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 <email@example.com>
Much of the film was originally shot silent; when sound became available during the course of shooting, director Alfred Hitchcock re-shot certain scenes with sound, thus making it the Master of Suspense's first talkie. There was one complication with this change, however. Leading lady Anny Ondra had a thick German accent which was inappropriate to her character, Alice White. Joan Barry was chosen to provide a different voice for her, but post-production dubbing technology did not exist then. The solution was for Barry to stand just out of shot and read Alice's lines into a microphone as Ondry mouthed them in front of the camera. This is generally acknowledged as the first instance of one actor's voice being dubbed by another, even though the word "dub" is technologically inappropriate in this case. See more »
Alice grasps the knife in a normal cutting position, with her thumb at the front of the handle. But her grip is different as she takes it behind the curtain: the knife is now held below her fist, with her thumb at the back of the handle, in a stabbing position. See more »
A common motif in Alfred Hitchcock's movies is the guilty woman: "Blackmail", "Psycho" and "The Birds" are all prime examples. In "Blackmail", Alice White (Anny Ondra) goes home with an artist one night and he tries to rape her. She murders him, and from then on everything reminds her of it. The jester painting appears to be looking at her (or she at it?), a billboard looks like a knife, and a woman keeps uttering the word knife. But in the end, everything blows up in Alice's face.
Hitch was certainly showing his chops here. The camera angles, scenery, and other such things all combined to make what we would expect in a Hitchcock movie. I try to imagine being a moviegoer in 1929 watching "Blackmail" for the first time, wondering what Hitchcock's subsequent work would be like.
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