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My Year with Hitch
#11
Great idea!

I just got the Masterpiece collection on blu. Been trying (although I guess not too hard) to see every Hitchcock movie for the past few years. Only seen 27 of them so far, though. Got work to do.
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#12
Week 1: 'The Pleasure Garden' [1926] - silent
Source: Archive.org

Hitchcock begins his directorial career with a sporadically entertaining melodrama. The Pleasure Garden of the title is a music hall with a chorus line of blonde clones (shown to be wearing wigs early on in the film - Hitchcock humorously pulling back the curtain for the audience), but the setting is just a prop to introduce the characters. The title probably helped to get bums on seats, but the early scenes of scantily-clad women promised more than possibly most were expecting. 

The film appears to be about a young and naive woman, newly transported to the big city, trying to make it in show business. But in a neat bait-and-switch, her journey is revealed about halfway through the film and her roommate is seen to be the true heroine.

This is a film I may have to return to next year, after seeing all of Hitchcock's films, in order to try and discern any telltale traits of his. At first glance, this appears to be a workmanlike direction, with few stylistic shots. However, the irreverent humor comes across well - notably the dog licking the girl's feet as she's praying, and the man smoking profusely next to the 'Smoking Prohibited' sign - and at least one instance of a foreboding shadow. Plus, the ghostly figure towards the end works well and must have been pretty spooky in its day. 

However, I found it only mildly interesting. The print I saw, despite claiming to be restored, was washed-out and had burned-in Japanese subtitles (which, being a silent film, wasn't as distracting as I expected). If there is a proper restored version (I think the BFI have done many of Hitchcock's early work), it would be worth checking out. Still, without its stellar pedigree, I doubt this is a film that would have been remembered fondly, if at all.

Next week, a much more Hitchcockian treat - 'The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog'.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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#13
(01-04-2018, 10:00 AM)Garp Wrote: Next week, a much more Hitchcockian treat - 'The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog'.

What Edition have you got for that? I had a choice of 2 when I watched it - one was completely silent without any music, and the other had a seemingly appropriate soundtrack, but had this random montage half way through put to a cheesy modern pop song. Took me right out of the film.
"I live in the Tower of Flints. I am the death-owl."

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#14
I'll be watching the recent Criterion version on the Filmstruck channel. According to blu-ray.com, it has a score by Neil Brand.
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#15
Week 2: 'The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog' [1927] - silent
Source: The Criterion Channel, Filmstruck - streaming

'The Lodger' was Hitchcock's first British film, from a novel based on Jack the Ripper lore. Although there are some slight similarities to his first film - more backstage scenes of women in wigs (a fashion show here, rather than the theater), another jovial landlord & landlady - this is a much more confident film. Hitchcock seems to be having fun with the scenes, despite there being less humor in this film, trying out different angles and tricks. Especially effective is the filming of the lodger pacing in the room above, shot from below with the actor walking over glass. Also memorable is a later scene where the detective studies the lodger's footprint and images of the evidence against him pass inside the print itself. 

There is a mystery at the heart of the film - is the lodger really the vicious 'Avenger', stalking blonde-haired women on a Tuesday? (Why Tuesday? If there was a reason given, I missed it, but it allowed certain parties to ascertain when he would strike next. Perhaps just a plot contrivance, then.) And, arguably, an early MacGuffin - what is in the doctor's bag the lodger is so keen to keep hidden? 

But, as was necessary of the time (and, to an extent, still is), the film is softened with a romance and a happy ending. Despite the lodger being alternately moody and creepy, the landlady's daughter falls for him during the course of the film. (Note to self: re-watch 'Attack of the Clones' to discern similarities. Second thoughts: don't re-watch 'Attack of the Clones'.) But it does, at least, set up an interesting sub-plot. Her first love is the detective who vows to bring the Avenger to justice. After being spurned, does he really believe that the lodger is the man he's after, or does he just want a rival out of the way?

The film doesn't wander outside much, and the fog plays much less of a character than the sub-title suggested to me, but the "stageiness" works here. In fact, I was often reminded of the Bates house in certain shots, especially with the recurring use of staircases and the angles Hitchcock chose to shoot them. Also interesting to me as I watched this: when it was released, there would certainly have been people viewing this who would have vivid memories of the actual Ripper attacks. How much more frightening and real this film must have been to them.

Lastly, I loved the early scenes of how the latest attack was related to the public. A montage of telegrams, printing presses, newspapers being delivered, crowds swarming to buy them, etc. A cliche now, of course. But, my god, what if this was one of the first times this had been used?

The version I saw was remarkably clean with hardly any scratches or washed-out scenes. The film is tinted, with blue for night scenes and a sepia-orange for day, on the whole. A pure black-white-grey tone was used sparsely. The newly-composed soundtrack also hearkened to 'Psycho' in places. But, of course, that's hardly a bad thing.

Next up is 'Downhill', starring Ivor Norvello again. As a bonus, I may watch 'The Phantom Fiend', the 1932 talkie remake of 'The Lodger', and starring - yes - Ivor Norvello again. (In fact, there are several remakes of this film, it seems. I may be busy for a few days.)
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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#16
BONUS: 'The Phantom Fiend' [1932]
Source: Amazon Prime Video - streaming

Not a Hitchcock film, but a talkie remake with Ivor Norvello reprising his original role. The plot is more or less the same, with the main changes relating to the characters and the ending. With sound added to the film, the lodger is now a musician, allowing Norvello to showcase his piano skills, and the woman who falls for him is a telephone operator. Instead of killing blondes on a Tuesday, the Avenger now seeks out women in phone boxes (no prizes for guessing which character hears the final screams of one of his victims in the course of her job). The jilted beau is no longer a police officer, but a sleazy journalist, and it's easy to see why the plucky Daisy spurns him in favor of the musically gifted lodger. Norvello is much less creepy here, although is still looked on with suspicion for being foreign (cue casual 1930s xenophobia - "Get back to your own country!", etc.)

The film plods along, aping the original mostly, adding an inquest scene to allow a psychiatric expert to suggest that the killer is an escaped Eastern European lunatic (wait! Don't we know someone who recently just turned up who speaks funny..?) The lodger is turned in to the police by the jovial landlord here, but again escapes in handcuffs. Instead of being on the run with plucky Daisy, as Hitchcock had devised, he is solo in this version, and his inability to properly handle his drink in the pub (Daisy helps him in the original) leads to the torches and pitchforks mob as before.

The ending is abrupt, and I was only half-aware of what was going on, but it's still happy albeit changed, giving Norvello more of a role in the climax. Part of the reason for my confusion is that the sound on this film is terrible. It's like listening to the actors reciting their lines in a wind tunnel. The picture was passable - no restoration, of course - but, with more outdoor scenes than Hitchcock's, it was difficult at times to make out who was who in the darkness. Perhaps that was the point, but after struggling through trying to hear the lines, by the end I didn't care.

If I have the energy, I'll try and watch the 1944 version tonight and, god help me, the 2009 version tomorrow.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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#17
(01-11-2018, 09:19 AM)Garp Wrote: If I have the energy, I'll try and watch the 1944 version tonight and, god help me, the 2009 version tomorrow.

I admire your diligence.
"I live in the Tower of Flints. I am the death-owl."

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#18
Actually, my plan is to watch the 1944 version tonight and the 1953 version ('Man in the attic') tomorrow. If I haven't had enough of shifty tenants by then, I'll try to watch and review the 2009 version next week.

In other news, my copy of 'Blackmail' has arrived from Germany. It is a Region 2 DVD but includes the silent version that Hitchcock directed simultaneously with the more-widely released sound edition. In desperation due to my inability to convert it to a playable MP4 in any of the free software my laptop has, I tried to play it through the built-in DVD player on my old TV. And it works! Why the TV's DVD player should be region-free is beyond me, but a happy surprise none-the-less. But anyway, 'Blackmail' is still another 6 Hitchcock films away on my list.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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#19
BONUS: 'The Lodger' [1944]
Source: Blu-ray

This 1944 version is unequivocal: the killer is Jack the Ripper and not just some 'Avenger'. Rather than the contemporary settings to the times that its predecessors were filmed, this film is set in 1888. Not only are we in Whitechapel, at least some of the actual murder locations are name-checked too. The Ripper is loose and a stranger comes knocking at the door, looking for a room to let.

And not just any old room, like the lodgers that had preceded him. The ubiquitous landlord and landlady here are a well-to-do couple, keeping up appearances after a business failure, but needing to rent out a room in their fancy house to get back on their feet. Instead of a plucky daughter called Daisy (Daisy here is the maid, in a minor role), we are introduced to their beautiful yet flighty niece Kitty, a music-hall performer fresh from Gay Paris. Her would-be suitor (he makes a gallant effort, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere) is the suave Inspector of the Yard, played by the suave George Sanders. Thankfully, there is no love triangle with the lodger to complicate matters, as our lodger is frankly much older, larger and less attractive than Norvello was in either of his incarnations. Not only that, he's completely mad.

This is probably the main point that sets this film apart from the earlier versions: there is little to no suggestion here that the lodger can be anything but the Ripper. He is clearly mentally ill. The mystery is less "Is he the Ripper?" and more "Why is he doing this?" (The answer takes a splash of Hitchcock's ending and turns it on its head.)

Like all the versions so far, this lodger also hates the paintings of women in his room and turns them to the wall. He also has a certain type of victim - those with a connection to the stage (not ladies of the night, like the actual Ripper, though to some in the audience at the time, that may not have been much of a step up). Plus he also conveniently has a timetable - he strikes every 10 to 12 days. Still, at least the Inspector gets to do some proper sleuthing in this version, dusting for fingerprints and collecting evidence, rather than just handcuff the local weirdo with an accent cos he's after his gal.

The climax is great, although I missed the rowdy mob (it's just coppers here), and even the odd musical number didn't seem out of place (unlike Kitty's fake French accent when she sang). 

Kino Lorber produced the blu-ray, and it's mostly good (very good in places, actually, especially after viewing the bonus supplement on the restoration). There's also an interesting Making-Of documentary, titled 'Man in the Attic'. Which just so happens to be the title of my next Lodger remake from 1953, starring Jack Palance.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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#20
It's a travesty that Criterion have released none of Hitch's films in the UK. Well... Maybe a travesty is an exaggeration. It mildly vexes me, though.

Decided to join you on this, will have to catch up. But it shouldn't be too hard to blast through a couple Hitch silents in a weekend Big Grin

I had no idea there was another version of The Lodger like that. How does it compare to the original? Which version do you prefer?
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