Search - Blackmail on DVD

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
NR     1hr 26min

Alice White who, while having dinner in a fancy English nightspot with her husband-to-be Scotland Yard detective Frank Webber {John Longded}, begins to flirt with an artist {Cyril Richard} seated at the next table. The art...  more »

Movie Details

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Format: DVD - Black and White
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/1929
Run Time: 1hr 26min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A Silent film becomes a Talkie
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 05/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This film is very underrated today because not only is "Blackmail" a quintessential Hitchcock psychological thriller about murder and blackmail, but a superior example of silent cinema at its peak in the late 1920s. It was actually completely finished first as a silent picture, then substantially remade with sound prior to release and then became the first British talkie. While the sound version remains famous to this day, the original version, considered a masterpiece of high silent cinema, was forgotten after it was distributed to theaters which were not yet wired for sound. Although the silent version exists and is available, though hard to find, this neglected sound version will have to do us for now.

Hitchcock had already directed about ten silent films by 1929 including The Lodger, his first suspense thriller in the style for which he later became famous. Hitchcock also wrote the screenplay for many of his films, and continually improved on the best and most popular aspects of his earlier work with Blackmail being one of the first resounding successes of his brilliant career. His early silent cinema work was largely influenced by the German Expressionist style of cinema which put emphasis on lighting and shadows, often exaggerated to create sinister or evocative moods, as well as unusual and innovative camera angles and photography techniques.

Earlier silent films by Hitchcock such as "The Ring", "The Manxman" and "The Farmer's Wife" reveal that Hitchcock had a finely-tuned sense for both humour and human nature, as well as a comprehensive understanding of human psychology. His interest in people is manifest in the way the story and camera often linger on a character's feelings, emotional actions and reactions, thereby deeply involving the audience and creating heightened emotional suspense. Blackmail encompasses all these carefully developed qualities, precisely balanced throughout the film to add extra dimension, stronger emotion and visual impact. The first thirty minutes of the film gradually introduce the main characters with their feelings and relationships to each other, building up to the main event: the stabbing murder of a would-be rapist in self defense.

Striking, innovative photography makes this film intriguing visually, and provocative emotionally as the audience follows every move and gesture by the unintentional murderess, Alice, and her relationship with boyfriend Frank, who happens to be the police investigator who found Alice's glove at the crime scene. In true Hitchcock style, the plot soon twists and turns as a blackmailer who had been observing the couple comes forward, only to find things double-back onto him in the end. With the climax of the film taking place on the dome of the British Museum, "Blackmail" began the Hitchcock tradition of using famous landmarks as a backdrop for suspense sequences and thrilling climaxes. A worthy addition to a Hitchcock or serious early cinema collection, even on a budget label until a day both this and the original silent version are properly restored as they deserve to be.
Blackmail Review
Robert T. Lukomski | Milwaukee, WI, USA | 07/07/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This is very early Hitchcock. It's a pretty good film but not one of his best. One thing I found interesting is that there's no speaking during the first several minutes of the film. It starts out as if it's going to be a silent film. The plot is good, acting is fine. The visual quality of the copy that I received was sub-par. I realize this is an old film and one can't expect the clarity of a modern film, but I was hoping for it to be at least slightly better than it is. But perhaps I got a dud and maybe there are better looking copies available out there. But overall I liked the story, actors and the film in general."
Hitchcock Becoming Hitchcock
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 08/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) began his career designing title cards for silent films. In 1925 his directorial debut, THE PLEASURE GARDEN, was considered such a flop that it was shelved until the later THE LODGER, his first thriller, proved a sensation at the box office. In 1928 Hitchcock returned to the thriller genre with BLACKMAIL. Based on a play by Charles Bennett, it was originally designed as a silent film--but sound had begun to roar, and British Internation Pictures instructed Hitchcock to film portions with sound. By most accounts, Hitchcock felt this was a silly sort of idea and he responded by creating what is now regarded as England's first "all-talking" film.

The description is a bit misleading. Although there is some background, the first few minutes of the film are clearly silent, and there are significant stretches of silence as the film progresses. To the modern viewer, BLACKMAIL feels more like a transition between silent and sound films than a purely sound film per se. The smoothness of the film is also hindered by the fact that actress Anny Ondra, cast when the film was a silent project, spoke with a heavy accent and had to be dubbed on the spot by Joan Barry, who stood off camera and read the lines as Ondra moved her lips. This aside, the film also suffers from the numerous technical problems that tended to beset movies struggling with the new technology, and although Hitchcock manages these better than most of his contemporaries BLACKMAIL nonetheless has the slightly clunky quality typical of a film from this period.

All the same, BLACKMAIL remains fascinating because it gives us the opportunity to see Hitchcock becoming Hitchcock. Although he had shown a distinct flair for suspense in THE LODGER, at this point in his career Hitchcock worked in a number of genres--and would continue to do so for several more years. Even so, BLACKMAIL marked a turning point. In this film he begins to elaborate ideas first raised in THE LODGER and add to them as well. In the process, he sets up a series of cinematic themes that he continued to explore throughout the bulk of his career: the risks of sexual appeal; the beautiful woman in danger and the degree to which she herself is responsible for her danger; the complicity of those who support her; being isolated in danger even as aid is nearby; unexpected violence in public places; and fear of heights--to name but a few.

The story itself is quite simple. Alice (Omby) is an attractive young woman who works as a clerk in her parents' shop. She is dating Frank (John Longden), who is an up-and-coming detective at Scotland Yard. But Frank seems a bit stodgy, and on a whim she accepts an invitation from an artist (Cyril Ritchard) to visit his studio. She flirts with him but then resists his advances, and when he attempts to rape her she stabs him to death in his bed. By chance Frank is assigned to the case and quickly knows Alice to be the killer. He elects to help her conceal the crime--but by doing so places them at the mercy of a blackmailer.

Interestingly, the film does not really assign blame per se. Although she went out of her way to place herself in danger, we sympathize with Alice, and we hope Frank will help her. At the same time, however, the way in which Frank ultimately decides to help her is unacceptable and demonstrates that he too is capable of murder. It is an interesting dynamic that Hitchcock is unable to resolve within the context of this film--and one that he would play upon repeatedly and with increasing finesse as the years passed.

Unfortunately, even die-hard Hitchcock fans will find BLACKMAIL difficult to watch for the simple reason that there isn't a decent print on the home market. At worst, prints are virtually unwatchable; at best they suffer from significantly poor visual and audio elements. Until it receives a major restoration, BLACKMAIL is perhaps best left to hardcore Hitchcock fans who are willing to endure poor quality for the sake of seeing Hitchcock become Hitchcock.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer"