28 July 2004 | Ron Oliver
A Story Of The London Fog
With a savage murderer stalking the night, dark suspicion swirls about THE LODGER living in a London home.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) became a director of note with this silent film, his first thriller and only his third directorial effort, which shows the young Master's talents being developed in embryo. Based on the novel by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes and the tales of Jack the Ripper, Hitchcock was able to embroider upon the theme of mistaken identities and incorporate an intense chase sequence, both of which would become important elements in his later suspense films. He also made the first of his famous cameo appearances, twice actually, which would also become part of his trademark.
The film is well plotted and moody, told in an almost expressionistic style, relying mainly on visuals and a somewhat frugal use of title cards. The staging in the narrow, multi-level home is especially well managed, with characters on different stories interacting in the plot simultaneously.
Fans of the 1944 American remake with Laird Cregar may be surprised at its very different ending from this film. This is probably largely due to the fact that the earlier movie (including some very incongruous and never explained plot elements) was planned as a showcase for its star, matinée idol Ivor Novello, who plays the title role. Born David Ivor Davies in Wales, Novello (1893-1951) was the son of famed singing teacher Dame Clara Novello Davies. He found success on the stage at an early age and became a very popular actor-manager, playwright & composer, his most lauded song being the World War One patriotic tune 'Keep The Home Fires Burning.' Although he appeared occasionally in films, Novello's greatest renown came from his acting in the lavishly romantic stage plays he authored, his handsome good looks being especially appreciated by the ladies in the audience. A hint of his melodramatic stage persona, especially the use of his mesmeric eyes, can be seen in Hitchcock's film, projecting the actor into a virtual Epiphany during the most exciting sequence. Novello would also star in THE LODGER's 1932 British talkie remake.
The rest of the cast does well in support of Novello, especially Marie Ault & Arthur Chesney as his increasingly frightened landlords. Monosyllabic actress June flounces prettily as their flirtatious daughter; Malcolm Keen, whose character is done rather dirty by the script, plays the suspicious cop who loves her.