Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AH Marathon: Blackmail (1929)



Written & Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

I'm finally into the talkies of this marathon! This one was a special film for the simple fact that it was the first feature length "talkie" of Great Britain. A moment in history and a special achievement. However, the story behind this one supports the presentation and what I thought about it. Halfway through filming, the picture changed gears from silent to talkie, which meant the female lead, Anny Ondra, would have to be dubbed over as she had a thick German accent. That is one detraction from her character, but I also thought that she was outacted entirely by the rest of the cast. Bless her heart as a silent film actress, but I don't think she was cut out for sound sadly to say. And good for her, she went on the marry the boxing great Max Schmelling. But changing mid-film also meant that they had to go back and reshoot some of the scenes. It was evident that they kept some of the silent scenes in the final cut. The sound design was another thing. Living in the world of film today makes me see the sound design as downright laughable, however, at the same time I understand the period it was and the achievement of it at the time. But that doesn't mean I liked it any more.

The story itself was pretty classic Hitchcock. Girl is borderline cheating on her boyfriend, who is a Scotland Yard detective, ends up murdering the guy she's cheating with, and tension and suspense ensues. And when I say tension and suspense I mean great, not just good, but great tension and suspense. The only drawback is that it only last for about 15 minutes of the film, then I stopped caring about what was going to happen, because I already knew what was going to happen. The story starts off very slow and the whole production is somewhat clunky. The set-up takes near a half hour and then the film is on pins and needles for, like I said, 15 minutes and it's great, but then it gets slow and meandering and predictable.

Worth it just for the achievement of sound in Great Britain and for the 15 minutes of greatness.

Rating: **1/2

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