“The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog”

IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH ALFRED HITCHCOCK REVIEW: “The Lodger” stars June Tripp (The River, The Yellow Claw), Ivor Novello (Once a Lady, Sleeping Car), Marie Ault (Fanny Hawthorne, Major Barbara), Arthur Chesney (Sorrell and Son, Colonel Blood), and Malcolm Keen (The Manxman, Scotland Yard Commands). It is directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho [1960], Vertigo), who wrote it with Eliot Stannard (The Vortex, The Laughing Cavalier).

Based on a novel, this film finds a family in trouble when they sublet one of their rooms to a man they suspect to be a serial killer.

We’re starting off this Alfred Hitchcock marathon with one of his earliest pictures: “The Lodger” (or as some websites will state, “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog”). And boy did I forget how hit-or-miss silent cinema can be…

All of the silent films that I am reviewing of Hitchcock were purchased in a DVD set. This was a rather cheap hard copy, with twenty of his movies (both silent and talkie) ringing up at four bucks. It’s a terrific price for the lot of cinema, but man… the transfer of this flick was pretty atrocious. As you all know, if there is anything said in a silent movie, a text title card appears. Or, they could have shots of items that have writing on them that will indicate something important. Whoever replicated this print didn’t give it the best image, which often resulted in text being hard to make out. I had to squint, or infer what was being said most of the time. And while that is not the film’s fault, it certainly put a damper on my experience. That, and the music… which didn’t hit all of the right tonal notes (who in the world edited this together?). This makes me fearful of the other silent pictures on this DVD, but we shall see what is to come of them.

Hitchcock’s “The Lodger” is decent. For what it’s worth, his style that he soon masters bleeds through in certain moments on this one. As a film enthusiast, there are some sequences that are cool simply because of their invention in the time they were shot. One particular moment had us in the backseat of a police vehicle, driving through the streets of London, looking out from behind the drivers and through the windshield. He held on this for a long while, and I thought the composition was interesting for sure. There are other moments that made me go “oh, I see you,” while most others are just serviceable.

Hitchcock relies strictly on the visuals with this one, and while I wasn’t shaking in my boots, I could see where an audience at the time would be hanging on the edge of their seats. It’s a dark film, with a gruesome serial killer. The kicker is that our main characters believe they have allowed him into their home to pay rent.

It’s a fun, simple concept, with some moments to take away. However, I wasn’t all that enthralled. Is it because it’s silent? Perhaps. I like to give silent cinema a fighting chance, but I will admit that this one could’ve used some dialogue. Or at least… a little more title cards. I felt like Hitchcock wanted us to infer a lot by people’s actions (obviously), but the problem lies in the amount of dead space without dialogue, in a film that doesn’t give too much to physicality. Comedy features are easier in that you can form many sequences around physically led set-ups/pay-offs, whereas thrillers are more subtle.

For what it’s worth, “The Lodger” is an interesting study on the early works of Hitchcock. It has some inventive moments, and can utilize the lack of sound decently, but not enough to satisfy me. Not to mention the ending, which was rather predictable, but a tad disappointing in how there wasn’t much weight to the twist. FINAL SCORE: 60%= Burnt Popcorn

Here is the full film on YouTube (in better quality than my DVD):

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