Friday, October 23, 2009

44. Blackmail (1929)

Running Time: 84 minutes
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Written By: Alfred Hitchcock, from play by Charles Bennett
Main Cast: Anny Ondra, John Longden, Donald Calthrop, Cyril Ritchard


Blackmail marks the shortest journey a movie had to take to reach my hands, as all I had to do to get a hold of it, was walk down the hall to the room where I keep my DVD's and there it lay as part of an Alfred Hitchcock Collection that I picked up in the Wal-Mart $5 bin. That particular collection has set on my shelf for the longest time, probably a matter of years, unwatched, as I really just bought it because of the cheap price. A few months ago, I decided to give the collection a shot and watched Blackmail, this was of course, before I decided to do the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" project and had a blast viewing Hitchcock's first talkie. So I already knew I was in for a great time when I popped in Blackmail for a second time and kicked back.

Frank Webber is one of the detective's at the booming Scotland Yard and his main squeeze is Alice White. One day as Frank is getting off work late, Alice, as always, is waiting for him and none to happy that she was forced to wait on Frank. As they go to dinner, they quarrel, due mainly to Frank's tardiness and Alice separates from Frank for the night, deciding instead to be courted home by the creepy artist Mr. Crewe.

Back at Crewe's flat, he and Alice seem to be having an okay time at first, as Crewe helps Alice paint a picture and then persuades her to try on a dress that he keeps onhand for his female models. Alice gives in and tries the dress on and when Crewe goes in for a forceful kiss, Alice decides that the night has gotten late, and it is time for her to leave. Before she can get back into her dress, Crewe snatches it from her and throws it across the room, forcing her to come from behind a screen and Crewe jumps all over her, attempting to rape her. Alice, struggling with Crewe, reaches out for anything that might help her and finds a kitchen knife and stabs and kills Mr. Crewe.

Scotland Yard is of course called in and Frank is on the case. Upon arriving at the scene of the crime, Frank finds one of Alice's gloves right away and recognizes the victim as the man who he saw escorting Alice home the night before. In an attempt to get his girlfriend freed from the hands of justice, Frank stashes the glove in his coat and takes off in search of Alice to get the gory details. When he arrives at the shop that Alice and her parents own, Frank quickly confronts Alice in a phone booth and tells her that he got her glove and demands some answers. Before he can get them, however, a man (later given the name Tracy) overhears the couple speaking. You see, Tracy just happened to be looking for Mr. Crewe on the night of the murders and was leering around his apartment, so he was able to get into the flat before the police and retrieve Alice's other glove. When Tracy sees Frank flash the second glove, Tracy puts two and two together and decides to make a few dollars by blackmailing Frank and Alice.

When I first saw Blackmail a couple of months ago, I couldn't believe it had taken me that long to see it. I've seen tons of Hitchcock movies, some good, some bad and after seeing Blackmail I realized that this was one of his best and most underrated films. When you talk about early Hitchcock movies, two titles always come up: The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps and its a shame that Blackmail isn't included in that group. The character of Alice is quite a ditz and an unlikeable, annoying character and Frank is your run of the mill detective, with a fine job by John Longden. But it is the heels of this picture that really stand out as you can't help but love to hate the performance of Donald Calthrop as the weasel Tracy and Cyril Ritchard as the creepy Mr. Crewe. I'll go out on a limb and call Blackmail one of the finest Hitchcock films I've ever seen and one that could certainly go down on my personal fav's list.

**HITCHCOCK SIGHTING** Early in the film, during a scene on a bus, Hitchcock can be spotted wearing a hat and reading a newspaper. A little boy in the nearby seat stands up, pulls Hitchcock's hat down over his head and then scampers off, only to return seconds later peering at Hitch.

RATING: 9.5/10 I dropped it a half a notch for the sever overacting of Anny Ondra, but really its just a formality, as it is something that can easily be overlooked to find a fantastic film.

NEXT UP: The Man with the Movie Camera...Not sure who that man with the movie camera is, but I'll find out tomorrow. Check back for the review kiddies.

October 23, 2009 4:11am

1 comment:

  1. Wow sounds great, I can't believe we have owned it so long and I have never watched it.


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