The Lodger (Directors Suite) (1927)

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Released 12-Jan-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Alternate Music/Sound Score-1997 orchestral soundtrack (DD 2.0) by Paul Zara
Alternate Music/Sound Score-1999 orchestral soundtrack (DD 5.1) by Ashley Irwin
Featurette-Radio Play of The Lodger directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Featurette-Downhill (1927 Hitchcock Full Feature Silent film)
Booklet-26-page booklet featuring two essays
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1927
Running Time 99:24 (Case: 74)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Marie Ault
Arthur Chesney
June
Malcolm Keen
Ivor Novello
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Ashley Irwin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Alternate Music/Sound Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Alternate Music/Sound Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog comes from Alfred Hitchcock's silent British film era (i.e., it was made in Britain in the silent era before Hitchcock went to Hollywood in 1939). For an excellent synopsis by Carl Bennett click here.

     This third film by Alfred Hitchcock was his first thriller. It is also the earliest of Hitchcock’s films to have been released on DVD home video. This inspired account of a Jack-the-Ripper-style murderer named “The Avenger,” who kills blond-haired women on Tuesday nights in London, shows a young and creative directorial talent at work.

     Hitchcock worked from his own scenario of star Ivor Novello’s stage play for this initial foray into what would later be familiar Hitchcock territory. Novello portrays a strange and aloof lodger, who stays in a boarding-house room above a lower-middle-class family. In the evening streets of London, the Avenger’s victims are being found closer and closer to the lodging houses. Eventually the landlords, and their daughter’s police detective suitor, come to suspect that the mysterious lodger has unholy designs on their beautiful blonde daughter. Can their suspicions be confirmed before it is too late?

     Throughout the film there are examples of visual inspiration in shots of a restless lodger in the room above pacing back and forth as seen through the floor (as if eyes could read what ears are unable to hear in silent films) by the landlady below; or the shadow of a cross falling across the face of the lodger caused by the frame of window panes; or in the desperate lodger suspended only by handcuffs on a spiked metal fence. A memorable shot looks down the darkened staircase of the boarding-house, and nothing more can be seen than a single hand of the lodger slowly circling on the handrail as he creeps quietly out into the night. We particularly like a shot of the detective’s hat in close-up tipped downward as he examines evidence, then, after a long pause, the slow turn upward to reveal his eyes full of suspicion.

     The Lodger is an early treat for fans of Hitchcock’s distinctive storytelling technique. There are also a few hackneyed story elements and direction. For instance, the boarding-house address is 13, there are the comical eye-popping Novello expressions, and his close-ups that utilized a generous amount of lens diffusion normally reserved for aging actresses. And there is the moment when the lodger strikes a fly off Daisy’s blouse with a bread knife and reacts with a wide-eyed, goofy smile that never fails to elicit scoffing laughs from today’s audiences.

     On this film, Hitchcock had an unusual dilemma when the story and the star clashed. Ivor Novello was a matinee idol, cherished by legions of British women, yet here he was playing a character that may well have been the most gruesome murderer in modern English history. Hitchcock had to manipulate audience expectations (that heartthrob Novello certainly is not a murderer) with a good dose of doubt. As ambiguous as the source novel was, the film adaptation had to take a firmer stance on the guilt of the lodger.

     There are plenty of signs that the audience is intended to pick up long before the characters in the story — that the lodger is creepy, acts strangely and is easily agitated, that he is hiding something (namely his little medical instrument? satchel), that he can’t stand the sight of blonde women. Yet, he is attracted to blonde Daisy (the actress June — no last name). Will she be his next victim? He is seen struggling with his inner demons. He paces to and fro like a caged animal. He looks as though he contemplates beating Daisy with a fireplace poker. We do later see him mapping the murderous attacks with the triangle symbol of the Avenger.

     Of the characters, the least likeable is Joe, the police detective, with his stupidly offensive comments that often repulses Daisy. Joe (the totally unappealing Malcolm Keen) is an awkward simpleton, a childish buffoon, a twit — almost comic relief when paired with Daisy’s father (Arthur Chesney — a foreshadowing of future Hitchcock player Edmund Gwenn). So pleased with himself when he thinks he is still in Daisy’s favour — here comes blundering Joe, all possessive and jealous, now firmly rejected by Daisy — he is forlorn Joe. He becomes vengeful Joe. He is pea brained Joe, for in the end — in his own mind — he becomes the hero, Joe.

     Worth noting (given his exposure to German expressionist filmmaking techniques before making The Lodger) is Hitchcock’s expressionistic presentation of the mother’s growing fears and suspicions at night when she hears the lodger leave the boarding-house. There on her darkened bedroom wall is the expressionistic angled light cast from a street lamp below, and there are a number of close-ups of the mother that could have been lifted from a German or Soviet production of the time.

     We dare say that this film is his most entertaining and flashy narrative until 1929’s Blackmail. And, for those wondering, Hitchcock makes the first of his series of on-screen cameo appearances, sitting with his back to the camera, talking on the telephone, in an early newspaper office sequence.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Lodger was transferred to HD Standard from a 35mm hand-tinted print produced by the BFI. Remastering and restoration were done by Ascent Media. According to the BFI, more than 1000 hours of digital restoration work went into the preparation of this edition’s video master, transferred full-frame and at a natural-speed from 35mm materials prepared by the British Film Institute. Signs of dust, speckling, emulsion damage and timing marks were digitally removed, while digital image stabilization removed the print’s moderate frame jitters. The film has been colour-toned predominantly in sepia-tones, with blue-tones for night exteriors, with some colour-tinting for selected interiors, and black & white for night interiors.

     The aspect ratio is 1:33:1 full-frame.

     The digital restoration has boosted the contrast, however, overall the image is sharper and there is now more shadow detail.

     The film has had tinting added to it (yellow, red and blue) to highlight different locations which was a common feature of silent films during this era.

     There are instances of minor specklings but overall the video transfer is outstanding for the age of the film.

     There are no additional language subtitles included with this release of The Lodger, just the original English silent film intertitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The main feature includes two soundtracks, both listed as extra features on the DVD, so they will be discussed below.

     The first audio feature is a 1997 orchestral soundtrack (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps) by Paul Zaza, the second audio feature is a 1999 orchestral soundtrack (Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps) by Ashley Irwin.

     The original score of the film is no longer with us, possibly because original scores were performed live at theatres during the silent era. Sometimes new scores are conducted based on the original sheet music, however, it's difficult to say whether this is the case for The Lodger.

     The 5.1 score by Ashley Irwin employs effects in the rear channels, but they are subtle overall.

     The subwoofer is not required for this silent film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

1997 orchestral soundtrack (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps) by Paul Zaza

     This score uses a mix of orchestral, jazz and synthesizer recordings reminiscent of many scores done for the many public domain releases of The Lodger.

1999 orchestral soundtrack (Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps) by Ashley Irwin

     This score is more orchestral and features an arrangement which I think suits the film better, especially in highlighting effects and action.

Radio Play of The Lodger directed by Alfred Hitchcock (28:02)

     This extra feature is entitled Suspense: The Lodger - it is a 1940 radio play broadcast, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Herbert Marshall and Edmund Gwenn, taken from the original novel and performed for the American market.

Downhill (1927) (82:09)

     Downhill was released in the same year as The Lodger, 1927. It teams up Hitchcock again with star Ivor Novello. In this story about a star private school student who is falsely accused of impregnating a waitress, and subsequently falls into a decadent lifestyle before being forgiven by his father (i.e. a modern-day re-telling of the famous biblical parable of The Prodigal Son), the main presentation does not benefit from a restoration like The Lodger so there is visible print damage.

Booklet

     Included also is a 26-page booklet with two essays on by Australian film academics. The first one, Alfred Hitchcock: A Theory (or two) is by author Ken Mogg, the second, The Lodger - A Story of the London Fog: Hitchcock making cinema is by Dr Brian McFarlane from Monash University. Both essays are highly informative, well-researched and complement this release quite nicely!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Lodger has been released in the United Kingdom, Region 2 by Network Video. The first time was in a 2008 boxset, Hitchcock: The British Years with 10 other British Era Hitchcock films, the second time was a stand-alone 2012 version which has the same transfer as the 2008 release.

     In my opinion the best version of The Lodger is the Region 1, 2008 US release by MGM Home Entertainment. This includes the same restored transfer as the Region 4 Directors Suite release, with the same two scores and the Radio Play, however, the Region 1 release also includes an audio commentary by historian Patrick McGilligan, a 24-minute The Sound of Silence: The Making of The Lodger documentary, a restoration comparison, an interview with Peter Bogdanovich and Francois Truffaut, a short 4-minute featurette with Mary Stone on the film and a 22 image gallery.

     The Hitchcock Wiki has excellent references to the various DVD releases of The Lodger. Check out the Region 1 MGM release, the Region 2 Network release and comparison screenshots for yourself!

Summary

     The Region 4 Madman Directors Suite release of The Lodger is a value-for-money purchase, complete with an excellent restoration and great supporting extras. The Region 1 MGM release has a few more extras, however, the Region 4 release is equally comparable and won't let you down!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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