Monday, June 3, 2013

THE LODGER (1944) movie review

Lodger, The (1944) d. Brahm, John (USA)

Shamefully neglected by classic horror fans due to its relative inaccessibility, this gorgeously shot and flawlessly acted spin on the Jack the Ripper legend finally became available in 2007 from 20th Century Fox. An atmosphere-drenched version of Marie Belloc-Lowndes’ novel, director Brahm takes Alfred Hitchcock’s 1926 silent version and does the unthinkable by actually improving upon the Master.

Laird Cregar is the mysterious titular character who appears out of the London fog to take up residence in Sara Allgood and Cedric Hardwicke’s home, and his stunning, smoldering performance anchors the picture. Despite being only 28 years old at the time (!), Cregar’s bravura, layered turn earns our sympathies and suspicions in equal measure, with Merle Oberon as the gorgeous dance hall starlet that might be the Ripper’s next victim. (Due to interference from the censors, the Whitehall victims’ occupations had to be altered from prostitutes to actresses.)

George Sanders lends able support as the investigating Scotland Yard official who also falls for Oberon’s charms. In full Expressionistic mood, Brahm collaborates with cinematographer Lucien Ballard and composer Hugo Friehofer to create one of the finest horror films of the 1940s. Not to be missed.

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