Fresh from his stint in the German film industry, Alfred Hitchcock gave the British movie world a well-needed shot in the arm with The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) starring the immensely popular Ivor Novello. In so doing, he also gave the world its very first movie that feels like what we think of when we say an “Alfred Hitchcock film.” Heavily influenced by the Germans (something that would never entirely leave the director), this thriller about a mysterious lodger (Novello)—who may or may not be a Jack the Ripper-like killer known as The Avenger (the other residents become more and more convinced he is)—finds Hitchcock laying on the style and the experimentation. Some of it seems a little showy-for-showiness’ sake today, but effects such as shooting through a glass floor to show Novello pacing in his room are still fun and show a pathological obsession with bringing something new to film.
It’s interesting to note that while Hitchcock himself was influenced by the Germans, his own film would turn out to be even more influential. You can see its impact over the years on countless thrillers. Its influence even shows up in some pretty odd places. It’s unlikely completely coincidental that Malcolm McDowell enters Lindsay Anderson’s If …. (1968) in exactly the same guise that Novello adopts here. (The idea that Anderson was unaware of such a famous image is ludicrous.) Though usually remembered for only a handful of scenes, there’s much here that presages later Hitchcock works—including, though hardly limited to, the master’s own penchant for blondes (tellingly, the preferred victims of The Avenger). See it and see the birth of one of film’s greatest directors.