Not rated, but that's because it is a pre-MPAA movie. This is a disturbing film involving a serial killer. Yeah, the fact that it is a silent movie often means that we don't see truly disturbing content (although I'm flashing back to "Blood of the Beasts" and can't stand by that statement absolutely.) The movie is meant to be haunting. Spinning out of the main plot are themes of gender difference and toxic masculinity. It's a pretty messed up movie, but nothing would be a big red flag here.
DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
It is another sleepy morning and I don't even have time to make tea to wake me up. It's going to be a busy one, so let's see if I can squeeze out a blog about a silent film before my life gets too busy. (Is your life like this? If so, you are probably pretty blessed.)
I recently made the mistake of misremembering stuff about the remake of this movie, simply titled The Lodger. I had seen A Story of the London Fog a long time ago. It was a rough print. (Although, now that I'm thinking about that, where is that box set?) The silent Hitchcock movies never really spoke to me back then. Even today, as much as I'm open to the notion of watching everything and appreciating silent film, I don't deny that there is a bit of a burden placed on me when watching the silent film. It's one of those things that really test my concentration. I typically throw my phone on the opposite side of the room with any movie, but I can't deny that my mind drifts from time-to-time. With silent film, you really can't get away from that. So when I watched the remake of The Lodger, I didn't remember how the original film ended. But now I've rewatched the OG Lodger and I guess I have things to say. I mean, that's probably a good thing when you have to write a daily film blog.
I think that Rear Window might be one of the most influential movies when it comes to the grand scheme of pop culture. I know, Star Wars probably holds the number one spot. But in terms of tropes and suspense, Rear Window has influenced our collective consciousness more than we realized. Hitchcock keeps coming back to the idea that the world is more insidious than it appears. The innocent in stories of murder are never really innocent. One's neighbor has a dark secret and one can't trust him. Since Rear Window (and probably previously a million times), we keep having that story about the person who just has to be guilty. But I kind of love that London Fog (I'll be using this term to differentiate it from the remake) actually subverts that trope. We feel like we're watching this clearly guilty man and part of me just felt like, "What if he was innocent?"
What ends up coming out of that is a story about the evils of society. It's all about our paranoia. When I drive to work, I see those signs asking me to look out for missing persons. I take them very seriously. It becomes a little game for me on the way home, looking at license plates hoping that I could be the big hero. This is something that is bred into society. Now, I'm sure that I'm probably one of the minority that takes these warning seriously, despite my last sentence. But the quest for justice has brought civilization to some pretty dark places. If I found one of those cars on the way home, I'm sure that I would consider myself a hero. I would ride that story until the end of time. Narratives like London Fog make us feel entitled to be stuck in the middle of the action. Daisy and her family are part of this culture of fear and paranoia. From an audience's perspective, of course they have to be intimately involved in the story of a murderer. Why else would we be watching this story? Daisy, like other blonde women, feel fear from this violent force somewhere "out there" and Daisy must be important because we're watching this movie about her.
But she isn't. Daisy proves to not be special at all. Her story is extremely telling. It is a story of the victimization of women and how women like Daisy have to exist every day. While Hitchcock sensationalizes the story of Daisy, her story is really every story of a woman weaving her car keys into her fist so she can go to her car safely. It's the idea that a man that seems so intimate to her can somehow be a monster. The Lodger, as implied by his name, lives with her. He is around her at his most vulnerable. And she --and by proxy, we --can only see his worst idiosyncrasies. But that's how women have to view the world. They have to pick apart the weirdness that men present. They have to make choices about whom to befriend because it could turn out so, so badly.
Tippi Hedren recently spoke out about the behavior of Alfred Hitchcock while she was filming The Birds. She spoke out about how he sexually harassed her. Now, I believed her immediately, but my film teacher fought me on that. I don't know what information she would have that I didn't have, but now I'm really not sure whom to believe. But I do know that London Fog seems really progressive for 1927. Joe, the police officer, has many of the traits of the male protagonist. He represents chivalry and masculine strength. After all, it is Joe who is meant to bring in the Avenger to justice. But there's something that reads really icky to me about him from moment one. There's a certain Gaston quality about him that reeks of old timey masculinity. Now, I wrote his toxic masculinity off as a product of the time. After all, it's not like Hitchcock comes across as someone in touch with his feminine side...except for Mr. & Mrs. Smith. But when my gut reaction actually proved to be right, I was flabbergasted. Joe assumes that Daisy would love him because she was beautiful and he was 1920s handsome. (It's a very specific type.) But Hitchcock paints him to be this gross individual who actually ignores evidence just so he can win a woman over. The movie provides this fascinating commentary on the idea of women as objects. Yeah, Daisy still needs to be romantically attached to someone. The movie is progressive, but not THAT progressive. But still, subverting my expectations for who the heroic protagonist is fascinates me. Sure, the Lodger's backstory seems really cockamamie, but that's showbiz.
All-in-all, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog slays, especially for a silent piece. I have to give a final note to the effective title cards and music with this movie, especially when the repeated motif of "Golden Curls, To-Nite" keeps happening. It's a really solid movie that subverts expectations. I don't know if it would work today, but it really crushes for 1927.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.