The Lodger (1928)
The Lodger (1928)

Genre: Crime Drama and Mystery Running Time: 1 hr. 8 min.

Release Date: June 10th, 1928 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Alfred Hitchcock Actors: Ivor Novello, June Tripp, Malcolm Keen, Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney

 


 

A

woman – a showgirl – screams, but is silenced by death. Her murderer is at large, having disappeared into the fog of a London night, though he leaves his calling card, “The Avenger,” on the broken body of the golden-curled beauty. And she’s the seventh victim so far.

But an elderly woman claims to have seen the killer, giving such vague details as “tall” and wearing a scarf that conceals the lower part of his face. Even so, it would seem that no fair-haired girl is safe. Policeman Joe (Malcolm Keen) isn’t much comfort in the lodging house of Daisy (June Tripp), as her blonde locks ensure that she’s a potential target for the next slaying, due on the eighth consecutive Tuesday night since the murders began. And landlady Mrs. Bunting (Marie Ault) and her husband (Arthur Chesney), who are also Daisy’s parents, fail to inspire confidence.

With very few characters in the picture, it quickly becomes apparent that a tall, dark, unnamed stranger (Ivor Novello) could be the culprit. After all, he’s incredibly suspicious, not only with his appearance but also with his stewing ferocity, lurking just below his intense visage and his frozen stares. He’s curt, unfriendly, peculiar in his actions (notably when he hefts a butter knife or blocks the door to Daisy’s exit), and financially well-off, which begs the question: Will the director try to introduce some twist, or is this story actually about scrutinizing the movements and motives of a serial killer?

Although it wasn’t his directorial debut, “The Lodger” was Alfred Hitchcock’s first great success. And if any distinctive powerhouse could bewitch and shock viewers, it’s the Master of Suspense – even before he was crowned with that title. A romance between Joe and Daisy lightens the proceedings, especially with the slapstick-oriented humor of their flirtations being interrupted, along with the love-triangle aspects when the mysterious lodger slowly makes himself more agreeable. Of course, the film is still careful to keep viewers unsure – evident when Novello’s character says, “Be careful, I’ll get you yet,” when he takes a fancy to Daisy’s hair, and when he picks up a fireplace poker rather ominously (only to stir the kindling).

Though it’s based on a novel by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, it’s Hitchcock’s early experimentations with special effects, visual trickery, and narrative entanglements that help make “The Lodger” belong more assuredly to his oeuvre than to that of anyone else. Misdirection (such as a scream and a smashed vase revealing an embrace initiated by nothing more than a mouse), reflections, pulsing neon signs, close-ups of exaggerated expressions, flashbacks, shots of newspaper headlines, the repeating of images, overlaid frames, characters looking directly into the camera, a glass ceiling sequence, and perfectly eerie imagery (such as a notable staircase shot and an inky shadow that crawls up the crouched body of yet another victim) are all witnessed as the director refuses to rely solely on the allure of the grisly premise. Furthermore, the tale unfolds swiftly and with plenty of twists, as well as with the mystery of the stalker’s identity kept a secret until the very end – making use of the signature themes and characters (such as murder, paranoia, powerful yet misguided opponents, a hint of voyeurism with Daisy undressing and then taking a bath, “wrong men,” and yellow-haired temptresses) that Hitchcock would employ consistently throughout his later works (1941’s “Suspicion” is one of the more obvious examples of Hitchcock expanding upon and revisiting ideas that he toyed with here).

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10