These paintings are slightly different, with the talkie's version having an incomplete crotch. This creates mild continuity errors when the silent painting reappears later in the talkie. In both versions, Crewe eventually throws himself at Alice and drags her to his curtained bedchamber.
In the talkie, the sounds of her screaming amid the struggle are overlaid onto the window view of a policeman walking under the streetlight below. Alice's earlier glimpse of him had reassured her that safety was near in case she needed to call for it. The ironic replay of this image, with the oblivious bobby passing by, foreshadows the moment in Hitchcock's Frenzy demonstrating that from a London street it's impossible to hear screams in an apartment.
In fact, many moments in this movie foreshadow later key moments in other Hitchcock films.
Alfred Hitchcock’s films are renowned the world over, and a mountain of literature has detailed seemingly every facet of them. Yet remarkably few studies have solely focused on the recurring motifs in Hitchcock’s films. Michael Walker remedies this surprising gap in Hitchcock. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Michael Walker is an independent writer and member of the editorial board of Movie magazine.
The struggle behind the bed-curtain not only foreshadows the shower curtain in Psycho The close-up of Alice's hand reaching blindly outside the curtain and grasping through the air, while the viewer sees a bread-knife in close proximity and wills for her to grab it, echoes a similar moment in Dial M for Murder when the audience wishes to place the scissors in Grace Kelly's hand.
In both cases, the audience's bloody desires are granted, because above all it is the viewer who wants violence. A hand for a hand. In the silent version, the sudden protrusion of Crewe's lifeless hand is a masterfully shocking visual detail. In the talkie, we're more absorbed, ironically, by the utter silence of the shell-shocked Alice emerging into view in her slip, the knife glinting under a key light that matches the mad brightness in her eyes. The rest of the plot involves the police investigation and the intrusion of a slimy blackmailer, Tracy Donald Calthrop , into the lives of Alice and Frank.
One intriguing unanswered question is why this blackmailer had been pestering Crewe. Did he have some goods on Crewe, thus implying that the artist was some kind of serial something-or-other? In his commentary on the talkie, historian Tim Lucas takes us through many comparisons of the two versions and many references to Hitchcock's other films. I've tried to avoid repeating them here in favor of contributing additional observations.
For example, the talkie layers much canary singing onto one scene, perhaps in a reference to the slang for confessing to the police and perhaps partly to echo the use of whistling by various characters. The talkie is most famous for demonstrating Hitchcock's awareness of sound as a plastic and expressive element, most notably in the scene where a gossipy neighbor's rattling monologue becomes a subjective drone in Alice's head with only the word "knife" repeating sharply and endlessly, as though stabbing her ears.
This trick obviously isn't employed in the silent version, yet that version still implies sound via a jarring close-up of the shop's bell. The fact that Alice sits on opposite sides of the table in each version testifies to how carefully Hitchcock re-conceived the scenes.
Hitchcock had been implying sound effectively in silent films as early as The Lodger , another film about a blonde heroine and her copper boyfriend. As in that film, he plays with the visual effect of a scream. In the talkie, what seems to be Alice's scream is a transition to a jump-cut on a landlady's scream. Blackmail 's other famous element is the chase climax inside the British Museum, where the contrast between "little" people and a monumental stone face foreshadows the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur and Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest Lucas reads from the memoir of assistant Michael Powell in which he takes credit for suggesting the museum.
Getting back to that chase, this is Hitchcock's second suspense film, the first being The Lodger , and both end with police chasing "the wrong man". In the case of Blackmail , however, the wrong man is far from innocent. For that matter, neither is the policeman who withholds evidence and colludes after the fact with his girlfriend. The film ends with a fateful displacement of guilt while also reinforcing its psychological weight via the painted image of the jester, who points at all the film's characters and at the audience.
Critic Robin Wood stated that two of Hitchcock's dominant characters were the guilty woman and the innocent man. I think it's just as possible, using Blackmail as an example, to argue that he consistently employed the innocent woman and the guilty man, for his films are full of culpable men deciding that women are guilty and acting accordingly. His men even "direct" women to behave with guilt, as when Crewe coaxes Alice to change her costume and guides her hand during the painting.
Still, she finds the sense of guilt almost unbearable and becomes an ennobled character through her thwarted attempts to confess.
What she's really avoiding isn't so much prison, for she might have escaped that, as the tremendous scandal of "suspicion" that would have made her "notorious" to quote other Hitchcock titles. Kino's Blu-ray package gives us not merely two versions of the film but three, since an extra disc contains the talkie in a narrower gauge 1. While the talkie is precious and important and mottled with brilliance, we must admit that the silent has not a single awkward passage and remains seamlessly confident and fascinating throughout, so it may be the most successful incarnation. Good thing we have both, and they're fatefully intertwined.
Oddly, the silent credits claim that Sam Livesey plays the Chief Inspector while the talkie lists Harvey Braban in the role. The talkie credits are incorrect, and both actors appear in both films. Braban plays Webber's older partner who takes the lead in the opening arrest not a Chief Inspector's job while Chief Inspector Wills Livesey is the elderly man in the huge office. More significant is that the gossipy neighbors are played by different actresses: Phyllis Konstam in the silent version and Phyllis Monkman another Phyllis! According to Wikipedia, Konstam and her tennis-star husband became quite the celebrity couple.
As for Monkman's gossip, she utters the most uncanny bit of Hitchcock foreshadowing when she states that a bathtub murder scene kept her out of the tub for six months.
Esme Percy as Handel Fane in Murder! Speaking of the innocent woman and the guilty man, Hitchcock's third suspense film was Murder! Having had so much success by committing Blackmail , his try at Murder! While slightly more awkward than the previous two thrillers, it's full of wit and experiments with sound and camera while illustrating its hero's remark that a part of art's duty is to criticize society.
Today, its most striking element is the inclusion of a character who's not only a cross-dresser but identified in dialogue as "a half-caste" with "black blood", all of which combined Otherness leads to tragedy and a sensational setpiece inspired by Hitchcock's love of E. DuPont's circus drama Variety Suddenly there'sa loud female scream, birds burst from under eaves, a fat black cat runs beside a wall.
The camera takes a lengthy pan across a row of windows being opened to the street as the inhabitants respond to the cacophonous knocking that follows. The sequence combines suspense, disorientation, and character humor while announcing itself raucously as a talkie. One marvelous visual joke shows an apparently svelte beauty in silhouette behind a window shade, only to have her revealed as something of a little crone. As Nick Pinkerton's commentary points out, even little details like this serve the larger meaning of masquerade, deception, and assumption that define the story.
The neighbors finally fall to silence when they burst upon a grisly scene and freeze into a tableau. Actress Diana Baring Norah Baring, coincidentally sharing her character's surname sits almost catatonic before the corpse of a frenemy and fellow actress, who is now posed as a still life with a bloody poker on the floor before the fireplace.
After Diana is taken away by police, we're disoriented by what appears to be a curtain rising on Diana in her jail cell as she seems to hear audience applause. It's one of several moments where Hitchcock experiments with subjectivity in sound and image; at other points, he cuts to concrete images of what ironic realities are inside the character's heads usually involving food while they speak.
The "curtain" conceit will return for the ironic final image. If we use the word "irony" too often, it's because the picture drips with it.
While Diana plays her part in jail, the movie offers a bit of literal backstage farce as two policemen haphazardly interview members of Diana's troupe while they're putting on some knockabout nonsense involving cross-dressing, policemen, bondage and women in fox-hunting gear. It seems more like delirium than procedural, but don't let it fool you -- this scene is packed with clues. Next, the script indulges in a major setpiece in the jury room. The scene is a gift for the 12 actors, who take full advantage of it as a Hogarthian class-straddling cross-section of Diana's "peers" conspire to sympathize, condemn, and dispose of her, overriding all protests.
Among the film's ironies is that this sequence, in which it's emphasized that "life" is at stake, becomes the most stylized and artificial, the most play-like, the most sham.
As Pinkerton observes, shots of the jurors collectively turning their heads right and left foreshadow the famous image of the tennis spectators in Strangers on a Train We can see this not only in the stark white scenes of the visiting room and its table's forced perspective, but in the montage of the jurors' close-ups. The last holdout among the jurors is Sir John Menier Herbert Marshall , a prominent actor who personally knows the defendant and feels partly responsible for her situation.
This should disqualify him from the jury, but that's hardly the least unlikely element in the story. After the other jurors browbeat him in a highly histrionic chorus that delights in its own artifice, he decides to investigate the crime privately and doesn't have much trouble figuring it out, as all the clues pretty much fall into his lap. Along the way are other scenes where Hitchcock plays with the camera handled by Jack E.
Cox billed as J. Cox , who also shot Blackmail. For example, they shoot the lengthy dialogue between the landlady Marie Wright and a gossip Phyllis Konstam, the gossip in the silent Blackmail as an unbroken series of pans left and right between the two rooms in which they circulate. One unintended stylistic distraction is seen in several fade-outs in the middle of scenes, as evidently the result of deterioration.
More problems are created by Hitchcock's experiments with the limited sound technology, as when he wanted both a background score and a voice-over by Marshall. The only way to record this was to have a live orchestra on set while playing a pre-recording of Marshall's speech as he gazes into a mirror, and the overpowering results are hard to follow if fascinatingly self-conscious.
Norah Baring as Diana Baring in Murder! Flag for inappropriate content. Related titles. Marnie [Dr. Arthur Lyons - Death on the Cheap.