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Lodger, The: A Story of the London Fog (1926)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Lodger, The: A Story of the London Fog (1926)
35mm, black and white, silent, 7500 feet
DirectorAlfred Hitchcock
Production CompanyGainsborough Pictures
Presented byMichael Balcon
ScenarioEliot Stannard
Original novelMarie Belloc-Lowndes
PhotographyGaetano Ventimiglia

Cast: Ivor Novello (the lodger); Malcolm Keen (police detective Joe Betts); Miss June (Daisy Bunting); Arthur Chesney (the landlady's husband Mr Bunting); Marie Ault (the landlady Mrs Bunting)

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London is being terrorised by a Jack the Ripper-style murderer, the Avenger, who targets young blond-haired women. A mysterious new lodger arrives at the home of Mr and Mrs Bunting, whose daughter Daisy is courted by a policeman on the case. When the lodger begins behaving strangely, he attracts suspicion, particularly when he shows an interest in Daisy.

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Made in 1926 for Michael Balcon's new Gainsborough studios, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog was Hitchcock's first thriller, and his first critical and commercial success. Coming shortly after his return from Germany, it draws heavily on the German expressionist tradition established in such films as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Der Cabinett des Dr Caligari, d. Robert Weine, 1919) and Nosferatu (Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens, d. F.W. Murnau, 1922). These films, which used stylised, angular sets, high contrast light and shadow to convey disturbed psychological states, were to be a major influence on the developing director.

The Lodger was written by Eliot Stannard from a popular novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes (sister of the poet Hilaire Belloc), and starred matinee idol Ivor Novello - who starred in Hitchcock's next film, Downhill (1927) - as the mysterious lodger who falls under suspicion. Novello reprised this role in a sound remake directed by Maurice Elvey (1932). June Tripp, the young actress who starred as the landlady's daughter, Daisy, was the second of a series of actresses who became blonde at Hitchcock's insistence - the first was Virginia Valli, star of The Pleasure Garden (1925). Joe, Daisy's policeman fiancé, jokes, "I'm keen on golden hair myself, same as the Avenger is". It soon became clear that Hitchcock had similar tastes.

The Lodger was a great success, and quickly established Hitchcock as a name director. But the film was almost not released at all. After a private industry screening, distributor C.M. Woolf, told the director, "Your picture is so dreadful, that we're just going to put it on the shelf and forget about it". In the end the film was released, thanks to the championing of Michael Balcon, and to a young film enthusiast, Ivor Montagu. While Hitchcock re-shot a few rough sequences, Montagu reduced the number of title cards by three-quarters, and added designs by artist E.McKnight Kauffer. This was the version which was shown to the press in September 1926, to be described in glowing terms by trade journal Bioscope: "It is possible that this film is the finest British production ever made".

The film is also notable for the first of Hitchcock's characteristic cameo appearances, as a newspaper editor - he claimed his part was due to the non-appearance of a bit-part actor. Hitchcock's wife and collaborator Alma Reville also makes a brief appearance.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. The mysterious lodger (5:27)
2. Handcuffs jape (2:32)
3. The Avenger strikes (6:04)
Production stills
Blackmail (1929)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
Montagu, Ivor (1904-1984)
Novello, Ivor (1893-1951)
Reville, Alma (1899-1982)
Stannard, Eliot (1888-1944)
Gainsborough Pictures (1924-51)
English Hitchcock
Silent Hitchcock