"...the first true Hitchcock film."
Beefing on Hitchcock
A Story of The London Fog
A mysterious lodger comes to rent from a couple during a slew of serial murders of young fair-haired girls. The landlord's daughter Daisy is a young, fair-haired model longed for by a young ambitious detective named Joe. The lodger and Daisy develop a forbidden romance, while the parents and Joe start to wonder if their new tenant is, in fact, the murderer Joe is looking for.
Upon being confronted, the lodger claims to be also looking for the killer, who had murdered his young, fair-haired sister. Joe, jealous of Daisy's affection for the lodger, doesn't believe him and arrests him. The mysterious man escapes with Daisy and the two end up chased a mob in the night. While the mob beats the man nearly to death, news comes that the real killer has been caught, thankfully in time to save the life of the lodger.
Before I get into this film, I would like to mention that I've skipped the second film that Alfred Hitchcock directed, The Mountain Eagle. The reason for this is simple: No print exists of that movie. There is proof it was filmed and ran... but it's been very much lost. Maybe someday it will show up in someone's attic, but until then we will never be able to see it.
Now that that's been said, I'll comment about The Lodger. I noticed pretty much by the end of the movie that the name of the lodger was never given. He remains withdrawn and mysterious, even to the audience.
While a common thread through many and most of Hitchcock's films is the concept of mistaken identity (even going so far as to call a film The Wrong Man), usually the audience itself is well aware that the man being pursued is, in fact, innocent. That alone makes The Lodger stand out to me as a bit unique.
Granted, from what I've read, Hitchcock had always planned to leave the guilt or innocence of the man very ambiguous... but since the leading man was a well-known-and-liked actor at the time, the studio pressured him to re-write the ending, allowing the man to be proved innocent.
While I'm sure this irritated Hitch a lot, I think it was for the best. As a viewer, I grew to like the man who hardly revealed his thoughts to me. I had no idea if he would turn out to be guilty or not (most of me thinking he was most definitely the killer for a while there), but a truly sympathetic character, he quickly becomes the hero of the film... and I wanted him and Daisy to end up together and happy.
I've watched this film quite a few times already since my initial viewing, especially once I found a decent quality print, and so far it's my favourite of his early silent films. Actually, I think this one will be hard to knock out of that slot. Yes, it's just that good.