The Lodger (1927) – reviewed by George

Ivor Novello was a great British star in the teens and twenties of the last century, so good-looking and talented that he is still remembered today, and occasionally still shows up as a fictional version of himself. He was a member of the house party in Oscar-winner “Gosford Park”, played by Jeremy Northham.
In this early Hitchcock silent film (Hitchcock’s third feature as director) Novello plays the lodger. The film begins with the discovery of yet another murder victim, as always a blonde and on a Tuesday after dark. And as always a piece of paper is found on the body with a triangle drawn on it and inside the triangle the words “THE AVENGER”.
A policeman takes the woman who saw the murder into a pub for a pint to calm her down. She tells the crowd, “Tall he was, and his face all wrapped up!”
Cut to the fairly recent marvel the telegraph as it reports the news to papers who will then print it for distribution. The caption says :”Wet from the presses” as people fight for their copy, and the news stand guy says, “Always happens Tuesdays. That’s my lucky day.”
Another caption says, “Hot over the aerial” and we see people horrified at their radios or wirelesses.
Cut to a flood of chorus girls rushing into a dressing room to get changed and get out. As in “The Pleasure Garden” they are all wearing blonde wigs and laughing together that they are not blondes – at least not all of them……
Now Daisy Bunting (June Tripp, billed as JUNE, yes, all caps), a dark blonde, is seen working at a fashion showroom modeling the dresses. Back in the dressing room one of the girls laughs, “No more peroxide for me!”
Daisy’s parents, the Buntings (Marie Ault and Arthur Chesney), are teasing her boyfriend Joe the police detective (Malcolm Keen) about the police letting The Avenger get away every time, when Daisy enters fresh from work. The lights go out and Mr. Bunting makes a huge deal out of getting a coin and putting it in the slot to get the electricity flowing again, while Mrs. Bunting answers the door and reveals a truly startling figure: a man with a dark overcoat and hat, and a dark scarf covering the lower half of his face. He enters uninvited and as he removes his hat and scarf the lights come back on. He is handsome and he wordlessly indicates a sign in the window: “Rooms to Let”.
The lodger (Ivor Novello) now becomes a fixture in the house and begins putting the moves on Daisy, much to Joe’s fury. And is he The Avenger?
Hitchcock is obviously still finding his way, but there are two excellent shots here: as the lodger paces back and forth upstairs, the chandelier one floor down begins to swing back and forth and almost hypnotizes the family. And as they look, fascinated, so do we, and we see the lodger’s pant-legs and shoes moving back and forth through a glass floor. And another time, the shot is straight down at the ground floor as the lodger descends the stairs and all we see is his hand on the oval banister getting farther away.
For this review I watched two different DVD’s of this film. One was a single disc with two Hitchcock movies: this one and “Downhill”, which is the original title for “When Boys Leave Home”, and the other an 8-disc set of older Hitchcock movies. The double feature had by far the better print, but the score on the other was like a real score. On the double feature someone tried to imitate the telegraph with scratching and it was disturbingly, distractingly Techno. My advice is to find the double feature and then turn off the sound. Or you could just get the American remake from 1944 with Merle Oberon and Laird Cregar, which is altogether a better movie.
NOTE: Hitchcock’s second movie “The Mountain Eagle” (1926) would normally be in this spot and “The Lodger” would wait until next week, but Mountain Eagle is a lost film. There are at least some summaries of the film. In the mountains of Kentucky a widowed store owner with a son is in love with his son’s teacher played by Nita Naldi. When his affections are not retuned he accuses her of molesting his boy. In order to contradict his story she marries a hermit, John ‘Fear o’ God’ Fulton, played by Malcolm Keen, Joe in “The Lodger”. The teacher’s new happiness after she and her husband have a baby, drives the store owner to hide his son and say ‘Fear o’ God’ killed him.
NOTE # 2: “The Lodger” was remade in England in 1932 as “The Phantom Fiend”, which also stars Ivor Novello.

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