A Charming and Romantic British Mystery
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 01/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While rarely mentioned in the same breath with "The 39 Steps" or "The Lady Vanishes," this is my favorite film from Hitchcock's British film catalog. It has charm, a great story, lots of atmosphere, a fine romance, and best of all, the wonderful Nova Pilbeam. Based on a Josephine Tey novel, "A Schilling For Candles," this story of an innocent man wrongly accused of murder and the young girl who aids his search for proof that he did not commit the crime is a ton of fun.
This is a top-notch British production from the period. There is good photography from Bernard Knowles and a nice score from Louis Levy to make this one of Hitchcock's most enjoyable outings. Nova Pilbeam was a lovely young British actress who had worked for the director in a smaller role three years earlier, in his first version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much." She sparkles here as a strong and independent young heroine who comes to believe in someone and risks everything to aid him.
Derrick De Marney also shines as a young writer named Robert who happens upon the body of famous cinema star, Christine Clay (Pamela Carme), washed up on the beach. He had a passing acquaintance with her since she had purchased one of his stories. He is seen running from the scene to get help, and when it is discovered she was strangled with a belt from a coat he had stolen from him at a place called Tom's Hat, things don't look good for our hero.
It looks even worse that she left 1,200 pounds to him in her will, and when his attorney appears to be a boob, Robert escapes in order to prove his innocence. He gets the reluctant help of the Chief Constaple's daughter, Erica Burgoyne (Nova Pilbeam), in escaping to an old mill for the night, taking the chance she will not turn him in to her father. There is a romantic attraction between the two, and the independent young Erica decides she must help him a little to avoid the gallows.
When she comes to bring him food and drive him around to search for the man who stole the jacket which will prove his innocence, she and her little dog get in deeper and deeper. There finally comes a turning point when Erica throws caution to the wind and zealously helps Robert pursue the man with a twitch in his eye who murdered Christine Clay. It becomes apparent to both her father and the police that she is aiding him willingly and not under duress. Since they have already slipped up and aroused suspicions at a birthday party her aunt and uncle were thowing for her niece, they know they can not remain at large forever and it becomes a race with time to find the real killer.
A long desired quality release of this film from a major studio has finally been realized. Interviews of Hitchcock by Bogdanovich and Truffaut accompany a still gallery and a restoration comparison. Commentary with Hitchcock authors Stephen Rebello and Bill Krohn are included as well. According to releases, it will also be close captioned and have both French and Spanish subtitles for those in need of them. Hitchcock creates a very nice atmosphere of an English coastal town in the 1930's and all his touches are in evidence even at this early juncture. This is one of the great Hitchcock films from his British period and stands with the best of them. Nova Pilbeam is terrific here and it is a real shame she did not get to make more films like this one. If you enjoyed "The 39 Steps" you will probably like this as well. It does not quite have the tension of that great film but has a little more romance and charm. A real winner!"
T. Casey | Boston MA USA | 03/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For the uninitiated, any film from the 30s, especially a British film, would be a bit of a shock.
But if you like Hitchcock, or you were ever in love as a teenager, you'll want to own this film. Nova Pilbeam (a wonderful young lady who four years previous had played a little kid in Hitchcock's first version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much") plays a teenager who rightly believes that a young man is innocent of murder - which makes her an accomplice on the run from her beloved father, the police chief. The movie is mostly Nova trying to help him prove his innocence - a plot that Hitchcock used over and over again for 50 years, yet somehow we never tire of it.
I've seen all of Hitchcock's films. Every one of them is worth watching multiple times. This may be one of is top five (I may be wrong - maybe it's one of the top ten).
Buy it immediately. It will never look better than this; if it doesn't strike you to the core, then you're probably lifeless."