#885 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
1927 // UK // Alfred Hitchcock
The Lodger has been a fun and enthralling film to watch but not so much an exploratory film to be reviewed of since almost every scene has been thoroughly analysed by the critics in view of the recurring Hitchcockian elements that pervaded the master’s subsequent works. What I’m going to say here would certainly look déjà vu , as already proclaimed in almost every review I read and by Hitchcock himself to Francois Truffaut in the famous conservation between the two in 1966, that The Lodger is “the first true Hitchcock movie.”
In fact Mr. Hitchcock had directed two films beforehand, The Pleasure Garden (1925) and the now thought to be lost The Mountain Eagle (1926), both were made in Germany. Hence, The Lodger was Hitchcock’s first British film which inherently reflected the German Expressionism in its use of light and shadow. The story, based on a novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes published in 1913 and perhaps influenced partially by the 1915 stage adaptation called Who Is He?, follows a mysterious lodger (played by the matinee idol Ivor Novello) who may or may not be the serial killer “the Avenger” whose victims were all fair-haired girl.
The lodger himself was appealing and gentle in looking, thus attracting the attention of the landlady’s daughter Daisy (June Tripp) who happened to be a blonde herself. But his behavior was undeniably uncanny at times, he was repelled by the sight of the hanging paintings of blonde woman in his room, yet he was allured to Daisy’s golden hair. He often paced back and forth in his room as he was feeling nervous or uncertain. And when he stealthily went out at night, the same night an murder took place, the landlady’s (Marie Ault) suspicion grew exponentially. When dates went by, Daisy was getting more closely to the lodger, and her jealous police boyfriend Joe (Malcolm Keen) began to investigate the lodger as the murders.
The circumstances of the story has a close resemblance to Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Hitchcock’s favorite work of his own, in which the outcome of the suspected murderer is drastically different. But with The Lodger, most of the keyed themes and motifs that will recur in his later works were already presented: an innocent man being pursued while pursuing the true culprit himself; obsession of blonde women and their magnetism towards male; ineffectuality of police force and the fear of the authority; the duality of human nature where good and evil coexisted; the guilty complex and the involvement of handcuffs; last but not the least, the cameo of the director himself.
The innovative visual have often been mentioned as well, the use of a glass ceiling showing the lodger pacing on the upper floor and the image of a shaking chandelier replaced the function of sound in a silent film; the flashing marquee sign of “Golden Curls” emphasized the significance of a specific color in a black-and-white film; the utilization of multi-storey set and the aerial shot of the lodger’s disembodied hand descending along the banister created a layered tension. All together the film announced the arrival of a master in his early form in the type of themes that would later earned him the reputation of being ‘the master of suspense’, in other words, it was the starting point of a cinema history.