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Film

Watch 'The Lodger' online free: "The first true Alfred Hitchcock movie"

Alfred Hitchcock changed the shape and direction of cinema with films such as The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Rear Window and Psycho, and his dark, voyeuristic take on the human condition set film on a completely different course.

It was now more cerebral and not afraid to delve into the complex, Freudian corners of the human psyche, exploring death, murder and sex in ways that had never been done before. It’s a testament to Hitchcock’s pioneering work that he remains so relevant today, some 42 years after his passing.

Whilst for much of his career as a filmmaker, Hitchcock was celebrated as the finest on the planet — but it wasn’t always like this, and as with anyone wanting to become the finest in their chosen field, the director needed to strive hard to get his name out there, and he made many flicks before he first gained global success. 

Interestingly, Hitchcock started in the days of the silent film and made 11 in total before the transition into sound. He pushed the silent film to its limits, using stark colours and lighting to cultivate the unmistakable visual style that produced legendary flicks such as Dial M for Murder and Strangers on a Train

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Whilst many of his silent films are of note, arguably the most important is 1927’s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, based on the 1913 novel The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes and the play Who Is He? which she co-wrote. Starring icons of the day such as Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, June Tripp, Malcolm Keen and Ivor Novello, it channels the darkness of turn of the century London with such intensity that the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention throughout its duration. 

The film opens with a blonde woman screaming. She’s the first victim of a Jack the Ripper-esque serial killer who leaves a calling card informing everyone of his name, ‘The Avenger’, which causes shock and horror amongst Londoners. Shortly after, it cuts to a blonde model, Daisy, and her parents, who have just found a lodger for their spare room. The man enters the room, and we quickly realise that he has an odd thing for blondes. Has the film’s ultimate game of cat and mouse just begun?

In the film, you see Hitchcock lay down many of what would become the defining facets of his movies. There’s a murderous fetish for blondes, the confluence of sex and death and a man wrongly accused. Although you cannot hear what’s going on, the force of the directing and acting is enough to convey the themes that the auteur would explore further in his later audio-visual works. Brilliantly, he also made his first cameo appearance in The Lodger, which he’d do countless times over the rest of his career.  

There’s also a strong German essence permeating the film, and the nuances that he learned from his time in Germany’s film industry are there for all to see, with the sinister lighting, ominous shadows, and grim narrative. Hitchcock was very open about the fact that German Expressionism had a defining influence on the creation of The Lodger, and duly, many stylistically parallels have been drawn between it and Fritz Lang’s masterworks such as M and Metropolis.

The most significant point about The Lodger is that Hithcock believed it to be where his career really started. He told François Truffaut: “In truth, you might almost say that The Lodger was my first picture.”

Watch The Lodger below. 

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