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The Times (12/Oct/1927) - New British Film

(c) The Times (12/Oct/1927)



Downhill, the new British film at the Plaza, in Lower Regent Street, shows, more than anything else, the extraordinary way in which British film technique has advanced during the last few years. Many people will remember the play on which the film is based. It consisted of a series of thinly connected episodes, showing the decline and fail of an altiuistic young Englishman who, having started life at a public school, was punished for shielding a friend and then slipped downhill with a rapidity that was as fast as it was tedious. This threadbare story has been taken over by Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, the producer of the new film, which has been made by the firm of Gainsborough, and. by sheer technique, he has managed to breathe some life into it. He has not made it credible -- that would be expecting too much -- but he has at least made it seem far less ridiculous than one could possibly have expected.

The thesis is such an inverted one that it is difficult to know how he could have done better. The hero (Mr. Ivor Novello) is expelled from school for his unusual nobility of character, and promptly starts a career of folly that proves to be quite exceptional. That Mr. Hitchcock, with the improbable material to his hand, has succeeded so well is an achievement. He tells the story clearly and with humour, and, in most cases, the characters are drawn with great skill. All of them seem to be unpleasant in some way or other, but again, that is not the producer's fault, and he is especially to be congratulated on eschewing the use of excessive symbolism. When first the hero started his downward course by means of an escalator one imagined that this scene would recur again and again, but it does not, and Mr. Hitchcock deserves thanks. He is greatly helped by his actors, especially by two of those who play small parts -- Miss Annette Benson and Mr. Robin Irvine. Mr. Ivor Novello is excellent as himself, but he is never so much like a schoolboy as when he appears in person in an interpolated scene. This scene, on Monday night, seemed to interest the audience, but the advisability of mingling the two forms of entertainment seems very doubtful. Downhill is still being preceded by Chang, the admirable "nature" film, in the course of which some of the animals, like the hero of Downfall, almost seem to appear in the theatre in the flesh by means of the new invention called the "Magno-scope."