Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Murder! (1930)

The closest Hitchcock ever got to filming an Agatha Christie novel. This is based on a traditional whodunit originally called Enter Sir John. In general, Hitchcock always said he was not that interested in traditional mysteries, that he found that the withholding of crucial information was counterproductive to genuine suspense. But this is a good old-fashioned whodunit, in which a woman (Norah Baring) is sent to prison for a murder she didn’t commit. One of the jurors, played by the always dapper Herbert Marshall, votes guilty but changes his mind. He begins to investigate the crime himself, racing against the hangman. It’s a terrific premise but a so-so film. None of the characters come alive in any real or interesting way and the tension never builds.

What works in this film is the sheer number of tricks that Hitchcock employs to keep the film active. Lots of quick cutting. The use of internal dialogue (first time ever in a film). Lots of trick shots, especially some doozies at a circus in the penultimate sequence. There is also a truly brilliant interrogation scene, where police officers interview actors as they come off and on a stage. None of this adds up to a particularly satisfying film, however. For completists only.

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