A serial killer known as "The Avenger" is on the loose in London, murdering blonde women. A mysterious man arrives at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Bunting looking for a room to rent. The Bunting's daughter is a blonde model and is seeing one of the detectives assigned to the case. The detective becomes jealous of the lodger and begins to suspect he may be the avenger
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Jack the Ripper has been a popular figure for novelists and movie makers. The man who used the cover of London’s fog to murder women at the turn of last century has spawned many lucrative stories. One of the most popular stories is that of The Lodger. The novel has been made into a movie several times, including once again this year. But the person most associated with bringing the book to the screen is Alfred Hitchcock. He made a silent version in 1926.
Exposition is a tricky thing when telling a story. In Hitchcock’s first few shots we learn everything we need to about the Jack the Ripper character. A blonde screams into the camera. We then see blinking lights announcing “To-Night, Golden Curls.” We then cut back to the blonde who is dead. By her is a card with “The Avenger” on it. We now know everything we need to and can start the story. But just for good measure, Hitchcock includes a montage of newspapers and reporters who give us bits and pieces about who the Avenger is.
Our heroine is Daisy Bunting, a blonde girl who models and lives at home with her parents. She has a boyfriend named Joe, who is an aspiring detective.
Our lodger is next introduced. He is played by Ivor Novello, who gives a hit or miss performance. He is either perfectly dramatic for a scene or overly dramatic. Unfortunately he’s mostly overly dramatic in his acting. Anyway, the nameless lodger happens to like the room Daisy’s parents are offering. He just doesn’t like the paintings of blondes in there and asks for them to be removed.
Naturally, the family suspects this man to be the Avenger. He is constantly pacing in his room, much to the annoyance of the family. This is shown in the most famous shot of the movie. The family looks up at the ceiling, which becomes a pane of glass on top of which Novello walks.
From here, little hints are dropped as to the lodger’s identity. He likes Daisy’s hair. He leaves for a night and then the next morning a woman’s dead body is found.
To make matters worse for the family, it appears that Daisy has fallen for the lodger. This doesn’t sit well with Joe, who becomes very suspicious. The police are too as they have closed in on the Avenger’s location, stating that it is within Daisy’s neighborhood.
Daisy and the lodger go out one night together. This happens to be the same night that the Avenger normally chooses to do his work. They meet Joe, who is not happy. He figures he’ll break up the couple by calling in the police. The police come and find a gun, clippings on the Avenger and a map in the lodger’s bad. The lodger is arrested, but all this excitement causes Daisy’s mother to faint. In the confusion, he escapes. Daisy follows and finds him. The lodger tells Daisy that his sister was the Avenger’s first victim and he is out to avenge her death so to speak.
Daisy buys this story and then buys him a drink. But his handcuffs are discovered. An angry mob, straight out of a Frankenstein movie, chases the lodger. They nearly get him, but are called off when they learn that the real Avenger has been caught.
The Lodger is an exceptional silent movie and a great take on the Jack the Ripper legend. One can only hope that the newest version of the story retains its roots and does not become some gore lovers fantasy.