The eighth film which Hitchcock directed is Blackmail. Blackmail is a significant film in this fifty-two week challenge as it is Hitchcock’s first Talkie, that is the first film to have sound. This made it an interesting viewing and the film did far from disappoint. It is also, apparently, the first film ever to dub an characters voice this being because lead actress Anny Ondra had a strong Czech accent that made her difficult to understand and was unfitting with the character, therefore for each of her scenes she mouthed the words whilst a girl off-camera spoke the lines; in other words the plot of Singin’ In The Rain.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The narrative of the film is simple but effective and a very Hitchcock one. A young girl Alice White (played by the aforementioned Anny Ondra) is fed up of her boyfriend – a detective at Scotland Yard – not having enough time for her so goes out with another gentleman. However all is not what it seems with this gentleman and he attempts to rape her and ultimately she murders him. Feeliong guilty Alice soon becomes trapped between her guilt, her policeman boyfriend and a blackmailer who knows she commited the crimes. This leads to some fantastic tension and a chase scene on the roof of the British Museum.

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THE GOOD

The talking was very good and made the film incredibly easy to follow (not that the narrative was overly complicated) and allowed great character development. However this did no distract Hitchcock from his visual storytelling as many of there are large periods where no dialogue is spoken.

The content of this film also allowed Hitchcock create some real tension (something barely achieved in a majority of his earlier films) and create tension he does. There are several nail-biting moments where you are literally on the edge of the seat for example the murder sequence is fantastically done with a still shot of the curtains shaking, with an extreme close-up on her hand finding the knife, it is a beautifully crafted sequence.ImageImage

There are also several Hitchcockian elements which make their first appearances these include the use of a spiral staircase, the use of famous landmarks and sights (albeit the British Museum is hardly Mount Rushmore) and an obvious use of a Maguffin in Alice’s gloves which have no real significance other than to drive the plot of the film forward.

THE BAD

Some of the dialogue is the film felt unnatural and clunky but then I was expecting this as it was a relative early talking picture

My main problem with the film was however the pacing, which was all over the place. A lot of what happens in the movie is nothing just two characters chatting away; then all of a sudden everything happens before going back to boredom again. For example the main point in the narrative is the rape/murder sequence and this does not appear til around half-way into the film meaning prior to this you watch a few characters discussing art and other tedious endeavours which where quite frankly uninteresting. Even once the murder has been commited there is another twenty minutes before anything else kicks into motion meaning that by the time the climatic chase scene kicks in boredom is rooted in the minds of the audience and some of the effect is lost.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

As this is by far the most Hitchcockian film I have seen so far in this challenge it is very fitting that it should be only the second film in which he has a cameo. In this film he is fairly obviously an man sitting on a train getting harassed by a young child.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Blackmail is very good at certain points and very bad at others. It’s quite hard to rate as the  amounts of positive and negatives are fairly equal; however because there are so many Hitchcockian elements to this film I award it with Four Hitch’s.

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