Author Topic: November 2012 MDC: The Communal Watchlist  (Read 7588 times)


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Re: November 2012 MDC: The Communal Watchlist
« Reply #60 on: December 03, 2012, 11:43:38 PM »

Blackmail - Alice (Anny Ondra) ditches her detective boyfriend Frank (John Longden) for a date with an artist (Cyril Ritchard).  He lures her back to his pad to look at his etchings, and forcefully tries to put the moves on him.  She grabs the first thing within reach -- a knife -- to defend herself, and ends up killing the man.  She leaves behind a clue that Frank discovers... he agrees to protect her, but a shady witness (Donald Calthrop) has other plans.

Hitchcock's first talkie, and generally regarded as Britain's first as well.  It began as a silent but parts were redone to utilize the new technology.  As you would expect from the master, there are some innovative uses of sound.  For instance, the morning after the murder, Alice is listening to a neighbor gossip about the crime.  Alice flinches at every utterance of the word "knife" and eventually the speech devolves into "blah blah knife blah blah blah knife blah blah KNIFE".  Also, Ondra's accent was too thick to be understood, so Joan Barry read the lines offscreen while Ondra mouthed them... effectively creating the world's first dub.

There are some other noteworthy things about the film.  The climax at the British Museum looks forward to similar uses of landmarks in Saboteur and North By Northwest.  The footage from the intro -- showing the apprehension of a criminal -- is mirrored in the end, with a now different emotional context.  The fade between an empty ashtray to a full ashtray to signify the passage of time may be the first of its kind (or not, I dunno... seems clever for the time, though).  An odd  shadow falls across a man's face to suggest a villanous moustache.  The Hitchcock touches are there.

It does suffer from the awkward pacing that seems to plague most early talkies, and the film seems to spend entirely too much time getting to the meat of the story.  But it's quite entertaining in its cinematic flourishes and has quite a bizarre ending.  Rating: Good (79)


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Re: November 2012 MDC: The Communal Watchlist
« Reply #61 on: March 01, 2013, 12:44:25 AM »

Danny has been haunted by the capital punishment of his father his entire life.  In a marvelous six minute sequence at the beginning of the film, it shows how he suffered and how he eventually, but accidentally killed his greatest persecutor.  The rest of the film shows that despite his anger and mistrust, he has been truly cared for.  Can he learn to trust?

Although there is a romantic twist, this is the first Borzage film I've seen that wasn't a romance.  It is a film about becoming a man, and taking responsibility for your actions.  It is a wonderfully made film, especially in that first six minutes, and a wonderful twist on a noir theme.

It is a bit long in parts, and I'm not sure I believe the attachment of Gilly to Danny-- he is always so removed, even mean when she is around.  But I loved it's uniqueness and storytelling.

"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky