It’s time for another silent classic. This time I’ve got a real humdinger. Was The Lodger the first movie about a serial killer? Maybe, I haven’t found an earlier claimant but by 1927 the silent era had almost run it’s course, so it’s hard to say. In any case The Lodger was the breakout movie for director Alfred Hitchcock. It’s nice to see that one of the true icons of the horror/suspense genre was also one of the pioneers. The Lodger was based on a novel by the same name as well as a play called Who is He?. The story is a thinly disguised telling of the Jack the Ripper legend. The film itself was recently remaster into Blu-Ray format and it looks fantastic. Netflix just released it and I received my copy the next day. Great service guys!
The Lodger was a make or break film for Hitchcock. It was his third movie and the first two didn’t cut it. Once casting was complete, Hitchcock had to rewrite the ending. It seems that the actor playing the killer, Ivor Novello, was a popular star and the studio didn’t want him playing a murderer. Once filming had completed, the producer was unhappy with the product and brought in a film critic to “fix” things. Fortunately, the critic recognized the high quality of Hitchcock’s work and made only minor suggestions. The film was a hit and Hitchcock went on the become one of the early greats and eventually directed one of the few perfect horror movies, Psycho.
The movie takes place in old London around 1890. A killer has been murdering blonde haired women. He leaves his card with the bodies and identifies himself as The Avenger. Right about this time, a guy shows up at the boarding house wanting to rent a room. He demands absolute privacy, shows an aversion to blondes and leaves his room only at night. Everyone at the boarding house thinks the new guy is the killer except the blonde haired fashion model whose parents run the joint. She thinks the guy is dashing. Eventually things come to a head and the audience watches a guy get tangled up on a fence, hanging by handcuffs.
Hitchcock appears in his first trademark cameo about 5 minutes into The Lodger. He would continue the tradition for the rest of his career, popping up unexpectedly in The Birds, Vertigo, North By Northwest and other classics. He was kind of the Stan Lee of his time. Hitch also hosted a weekly TV show in the 60’s, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which was always about someone committing murder. He also produced a line of short stories in paperback form that my brother and I read whenever we could. The man was truly one of the founding fathers of the horror industry.