“Keep your handcuffs hidden and we’ll get some brandy.”
Bloody hell, these may be the most romantic words I’ve ever heard. Well, seen. They’re on a title card in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 film The Lodger, shown last weekend at the Silent Cinema in Galway. I’ve waited (unsuccessfully) my whole life for a woman to whisper those little words to me that shows how much she cares: “Keep your handcuffs hidden and we’ll get some brandy.”
What a treat this showing was! I hadn’t seen the film in years and was completely startled by that overhead shot of the staircase. Along with Daisy (June Tripp) enjoying a bath while The Lodger (Ivor Novello) lurks outside her door, you couldn’t help but be transported three decades forward to Norman Bates territory and the immortal Psycho. At least, if you’ve seen Psycho forty-nine times, that is. While sitting in your favourite rocking chair, wearing your mum’s dress and wig. Which I absolutely never have done, honestly.
More – ahem -- seriously, it served as a reminder of just how quickly Hitchcock developed as a filmmaker. It’s only his third outing as director and his first in the thriller mode that he’d become synonymous with; but in retrospect, there are so many links to his other films: from the number 13 on a door, to attractive ladies washing themselves, to wrong men being chased, to blondes galore. Yes, even this early.
Alfred, I’m a fan. But you may have had issues.
Mind you, there’s nothing subtle about how he introduces The Lodger looking to rent a room: at a time when fair-haired ladies are being murdered to beat the band, there’s Ivor Novello standing on your doorstep glaring at you with eyes that he’s borrowed from Bela Lugosi for the evening, lower face wrapped in a not-suspicious-at-all scarf; and then when you show him to his room, he goes charging around like a mad thing, turning all the portraits of - *gulp* - blonde women to the wall! I was half expecting him to whip off his cloak and reveal a t-shirt with I AM A SERIAL KILLER on the front.
Yet it’s a wonderful film and a terrific example of Hitch’s nine surviving silent movies. Also, what a striking couple Novello and Tripp made. They were really beautiful together. They could have worked well as a screen team; but while Novello was very successful as an actor, dramatist, singer, and composer, Ms. Tripp seems to have preferred the stage and – apart from some uncredited cameos -- made only three silent films and one talkie.
Still, that line though: “Keep your handcuffs hidden and we’ll get some brandy.”
Be still, my beating heart. Maybe Adam should have held this one back for St. Valentine’s Night.
“The silent pictures were the purest form of cinema.” – Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock/Truffaut.