Patsy Brand is a chorus girl at the Pleasure Garden music hall. She meets Jill Cheyne who is down on her luck and gets her a job as a dancer. Jill is engaged to adventurer Hugh Fielding and... See full summary »
A serial killer known as "The Avenger" is on the loose in London, murdering blonde women. A mysterious man arrives at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Bunting looking for a room to rent. The Bunting's daughter is a blonde model and is seeing one of the detectives assigned to the case. The detective becomes jealous of the lodger and begins to suspect he may be the avenger. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Lodger was the feature which Hitchcock himself described as his first true film (it was actually his third complete one), and film historians, particularly auteurists tend to focus upon it because it is it introduces themes of murder and suspense that Hitch's name would later be synonymous with.
To be honest, the first thing that strikes me upon watching The Lodger is its sense of rhythm. Hitchcock's earliest films were always very rhythmic and the opening moments of The Lodger are a great example, with a dynamic and attention grabbing sequence of shots and title cards. Much of this however may be down to the style of the seldom referenced screenwriter Eliot Stannard, who has a credit on all but one of Hitchcock's silents. Stannard was a master at telling stories in purely visual terms, and his screenplays often go as far as to map out series of interlocking images.
The next very obvious thing about The Lodger is that right from the start Hitchcock was more interested in cinematic technique than he was in performances or artistry. The Lodger is crammed with Expressionist effects, in particular double exposures. Hitch clearly hadn't learnt the art of subtlety yet and these are massively overused. We can also tell early on that Hitchcock was interested in using his camera to involve the audience in the film, throwing in point-of-view shots or drawing our attention to specific items. In this regard his technique was not yet refined. He was develop it in his later silents.
Of course what generally interests followers of Hitchcock's career is the fact that The Lodger is the first time he deals with the grisly subject of murder. It's true that there are many Hitchcockian elements here murder, blondes, a love triangle and even a MacGuffin in the form of the Avenger whom all the characters are concerned about but isn't the focus of the story. There is a kind of morbid sensationalism concerning the killings, something we'd see right through to the other end of Hitch's career with the comment about "ripped whores" in 1972's Frenzy. There's also of course a "wrong man", although here he appears more as the subject of a whodunit. The later Hitchcock would have focused upon the plight of the wrongly accused, and made a more suspenseful film in the process.
All in all, The Lodger isn't really as significant an early Hitchcock as some would believe. For one thing there is the influence of screenwriter Stannard and the fact that Hitchcock, although he may have relished the material, was still very young and inexperienced. The fact is The Lodger may contain more of Stannard's influence than it does Hitchcock's. It's not as if Hitchcock immediately began making more murder thrillers. The majority of his British thrillers are of the espionage/adventure variety, and it would take up until the early 40s for Hitchcock to really begin making masterpieces in the domestic murder genre. It's also nowhere near being Hitch's best silent film, even though it tends to be remembered over more polished works like The Ring and The Manxman. Taken out of context though, it is a fairly decent late silent thriller, with only a few minor flaws in plot and direction.
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