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, 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.”

In 1962, director Alfred Hitchcock told French filmmaker Francois Truffaut that The Lodger was “the first true Hitchcock movie.” By that, Hitchcock meant that this was the very first time in his career that he was allowed to select the material, develop the screenplay, choose the actors, etc. In other words, The Master of Suspense 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 of conveying the idea of sound.

Hitchcock’s movies are filled with symbolism, and this is no exception. “The Lodger” is presented 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 ConfessThe Wrong Man). There is also a curious bathroom scene — literally and metaphorically cleansing — that anticipates Janet Leigh’s legendary shower sequence in Psycho (1960).

All characters in The Lodger 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 guy, very much a reflection of the director’s well-documented cop-phobia. The supposedly strait-laced policeman has a strange fixation on the film’s heroine, and in one truly bizarre sequence, he gets a thrill out of putting handcuffs on the poor 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 fiddle with the ideas of guilt and innocence, justice and injustice, perception and reality.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Lodger is not only one of the Hitchcock’s best films, but also one of the best silent films available today. It’s a genuinely great movie that even people that aren’t big on silent films will appreciate. This is an astonishingly imaginative movie from a relatively inexperienced filmmaker. 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.

4 responses to “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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