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Film Journal International (2013) - Silent treatment: Rialto releases Alfred Hitchcock's little seen silent films in sparkling new restorations




We may have been the most famous film director in the world, but for years it has been next to impossible to see Alfred Hitchcock's seminal works. New restorations of nine of his earliest titles will be touring the country this summer, giving viewers the chance to gain a fuller understanding of how the "Master of Suspense" evolved.

As its contribution to the Queens Jubilee in 2012, the British Film Institute set out to restore nine silent films Hitchcock directed between 1925 and 1929. (A tenth title, The Mountain Eagle, remains lost.) The three-year project became the largest in the Institute's history, one that required the cooperation of museums and archives around the world.

Speaking from her office in London, Briony Dixon, the BFI's curator of silent film, describes the work that went into restoring Hitchcock as "the project of a lifetime for me." The Institute already had materials on all the Hitchcock silent films, holdings that went back to the 1940s. But the condition of the films varied widely, and only one -- The Lodger -- had ever been restored previously.

Easy Virtue, an adaptation of a Noel Coward play, was in especially poor shape. The BFI's copy was a 16mm print that was missing about 30 minutes from the original release.

For The Pleasure Garden, Hitchcock's debut as a director, Dixon and her staff worked from five different elements, including prints from France and the Netherlands. "That's the difficult bit," she concedes, "tha...

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