18 April 2006 | Bunuel1976
THE LODGER (Maurice Elvey, 1932) **
This was actually the shorter (67 mins. as opposed to the full-length 85) version released in the U.S. under the title THE PHANTOM FIEND. While it pales in comparison with Hitchcock's seminal original a rare expressionist film to emerge from Britain especially since this has the tendency typical of early Talkies to emphasize dialogue (which is so muffled as to be unintelligible most of the time anyway, a deficiency which unfortunately seems to plague most British films I've seen from this era) at the expense of technique. As a matter of fact, the latter is only apparent during the atmospheric, fog-laden climax in which leading lady Elizabeth Allen mistakes the real Ripper-type murderer for the young man who lodges with her family (Ivor Novello, who reprises his role from the Hitchcock classic!).
Despite its basic purposelessness (though I would guess that a remake was commissioned, so soon after the Silent version, not so much to have a Talkie of the intriguing story based on a popular novel but more in response to the American horror boom of the early 30s), the plot is compelling enough to keep one watching
and predictable enough to be followed, so that it could have dispensed with dialogue altogether. The film features an impossibly young Jack Hawkins in one of his earliest roles as a fast-talking reporter (!) and Allen's fiancé, whose jealousy of Novello leads to the latter being targeted as prime suspect of the killings (also because his background, and wardrobe, is strikingly similar to that of the murderer)!
As I said earlier, perhaps the film's best sequence at least with respect to direction is its denouement; however, the changes done to the ending from the Hitchcock original are unconvincing and unsatisfying (especially since the romantic triangle at the centre of the plot isn't resolved
though this may very well have been trimmed for the American version, hence its abruptness.