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Variety (1940) - Radio Reviews: The Lodger



Review of The Lodger (Suspense, 22/Jul/1940)


with Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn, Noreen Gammil, Lurene Tuttle

'The Lodger'
30 Mins.

CBS Forecast No. 4
Monday 9:30 p.m.
WABC-CBS, New York

What Columbia offers for sale in this one is the 'suspense technique' of the English film director Alfred Hitchcock. This series is called 'Suspense Stories.'

As a sample of how he does it and what he might do regularly, if the price were right, the selection was a Jack the Ripper thriller, 'The Lodger,' by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, adapted by Joan Morrison. It belonged to the 'My-God-I can't-stand-anymore' school of dramatic tensity. One goosepimple says to another, 'this is what I was telling you about!'

Hitchcock is a director with an exceptionally acute ear. He achieves his results by a Ravel-like rhythmic pummelling of the nervous system. Music, sound effects, the various equivalents of squeaking shoes, deep breathing, disembodied voices are mingled in the telling of the tale with a mounting accumulation of small descriptive touches that pyramid the tension. As heard Monday night at 9:30 (and ending right on the nose) the narrative was taut and gripping. It was marked by the master touch of the tempo king from Elstree. Steady, inexorable, quickening, the piece was professionally a horror zombie that made a strong case for having Hitchcock on the air this fall. The dissenting thought on the audition is obviously this: it isn't literary or radio cricket to allow the climax of such artfully-spun story-telling to degenerate into a gag. Possibly because there wasn't enough air time, possibly because there was no ending in the original story, (in which the villain vanished through the side door of the wax museum) the fiendish Jack the Ripper of London in the late 80's merely evaporated and the rapt listener, like the protesting actors who told Hitchcock just before the sign-off that he couldn't do such things, were left unsatisfied and cheated. Alfy, old boy, don't ever do that to us again.

Herbert Marshall doubled as narrator and as the black-cloaked religious fanatic who took lodgings and emerged only by fog-light to prowl the streets looking for girls who were pretty, blonde and tipsy. These he liquidated with a long knife. The next morning the headlines screamed of a new horror in London.

Marshall gave a vivid and versatile reading, with recollections inevitable of Charles Laughton and Orson Welles. Good, too, was Edmund Gwenn in the role of the husband, but it was a strange bit of professional oversight that gave Gwenn air-billing (or maybe his agent insisted!) in a minor role and omitted to credit the actress who carried most of the burden as the frightened landlady Mrs. Bunting. She was Noreen Gammil and very good.

All in all this 'Suspense' had a mule-like kick and demonstrated, which is hardly surprising, that Hitchcock of the cinema has much to sell the electrified air.