Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Pleasure Garden

So yes, shortly after announcing my grand return to this blog, I wound up leaving for Mississippi for over a month to help clean up the oil spill, during which time I was without easy computer access or, more importantly, any of my movies. The timing could have been better. So, by way of apology to all of you dear readers, for the duration of July (barring any further unexpected road trips) you’ll be getting to enjoy a theme, as we’re rolling out Hitchcock Month for all of you! Every weekday you’ll be getting a new review of an old film by the Master of Suspense, so that we can both benefit: all of you by having twenty or so new reviews to read, and me by having a way of justifying owning so many of his films. While there’s not enough time in a month to review all of his movies, I’ll try to hit all the important ones.
Which brings us to The Pleasure Garden, his directorial debut (aside from a couple uncredited efforts where the studio had him take over for another director partway through filming). The first sign I had that something was awry with this film was in how it’s one of Hitchcock’s only films that has never been released on DVD (at least in the U.S.). Of course, such a problem isn’t enough to stop anyone with an Internet connection these days, and anyone hoping to play along shouldn’t have any real difficulty finding a copy for their computer. Regardless, when the man’s directed over sixty films, and all but a couple are easily purchasable, you get to wondering about the ones that aren’t, and this shows that such concerns are fully justified.

The main word one would describe this with would be “boring”. It plays like a typical silent melodrama, with all the overacting and lack of plot one expects to find in such films. It follows two women that are working at a theater as dancers, giving us the pleasure of seeing what appears to be the same dance routine over and over again throughout the film’s thankfully short running time (IMDB says 75 minutes, though the copy I got runs only an hour, which means it would be an ideal addition to a future Mill Creek collection). One is married, while the other has a boyfriend, and the men both head on out to a Caribbean island for work, leaving the women behind to dance some more. The film does get better at the climax, set on the island when it abruptly switches over into thriller territory by introducing a ghost, a sword, and a gun, but by then it’s too little, too late.

While I tend to not be the most forgiving person imaginable with movies, I do have to say that this is a perfectly forgivable debut effort from the man who would go on to be arguably the most popular director of all time. After all, not only was it his first movie, but the concept of a film being an hour or longer had only existed for a decade by then. Almost everybody was making regrettable early efforts like this, even the wildly popular directors, so I can hardly single Hitchcock out and sneer at him for making a boring movie in the mid-20s. Still, this is a film that only true die-hard fans will want to see, making it a tad awkward to start Hitchcock Month off with this. Ah well, such is life, no?

Rating: * ½

For those interested, by the way, the trailer can be found here.

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