Ring a Ding Ding
Hitchcock got his career in films started as soon as the medium existed in England, it seems. He started as an intertitle designer, did some assisting on pictures and then moved on to directing. The Lodger is if not his best silent film at least the director’s favorite. It is often false noted as his first movie, but is in fact the first film on which he had choice of stories. Hitchcock always aimed to remake the film when he was in Hollywood but was never able to bring the dream to fruition. Ultimately, it was The Man Who Knew Too Much that was re-adapted and made as an American movie. Somewhat tragically, The Lodger was remade in 1944 but by another director. That version would have a grimmer ending from the original, but featured George Sanders as the detective, an actor Hitchcock himself might have selected for the role had he been behind the remake.
It tells the story of a serial murderer in London (in the vogue of Jack the Ripper) who kills young, blonde women Tuesday nights. After the 17th murder, a mysterious stranger arrives at the home of young, blonde model Daisy and her family, who are renting a room. When the stranger goes out late on a Tuesday night, the mother begins to suspect he is “The Avenger”, as the killer calls himself. The audience, too, has no doubt from his first appearance that the lodger is indeed the killer. We also see the man plotting out the locations of the murders. Daisy, who is dating a detective, starts to fall for the lodger and to the horror of her parents goes on a date with him on a Tuesday night. Upon their return to the house, and while making out in the boarder’s room, the detective arrives with a warrant to search the place. He finds a valise containing a gun and the map of murders. They put the man “in bracelets” but he escapes and Daisy meets him later to hear his side of things. He is not actually the murderer and has a plausible explanation for his actions, but the public has condemned him and hunt him down. The most famous scene from The Lodger is when the wrongly accused man hangs by the handcuffs from a fence while a mob beats him nearly to death. He is rescued by the police who know of his innocence because the killer was caught red handed just prior.
The Lodger not only illustrates Hitchcock’s mettle with suspense but also offers a glimpse into his artistic future. Shots such as one using a mirror to show the subject are commonplace now, but that early on is somewhat inventive. He also uses shadows to his advantage that are even noticeable in this faded restoration.
The Lodger would mark the start of several Hitchcock techniques to recur in his future work. It contains a wrong-man approach, a fixation on blondes and casting-against-type in the lead role. Ivor Novello was a musical sensation at the time who had made only a couple prior films. He was a heart-throb, so to cast him as a killer was appealing to Hitchcock. Novello’s popularity with women, however, had officials in the front office calling for his character to be cleared by film’s end. The original novel on which the story is based had the lodger as the killer who evades police and disappears into the night. Hitchcock was forced to come up with an alternate ending, as studio execs would often do throughout his career.
The MacGuffin: This was too early in his career to expect a MacGuffin.
Where’s Hitch: Three minutes into the movie he sits at a desk in the newsroom. Near the end he is among the crowd of people watching the arrest but is difficult to spot.
Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan
I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!