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Blackmail Movie Review

hitchcock silent talkie charles

An archival print of the silent version of Blackmail still exists and, as good as the early talkie is, the silent version is an altogether better film, with a fluid style and a minimum of intertitles. Joan Barry (later to star in Rich and Strange for Hitchcock) read Anny Ondra's dialogue just offscreen and Harvey Braban plays the talking inspector. (Sam Livesey had played the silent inspector.) The talkie grafts dialogue sequences onto long stretches of silent footage. But if you compare Blackmail with Atlantic, another 1929 British talkie, Hitchcock's skill with the new technique is clearly in evidence. Look at the breakfast sequence where the repetition of the word “knife” not only grates on the conscience of a guilty young girl, but on our nerves as well. In Atlantic, however, Titanic could have sunk many times over in the pauses between the following words: “Sir… I… have… something… to… tell… you… something… I… feel… you… should… know…. The… ship… has… one… hour… to… live.” Movies, even the ones that talk, MOVE, and Hitchcock knew that better than any British director during the transition to sound. Oh, and you can't miss Hitchcock's cameo here: he's reading a newspaper on a subway while being bothered by a little boy.

1929 86m/B GB Anny Ondra, John Longden, Sara All-good, Charles Paton, Cyril Ritchard, Donald Calthrop, Charles Paton, Hannah Jones, Percy Parsons, Johnny Butt, Harvey Braban, Phyllis Monkman; Cameos: Alfred Hitchcock; D: Alfred Hitchcock; W: Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Bennett, Benn W. Levy, Garnett Weston; C: Jack Cox. VHS, LV

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