Bad video quality, great film
calvinnme | 05/09/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Here's another public domain copy of one of Hitchcock's early films. The video is just entirely too fuzzy, and I don't recommend it. Won't someone take an interest in restoring Hitchcock's early films for DVD in Region 1? This film may not hold up among Hitchcock's great films from his golden years of 1948 through 1963, but compare it to any other talking picture from 1929 and then tell me what you think.
The fact is, this film is shot part silent. Yes there is sound, but there is no synchronized dialogue until about ten minutes into the film when the police detective and his girlfriend who are the central characters speak to one another. Shooting the film primarily silent with synchronized effects and leaving the talking sequences for segments of the film where dialogue was necessary and then having the judgement to know how much dialogue was enough and stop at that point was something Hitchcock got from the beginning. Watch some of the long-winded speeches from some other 1929 films and realize that many of Hitchcock's contemporaries struggled with this skill.
The story is a good one. Alice is feeling neglected by her detective boyfriend, and follows a handsome artist up to his flat. After some flirting the artist turns suddenly violent and assaults her. She defends herself by grabbing a knife and stabbing the man. Stunned and sure she has not been seen by anyone entering the man's flat, she attempts to erase all signs of her presence there and returns home. She mentions the incident to noone, but is weighted down with guilt.
Frank, Alice's boyfriend, investigates the crime scene and sees Alice's glove. He confiscates it. Unfortunately, someone else who is not Alice has the other glove. The lovers don't discuss anything but the threat of the blackmailer until the end of the film. Like many of Hitchcock's later works, much of his art is in furtive glances and in objects that recall the crime rather than specific dialogue. An example of this is a jester in the artist's painting that Alice sees as pointing at her and thus accusing her. The jester meets Alice's eye both immediately after the crime and at the end of the film.
Highly recommended as one of the best talking pictures of 1929. However, I am yet to find a satisfactory copy on DVD.
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.
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."