The Lodger

Ivor Novello in The Lodger

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

30 September

 

 

Jack the Ripper Kills Twice, 1888

On this day in 1888, the London serial killer known as Jack the Ripper killed two women, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Stride had had her throat cut; Eddowes had also had her throat cut, part of her nose was missing, her right earlobe was hanging off and she had had her abdomen cut open and one kidney had been removed. They were victims number three and four of a five-kill run that had started on 31 August and run its course by 9 November of the same year. The Ripper’s identity was never revealed, which ruins the “he wants to be caught” theorising of any number of films and TV shows about serial killers. The novelist Patricia Cornwell has come to the conclusion in her Portrait of a Killer that the killer was the artist Walter Sickert, based on DNA evidence and Sickert’s interest in depicting naked women, in particular in his lurid painting The Camden Town Murder. However the field remains open, with a variety of names in the frame, in particular surgeons, on account of the Ripper’s accurate way with a knife, especially considering he was killing and eviscerating women mostly outdoors, on the hoof, at speed. Nor are we entirely sure that Stride was a victim, and there might have been an earlier victim not included in the canonical tally. However we look at it, it was a short reign of fear and, for a serial killer, a not particularly prolific one. In truth the reputation of the Ripper rests on something else – the development of a vibrant press, selling to a population that was increasingly literate (particularly since the 1870 Education Act). In fact one theory now asserts that the first letter claiming to have been written by Jack the Ripper was in fact penned by a journalist.

 

 

The Lodger (1927, dir: Alfred Hitchcock)

A mysterious man checks into a boarding house on a dark, foggy London night. Meanwhile, out on the streets someone called the Avenger is brutally killing blondes. Is it our mystery man? Does he have designs on the blonde daughter of the landlady? Within minutes Alfred Hitchcock, in the film that announced his breakthrough, has us hooked. The famous singer Ivor Novello plays the Lodger, a tall, dark and slightly effete man, Novello is ideal casting as the queer cove who might not be what he says he is. A notable film in many ways, not least because it’s Hitchcock’s first thriller, The Lodger is clearly the work of a director struggling against the constraints of the silent film, using everything to hand – newspapers, teleprinters, neon signs outside – to convey information in ways other than the dreaded intertitle. This “show don’t tell” approach would stand Hitchcock in good stead in his later career. But he’s also deploying a tactic he would use again and again – telling us just enough to get us onside as co-conspirators (we know stuff the film’s characters don’t) yet just withholding enough to keep us guessing. So is the lodger the killer? Is the lovely Daisy (June Tripp, billed simply as “June”) with the more straightforwardly masculine policeman boyfriend going to end up dead? This isn’t perfect Hitchcock, there is an awful lot of theatricality on display, but it is remarkable how quickly and efficiently Hitchcock gets his story going, and it’s also amazing how much of his mature work is already here, in embryo. There’s even a cameo by the man himself. Look out for him in the newspaper office.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Hitchcock’s first real “Hitchcock” film
  • Some beautiful expressionist montage work, hot from Hitchcock’s visit to Germany
  • Its kick of dark sexual criminality
  • If you’re lucky, you’re watching the restored version by the Scorsese Foundation and the British Film Institute with original colour tinting

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

The Lodger – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

9 March 2009-03-09

Walt Disney's Pinocchio

Ratings on the UK system (ie U=universal, PG=parental guidance, 12, 15 and 18 are self-explanatory, E=excempt)

Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Disney, cert U)

From the days when the voice cast went uncredited, Walt Disney’s 1940 follow-up to Snow White gave us the Oscar-winning song When You Wish Upon a Star, a wooden boy with a Freudian nose and one of the studio’s darkest and finest animations.

Pinocchio – at Amazon

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Disney, cert 12)

The Holocaust through the eyes of a nice German lad (Asa Butterfield) whose dad just happens to be a death camp commandant. The everyday normality of the death camps and the mix of the sentimental, the melodramatic and the brutally direct often jars for the wrong and the right reasons.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – at Amazon

Quarantine (sony, cert 18)

A fluffy TV reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) lucks into the biggest story of her career by accident as a TV news crew is trapped inside a zombie house. Aficionados will recognise this as a scene for scene, stroke for stroke English language remake of Spanish horror [REC]. How wise not to change a thing.

Quarantine – at Amazon

Generation Kill (HBO, cert 15)

Into the bafflingly busy Iraq War with an embedded Rolling Stone reporter in this multi-stranded, vibrant 7-part TV series adapted from journalist Evan Wright’s book and brought to the screen by the team behind The Wire. Another triumph.

Generation Kill – at Amazon

LA Confidential Special Edition (Warner, cert 18)

One of director Curtis Hanson’s sweet run of great films in the 1990s and one of the must-watch movies of 1997. Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey play cops up to the oxters in celebrity sleaze – hello Kim Basinger in Veronica Lake pose – in this lush, noirish evocation of the tawdry 1950s.

LA Confidential – at Amazon

The Rocker (Fox, cert 12)

Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo keeps it feelgood in this harmless comedy about an old and rubbish rock drummer 20 past his sell-by joining a young band. Yes, it’s a School of Rock knock-off, and yes Rainn Wilson is working his way through Jack Black’s list of buffoonery and goofery.

The Rocker – at Amazon


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Momentum, cert PG)

Frances McDormand joins a crack team of British thespians (Stephanie Cole, Shirley Henderson, Mark Strong) to demonstrate how to strangle the English accent in a flimsy wannabe screwball comedy set between the wars and stolen comprehensively by Amy Adams.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – at Amazon


3-Day Weekend (TLA, cert 15)

Following on from last year’s Back Soon, Rob Williams’s state-of-the-gay-nation outing sees eight men hopping beds and baring souls for a weekend in a drama avoiding waspish stereotypes as it follows its central relationship into meltdown. Warning: may contain nuts.

3-Day Weekend – at Amazon

The Gene Generation (High Fliers, cert 15)

Chaotic throwback to cyberpunk 1980s – 2000AD comic, Brazil and Blade Runner – with a physically impressive if wooden Bai Ling as a ninja she-assassin. Quite what Faye Dunaway is doing here is a mystery.

The Gene Generation – at Amazon

Saw V (Lionsgate, cert 18)

Directed by Saw 1-4’s set dresser – a franchise this established will eventually direct itself – the gorno franchise finally runs out of wit, though the early DIY tracheotomy scene catches the breath and proves there’s still some ingenuity left in the tank, unpleasant though it is.

Saw V – at Amazon

Repo! The Genetic Opera (Lions Gate, cert 18)

Talking of which, here’s what Saw II, III and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman’s been up to, a tin-eared Rocky Horror-ish trash-glam musical on nitrous. Motley crew Alexa Vega, Paris Hilton, Sarah Brightman, Anthony Stewart Head and Paul Sorvino make it oddity of the week.

Repo! The Genetic Opera – at Amazon

The Lodger (Sony, cert 15)

Based on the same novel Hitchcock made into his 1927 silent classic, a lumpen Ripper tale set in LA, starring a wasted Alfred Molina as detective and Hope Davis as lonely housewife who let out a room to a mystery man (Simon West) who might be a killer.

The Lodger – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2009