Category Archives: Films

Blackmail (1929)

I watched the sound version and the silent version ages ago and enjoyed them both. I preferred Anny Ondra when she was silent because the dubbing is all wrong. Joan Barry was far too posh. The knife scene works well both ways but I have to say the sound version is very clever. Hitchcock has turned into Hitchcock.

I love the glimpses of London in the twenties we get particularly those seen during Alice’s walk of misery after the murder.

Appearance by a cat or dog: none
Transport: motor vehicles
Source: The Early Hitchcock Collection (Optimum Releasing)/Erpressung (Arthaus)

The Manxman (1929)

I’m not a fan of romantic films and I generally don’t care a wit for love triangles and if the points of the triangle are as desperately dull as they are in this, I definitely don’t care.

I’m struggling to find reasons to like this or moments of genius because of the director but I’m failing. Sorry, Alfred, but this is down around position 52.

I concede this sequence looked great

Appearance by a cat or dog: one dog
Transport: fishing boats
Source: The Early Hitchcock Collection (Optimum Releasing)

Hanwells of Hanwell Rolls Royce & Bentley Specialists

Hanwells of Hanwell

For as long as I can remember, this showroom has been selling secondhand luxury cars on the Uxbridge Road in Hanwell.

[Update] A recent revelation via the Twitter account @EalingCinema is that the building was once a cinema called the Coronation Hall Picture Palace, a rather grandiose name, I feel. Here it is on a map from 1914, and you can also see the Grand Electric Theatre (latterly the Tudor) on Cherington Road.

Hanwell cinemas (Middlesex XV.11 Revised 1912 Published 1914)

I have also found the listings for them in Kelly’s Directory of Middlesex, 1914.

Kelly's Directory 1914

(This post was first published in January.)

Champagne (1928)

This was silly but reasonably entertaining. For some reason, Gordon Harker playing a Wall Street businessman seems particularly daft but that’s silent films for you. I’ve seen this twice and I can’t remember much of the storyline. Says it all really.

Appearance by a cat or dog: none

Transport: a “ship”; a “plane”; a boat; a train

Source: The Early Hitchcock Collection (Optimum Releasing)

The Farmer’s Wife (1928)

I wonder if this film was based on a play?
The Farmer’s Wife is the first film in this chronological viewing of Hitchcock films that I can say that I have wholeheartedly enjoyed on its own merits. The exception may be The Lodger but it is hard to be sure how I feel about it as a film since it is so familiar. I think it helped that The Farmer’s Wife was based on a play so it already had a strong story with well-drawn characters. I thought it was very funny with some splendid performances. I have really enjoyed the two performances I have seen from Lillian Hall-Davis and it makes me sad even over eighty years later thinking of her tragic end.  


The unexpected ending

Appearance by a cat or dog: two spaniels/pack of hounds/plus various farmyard animals

Transport: horses (notably a piebald one)/pony and trap

Source: The Early Hitchcock Collection (Optimum Releasing)

The Ring (1927)

The story was terrible with the dullest, most unbelievable love triangle. There was no chemistry between Jack and Nellie and her change of allegiance at the end was as unmotivated as the rest of her behaviour throughout the film.

However, despite this, the film was a lot of fun to watch. The fine looking leads gave equally fine performances. But it was the extras that made it so enjoyable. The fairground and boxing scenes looked authentic, there was great trick photography for the Albert Hall, a thoroughly delightful jazzy dance at a party, inventive camera angles, and a variety of special effects.

Alma fact: uncredited writer & continuity
Source: The Early Hitchcock Collection (Optimum Releasing)

Easy Virtue (1928)

Easy Virtue was made immediately after Downhill with some of the same cast members but I enjoyed it a lot more.

I was a little unclear how we were supposed to view Larita. She didn’t tell her husband that she was a divorcee which would be quite an omission at the beginning of a marriage even now. And she smoked like a chimney. There was one scene when she had a fag dangling from her mouth and she looked rather common. However, she was completely innocent of any shenanigans and so was a wronged woman. John’s family weren’t welcoming but maybe they weren’t happy with her stinking of smoke.

It was refreshing that the most supportive character was someone who is usually portrayed as the bitch – the former lover.

I’d like to see a restored version of this if just to see the wall coverings in the dining room scenes a little better.

Alma fact: none
Appearance by a cat or dog: several dogs including a French poodle and a British bulldog in a train luggage car
Trains: two trains featured but no humans were seen travelling in one
Source: jamespeterf’s channel on YouTube

Downhill (1927)

This was certainly downhill after The Lodger. I wonder what audiences of the era thought looking at Ivor Novello failing to look remotely like a youngster. A horrible story that didn’t even bother to give Mabel a clear motive apart from being a rotten woman. No amount of nifty directorial flourishes can drag this from near the bottom of the Hitchcock pile.

Alma fact: not credited but unlikely not to be involved
Appearance by a cat or dog: one cat
Trains: none but there is a lengthy sequence on a boat
Source: Alfred Hitchcock – The Early Years DVD (Concorde Video)

The Lodger (1927)

This is a Hitchcock film and it even has an appearance by the man himself to make its point.

I have seen this before but I was happily watching this with the lodger as villain until it finally occurred to me how unlikely that actually was. I thought the older actors were splendid particularly Marie Ault as the mother. Malcolm Keen lacked charm but even if he had been nice there is no way he could compete with the beautiful Ivor Novello. Some women back then really did like them the opposite of rugged. I can’t bring myself to criticise acting and make up styles from 90 years ago. We happily accept Chinese opera or Kabuki without rolling our eyes at its outdated style so I don’t mind Novello wearing as much make up as June.

It is rightly lauded as making use of pure cinema techniques such as using a transparent floor to show the lodger’s pacing but there are also clever bits like showing the light fittings swaying to illustrate the same idea – you can practically hear him. It was also beautifully designed with lovely tinting and (I wish they were in colour) intertitle designs by E. McKnight Kauffer.

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The only thing I don’t like is the square in which several scenes were shot which was so unrealistic that it looked just like a stage set.

Alma fact: another assistant director credit (was this a normal credit for the time or was it a special one for the work she put in?)
Appearance by a cat or dog: two cats
Trains: none
Source: Alfred Hitchcock – The Early Years DVD (Concorde Video)