The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
|The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog|
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Screenplay by||Eliot Stannard|
|Based on||The Lodger|
by Marie Belloc Lowndes
|Cinematography||Gaetano di Ventimiglia|
|Edited by||Ivor Montagu|
|Distributed by||Woolf & Freedman Film Service|
|90 minutes (2012 restoration)|
|Language||Silent film with English intertitles|
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog is a 1927 British silent thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, June Tripp, Malcolm Keen, and Ivor Novello. Hitchcock's third feature film, it was released on 14 February 1927 in London and on 10 June 1928 in New York City. Based on the 1913 novel The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes and the play Who Is He? co-written by Belloc Lowndes, the film is about the hunt for a "Jack the Ripper"-like serial killer in London.
A young blonde woman, her golden hair illuminated, screams. She is the seventh victim of a serial killer known as "The Avenger", who targets young blonde women on Tuesday evenings.
That night, Daisy Bunting (June Tripp), a blonde model, is at a fashion show when she and the other showgirls hear the news. The blonde girls are horrified, hiding their hair with dark wigs or hats. Daisy returns home to her parents, Mr and Mrs Bunting (Arthur Chesney and Marie Ault), and her policeman sweetheart, Joe (Malcolm Keen); they have been reading about the crime in the newspaper.
A handsome young man (Ivor Novello), bearing a strong resemblance to the description of the murderer, arrives at the house and asks about the room for rent. Mrs. Bunting shows him the room, which is decorated with portraits of beautiful young blonde women. The man is rather secretive, which puzzles Mrs. Bunting. However he willingly pays her a month's rent in advance, and asks only for a little to eat. Mrs. Bunting is surprised to see that the lodger is turning all the portraits around to face the wall – he politely requests that they be removed. Daisy comes in to remove the portraits, and an attraction begins to form between Daisy and the lodger. The women return downstairs, where they hear the lodger's heavy footsteps as he paces the floor.
The relationship between Daisy and the reclusive lodger gradually becomes serious, and Joe, newly assigned to the Avenger case, begins to resent this. The following Tuesday, Mrs. Bunting is awoken late at night by the lodger leaving the house. She attempts to search his room, but a small cabinet is locked tight. In the morning, another blonde girl is found dead, just around the corner.
The police observe that the murders are moving towards the Buntings' neighbourhood. Mrs. Bunting tells her husband that she believes the lodger is the Avenger, and the two try to prevent Daisy spending time with him. The next Tuesday night, Daisy and the lodger sneak away for a late-night date. Joe tracks them down and confronts them; Daisy breaks up with Joe. Joe begins to piece together the events of the previous weeks, and convinces himself that the lodger is indeed the murdering Avenger.
With a warrant in hand, and two fellow officers in tow, Joe returns to search the lodger's room. They find a leather bag containing a gun, a map plotting the location of the Avenger's murders, newspaper clippings about the attacks, and a photograph of a beautiful blonde woman. Joe recognizes this woman as the Avenger's first victim. The lodger is arrested, despite Daisy's protests, but he manages to run off into the night. Daisy goes out and finds him, handcuffed, coatless, and shivering. He explains that the woman in the photograph was his sister, a beautiful debutante murdered by the Avenger at a dance she had attended; he had vowed to his dying mother that he would bring the killer to justice.
Daisy takes the lodger to a pub and gives him brandy to warm him, hiding his handcuffs with a cloak. The locals, suspicious of the pair, pursue them, quickly gathering numbers until they are a veritable lynch mob. The lodger is surrounded and beaten, while Daisy and Joe, who have just heard the news from headquarters that the real Avenger has been caught, try in vain to defend him. When all seems lost, a paperboy interrupts with the news that the real Avenger has been arrested. The mob releases the lodger, who falls into Daisy's waiting arms. Some time later the lodger is shown to have fully recovered from his injuries and he and Daisy are happily living together as a couple.
Hitchcock's common themes
The Lodger continues the themes of Hitchcock's previous and future works; according to Phillip French, writing in The Guardian, Hitchcock borders themes of "the fascination with technique and problem-solving, the obsession with blondes, the fear of authority, the ambivalence towards homosexuality," in the Lodger.
- Marie Ault as The Landlady (Mrs. Bunting)
- Arthur Chesney as Her Husband (Mr. Bunting)
- June Tripp as Daisy Bunting, a Model
- Malcolm Keen as Joe Chandler
- Ivor Novello as Jonathan Drew (The Lodger)
- Eve Gray as Showgirl Victim (uncredited)
- Alfred Hitchcock as Extra in newspaper office, man in angry mob (uncredited)
- Reginald Gardiner as Dancer at Ball (uncredited)
- Alma Reville as Woman Listening to Wireless (uncredited)
Alfred Hitchcock cameo: Alfred Hitchcock appears sitting at a desk in the newsroom with his back to the camera and while operating a telephone (5:33 minutes into the film). This is Alfred Hitchcock's first recognisable film cameo, and it became a standard practice for the remainder of his films. Hitchcock said his cameo came about because the actor who was supposed to play the part of the telephone operator failed to show up, so Hitchcock filled in for him. Film scholar William Rothman notes that Hitchcock's cameo from behind is shot in a very similar manner to that of the titular lodger himself. According to some sources, including François Truffaut, Hitchcock makes another cameo at the very end of this movie in the angry mob come to attack The Lodger, but this is disputed (2017).
The Lodger is based on a novel of the same name by Marie Belloc Lowndes, about the Jack the Ripper murders, and on the play Who Is He?, a comic stage adaptation of the novel by the playwright Horace Annesley Vachell that Hitchcock saw in 1915.
News of the film was announced by the British press at the start of 1926 and Ivor Novello was announced as the lead in February. Originally, the film was intended to end with ambiguity as to whether or not the lodger was innocent. However, when Ivor Novello was cast in the role, the studio demanded alterations to the script. Hitchcock recalled:
They wouldn't let Novello even be considered as a villain. The publicity angle carried the day, and we had to change the script to show that without a doubt he was innocent.
Ultimately, Hitchcock followed these instructions, but avoided showing the true villain onscreen.
Filming began on 25 February 1926 and the principal photography was completed within 6 weeks. Hitchcock practised film methods that mirrored German expressionism, thus scenes would not run for much longer than three minutes. According to actress June Tripp: "Fresh from Berlin, Hitch was so imbued with the value of unusual camera angles and lighting effects with which to create and sustain dramatic suspense that often a scene which would not run for more than three minutes on the screen would take an morning to shoot."
Directorial style and cinematography
When developing directorial style, which is quite evident in all of Hitchcocks's work, in the framing of the shots Hitchcock was heavily influenced by post-war horror, social unrest, and the emotional fear of abnormality and madness. The film is entirely silent, however the visual story-telling is so evident in the film, words were not needed. German expressionism depended on the obscurity of film and one memorable shot in particular stood out. It occurs when the "Bunting's gaze apprehensively up at their kitchen ceiling, listening to the lodger pacing in the room above. The ceiling becomes transparent and, from below, we see Novello walking back and forth (across a thick sheet of toughened glass)." Hitchcock develops a demanding rhythm in this scene, always using the shots to keep the audience on their toes. Anticipation and suspense is a skill he is known for and it is quite evident in this film. According to the Criterion Collection review by Phillip Kemp, this scene was composed of "sixty-five shots in just over six minutes, with no title cards to interrupt. Some disconcerting camera angles, including one straight down the staircase as we see the lodger’s disembodied hand sliding down the banister."
Another stylistic element developed during principal photography of the film, was the original Hitchcock cameo. Hitchcock is known for briefly appearing in many of his films; in The Lodger he can be seen with his back to the camera in the opening newsroom scene.
Foreshadowing is also used in this film. Early in the film, the lodger's room is shown filled with paintings of naked blonde women by Edward Burne-Jones that are like the blonde victims of the Avenger, however briefly seen, among them is a painting of Saint George freeing a woman from being sacrificed implying he is not the actual killer.
Upon seeing Hitchcock's finished film, producer Michael Balcon was reportedly furious and nearly shelved it, along with Hitchcock's career. After considerable argument, 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.
Hitchcock scholar Donald Spoto, who had not seen the director's earlier two films, described The Lodger as "the first time Hitchcock has revealed his psychological attraction to the association between sex and murder, between ecstasy and death.". Spoto also stated: "Montagu's claim that Hitchcock's edit contained up to 500 intertitles seems likely an exaggeration, but he worked with the director during the summer months to tighten up the film. One of the other improvements was to hire American poster artist Edward McKnight Kauffer to design the animated triangular title cards."
A successful trade screening of the re-edited film in September overcame Woolf's prior objections and its theatrical success allowed for the UK release of Hitchcock's prior film, The Mountain Eagle.
Significance and legacy
Upon release the film was a critical and commercial success. In a review of the film in the British trade journal Bioscope It was called "the finest British production ever made”. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 96% based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 7.70/10.
The Lodger continued themes that would run through much of Hitchcock's later work, such as an innocent man on the run for something he didn't do. Hitchcock had reportedly been watching contemporary films by Murnau and Lang, whose influence can be seen in the ominous camera angles and claustrophobic lighting. While Hitchcock had made two previous films, in later years the director would refer to The Lodger as the first true "Hitchcock film". Beginning with The Lodger, Hitchcock helped shape the modern-day thriller genre in film.
After arriving in The United States in 1940, Hitchcock was involved with the making of a radio adaptation of the film with Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn, and Lurene Tuttle. The adaptation was reviewed by Variety: "Hitchcock is a director with an exceptionally acute ear. He achieves his results by a Ravel-like rhythmic pummelling of the nervous system. Music, sound effects, the various equivalents of squeaking shoes, deep breathing, disembodied voices are mingled in the telling of the tale with a mounting accumulation of small descriptive touches that pyramid the tension." This adaptation keeps the original novel's ending instead of the film's and leaves it open whether the lodger was the killer or not.
Hitchcock attempted another adaptation; in early 1942, the Los Angeles Times reported that he was considering embarking on a colour remake of The Lodger following the completion of Saboteur (1942) but he was unable to obtain the film rights."
Preservation and home video status
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Hitchcock's birth, an orchestral soundtrack was composed by Ashley Irwin. The composer's recording of the score with the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg was broadcast over the ARTE TV network in Europe on 13 August 1999. Its first live performance was given on 29 September 2000 in the Nikolaisaal in Potsdam by the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg under the direction of Scott Lawton.
Following several previous restorations, a newly tinted digital restoration of The Lodger was completed in 2012 as part of the BFI's £2 million "Save the Hitchcock 9" project to restore all of the director's surviving silent films.
Like Hitchcock's other British films, all of which are copyrighted worldwide, The Lodger has been heavily bootlegged on home video. Despite this, various licensed, restored releases have appeared on DVD, Blu-ray and video on demand services worldwide from Network Distributing in the UK, MGM and Criterion in the US, and others.
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