• George Young

Homage to Hitchcock - Blackmail (1929)

Hitchcock’s first ‘Talkie’ is also his first epic bald-faced lie.

Conversion to sound, well underway in America, had taken root in England, but not to the extent it had in the United States. Hitchcock chose Czech actress, Anna Ondra, to play the lead (one of Hitch’s early ice-cold blonds) and her grasp of the English language? Questionable at best.

His statement, then, in 1937 that he had ALWAYS planned Blackmail as a true talkie is certainly a stretch at best, and a falsehood at worst.

No matter. A brilliant display of early Hitch, and a couple of his signature items present themselves in the film.

- At the breakfast table, the morning after she fights off and kills (by stabbing) the rapacious Cyril Ritchard looking to do her ill, Ms. Ondra fixates on the bread knife at the table. During the conversation, all she hears is the word “Knife” cleverly lifted from the track. She’s asked to cut some bread, and nervously catapults the bread knife onto the floor.

- An iconic view of the British Museum and its roof for the chase scene at the end. Wide Angle and epic. It is a harbinger of scenes to come in Saboteur, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest.

- And as mentioned previously, the beautiful blond lead. Innocent, seemingly, but in the end, deadly.

Not quite up to the standard of The Lodger, but certainly an example of artistic growth by the director, Blackmail is a necessary film study for anyone interested in the brilliance of the genuinely creative at seminal points in their career.

Next up.

Murder! (1930)

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© 2018 by George W Young