The Leeds Mercury, on Tuesday, 26th April 1927, was fulsome in its praise of a new film that just been released.
That film was Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger,” and the newspaper’s critic was impressed by all aspects of the movie:-
A REALLY EXCELLENT BRITISH FILM
Someone said to me the other day after reading impressions of a film: “What a dreadful critical mind you have. You can’t see a picture or read a book without wanting to take it to pieces.
I’m sure that I enjoy films much more than you do. I am one of the great uncritical British public, and I glory in my shame. I love to see gorgeous frocks and champagne drinking in jazzy American mansions, and I don’t care a bit if the story has been murdered to get in these scenes.
But you- you are always carping. I’ll bet when the Last Day comes you’ll say the trumpet music isn’t ’stately enough for so important an occasion.”
This friend will be delighted to find for once that I can praise a film, and a British one at that, with gusto,.
I have just seen “The Lodger” at the Scala Theatre. It was excellent. I enjoyed every moment of it.
WATCHED IT CRITICALLY
I suggest to my friend that my enjoyment was all the keener because I watched the film critically. I looked for certain qualities which I have thought essential, though often lacking, in British films.
It was exciting to trace how they permeated the whole work.
I urged in notes on “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” that British producers should abandon the ranting emphasis of melodrama, show the drama within the mind, study technique of tension, and make their incidents speak to us with not only surface vigour but also symbolical inwardness – in a word (one so popular in my youth that now I fear it is too readily despised) they should aim at subjectivity.
Every one of these essentials has gone to the making of “The Lodger,” and we have beyond question a distinguished piece of British work.
A FILM WITH INTERNATIONAL APPEAL
“The Lodger” is good enough not only to fill British cinemas night after night, but to leap over the barriers into many foreign countries.
It is a lesson to the United States in its power of suggestion by picture; it needs hardly any captions. It is based on a novel by Mrs. Belloc-Lowndes, which must have been suggested by the Jack the Ripper murders in Whitechapel thirty or forty years ago.
LONDON ON TENTERHOOKS
We see London on tenterhooks owing to a series of murders of fair-haired women every Tuesday night, within a narrow area of the city.
Women are in such terror that some of them going into the streets at night hide their golden locks and wear side switches of dark hair.
AN OLD LONDON HOUSE
Most of the action takes place in an old London house in which two rooms are let to a mysterious stranger, played by Ivor Novello.
He is a tense, sombre personality. He pleases women rather than men. The landlady has an admiration for him that you feel is a kind of hero-worship for all gentlefolk. Her daughter, Daisy, a mannequin, falls in love with this dark, vivid stranger, to the anger of an honest but rough detective, who shares the family life in the kitchen.
You feel the atmosphere becoming dark with suspicion that the gentleman lodger is the murderer.
ALL IS REVEALED
A search warrant is obtained. What seems to be incriminating evidence is found in Daisy’s presence. The young man tries to escape hand-cuffed and is almost lynched by a crowd.
He is rescued just in time by the police, who have learned that the real murderer has been caught red-handed elsewhere.
The mysterious stranger was the brother of the victim of the first murder, and has been an amateur detective consumed with zeal for vengeance.
Daisy has trusted him in spite of all, and has her reward.
So all ends with as rousing a fanfare of triumph as the film-goer expects.
THE FILM’S WEAK POINTS
The story holds our attention with such a grip of sombre fascination that we hardly stumble over any of its weak points.
One of these is the young man’s dash to escape. Innocent men in real life do not break loose from the police.
A more serious flaw is that the younger film-goers, at any rate, will feel that the main problem set before us in the plot is not solved.
We, who remember the enormous stir made by Jack-the Ripper, see in the curious circumstances of these murders the work of a sex-obsessed maniac. But this is left too vague in the film.
It is a pity.
A DETECTIVE TALE WITHOUT A SOLUTION
The film is too much like a detective tale without a detective solution: it slips aside into a love story, and does not return to the grim dominant interest with which it has played on our emotions.
Nor do we find it very easy to accept the theory that the dark young stranger goes into lodgings that he may track down the assassin for his own revenge.
These sworn avengers working in secret are not quite in the spirit our time.
Since they became a literary convention long ago we have evolved quite a trustworthy police system.
The young man should have gone to Scotland Yard.
ACTING AND PRODUCING ARE SO GOOD
But the producing and acting are so good that delight is our chief impression at the close.
Ivor Novello is seen at the height of his romantic powers, and he has an almost unsurpassable leading woman in June Tripp.
SCENES OF YOUNG LOVE
“The Lodger” is a murder mystery, but it is also a glorification of youth. The scenes of young love warmed my old heart.
I have often thought that love-making is the poorest part of the American films. It is a Los Angeles convention that the hero and heroine always fall in love at first sight, and within half a minute are clasped in a union of hearts about half a yard from the camera.
Life, happily, is not as hot-blooded as that.
Ivor Novello and June, suggesting the tender indecisions and the woundings of young love, make the stars of Los Angeles look like giggling sweethearts in amateur theatricals at a vicarage.
June, radiantly gracious, influences the whole film like the golden enchantment of a spring morning.
The other players are excellent, too, including a dear old landlady.
A GREAT WORK
Mr. Novello, June, and Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, the producer, have every right to look the whole film world in the face. They have added lustre to the British name in a great industry.
I cannot say which is most to be praised for this achievement, their work fits together so well.
Of how many foreign films can those approving words be said?”
WATCH THE LODGER
So, pull your chair close to the fire, turn the lights down low, and enjoy the 1927 version of the film.