First off, the DVD made by MGM, The Lodger, The Story of the London Fog, is an amazingly great package they put together.
Not only is this great silent picture meticulously restored, but you get two different scores to choose from, a funny story from Hitchcock's granddaughter Mary Stone, a Making Of featurette, two interviews with Hitchcock done in the early Sixties, commentary by film historian Patrick McGillian, and a 1940 radio show also directed by Hitchcock.
OK, so I hear all the hype: the first Hitchcockian thriller, the best film to come out of Britain at that time, first rate, must see, etc. Is it true?
In watching the film, the first thing you note is the German Expressionist film artistry that Hitchcock picked up from his time in Germany during the time of F.W. Mirnau and other great silent directors of the time. Their experimentation with light, tinting and shadow are evident.
Hitchcock created his own brand though, can't accuse him of being a copycat!
Briefly, the film starts out with a screaming woman with light-colored hair as she's being strangled, her hair all aglow. On the side, we see a marquee "To-Night Golden Curls." Prophetic.
The Avenger is a serial killer loose in London. The police are ineffective as this murderer kills any blondes he sees. It gets so worried women purposely wear dark curls under their hats so they won't be mistaken for blondes! "No peroxide for me!" one woman quips.
The Avenger though as bad a mass murderer can be, is secondary to the character of the Lodger, played by British silent film star Ivor Novello, and his budding relationship with Daisy, who is unfortunately blonde, and who unfortunately for her police detective fiancé, is falling for the Lodger.
The Lodger is not really given a name, which I thought was interesting. The suspense builds as the landlady and then the ex-boyfriend police detective, Joe, begin to suspect that the Lodger is in fact the Avenger. More and more clues are led up to a search warrant and the emptying of a mysterious satchel, the same kind of satchel that witnesses had said belonged to the Avenger.
Inside, we view a map with little triangles all over it (where murders were committed) and newspaper clippings of the Avenger's bloody trail. And a portrait! "Your first victim, eh?" snarls Joe!
Uh oh, doesn't look good for our man. Daisy adores him and can't see the Lodger being any kind of murderer. Is Daisy naive or is she about to be plucked?
The artistry of the film is amazing. The swinging ceiling lamp suggests pacing back and forth by the Lodger in his room. We seem to see through the ceiling to see his nervous pacing.
In fact, Hitchcock had a large six foot square thick pane of glass used to shoot through to the pacing young man, then super-imposed the glass image with the ceiling image.
Suspense-building, such as the white hand that is slowly going down the staircase, as the Lodger is making a mysterious exit from the lodge to some unknown destination or errand. The number on the lodge door: 13, naturally!
Seeing the "making of" featurette was very educational. You hear Hitchcock's own words about his German influence, and how the studios did not want their prize boy being accused of murder. He states that he found the same with Cary Grant in "Suspicion." No one wanted Cary to actually be the murderer.
Despite the "star system" crimping his style, Hitchcock conveys all the mystery and suspense in this great silent picture, tints and all, Hitchcock's trademark personal cameos and the now-familiar themes of suspicion and mistaken identity are all here.
PS: I also have the Laser Light DVD version. That one is not restored and is difficult to see. Get the "Premiere Collection" from MGM.