Friday, July 2, 2010


While this is certainly one of Hitchcock’s least-known films, it actually holds an important place in film history. Not only was it Hitch’s first sound film (he had already filmed the bulk of the movie when sound technology reached England, prompting several scene reshoots), but it’s England’s first sound film to boot. Perhaps it’s not quite as prestigious as The Jazz Singer (the first feature length talkie ever made anywhere), but it was still an important milestone to our Redcoated Nemeses.
The plot would almost count as a twist on Hitchcock’s normal Wrong Man motif, if that had become a regular occurrence in his films by now. To wit: a young woman (Anny Ondra) accepts an invitation by an artist to visit his studio, where after showing off his artistic “skills” (sorry, maybe I have no real eye for artistic talent, but the naked woman he drew while she watched looked little better than a high schooler’s effort), he drags her onto his bed (located tastefully behind a curtain) and attempts to rape her. She successfully stops him by stabbing him with the knife he always keeps handy by his bed, and flees the scene. Her boyfriend (John Longden), who works for Scotland Yard, is assigned to the case, though while he is discovering that his girlfriend may have committed the crime, another criminal saw the murder occur, and takes one of her gloves from the scene so that he can…well, I don’t want to spoil everything, but let’s just say that what happens in the title may indeed also happen in the movie.

While the technology is obviously new to Hitch, he already shows an amazing ability to play with his new toy. First we have the very first instance of “dubbing”, done before the technology to do so actually existed, by way of having an actress with a pleasing voice reciting Ondra’s lines from off-camera while Ondra just moved her lips, so as to disguise her thick German accent. He also quickly twigged to the idea that, as long as you keep the audio low enough that the audience can’t make out what’s being said, he could just pepper the soundtrack with snippets of mumbling to mimic the noise of a crowd. He also has one great moment when Ondra, fretting over her secret crime, is sitting at a table while another character is ranting about nothing in particular. Her whole rant is kept fairly quiet, except whenever she says the word ‘knife’, when the soundtrack suddenly jumps up to a near-scream to better emphasize the point, so to speak. It’s a fairly elementary touch, but a nice one.

Overall, the film is nothing special, but is a clearly superior early effort for him than The Pleasure Garden was. We’re actually seeing him start to play around with the tools of his trade here, and while he wouldn’t start making anything really impressive until the 30s, I’ve certainly reviewed much worse movies for this blog. Like most of his early films (in fact, I think all of his early British efforts), this is public domain, so if you seek it out your print quality may vary, but the copy I bought (linked below) looked just fine, with minimal issues. And it’s cheap too, so how can you go wrong?

Rating; **

P.S. I had some trouble finding the trailer anywhere online, but I did find what appears to be the entire damn movie on Youtube. So there you go, yay for the public domain!

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