Later in life Alfred Hitchcock said he considered this, his third feature, to be his “first” film, and I can go along with that. Technically it actually was his first in the UK, where The Pleasure Garden and The Mountain Eagle never played until after The Lodger was a hit (plus the latter is lost and the former never seems to turn up anywhere). It was his first venture into the thriller genre, too, and features his first “wrong man” in the form of his titular lodger, suspected of being a mass murderer. At the same time, though, that was kind of the result of studio interference; Hitchcock intended the lodger to at least possibly be guilty (as he apparently is in the original book) but the studio dictated otherwise because how on Earth could Ivor Novello be a serial killer? Matinee idols like him didn’t do that sort of thing. So the question of his guilt or otherwise had to be definitively closed on the side of innocence. Personally I’m not sure this necessarily harmed the film (and, in the process, the figure of the Avenger perhaps becomes a kind of Macguffin, in that he drives the plot but, in the end, his actual identity is never revealed and arguably doesn’t matter either), but it’s interesting as an illustration of just how far Hitchcock’s achievement with the film was actually imposed on him. As for me, I was kind of stunned—though certainly not disappointed—to discover the DVD (the local Madman release) contains a longer version of the film I didn’t know existed; previously I’d only seen the 70-odd minute version that ABC occasionally pulls out late at night, but this runs nearly half an hour longer… I thought there was something odd about the way the opening scene didn’t quite match my memory of it, but clearly there was more to it than that. Wish my VCR was working so I could compare… Anyway, on this re-viewing it perhaps struck me as not quite as good as it once did, but I certainly don’t agree with some of the naysayers I’ve seen online who reckon it’s of no interest except to Hitch specialists if even that; it’s clearly still an early work, and it has some problems, but it’s certainly of more interest than some people think.
The Lodger (1927)