Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blackmail (1929)

The first British Talkie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, has certainly shown its age, dispite moments of inspiration. The plot is relatively simple: a woman kills a man who attempts to rape her, and is not only threatened by a blackmailer, but her subsequent guilt and paranoia of being caught. How could this end? With a climatic chase through the Britsh Museum, of course!

            There is no denying that this film has some memorable moments: the opening montage that covers a the aprending and subsequent imprisonment  of a criminal in five minutes, with no dialogue; the murder itself, hidden by a undulating curtain, and only sigled by the drop of a limp hand; best of all, the heroine sitting at the breakfast table, and hearing the word “knife” ring in hear ears, while the rest of the conversation is muted. There also contains an especially amusing director cameo, with Hitchcock being tormented by a little boy on the train.
 Alas, there are numerous things that tire the modern viewer. The acting is extremely stiff and forced (understandable for the uneasy transition of silents to sound, but still…). The pacing is slow (despite the relatively short running time of 84 minutes). The static camera work of the talking scenes provide a not welcome contrast with the excellent mobile camera work of dialogue-less scenes.

            However, this film is worth a look to anyone interested in Hitchcook, talkies, or early crime films in general.

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