Blackmail

Blackmail (1929)
*****
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring Anny Ondra, John Longden, Sara Allgood

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30 years before Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock broke down barriers with this infamous, groundbreaking film. Not only is it his first talkie, it’s also the first talkie to come out of Great Britain. Also it is probably the first film with voices to show this kind of subject matter. There is a lot of spoilers in this review, so be advised.
The movie starts like a silent movie because originally it was filmed as a silent movie, and then re-shot with the voices when the decision was made for the audio. So the first 5 minutes of the film are silent. We see the police arrest a man and we do not know why or what for. You first hear talking at the police station (Scotland Yard). The film then gets to the main story.
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A young policeman and his girlfriend go out for a dinner together at an expensive-looking restaurant. The girlfriend doesn’t seem too interested in her cop boyfriend. They have a brief argument about going to the movies after the dinner. She doesn’t want to, because is secretly meeting a guy behind his back after the dinner.
They go their own ways, and she meets up with the guy. He is an artist and has his own studio. He shows her his disturbing looking painting, and then she dresses up for him while he plays piano. He begins to advance on her, and attempts to rape her. She stabs and kills him. The look on her face is that of pure horror. It is a very intense moment in the movie. She makes it back home leaving behind some clues, and she can’t get her mind off the murder.


Her boyfriend ends up being the detective investigating the murder. A guy who was nearby the crime scene (and the subject of the disturbing painting), saw her that night going in and out of the building. He attempts to blackmail. However, his criminal record isn’t very good. He is chased by police, and found guilty of the murder. He falls to his death.
By the end the girl is indirectly responsible for 2 deaths, and she gets away with it.

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I thought Anny Ondra (who looks very beautiful) did a very good performance considering she had done both silent and sound work. I also think her dubbing was perfect. I had no idea they had to get an English actress to do her voice over because of her heavy Czech accent.
As I said earlier, this movie was definitely a landmark in movie history. It is a very important film in Hitchcock’s filmography as well. Like a couple of his silent pictures before, and the ones that would follow afterward, there are many Hitchcockian traits – a pretty blonde, a murder, someone falsely accused or framed, and an ending that is sometimes unsettling. It is absolutely brilliant work that laid the foundation of future Hitchcock suspense thrillers to come. Anyone that is trying to get into the world of Hitchcock and his great movies, I highly recommend seeing this.

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