THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG. (1927) DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.
BASED ON THE NOVEL BY MARIE BELLOC LOWNDES AND THE PLAY CO-WRITTEN BY MARIE BELLOC LOWNDES.
STARRING IVOR NOVELLO, MALCOLM KEEN, JUNE TRIPP, MARIE AULT AND ARTHUR CHESNEY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This fog-wreathed silent movie has the distinction of being the first real thriller ever directed by a certain Alfred Hitchcock, and the distinction also of being a bloody good film as well.
It already bears some of the future hallmarks of the great man’s directing and, in fact, it’s a jolly polished product for a first-timer. Not many thriller directors could have achieved such perfection on a first try.
Thirty-eight years have elapsed since Jack The Ripper held the city of London to ransom in the infamous ‘Autumn of Terror’ in 1888, and here now we have Alfred Hitchcock presenting us with this spooky tale in which a serial killer of women murders an attractive blonde female every Tuesday, regular as clockwork. Well, it’s good to be regular, lol. There’s a whole branch of the pharmaceutical industry devoted to that very end, after all. (Excuse the pun…!)
This is probably one of the first ever films to make reference to Jack The Ripper or be based on him. The man who savagely slaughtered Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly in the Autumn of Terror in 1888 gave rise to an absolute plethora of books, films, magazine articles and word-of-mouth stories all detailing his horrific crimes for the reading public who, seemingly, couldn’t get enough of him. We could be looking here at one of the first few films based on his infamous career of butchery and hate.
Funny too, that Alfred Hitchcock should begin his illustrious career almost mythologising blondes, when we all know now that he had a big thing for them in his later works. Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly, even Doris Day, all gorgeous glamorous ice-cool blondes to set the pulses racing and the temperatures soaring. Someone had a definite fetish, heh-heh-heh.
Anyway, off we pop now back to London in the ‘Twenties, as fog-wreathed, dark and mysterious a city as it was in Saucy Jack’s time. A bevy of beautiful blondes are being done to death every week by a madman calling himself ‘The Avenger,’ leading blondes to wear dark wigs as a means of protecting themselves from the marauding murdering maniac.
We go now to the Buntings’ house. Ma and Pa Bunting, a traditional middle-aged English couple, have rooms to let. Pa Bunting sits at the kitchen table reading the newspaper in his shirt-sleeves while Ma Bunting cooks up the vittles.
Now meet Daisy Bunting, their ravishing blonde (yes, blonde!) daughter who works as a model or mannequin for a nearby fashion-house. She’s a thoroughly modern Millie, is Daisy, with her ‘golden curls’ cut short in the style of the time and her legs, shown off to perfection, encased in the hose and high-heeled shoes that were all the rage amongst the young women of the day. Long skirts and dresses were out. Showing off yer shapely pins was in, in in…!
She’s a proper little flapper, this one, with her smart little cloche hats hugging her neat little head, and of course she has a suitor. The Boyfriend is a tall strapping capable fellow, a police detective no less, and one who’s investigating the ‘Avenger’ murders to boot.
Daisy and The Boyfriend rub along together just fine, and no doubt the Buntings are thrilled skinny that a chap with such a good pensionable job is taking an interest in their Daisy, an interest which might very easily lead to matrimony. After all, doesn’t The Boyfriend himself remark to the Buntings:
‘As soon as I’ve put a rope around the Avenger’s neck, I’ll put a ring on Daisy’s finger!’
However, along comes the titular ‘Lodger’ to set the cat royally among the pigeons. One dark foggy night, Mrs. Bunting opens the door to a tall dark-haired young gentleman with a scarf wound round his face. He’s come about the room to let. As he’s willing to pay a month in advance, Mrs. Bunting is more than happy at first to accommodate the handsome stranger.
He’s a queer duck though, is this one. For a kick-off, he asks Mrs. Bunting to take away the pictures in his room, which are all of golden-haired young women. Hmmm. Very odd indeed, wouldn’t you say?
He’s certainly a bit of a rum cove and no mistake. When he meets the golden-haired Daisy, however, he demonstrates no such aversion to blonde females. The pair are instantly attracted to each other.
The Lodger, with his air of mystery and his chalk-white face painted to resemble a chorus girl’s, complete with Clara Bow lippie, is utterly enchanted by Daisy, much to The Boyfriend’s disgust.
How dare this poncy fly-by-night swoop down and take Daisy away from him? How dare he buy her an expensive dress from the fashion-house where she models? Such a gesture smacks rudely of an intimacy which disturbs The Boyfriend no end.
The Buntings are none too pleased either, especially when The Lodger’s mysterious nightly comings and goings seem to coincide with the movements of The Avenger, who’s continued to commit his ghastly murders even while we’ve all been caught up in the super-exciting love triangle between Daisy, The Boyfriend and The Lodger.
The Buntings and The Boyfriend all come to the same dreadful conclusion. If The Lodger is The Avenger, who signs his killings with his chosen moniker so we know whodunnit, then isn’t Daisy’s life in the most appalling danger? And hasn’t she this very night gone off into the fog with The Lodger without so much as a by-your-leave to the Buntings or The Boyfriend…?
The scenes near the end, that are not quite the end, resemble the grim finale of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA from 1925. I’ll say no more than that. The foggy gaslit streets of London deserve a credit all their own, and Alfred Hitchcock an even bigger credit for managing to make his debut thriller so marvellously, gothically atmospheric.
There’s a twist in the film- you know Uncle Alfred’s a big fan of a twist in the tale/tail- and to think that he made this film nearly a hundred years ago boggles the mind. I love that something so completely perfect and perfectly complete was made so long ago. It’s a must-see for Hitchcock fans. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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