The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog – UK, 1926

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The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog is a 1926 British silent thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It stars Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, June Tripp, Malcolm Keen, and Ivor Novello. Based on a story by Marie Belloc Lowndes and a play Who Is He? co-written by Belloc Lowndes, the film is about the hunt for a “Jack the Ripper” type of serial killer in London. The film was released on 14 February 1927 in London and on 10 June 1928 in New York City.

Originally, the film was intended to end with ambiguity as to whether or not the lodger was innocent. However, when star Ivor Novello was cast in the role, Gainsborough studio demanded alterations to the script.

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Upon seeing Hitchcock’s finished film, producer Michael Balcon was furious, and nearly shelved it (and Hitchcock’s career). After considerable bickering, a compromise was reached and film critic Ivor Montagu was hired to salvage the film. Hitchcock was initially resentful of the intrusion, but Montagu recognised the director’s technical skill and artistry and made only minor suggestions, mostly concerning the title cards and the reshooting of a few minor scenes. Ultimately, Hitchcock followed these instructions, but avoided showing the true villain onscreen.

The result, described by Hitchcock scholar Donald Spoto, is “the first time Hitchcock has revealed his psychological attraction to the association between sex and murder, between ecstasy and death.” It would pave the way for his later work.

Plot:

A young blonde woman, framed against a sheet of glass, her golden hair illuminated, is seen screaming. She is the latest victim of a serial killer known as “The Avenger”, who targets young blonde women.

That night, Daisy Bunting (June Tripp), a blonde model, is at a fashion parade where she and the other showgirls heard the news of the murder. The blonde girls are horrified; covering their hair with dark wigs or hats while Daisy laughs at their fears. She returns home to her parents, Mr and Mrs Bunting, and her policeman sweetheart, Joe (Malcolm Keen), who have been reading the details of the latest Avenger crime in the day’s paper.

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Later that same night a man, bearing a strong resemblance to the description of the murderer (Ivor Novello), arrives at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Bunting and inquires about the room they are renting. Mrs. Bunting (Marie Ault) takes him to the room on the top floor of her house which is decorated with portraits of beautiful young women, all blondes. The man is rather reclusive and secretive, which puzzles Mrs. Bunting. However she does not complain after he willingly pays her a month’s rent in advance, and asks only for bread, butter, and a glass of milk and to be left in peace…

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Reviews:

“Part of the fun here is watching Hitchcock experiment with visual storytelling so early in his career, with this representing his third film.  For instance, while the lodger paces in his room, the family below looks up at the hanging lamp as it sways. Hitchcock creates an invisible floor. It’s an interesting effects shot that shows us both the Lodger’s actions and the perspective of the family. There is also a short montage at the beginning of the film that focuses on the faces of Londoners as they contemplate the murderous work of The Avenger.  Each face conveys a powerful emotion while cross dissolving in and out of one another.” John Ary, Ain’t It Cool

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Buy Blu-ray + CD with soundtrack by Nitin Sawhney from Amazon.co.uk

The Lodger is a jolting mess of a film, but one that remains electrifying. Not simply because it anticipates some of the director’s best known tropes – we’ll see vertigo-inducing stairwells later in his career, as well as women rummaging through a potential killer’s belongings while they are out – but because this is a kind of cinema that has been refined out of existence, not least by Hitchcock himself.” Andrew Pulver, The Guardian

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“Visually, the movie looks a lot like German Expressionism films of the time.  Dark shadows and strange uses of lights highlight the film (I liked the through the floor view of the lodger pacing). Hitchcock shows some of his style and these earlier films are fun to watch to see how he develops.” JP Roscoe, Basement Rejects

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