In London, England, cops are on the hunt for a serial killer dubbed “The Avenger.” Meanwhile, a landlady (Marie Ault, Major Barbara) begins to suspect that her new tenant (Ivor Novello, Downhill) is the man behind the heinous crimes.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“We’ve come to have a word with your lodger.”
Although by this time director Alfred Hitchcock had two and a half movies under his belt, in 1962 he told French filmmaker Francois Truffaut that The Lodger was “the first true Hitchcock movie.” By that Hitchcock 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 control signified that Hitchcock was free to create something that reflected his personal style. The result is the director’s first masterwork. Despite the technical limitations of the silent era, The Lodger is every bit as ingenious, witty and unconventional as any of Hitchcock’s celebrated sound movies.
Although The Lodger was the first movie he shot entirely in England, this is Hitchcock’s most Germanic film. The director had immersed himself in the German techniques of the era during the filming of his first feature-length movie, The Pleasure Garden. 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 time as “The Lodger” enters the room — cuckoo means “crazy” and you get the idea without hearing a peep. Another clever and effective way to suggest sound.
Hitchcock’s movies are filled with symbolism and this is no exception. “The Lodger” is seen as a Christ-like figure during the lynching scene, an interesting idea that Hitchcock would explore in greater detail in other movies (e.g. I Confess and The Wrong Man). There is also a curious bathroom scene — literally and metaphorically cleansing — that anticipates Janet Leigh’s legendary shower sequence in Psycho (1960).
There are no bland characters in The Lodger. 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, and in one truly strange sequence, he gets a thrill out of putting handcuffs on the girl!
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, 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.