It all has to start somewhere.
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 kick-starting 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:
- Adaptational Heroism: The film's "lodger" turns out to be a heroic amateur detective trying to catch the killer. In the original novel, it is very strongly indicated that he genuinely is the killer.
- 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.
- Calling Card: A piece of paper, with a Triangle, and "The Avenger" written inside.
- Connect the Deaths: The murder locations were starting to form a pattern that allowed the police to guess the next location.
- 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.
- Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: The avenger was caught 10 minutes ago, and the newspapers had the story out just in time for the lynch mob.
- A Foggy Day in London Town: The story is subtitled A Story of the London Fog. A Serial Killer is stalking the foggy streets of London, and the new lodger at Mrs. Bounting's rooming house might be him.
- 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.
- Hollywood Board Games: Chess, played between The Lodger and Daisy. In the game depicted, Black (played by daisy) is well developed but somehow lost a bishop against White who only developed the king's pawn one square and the king's knight - also, king and queen positions are reversed. As shown in the analysis and film, white starts with d4. Black captured with exd4 which would lead to a knight exchange, but white doesn't see the obvious capture and responds with Qd2. Black does h3 (ignoring a free capture or defensive play), White replies with g3 (blundering the rook away and ignoring a capture), and the pieces get accidently knocked over. Daisy returns the pieces to the wrong position (black king in the corner).
- Lights Off, Somebody Dies: The first murder is depicted where the lights were shut off.
- 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.
- No Name Given: Though some filmographies give the Lodger's name as "Jonathan Drew", it's never actually revealed in the film itself.
- 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.
- The Peeping Tom: Has one as per Hitchcock's favored themes.
- 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.