Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 121: The Lodger (1944) - Rank 4/5


There's nothing like a good, black and white period piece set in London to make me wish there were more snaggle-toothed, coquettish tarts ambling about the streets of Louisville. It could be the mayor's next big project to attract even more folks downtown after dark. Place one prattling crone underneath every streetlight. I can already see it working now.

'Ello, guv'nah! Coo, the river's fog sure puts a chill in your bones, don' it?

-Are you talking to me?

Cor blimey, 'o else'd I'd be talkin' to? The Lord Chamberlain? Now there's a stuck-up lot if'n I ever saws it. Genteel, they calls it! Fine way to greet a lady.

-(stunned silence)

Tell me love, wouldn't you like a pretty young lass to keep your bones warm tonight?

-Actually, I'm looking for the Hard Rock Cafe.

The 'ard Rock Cafe? Sure, I knows it. I'll take ya there m'self. Look alive! I'll even let ya buy me a coupla drinks, but don't get no ideas!

-I wasn't going to...

I'm only foolin', guv'nah. Haw haw.

What an age we would live in if that were real. I could tolerate all the drunken frat crowds in London (or the Red Cheetah, to be more accurate) for that rigmarole. Oh, "The Lodger!" Fabulous film starring the late, great Laird Cregar, who was cut down in his prime by a heart attack due to a crash diet.


I was blown away by his haunting performance in "Hangover Square" and I found his role as a man everyone suspects to be Jack the Ripper equally as enthralling. Cregar has sort of a Laurence Olivier intensity with a Victor Buono air, if such a description could be said to do him justice. Played opposite the mellifluent-voiced and occasionally hammy George Sanders, the film is practically a win-win from the start (director John Brahm evidently liked the pairing as well since he pitted the two against each other again in his next film, "Hangover Square")

Interestingly enough, the film is actually a remake of a Hitchcock film from 1927, though it's far superior to any of the other Hitchcock rip-offs that Hollywood has generated *cough* Disturbia *cough* Rumor has it that this adaptation is actually considered to be superior to Hitchcock's piece. I know that the basic plot is supposed to be relatively unchanged; the story follows a family as they take in a new lodger and begin to suspect that he may be Jack the Ripper. The film's family contains all the great staples of the era: a down-to-business patriarch who dismisses all panicked notions of his family as "Poppycock," an overly doting and snoopy mother and the bombshell daughter that stirs a man's id like a poker jostles glowing embers into a flame. It's a premise that lays the groundwork for a great plot, and with gorgeous, high contrast cinematography, the film is definitely a fun watch.

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