The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) Director: Alfred Hitchcock
The Lodger is a brilliant film. Psychologically, at the beginning of the film the audience believes the other characters are ignorant, however they slowly come around to believe ‘The Lodger’ is a killer and gradually the audience demands that he be caught, until it is suddenly made apparent that he is innocent. The subtitle ‘A Story of the London Fog’ situates the film squarely in the smoky, noir film genre where morality is blurred between good and evil.
The Lodger is Hitchcock’s first great film (his third feature film). It contains many of his later, familiar tropes: blonde women in danger, an innocent man on the run, and an unpredictable twist ending. The film was released in London in 1927, and then later in June 1928 in New York City. The story for the film is based on a 1913 novel of the same name that is loosely based on the “Jack the Ripper” tale. The novel was written by Marie Bellox Lowndes, sister of the famous British writer and historian, Hillaire Belloc.
The story: blonde women are being killed at night on the streets of London by a notorious and anonymous serial killer called “The Avenger.” Many blonde women begin wearing wigs around London. One night, a man bearing striking resemblance to the description of the killer appears at a hotel-house and he inquires about a room to rent. He is led upstairs and his room is covered in portraits of blonde women, so he promptly flips the portraits around so they are not visible. He is “the lodger.” A romantic attraction is struck up between him and Daisy, the lodgings owner’s daughter. Downstairs, they later hear the ‘lodger’ as he paces back and forth from his room (the camera pans up and he we see him pacing through the floor boards). He leaves for the evening and they discover that another blonde woman has been found dead around the corner. They try to convince Daisy to stop seeing ‘the lodger’ but she sneaks away with him at night and breaks up with her boyfriend, Joe. So Joe brings police officers and they search ‘the lodger’s room to find a gun and a map to a recent murder by “The Avenger” killer. ‘The Lodger’ runs away off into the night but Daisy finds him alone and handcuffed as he explains that his sister was killed by “The Avenger” and that he promised his mother that he would exact vengeance. A mob descends on the couple when they are spotted at a pub until a paperboy announces the news that the true “Avenger” killer has been caught. In the end, ‘The Lodger” and Daisy are shown to be a happy couple together.
The Lodger contains Hitchcock’s first notable cameo – early in the film he appears at a desk with his back to the audience. This only happened because the actor intended for the small part failed to show up for the role. This became the standard practice for his later films.
The film was originally set to include an ambiguous ending wherein the question of the murderer’s identity is never revealed. As would be common among great directors and their respective studios, the studio for The Lodger intruded into the creative process and refused to allow for an ambiguous ending. Shortly before the release of the film, Hitchcock married his assistant, Alma Reville.