Starring: Anny Ondra, John Longden, Sara Allgood
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock was such a prolific film maker, and since many of his later films are the ones that he’s known for, it’s easy to forget that he started out making films in the silent era.
This film, Blackmail, was his first “talkie” and one of Britain’s first and finest films that utilised sound, and is often called the British answer to the Jazz Singer.
It’s the story of beautiful Alice, who has a fight with her police officer boyfriend and impulsively agrees to enter an artists flat. When he tries to rape her, she kills him in self defence, and then must deal with not only the trauma of what she’s done, but also an evil blackmailer who has found her out.
Even though it was made back in the 20’s, early in Hitchcocks career, the themes of crime, of a beautiful blonde in dire straights, of her psychological torment and his use of innovative film making techniques can all be seen here that would later become signature motifs. Much has been made of his clever use of sound design as well, to convey mood and feeling, not just dialogue, for example, a scene in which our terrified heroine listens to a conversation but the only audible word is the repeated “knife”.
It’s a wonderful film, and you really do wonder how Alice is going to get out of it. I mean, she did kill a man, even if he was awful, and how will she outsmart the blackmailer? It’s a tense film, and with it’s focus on her and her traumatised feelings, it feels so unlike other films of it’s era. An incredible piece of cinema and a must for Hitchcock fans.
See It If: you love Hitchcock! It’s a wonderful work that presages what was to come in a remarkable career. Interesting and highly entertaining.