Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Alfred Hitchcock's BLACKMAIL (1929)
BLACKMAIL (1929) stands out both as Alfred Hitchcock's final silent film but also as his first 'talkie.' Come again? You see, after Hitch started production of BLACKMAIL (1929) as a silent film, British International Pictures decided a sound version was needed in addition to appeal to the demands of audiences' curiosity for the new technology. But not all theaters were equipped for the sound version (only about 20% of British theaters), so both silent and sound versions were released across theaters at the same time. When I heard the silent version of this landmark Hitch thriller- a film I had never seen prior- was coming to my town with the famous Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra live musical accompaniment, I was all in.
Webber arrives and discreetly reveals her glove to Alice. He remains incredibly loyal and protective of her, despite her obvious indiscretions. Before she explains the full details of her connection to the murder, Tracy arrives. Not only does he recognize her from the night before from walking in with Crewe to his studio, but he also has a glove to reveal... her other missing glove of the pair. He minces no words in declaring his intentions. Thus the blackmail process commences.
I won't share with you how successful the blackmailing worked out for Tracy, nor how Alice dealt with her tormented feelings in conflicted morality, nor how Webber handled both of them while juggling his duties as a detective. You'll have to watch it for yourself to see how the rest of the story plays out. After all, this is a Hitch film so a little suspense for such a deliciously dark secret should be expected.
Alfred Hitchcock's BLACKMAIL (1929) is an intriguing film that pushes the ethical envelope with a background story beyond the life of the lens that is equally as fascinating and replete with moral complexities. For you Hitch fans, yes there's a wonderfully climatic chase at the end- which takes place in the Egyptian exhibit of the British Museum. And of course, it would not be complete without a Hitch cameo. That's charmingly placed in there, too...