Blackmail (1929)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

United Kingdom, 1929.  Screenplay by , adapted by , from a play by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by , .  Production Design by , .  Film Editing by .

This early Hitchcock feature was originally shot as a silent film, then later reshot with synchronized sound, becoming England’s first talkie.

(whose dialogue had to be spoken offstage by Cockney actress Joan Barry, owing to Ondra’s thick Czech accent) is breathlessly delightful as a girl whose dissatisfaction with her policeman boyfriend pushes her into the arms of a rakish artist. On the night that she unwisely visits his studio and jokes around in his model’s outfits, he attempts to rape her and she stabs him in self-defense.

Bad luck for her that a shady ex-convict is hanging around outside the apartment building and sees her leave, the next day showing up at her home to blackmail her when the newspapers announce the murder to the public.

While its dialogue scenes are incredibly creaky (early microphones forced actors to speak slowly and leave space between sentences to avoid stepping on each other’s lines), there’s obviously a lot of Hitchcock’s mastery already at play here: the visual puns, the humour that thickens up the dark plotting, and a story that just keeps twisting, plus look for Hitchcock’s first of many trademark cameo appearances.

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