7.0/10
8,223
85 user 51 critic

Blackmail (1929)

Not Rated | | Crime, Thriller | 6 October 1929 (USA)
After killing a man in self-defence, a young woman is blackmailed by a witness to the killing.

Director:

Alfred Hitchcock

Writers:

Charles Bennett (from the play by), Alfred Hitchcock (adapted by) | 1 more credit »
Reviews

Watch Now

From $3.99 (HD) on Prime Video

ON DISC

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

The Manxman (1929)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A fisherman and a rising young lawyer, who grew up as brothers, fall in love with the same girl.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Anny Ondra, Carl Brisson, Malcolm Keen
Murder! (1930)
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A juror in a murder trial, after voting to convict, has second thoughts and begins to investigate on his own before the execution.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Herbert Marshall, Norah Baring, Phyllis Konstam
Champagne (1928)
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

A spoiled heiress defies her father by running off to marry her lover. However, Daddy has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Betty Balfour, Jean Bradin, Ferdinand von Alten
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

After his daughter weds, a middle-aged widower with a profitable farm decides to remarry but finds choosing a suitable mate a problematic process.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Jameson Thomas, Lillian Hall-Davis, Gordon Harker
The Ring I (1927)
Drama | Romance | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Two boxers compete for the love of a woman.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Carl Brisson, Lillian Hall-Davis, Ian Hunter
The Skin Game (1931)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

An old traditional family and a modern family battle over land in a small English village and almost destroy each other.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Edmund Gwenn, Jill Esmond, C.V. France
Comedy | Romance | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Believing that an unexpected inheritance will bring them happiness, a married couple instead finds their relationship strained to the breaking point.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Henry Kendall, Joan Barry, Percy Marmont
Number 17 (1932)
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

A gang of thieves gather at a safe house following a robbery, but a detective is on their trail.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Leon M. Lion, Anne Grey, John Stuart
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A landlady suspects her new lodger is the madman killing women in London.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: June Tripp, Ivor Novello, Marie Ault
Sabotage (1936)
Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A Scotland Yard undercover detective is on the trail of a saboteur who is part of a plot to set off a bomb in London. But when the detective's cover is blown, the plot begins to unravel.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, Desmond Tester
Adventure | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Public schoolboy Roddy Berwick is expelled from school when he takes the blame for a friend's charge and his life falls apart in a series of misadventures.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Ivor Novello, Ben Webster, Norman McKinnel
Crime | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Man on the run from a murder charge enlists a beautiful stranger who must put herself at risk for his cause.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Nova Pilbeam, Derrick De Marney, Percy Marmont
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Anny Ondra ... Alice White
Sara Allgood ... Mrs. White
Charles Paton ... Mr. White
John Longden ... Detective Frank Webber
Donald Calthrop ... Tracy
Cyril Ritchard ... The Artist
Hannah Jones ... The Landlady
Harvey Braban Harvey Braban ... The Chief Inspector (sound version)
Ex-Det. Sergt. Bishop Ex-Det. Sergt. Bishop ... The Detective Sergeant (as Ex-Det. Sergt. Bishop - Late C.I.D. Scotland Yard)
Edit

Storyline

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 <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

100% talkie, 100% entertainment. (Trade paper ad). See more »

Genres:

Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 October 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Chantaje See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (2012 restoration) (silent)

Sound Mix:

Mono (R.C.A. Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

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 Czech 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 Ondra 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 »

Goofs

The signature on the painting Alice blots out is not the same one she put there originally. It is much smaller and the underline is missing. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Det. Frank Webber: Well, we finished earlier tonight than I expected.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Reputations: Hitch: Alfred the Great (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Sonny Boy
(1928) (uncredited)
by Al Jolson Buddy G. DeSylva Lew Brown and Ray Henderson
Whistled by John Longden
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
They Did A Bad, Bad Thing
13 June 2007 | by Bill SlocumSee all my reviews

It's not the crime itself, but the cover-up that entraps two lovers in this cleverly sinewy suspense film shot by Alfred Hitchcock early in his career.

How early? Apparently, the sound era arrives about ten minutes in, as the opening reel is shot entirely as a silent movie (minus "quote" cards) before switching to audible dialogue. Yet like many seemingly creaky elements of "Blackmail", this is something that actually works to the film's benefit and gives it a stylistic uniqueness that helps it stand out today.

Alice (Anny Ondra) steps out on her police detective boyfriend Frank (John Longden) to have fun with an artist she fancies named Crewe (Cyril Ritchard). A crime is committed instead, and she finds herself back in Frank's arms seeking his protection. Unfortunately for both of them, a sponger lowlife named Tracy (Donald Calthrop) knows what's doing and pressures the pair for his silence.

To really appreciate "Blackmail's" skewed perspective, it's important to understand Hitchcock's complex view of the law. By all accounts a law-abiding, socially upright man, he nevertheless nursed an extreme dread of John Law dating back to a childhood episode when he was locked in a cell to be taught a lesson. As a director, Hitchcock presented authority figures as vaguely menacing, while reserving his greatest sympathy for outsiders who found themselves, rightly or wrongly, on the run.

The first image of "Blackmail" is the spinning tire of a police quick-response van, or is it a roulette wheel? The capricious nature of law enforcement is always on view, whether it's a bobby sauntering outside an apartment window while Alice screams for help inside or Frank using his authority to subvert a murder investigation.

This is the rare Hitchcock film that features fine acting bottom-to-top, but Calthrop stands out best as Tracy, the personification of the core ambiguity of this film. Described as "kind of mousy", given to smirking while pleading for help and whistling when he thinks he has the upper hand, Tracy seems easy to hate at first glance but isn't, not as Calthrop imbues him with a vulnerability anyone can relate to, cutting across the staginess around him with a dynamic performance that anticipates how cinema liberated the actor from hidebound stagecraft.

"One's got to live, you know!" he says, but the people he says this to act as if this is yet another of Tracy's unreasonable demands. We end the film pulling for him with as much passion as we pulled away from him at first encounter.

Subtle directorial touches abound, like Alice holds her face in an expression we see mirrored in a cut-to scene of Tracy fleeing through the British Museum while an impassive giant mask looks on. There's also clever use of the new sound medium (the "knife" one's not subtle, but a lot of fun) and knowing humor, like a conversation about a new crime film. Frank, being from Scotland Yard, scoffs at such fiction, but Alice thinks it has merit: "I heard they got a real criminal to direct it, just to be on the safe side."

About the only negatives are the static compositions and bad audio, problems of the period and not of the film. "Blackmail" even has a terrific final shot, which Hitchcock never topped until his final film, "Family Plot". It's another rueful note on the hit-or-miss quality of law enforcement, one that stays with you after the laughter fades.


6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 85 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed