I sat down to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger tentatively. Described to me as the first film that could truly be called ‘Hitchcockian’ – only his third feature length movie and his first thriller – I was worried that this would be one of those interesting classics that is interesting solely for learning of the genesis of a director’s signature style and motifs, and actually in itself is not a terribly good film.
What a pleasant surprise this was, then. Sitting in a dark theatre on a Saturday evening, the audience was suddenly transported to a different world, to 1920s London, where a serial killer known only as The Avenger is bumping off young vulnerable blondes. Cue our introduction to a very mysterious young man who begins renting a room in an old house, happening to contain our young blonde heroine. And thus the plot is set in motion, the target set pieces falling into step one after the other with Hitchcock’s usual humour, playful manipulation and fetishistic attention to detail.
Strangely, although The Lodger was already restored in the 90s, it was revealed to be the most damaged of the ‘Hitchcock 9’ when the time came for the present digital restoration. The print that has now been released is something of a marvel: each frame has been freed from dirt, the beautiful tinting has been restored and, just for this release (almost 90 years after its first showing), a new score has been commissioned (the original one is unfortunately lost).
Technical malfunctions aside, the cinema screening of The Lodger was a rare treat: an opportunity to enjoy this incredible film on the big screen, the signal being sent from London together with live musical accompaniment – the premiere of the new score. Aside from one or two tonal hiccups, I thought it was very impressive – if at times a little too loud and forceful. Perhaps, though, this was due to it being a live accompaniment by the full orchestra, something which will not be the case in the upcoming Blu-ray release.
The Lodger, I’m thus happy to say, is not only a must for ardent cineastes and die-hard Hitchcock fans, but also for anyone remotely interested in cinema and looking for an interesting starting point, or even those who just enjoy a good bit of suspense. This movie is everything I hoped it would be – a great film in its own right, fully deserving of its classic status. I can’t wait to watch it again.
Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, James Martin (July ’12)