It all has to start somewhere.The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
is a 1927 silent film adapted from a 1913 novel by Marie Adelaide Lowndes. It was the debut feature of Alfred Hitchcock
(sort of, see below).
As the story opens, London is in the grip of a serial killer called "The Avenger". At the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Bounting's inn gets a new lodger by the name of Jonathan Drew (Ivor Novello). He fancies the Bountings' daughter, the blonde Daisy, who is already engaged to Joe, a detective. Over time, it's discovered that Jonathan has a few eccentric habits, including a preference for strolls on foggy evenings. Since The Avenger's favorite victims are blondes, Joe starts to suspect that Jonathan is the killer himself.
This was actually the third film Hitchcock directed, but his first two, The Pleasure Garden
and The Mountain Eagle
, were both shelved after the producers reacted unfavorably. The Lodger
was the first Hitchcock film to be released, and it was a huge hit, leading to both of his first two films being released and kickstarting his career.
Other film versions of the story were released in 1932 (also starring Novello), 1944, 1953 (as Man in the Attic
), and 2009 (set in the modern day).
Not to be confused with the 2010 Doctor Who episode of the same name
This work features examples of:
- Bathtub Scene: One scene features Daisy taking a bath while Drew looms outside the door to the communal bathroom. This scene is more than a little bit reminiscent of Psycho.
- Creator Cameo: This film features Hitchcock's first cameos. Hitchcock and a few other crew members got on camera for a scene where not enough extras were available, and the practice soon became a trademark of his. He can be seen early in the film, from behind, taking a call at police headquarters, and at the climax when he's right next to Detective Joe as Joe pulls Drew off the fence.
- Deus ex Machina: The Lodger is saved from a lynch mob by a paper boy delivering the news of the real killer's arrest. Somewhat justifiable in this instance—the killer strikes on Tuesday nights, Drew is arrested and subsequently escapes on a Tuesday night, and the cops had previously guessed where the killer would strike again. They guess correctly, and catch the real killer red-handed (offscreen) while a mob is chasing after Drew.
- Executive Meddling: In the original novel, the Lodger is the Avenger. The studio didn't want the star, Ivor Novello, to play a serial killer, so they had the ending changed so that the Lodger was innocent. This wasn't too egregious, since it fits the common Hitchcockian theme of a man being falsely accused. Still, other adaptations, such as the 1944 version with Laird Creegar, follow the original story to great effect.
- Green-Eyed Monster / Love Triangle: Detective Joe likes Daisy but she has eyes for the handsome stranger that's taken a room at the inn. Joe doesn't like this one bit, and it seems to influence his investigation.
- Guilt by Coincidence: The Lodger was spotted leaving the rooming house shortly before an Avenger murder and returning soon after. He is later discovered to have a collection of Avenger news clippings in his valise, along with a picture of an Avenger victim. It turns out that the woman in the picture is his sister, and he's been trying to catch the Avenger.
- Ominous Fog: As mentioned in the subtitle. It's foggy every time the Avenger strikes, and Drew escapes from the mob into a foggy London night.
- P.O.V. Cam: Used when the Lodger first comes to the front door of the inn.
- Red Herring: The Lodger's not the killer.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The Avenger's killings bear a certain resemblance to the murders committed by a certain individual who was busy in Whitechapel in 1888.
- Serial Killer: Who only kills blondes and only on Tuesdays.
- Torches and Pitchforks: A lynch mob chases after the Lodger.
- The Unreveal: We never see the real killer or learn his identity.
- Wrongfully Accused: As noted above, this was a result of Executive Meddling, but it works onscreen and became a theme that Hitchcock would go back to over and over again for his entire career.