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Hitchcock’s The Lodger Shown in
Film Preservation Festival

Ivor Novello.
Photograph: courtesy Austrian Film Museum.
Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller, The Lodger (1926), was shown as part of American Movie Classics’ 8th Annual Film Preservation Festival. The cable television network featured motion pictures by the cinema master as part of its annual festival to raise public awareness of the need to preserve our film heritage. The festival was presented on AMC from Friday, 16 June through Monday, 19 June 2000.

The Lodger was Alfred Hitchcock’s first motion picture to imply the type of suspense film he would come to be known for worldwide. The Lodger was Hitchcock’s third feature film as director and was the first to show, in a career known for cinematic innovation, unmistakable signs of his creative filmmaking abilities. The film also featured Hitchcock’s first film cameo (as a newspaper editor with his back to the camera, early in the film).

The Lodger has only been available to the public in substandard 16mm reduction prints and on home video products transferred from those same low-quality materials. The print of The Lodger shown on AMC was prepared by the Samuel Goldwyn Company from a 35mm print held by the British National Film Archive.

The video transfer was far too tightly-cropped all around the picture image and even a little more so on the left, with intertitles cut off on the left side on some television monitors. Cropping of the intertitles was framed better in the latter reels. The film was transferred at sound speed (24 frames per second), which accounted for the film’s 65-minute running time. The camera’s original cranking speed was approximately 18 frames per second. Action perceptively ran too fast throughout the film. The print itself was moderately speckled and flawed. The transfer was color-toned in sepia and blue and included a cobbled-together musical accompaniment from stock sources.

The Goldwyn edition included additional footage not present in previously-seen home video editions of The Lodger.

While the video transfer was cropped too close and ran too fast, the clarity of the National Film Archive 35mm print was a revelation. Anyone familiar with the substandard 16mm reduction prints available of this film, with their blurry and extremely contrasty images, will be pleasantly surprised with the clarity of detail and broad greyscale range of the Goldwyn edition. The clarity of the print is registered in the detail of the stairs carpeting as Daisy descends after serving the lodger his first breakfast in the Bunting lodging house.

This video edition is a vast improvement over other video transfers of The Lodger but it is far from definitive. A better video edition needs to be produced, with attention to cropping and running speed, and a custom music score preferably performed by a small orchestra.

The film aired one time only during the festival, at 6:00 AM (EST), on Monday, 19 June 2000.

We are hopeful that the appearance of The Lodger in AMC’s festival signals an impending release of this higher-quality transfer of the film on home video.

Review of The Lodger on DVD home video.
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