Released by: Kino Studio Classics
Released on: December 13th, 2016.
Director: John Brahm
Cast: Merle Oberon, George Sanders, Laird Cregar, Sara Allgood, Sir Cedric Hardwicke
Year: 1944 Purchase From Amazon
Directed by John Braham from a screenplay by Barry Lyndon based off of the novel of the same name written by Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Lodger is a of Alfred Hitchcock's silent film made in 1927 starring Ivor Novello.
Early in the film we meet a strange young man named Slade (Laird Cregar) who winds up renting a London flat right around the time that a serial killer starts operating in the area. Slade's landlord, Ellen Bonting (Sara Allgood), starts to suspect that he may in fact be none other than Jack The Ripper himself when she notices him prowling around late at night. Slade, on the other hand, quickly becomes obsessed with the startlingly beautiful Kitty Langley (Merle Oberon), a foxy chanteuse who lives in the same building. Kitty, however, is currently involved with Inspector John Warwick (George Sanders), the very man assigned to stay on top of the Ripper murders.
As the story evolves, Slade's attraction to Kitty turns into an obsession while the good men of Scotland Yard close in on The Ripper, which eventually puts an increasingly desperate man into a corner...
Beautifully shot by ace cinematographer Lucien Ballard (who worked on everything from Laura to The Wild Bunch to Brahm's earlier The Undying Monster), this is a gorgeous looking film. The camera work does a great job of portraying the constantly foggy streets of Victorian-era London, using light and shadow to create a world of high contrast and dark suspense. Like a lot of Brahm's films, this one is heavy on talk at times, but the occasionally lengthy scenes of dialogue never really hurt the picture. That's because the script is well written and the characters interesting enough that we don't mind seeing what they're up to.
A lot of the credit for that also has to go to the cast, however. Sara Allgood is enjoyable as the nosy landlady. She's smarter than some of the other characters give her credit for and her performance is solid. George Sanders was great leading man/hero material at this point in his career and Brahm makes the most out of his abilities. Sanders is just plain likeable here. Merle Oberon is gorgeous in this picture. Her dark black hair frames her pretty face and her wildly expressive eyes quite nicely and you can see why Slade would be drawn to her. She's also a talented actress, able to turn Kitty Langley into an amiable enough young woman so that when she is in jeopardy later in the picture, we care about what happens to her. The real scene stealer, however, is Laird Cregar. His imposing frame and deep set eyes make him a good casting choice to play the creepy character that is Slade, and he certainly makes the most of it. Without ever going over the top his work here is impressive and his character quite chilling.
Though it might take a little bit of time to get there, The Lodger manages to build to an absolutely fantastic conclusion that does an excellent job of tying together the different plot threads and bringing this pot boiler to a suitable finale.
The Lodger is presented in a nice looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1 fullframe. Contrast looks very solid here and black levels stay strong. The whites never bloom or look too hot while detail and texture show a lot more than we've seen previously on home video. The 1.33.1 framing looks very good. There is very little print damage here to note, the picture is very clean. There are no signs of edge enhancement, noise reduction or compression artifacts to complain about and the upgrade in picture quality this release offers compare to the old DVD release from Fox is considerable.
The only audio option for the disc is a DTS-HD Mono track in English. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided. Dialogue is usually clean and clear but the levels occasionally fluctuate a bit. There aren't any issues with serious hiss or distortion, just the odd instance where you might pick up on it. For an older mono dubbed mix, the audio here sounds just fine.
The extras for this release, a mix of old material from the Fox DVD release and newly created supplements, start off with an audio commentary from film historian Gregory William Mank. This is a great track, it gets right to the point and delivers a barrage of facts and insight into the film's history. He also talks up the different actors that appear in the picture, talks about some of the censorship issues that the film ran into and a lot more. A second commentary pairs film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini together. This originally appeared on the Fox DVD release and it's an interesting dissection of the film with plenty of great information about the creative people who worked on it, the influences that work their way into the storyline and more.
The disc also contains a featurettes entitled The Man In The Attic: The Making of The Lodger. This fifteen minute piece details the film's production history, the influence that the Jack The Ripper case had on the film and of course, the original Hitchcock picture that this is basically a remake of. Also on hand is The Lodger Vintage Radio Show performed by Vincent Price and Cathy Lewis. This runs just under a half an hour in length and it's quite interesting to hear, especially for Price fans. Kino also offers up a sixteen minute Restoration Comparison featurette that shows off what went into cleaning up the film to get it to look how it looks on this Blu-ray release.
Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, bonus trailers for a few other vintage horror pictures available from Kino, static menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
The Lodger is a rock solid slice of suspense, directed with a nice amount of style and at a good pace. It's also quite well acted, with Laird Cregar and Merle Oberon really shining in their respective roles. Kino's Blu-ray is a good one, offering up the movie in nice shape and with some solid extras. Recommended.
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