Sight and Sound (2008) - Hitch before Hollywood
- review: Hitch before Hollywood
- author(s): Philip Kemp
- journal: Sight and Sound (01/Apr/2008)
- issue: volume 18, issue 4, page 84
- journal ISSN: 0037-4806
- publisher: British Film Institute
- keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, British International Pictures, Charles Barr, Charles Laughton, DVD, Downhill (1927), Easy Virtue (1928), Erich Pommer, Gainsborough Pictures, Gaumont British Picture Corporation Limited, Hitchcock: The Early Years (1999), Ivor Novello, Jamaica Inn (1939), Juno and the Paycock (1930), Michael Balcon, Sabotage (1936), Secret Agent (1936), The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Mountain Eagle (1926), The Pleasure Garden (1925), Video recordings, Young and Innocent (1937)
Alfred Hitchcock's earliest British pictures reveal the beginnings of his film-making genius, writes Philip Kemp
Alfred Hitchcock: The British Years
UK 1925-39; Network/Region 2; Certificate PG; 810 minutes; Aspect Ratio 1.33:1; Features: introductions by Charles Barr, TV interviews with Hitchcock, 'On Location' with Robert Powell, 'Aquarius: Alfred the Great', 'Hitchcock: The Early Years', archive version of 'The Lodger', image galleries, trailer for 'The Lady Vanishes', script PDFs, booklet
How long did it take for Hitchcock to become Hitchcock? One might say nearly ten years. He directed his first film, The Pleasure Garden, in 1925; but not until 1934, under the sympathetic aegis of Michael Balcon at Gaumont-British, did he embark on the run of suspense thrillers that, with hindsight, seem to map out his predestined path. In between he directed romances, melodramas, comedies, social satires, even something bordering on a musical - and only the occasional thriller. But then again, consider the opening scene of The Pleasure Garden-, a cabaret with chorus girls dancing - fairly ineptly. The camera pans along the front row of dinner-jacketed men lecherously ogling the girls. One man lifts his opera binoculars to look at their legs, and we get a subjective view through the glasses. Immediately we mentally flash forwards to a shot 35 years later, as Norman Bates peers through a hole in the wall at Marion Crane undressing. The Hitchcockian mix of sardonic humour, voyeurism and predatory sexuality was, it seems, there from the very start.
Network's ten-disc set dovetails neatly with 'The Early Hitchcock', the nine-disc set released last year by Optimum, with no overlaps. Optimum gave us almost all the films Hitch directed at British International Pictures, with 1930's Juno and the Paycock the only major omission. Network include three of the five he made when starting out at Gainsborough (as yet we lack a decent print of Easy Virtue, an...