Alfred Hitchcock – The Lodger (1927)

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The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (often just called The Lodger) was a 1927 silent film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is based on a story of the same name by Marie Adelaide Lowndes about a fictional version of the Jack The Ripper killings. The book itself was allegedly based on an anecdote told to the painter Walter Sickert by his landlady when renting a room; she said that the previous tenant had been Jack the Ripper. This was the third film Hitchcock directed and the first he made a cameo in. It is also the prototypical “Hitchcockian” film.

Despite all the effort that Hitchcock put into the film, producer Michael Balcon was furious with the end result and nearly shelved the film – and Hitchcock’s career as well. After considerable bickering, a compromise was reached and film critic Ivor Montagu was hired to salvage the film. Hitchcock was initially resentful of the intrusion, but Montagu recognized the director’s technical skill and artistry and made only minor suggestions, mostly concerning the title cards and the reshooting of a few minor scenes.

The result, described by Hitchcock scholar Donald Spoto, is “the first time Hitchcock has revealed his psychological attraction to the association between sex and murder, between ecstasy and death.” It would pave the way for his later work. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – The Pleasure Garden (1925)

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From IMDb:
The Pleasure Garden is the first film that Alfred Hitchcock directed to completion. It’s a nice look into the earliest directorial thoughts and techniques of the master. Even in this earliest film, we can see signs of what would become some of his signature trademarks. I enjoyed some of the point of view shots early in the film with the blurred view of the man looking through his monocle as well as the gentleman looking through the binoculars at the show girls legs. There is also a spiral staircase in the opening of this movie. Not that it was used like the staircase in Vertigo, but it made me smile thinking of how important that would be in his later film. The story deals with the idea of infidelity. Jill (Carmelita Geraghty) is an aspiring dancer who gets engaged to Hugh (John Stuart) who has to leave for work overseas. Patsy (Virginia Valli), who has helped Jill get her start, starts to worry about Jill keeping her promise to wait for Hugh. Jill’s career is taking off and she begins to fool around with other guys. Patsy marries Levett (Miles Mander), Hugh’s friend who also goes overseas to work with Hugh. Unlike Jill, Patsy remains true to her husband, thinking only of being with him. She receives a letter that her husband has taken ill and scrapes up the money to go be with her husband in his time of need. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – The Lady Vanishes (1938)

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In Alfred Hitchcock’s most quick-witted and devilish comic thriller, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood, traveling across Europe by train, meets Dame May Whitty’s charming old spinster, who seemingly disappears into thin air. The young woman then turns investigator and finds herself drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure. The Lady Vanishes, now in an all-new digital transfer, remains one of the master filmmaker’s purest delights. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – Number Seventeen (1932)

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This early Alfred Hitchcock thriller is certainly not among the master’s best — and the poor quality of most surviving prints does not help matters — but Number 17 is an entertaining little journey into mystery. Students of the director and his style will be the most appreciative of the effort, more willing to overlook the awkwardness of much of the film in order to ascertain glimpses of things to come in later films. And there’s a lot that’s awkward, from the not-really-surprising ending to several confusingly shot sequences (and some excessively choppy editing throughout). The climactic train sequence is emblematic of the film as a whole; portions of it are exciting and effective, but much of it is undercut by poor pacing and timing that just doesn’t quite work. Ultimately, it does build up to a good head of steam, but it has to strain mightily to get there. The cast is good, overcoming the underdeveloped nature of many of their roles; Leon M. Lion does especially well in the comic relief lead and Anne Grey is quite effective as the mysterious “mute” member of the gang. John Stuart projects that time-honored British mixture of manliness and restraint, and Donald Calthrop is nice and oily as one of the thieves. 17 is rough going at times, but it’s worth sticking out its short running time. — Craig Butler Continue reading

Gary Tarn – Black Sun (2005)

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Brief synopsis :
(www.britfilms.com)

Tragically blinded in a random street mugging, Hugues de Montalembert defied expectation and continued to travel the world, alone. In Black Sun film-maker and composer Gary Tarn constructs a poetic meditation on an extraordinary life without vision.

Description
(by kamera.co.uk)

Black Sun documents the artist’s will to live a full life, free of fear and impediment. Opening with aerial shots of New York, Montalembert describes the violent events that left him sightless. As he does, identifiable images meld together into a palette of colours, finally becoming little more than a spectrum of lights, slowly dimming, until we are left with the ‘dark honey’ glow that Montalembart tells us he has lived with for the last twenty-eight years. He candidly describes his refusal to go through the motions that doctors told him were the steps to his recovery – nervous breakdown, acceptance of disability, rehabilitation and adapting to a new life full of restrictions – instead setting out his own plan, which would see him travel alone to Indonesia within 18 months of the attack. From there he journeyed to Bali, where he began to write down his experiences. The resulting book became an international bestseller. Since then, Montalembert has continued to travel and write.
Continue reading

Michael Tuchner – Fear Is the Key (1972)

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Following the death of his family in an aeroplane crash, a man plots an elaborate revenge scheme on those responsible. By setting himself up as a criminal, he plans to get close to a certain tycoon who has been approached by the culprits to help them retrieve the cargo of the lost plane. Written by Jonathon Dabell Continue reading

Clive Brook – On Approval (1944)

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Plot Synopsis by Craig Butler (AllMovie):
English actor Clive Brook’s only directorial effort, On Approval, is based upon Frederick Lonsdale’s frothy 1926 play, though reset in the late 19th century. Brook plays George, a titled duke whose wealth has largely been spent but who has no intention of settling further into genteel poverty. George is enormously appealing to Helen (played by Googie Withers), a good-natured American heiress, and is equally appalling to Maria (Bea Lillie), an Englishwoman of considerable means. The imperious Maria is dating the eternally devoted Richard (Roland Culver), who worships her. Maria decides that she will marry Richard — after he spends a month with her in a secluded Scottish castle, where she will try him out “on approval.” Maria, however, does not intend to discover whether they are suitable for all aspects of marriage; every night he is to row across the loch and spend his nights at a local inn. Neither Maria nor Richard will lack for company, though, as George and Helen invite themselves along. Things get complicated when it turns out that there are no rooms available at the inn, leaving the men to share the castle with the women — a prospect that so horrifies the servants that they promptly leave the two couples high and dry. Left to their own devices, the foursome get to know each other — and they don’t necessarily like what they find. Continue reading