The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926) is Hitchcock’s first major calling card when it comes to looking at his career. The film has all the classic hallmarks of future Hitchcock masterpieces, the essence of suspense, the doubt of identity and the fear of death runs throughout The Lodger veins.
And from Friday 17th until Thursday 23rd August you will be able to see the brand new restoration of the film in all its murderous glory at Bristol’s Watershed AND WE HAVE SOME TICKETS UP FOR GRABS!!! A little bit more about how to win tickets a little bit later… But first, a few thoughts about The Lodger itself.
Now, we thought it would be best if we had someone who not only knows about the film very well, but was also involved with the now infamous BFI’s Rescue the Hitchcock 9 Project from the very beginning and who better than the Senior Curator of Silent Film at the BFI National Library and Archive, Bryony Dixon.
Bryony has kindly allowed us to publish a section of her entry on The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, taken from her recent book 100 Silent Films: BFI Screen Guides, a real favourite with many of us at Bristol Silents.
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock / Ph. Baron Ventimiglia / Scr. Eliot Stannard
Cast: Ivor Novello, June, Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, Malcolm Keen
“It is possible that this film is the finest British production ever made” said The Bioscope of September 16, 1926. After a bit of doctoring this was the verdict on The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog Hitchcock’s first suspense film and his first critical success. A couple of month’s earlier C M Woolf, the man in charge of distribution for Gainsborough, apparently had a contrary view; “Your picture is so dreadful, that we’re just going to put it on the shelf and forget about it” he said, although it seems probable that he had been swayed by the jealous persuasions of Graham Cutts who had till that time been the studio’s top director. The picture was ‘fixed’ at the request of Michael Balcon by Ivor Montagu who tightened up the intertitles and employed Britain’s best graphic designer, E. McKnight Kauffer (significantly, like Montagu, a founder member of the Film Society) to give the film a modernist look. His triangular deco design, intended to invoke the love triangle of the main characters, was fully incorporated from the opening animated title and also featuring in the calling card left by the ‘Avenger’ and the map of London on which the police are delineating their search area.
No doubt this artistic flourish helps the film look modern – in keeping with the German films that Hitchcock had learned to admire on his recent visits to Gainsborough’s German partner, UFA. In fact it was entirely in keeping with the look that the director had already created despite the Victorian setting of the source novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes. Hitchcock, or more likely, Stannard who adapted it, updated the story whilst retaining the fog. Ivor Novello, the quintessentially twenties man, starred as the mysterious lodger who falls under suspicion of being the Avenger, a serial killer of blonde girls. He falls for the landlady’s daughter, Daisy, (blond of course) but despite his gentlemanly manners her mother becomes increasingly troubled by his strange behaviour, his violent reaction to the pictures of blonde women in his room, the midnight walks and in a wonderfully suspenseful visualisation of sound, the lodger’s feet (we see them superimposed as if through the ceiling) pacing up and down, up and down.
There are many features of The Lodger that became characteristic of Hitchcock’s later films, the building of suspense, the stylistic use of montage shots and unusual camera angles, the use of sound (visualised in his silent films made brilliantly actual in his sound films), the incorporation of words as pictures, handcuffs, mistaken identity, the chase and of course the personal appearance as precursor to the famous cameos of late films. Every detail is planned and deliberate.
From: Bryony Dixon 100 Silent Films: BFI Screen Guides BFI Palgrave Macmillan 2011
Our thanks to Bryony who hits the nail on the head on how important it is to see this film and where it stands in the work of the master, Alfred Hitchcock, as well as where it stands in the History of British Cinema.
You really don’t want to miss out, so book your tickets for Watershed’s screenings NOW! But before doing that…
Now, the chance to WIN TWO TICKETS for any screenings of The Lodger at Watershed, Bristol later this month. (Dates and Times can be found here) And all you need to do is answer this simple question:
Which Crime Film was directed by British Director Graham Cutts and Starred Ivor Novello in 1925 and spawned two sequels?
Simply email the answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with The Lodger in the subject header by noon on Wednesday 15th August. The lucky winner will then be announced later that Wednesday evening. Good Luck!
There are 8 other titles within the BFI’s recent Hitchcock 9 Restoration Project which should be screened as well of course; hopefully, we will get a chance to see the others very soon in Bristol.
Worth noting as well that Watershed are screening a number of other Classic Hitchcock films as part of their regular Sunday Brunch Screenings. Check out the rest of the Hitchcock Lineup.