Alice White is the daughter of a shopkeeper in 1920's London. Her boyfriend, Frank Webber is a Scotland Yard detective who seems more interested in police work than in her. Frank takes ... See full summary »
A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring.
Alice White is the daughter of a shopkeeper in 1920's London. Her boyfriend, Frank Webber is a Scotland Yard detective who seems more interested in police work than in her. Frank takes Alice out one night, but she has secretly arranged to meet another man. Later that night Alice agrees to go back to his flat to see his studio. The man has other ideas and as he tries to rape Alice, she defends herself and kills him with a bread knife. When the body is discovered, Frank is assigned to the case, he quickly determines that Alice is the killer, but so has someone else and blackmail is threatened. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Anny Ondra had a very heavy Czech accent, which, combined with the primitive sound recording of the time, made her dialogue virtually unintelligible. All of her lines were dubbed in by Joan Barry. See more »
A policeman stops the cab with a fleeing Tracy, and the officer looks into the cab standing no more than a foot from the bumper. When the panicky Tracy flees the cab, the bobby is ten feet from the taxi's front and is facing in the opposite direction. See more »
some glitches and flaws, but mostly a smashing success
Alfred Hitchcock had directed nine silent films before Blackmail- all, I should add, before the age of 30- and while he was hesitant to make the transition to the "fad" known as synchronized sound, he took to it with enthusiasm and with the daring he'd been known already for by this time as one of Britain's most notable directors. In the case of Blackmail, the film works on both levels of silent and sound, but having now seen the sound version I'd be very curious to see the one that is totally silent. Because many scenes and sequences work perfectly, maybe better in that purely and spectacularly cinematic quality, in simple silent storytelling, and here and there it looks as if Hitchcock decided not to touch a thing with the syncing or re-shooting. One sequence that still sticks in my mind, and one that reminded me a little of Murnau, was when Alice is walking outside on the streets following the killing in the apartment, and she walks along with a look on her face that is staggering and sometimes with the bodies and faces merging together.
It's the kind of sequence, among others here, that display Hitchcock at the peak of his skills as a director in the silent-film mold, but what's ingenious about Blackmail is how he manages to make some scenes work great for one form and then for another, and occasionally merge the two. In telling the story of Alice (Anny Orda), a shopkeeper's daughter who abandons her date Frank for the evening to cozy up to a painter with a charming/creepy stare and who lures her up to his apartment, Hitchcock lays his touches on sometimes thick and seductively, and with some bits of dark humor (or light, as is his cameo on the bus). Aside from the actual killing scene, which is staged with a minimum of sound and with an astonishing amount of bravura acting from Orda afterward in the apartment, there's the scene where Mr. Crewe sings and plays on the piano and Alice gets dressed on the opposite side of the room/frame. This scene, which expresses the momentary joy of the sound of singing and music as well as the physical and facial expressions from Orda trying on the dress and hearing music, is without putting it too pretentiously that rare moment where silent and sound film merge in a kind of transitional poetry.
If it does sound a little like typical Hitchcock, don't fret; it's actually near *classic* Hitchcock, with the murder case being a little more delicate this time around and the instance of blackmail being a devilish twist as the provoker, played by an actor with a great despicable face and a eerie temperament and voice. Working from the play by Charles Bennett, the Master of Suspense is able to weave this possibly stagey affair into a string of tense close-ups and reactions, of dialog that seems to toy with the emotions of Alice and Frank (befuddling Alice's confused parents), and Hitchcock, apparently not happy with the play's third act, cuts to a wild chase scene as the climax that leads its low-life if innocent man through the British museum and all the way up to the roof for one of the first major chase scenes in a Hitchcock film.
While this climax nearly gets marred by the inter-cutting with Alice's close-up, and earlier on in the picture there's a jarring moment when the silent-movie feel for the first few minutes (i.e. the cops going into the man's room looking at the paper, the gun, etc) into sound, these are its only major liabilities. Throughout, there's a very firm grasp on making sure that sound and dialog isn't just something of a kitsch device or something silly (albeit I'm sure the singing and piano playing is inspired by the Jazz Singer) but meant to actually involve the viewer in the progression of events. It goes without saying, as mentioned, a good deal of this could be as compelling without dialog and with the occasional inter-title to fill in the blanks. But then one would also lose little moments that make Blackmail special, like when Alice is in her room taking off her clothes from the night before in a kind of purging moment and a bird is off chirping away in the room- metaphor, perhaps, but it at least works as another kind of 'pure' cinema.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?