The Phantom Fiend (The Lodger, 1932)
Released in 1932: The first sound version of the famous novel about Jack the Ripper after Alfred Hitchcock's silent version in 1927.
Directed by Maurice Elvey
Written by Marie Belloc Lowndes, Miles Mander, H. Fowler Mear, Ivor Novello and Paul Rotha.
The Actors: Ivor Novello (Michel Angeloff), Elizabeth Allen (Daisy Bunting), A.S. Baskcomb (George Bunting), Barbara Everest (Mrs. Bunting), Jack Hawkins (Joe Martin), Shayle Gardner (Detective Snell), Peter Gawthorne (Lord Southcliff), Kynaston Reeves (editor Bob Mitchell), Drusilla Wills (Mrs. Coles), Anthony Holles (Silvano), George Merritt (Commissioner), Molly Fisher (Gladys Sims), Andreas Malandrinos (Mr. Rabiniovitch), Iris Ashley (Police Commissioner), Harold Meade (unknown).
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There are a few motion pictures that have changed movies forever when they were first shown. Some that come to my mind are, "Gone With The Wind," "Jaws," the first "Star Wars," and many years before, near the beginning of motion picture history, "The Lodger." Based on a novel by the same name, the story centers around the search for Jack the Ripper, a murdering fiend who sliced up young women on the streets of London and was never caught. The first screen version of The Lodger was made by Alfred Hitchcock in 1927, before sound was invented for movies. Hitchcock refused to follow the orders of the producer and directed a very different and unique ending to the movie that started the Alfred Hitchcock style of motion pictures. Sadly, this first 'talkie' version of the story follows the story line of the producer from the first version, abandoning the unique and horrifying Hitchcock style. This version is historic mostly because it proves by comparison to Hitchcock's original version the immense talent that Alfred Hitchcock had. The ending of this movie is so cookie-cutter vanilla that it did something to me that rarely happens when I watch an old classic - it disappointed. The best reason for watching this old movie is to learn how not to make a movie. To build the audience fear all through the movie and then at the peak of suspense drop the plot like a hot rock is terribly disappointing, especially if you know how much better the ending could have been . . . how much better the ending actually was in the first telling of this story by Alfred Hitchcock. Pop some white kernel popcorn with warm melted butter, but after you watch this famous tale, surf over to the Alfred Hitchcock version and see how a master ends a horror classic. Heck, this one wouldn't even scare my big sister Carol, let alone anyone else in the audience. Instead, think of this one as a classic British comedy. The father character, George Bunting, played by A.W. Baskcomb, provides a wonderful lesson in subtle British humor. In one scene he is in court where his daughter Daisy is telling about hearing the scream of a woman over a telephone moments before a girl was killed at a call box nearby. Papa Bunting, sitting in the courtroom audience, starts talking to no one in particular, and the Commissioner tells him that he 'can't be heard' because it is not his turn to speak. Well, if he can't be heard, he starts speaking much louder so that he can be heard! Then the Commissioner warns him that he is out of order. Out of order? Papa Bunting protests that he is in the best of health, certainly not out of order! Humor like this is lost on many of us today, but even though this only remaining copy of the movie has definate sound problems, you can discover and enjoy many spots of incredible humor.
Elizabeth Allen and A.W. Baskcomb
Elizabeth Allan, Barbara Everest and A.W. Baskcomb
Elizabeth Allan and Jack Hawkins
Elizabeth Allan as Daisy Bunting
Elizabeth Allan at her telephone switchboard job
Elizabeth Allan in Phantom Fiend
Ivor Novello and Elizabeth Allan
Elizabeth Allan is falling for Ivor Novello
Ivor Novello as The Lodger
Ivor Novello at the piano