (Ivor Novello, Downhill) rents a room and his landlady (Marie Ault, Major Barbara) and her husband (Arthur Chesney, I Know Where I’m Going!) begin to suspect that he is the man perpetuating the heinous crimes.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Although by this time director Alfred Hitchcock had two and a half movies under his belt, in 1962 he told Francois Truffaut that The Lodger was “the first true Hitchcock movie.” By that he meant that this was the first time he was allowed to select the material, develop the script and was given “carte blanche” to do whatever he wanted to do without any interference. Having full creative power signified that Hitchcock was free to create something that reflected his personal style. The result is the director’s first masterwork — The Lodger is every bit as witty and imaginative as any of his celebrated sound movies.

Ironically, although The Lodger is the first movie he shot entirely in England, this is Hitchcock’s most Germanic film.

Hitchcock had immersed himself in the German techniques of the era during the filming of The Pleasure Garden and The Mounting Eagle. The influence manifests itself in what is perhaps the most famous sequence in the film — the translucent ceiling. Hitchcock used a glass floor to illustrate the lodger’s constant pacing in his room. It’s an extraordinarily effective way of suggesting sound. There is also a great moment where the cuckoo clock gives the time as the lodger enters the room — cuckoo means “crazy” and you get the idea without hearing a peep. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Hitch’s movies are filled with symbolism and this is no exception. The director’s Jesuit background accounts for the lodger being shown as a Christ-like figure in the lynching scene, an idea that will be further explored in greater detail in Hitch’s 1953 I Confess. There is also a curious bathroom scene  — literally and metaphorically cleansing — that anticipates Janet Leigh’s famous shower sequence in Psycho (1960).

There are no bland characters in a Hitchcock movie. All characters are defined in one way or another by their idiosyncrasies.

The cop, who by all means should be the hero of the story, is sketched as a creepy, weird guy, very much a reflection of the director’s cop-phobia. The policeman has a strange fixation on the film’s heroine (June), and in one truly strange sequence, he gets a thrill out of putting handcuffs on the girl — a clear sign of sexual foreplay.

On the other hand, the lodger is in many ways the prototypical Hitchcock hero, but I’ll refrain myself from saying anything else because I don’t want to give away a few surprises. Suffice to say, I had a great time watching Hitchcock toy with the ideas of guilt and innocence, and justice and injustice, perception and reality.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Lodger is not only one of the master’s very best films, but also one of the best British silent films available today. Remade in 1944 (a surprisingly excellent thriller), with Laird Cregar and Merle Oberon. B&W, Tinted, 90 minutes, Not Rated.

The cameos — Hitch and his wife Alma.

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4 responses to “Director’s Spotlight: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

  1. A super writeup. I think one of the great achievements of this movie is that, when thinking about it later, it’s difficult to remember that it’s a silent. The mob scene, for example, is fixed firmly in my memory as having sound — not just sound but noise — and I have to remind myself that, no, it didn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “it’s difficult to remember that it’s a silent.” Bingo! That’s precisely why this is such a great silent film. The intertitles are almost unnecessary.

      Like

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