You’re a Detective, Let Me Give You a Tip. Don’t Wave Important Evidence in a Telephone Booth. They Have Glass Windows
So this is an Alfred Hitchcock film.
Most people don’t. This is one of his early films, and the first “talkie” he made. In fact this is the first British talkie.
Originally Hitchcock wanted it to be silent, but was forced to add sound so that England could catch up with the USA. This caused quite a few issues as the leading actress, Anny Odra, looked the right part, but her accent was so incredibly thick that no one could understand her and she had to lip sync her lines.
It also has quite a few music heavy scenes as theaters weren’t quite ready to just have the sound of voices, and neither was Hitchcock. He thought talkies were ridiculous.
Now I thought about doing three Hitchcock films again, but I wasn’t sure what to do after Psycho. I decided to do this early film as I think it is unfair that a lot of his work that set up the later films are ignored. Thus far I have only planned on reviewing this Hitchcock film, but you never know. A lot can happen in a month and I might change my mind and add another.
So on to the review.
So the film starts off with a group of police officers, Scotland Yard [as this is when Hitchcock was in England], are off in a paddy wagon searching for a man. Their is no sound in this beginning part, just chase music.
The man they are looking for is smoking in bed. He sees the men approach his door through a reflection in the mirror. There is a gun next to him in the bed and he looks at it, while pretending to read the paper. He tries to reach for it, but the detectives stop him and force him to dress. He is under arrest.
They carry him down and take him in the wagon to New Scotland Yard. The spend a long time questioning him, the passage of time being shown through multiple cigarettes being burned.
After the hours of questioning, the days not over yet. They still have to put him in a lineup, wait as the witness looks over the men and ponders of one is the one they saw. When their man is selected he is formally charged, taken fully into custody, fingerprints are taken, he is sent to the cells, etc. The detectives work is over for the day.
Two of the detectives were involved stop in a bathroom to polish up. One of them is Detective Frank Webber (John Longden), he has a date tonight and heads out to meet his girlfriend who should be waiting in the foyer.
Alice White is waiting, as she has been there for thirty minutes. She is very upset with Frank as she hates waiting.
Frank tries to greet her, but Alice is just angry with him. She won’t let him hold her arm or hand; and keeps looking away from him. This attitude doesn’t please Frank as Alice has been doing this a lot and he feels she is overreacting.
He’s a detective, sometimes things won’t go according to plan, it is part of the job.
The two take a train, and here we have the longest cameo of Hitchcock in any of his films.
It is hilarious. The whole trip he is trying to read and a little kid just will not leave him alone. After this Hitchcock decided to make his cameo’s short, quick, and early on as to not take away film.
They go out to a tea room, but have trouble finding a place to sit as it is packed. Alice is still mad at Frank for being late and blames him for their current trouble.
Now I personally think that Alice is overreacting. First of all you are dating a detective, you should know that things will come up and they might have to work later than planned. I mean, come on. It goes with the territory. And secondly, from the way the room is mobbed with people, if you had arrived 30 minutes earlier, it really wouldn’t have helped you out.
They have to literally fight for a table, managing to scoop one from another couple. But when they sit down, Alice complains that she left her glove at the previous table they had tried to sit at. Frank being a gentleman, goes to retrieve it.
Frank returns with the glove and jokes that he could tell it was hers because of all the holes in it. Alice doesn’t laugh but continues to be angry and snippy at him for making her wait around, acting like he does it for fun. Frank explains that it is work, but Alice continues on feeling wounded.
Now Alice is not really angry at him for being late, but upset because she feels he doesn’t pay enough attention to her, but puts her behind his work.
But instead of telling Frank why she is upset she kind of tries to play games with him. Frank is trying to get the waitresses attention, because they were going to see a new Scotland Yard film, and he doesn’t want to be late. Alice, upset and trying to get him jealous/pay attention tells him she doesn’t want to see the film as she’s “seen all worth seeing.”
Frank goes to speak to the waitress to get their order and while he is gone Alice spots another man.
He greets her and heads to another table. Alice then pulls out a note given to her by him earlier.
I’ll be there 6:30 Tuesday, will you?
What a jerk! There is no excuse in all the world to ever justify cheating on your relationship.
Frank returns, ready for them to stay as they aren’t going to the movies. But Alice tells him she has changed her mind and wants to go.
But then Alice changes her mind again (this is the third time) and doesn’t want to go.
But then she changes her mind again and doesn’t want to go with him.
This makes Frank angry as he is tired of this mood Alice is in and doesn’t want to play any games. He tries to get the waitress to take care of their order but can’t flag her down.
Things are not going as Alice imagined they would in her head and she tries to fix things and get him to stay, but Frank is done. He leaves money on the table and exits the restaurant.
Frank doesn’t actually leave but paces outside reviewing what happened in his head. He decides he overreacted and starts to go inside to apologize when he sees Alice leave the restaurant with another man, the same one she had made plans with earlier.
I truly think she engineered the whole fight to get rid of Frank and wasn’t sorry.
So the guy Alice is with is never given a name, he is The Artist in the credits so that is what I will call him.
Anyways, Alice and the artist walk back to his place. Outside it, is a man waiting to speak to the artist.
Originally, the Artist was going to walk her home; but “as they are right by his home” he offers to show her his “studio”.
Alice doesn’t want to go at first, kind of playing that she “can’t”. But then decides to head in.
Don’t do it Alice, it is nothing but trouble.
Before they go in, the artist is called over by the man. They have a quick discussion, with the artist he saying no and then he and Alice continue in.
Before they head up to the top floor, his studio, the artist looks at his mail first and sees something distressing. He sends Alice up while he deals with it. He questions the landlady about the note.
Who is this man? Why does it distress him so?
Anyways, the artist’s studio is on the top floor. When they get there he makes a fire to keep them warm. Seduction 101.
Alice looks around the room at the art and sees a weird Jester picture that makes her laugh. I’m not sure why as I always thought it just looked odd.
However, the painting laughs and Alice laughs with it. Maybe she is laughing to hide her hurt over Frank. Maybe she is laughing because she wants to convince herself that the artist is a better guy. Maybe she is laughing because she is doing something out of character, wild. Maybe she laughs because she is breaking the rules; in a man’s room at night. Well whatever the reason, the two laugh together.
Alice waits for the artist to finish with the fire and plays with the piano. She then spots the painters palette and asks him how to hold it, of which he comes to show her. She accidentally paints the canvas and he has her keep going. All she can do is make a stick figure like face, so the Artist “helps” her paint, holding onto her.
They two make a body for the girl, a naked body. Foreshadowing.
Alice then signs the painting, while the artist goes to get them some drinks. Alice looks around the room and sees a costume and holds it onto her, asking about being painted.
The artist asks her to put it on so he can paint her, but Alice refuses as she has to go home.
This makes the artist is “sad” as he thinks she would make the most lovely painting. But no, now that he thinks about it his costume wouldn’t suit her.
But Alice falls for it and decides to put the costume on. Alice goes to one side of a screen and undresses as the artist plays the piano.
Artist sings to her playing the piano, and Alice listens to it in her little costume. When she comes out, the artist really lays on the flattery telling her the song he was singing was all about her. Alice comes out in the little costume as she can’t zip it up and neither can he, Alice chooses to leave it alone.
He then sets her just right, caressing her body, and going in for the kiss. Alice says no, and decides she needs to go. She starts to undress, when the artist approaches her, taking her dress away. He won’t give it back until she comes out to get it.
He wants to be with her but Alice says no. Unfortunately, she didn’t know this guy very well before she decided to go up in his room alone with him, as he doesn’t take no for an answer.
The next scene is done very well and in true Hitchcock fashion. Out of any director, he always knew how much to show, and how much to leave up to the viewer’s imagination.
So the two struggle as the artist tries to rape Alice. We never see the fight but through a shadow and the way the curtain moves. Alice manages to grab the bread knife on the table next to the bed, and stabs him.
Now here is where I can see why Hitchcock choose Ondra as his leading lady. Prior to this act, Alice was silly, innocent, childish, selfish, and acting only on her needs. After this act, her whole personality changes in the film; reflecting that shattered innocence and trauma she faces.
I’m getting ahead of myself. So Alice is in shock after murdering the artist and moves about sluggishly, mechanically, almost robotically. In fact, she reminds me a lot of the robot Maria in Metropolis.
Alice doesn’t know what to do, but knows she needs to get out. She grabs her dress and sees the Jester. No longer are they laughing together, but instead the Jester is laughing at her. And how she was so foolish. Angry, Alice punches the picture.
This causes her to wake up from her distress and she throws her dress on, and coat, in such a hurry that she doesn’t even zip up the dress. She quickly grabs her bag and umbrella, quickly painting over her name on the other canvas.
She turns out the lights and starts to sneak downstairs. We see his signature style in the cinematography with the stairs, lights, and use of angles.
As Alice walks away we see the shadow of the man who had accosted the artist earlier, trying to speak to him about something.
Alice walks home almost in a trance, zombish as everything she sees makes her think of the dead body. She sees a bar sign that shows a shaking of a drink, but instead sees a hand stabbing with a knife. Alice just walks all over, hurt, shock, uncertain, afraid, and seeing the dead hand, the dead arm, the dead man she killed.
We then hear a scream, the landlady found the body.
Scotland Yard is called on the case, and Frank gets called in on it, topping off his sucky night. He starts poking around the apartment, looking at everything, looking out the window, and spots the broken picture. He looks at the costume and the painting. As he looks at the laugh, he shares in the joke that this guy thought he was going to have a fun night but instead ended in death.
But then he finds a glove.
Full of holes like his girlfriend’s…It looks and feels like hers. He then sees the body, that face He knows!
Instead of giving evidence, he hides the glove.
Alice sneaks into her room and quickly gets out of her coat and jumps into bed before discovered. Afterwards she quickly changes and fixes herself up. Instead of her furry coat and dark dress, she changes to something light colored, floral, an innocent dress, young looking, more demure. Trying to recapture what she lost and go in the opposite direction of what she was before.
Meanwhile, downstairs at the house and the smoke shop, everyone is talking about the murder. Alice goes into the telephone booth and searches for the police number, ready to call them and admit everything..but loses her nerve.
Her parents notice that Alice doesn’t look well, but she doesn’t say anything, just remains quiet. A dramatic shift from her previous performance of silliness and gaiety; too quiet, contemplation. A real talented actress.
So her act continues to haunt her, and she still sees and hears knife everywhere.
Frank comes in and Alice is happy to see him as she realizes he’s the only one for her, but also afraid. Is he still mad from last night? Is he here to arrest her?Frank says hi and leaves, but then comes back and asks to speak to Alice for minute.
He takes her into the phone booth for privacy and tries to get Alice to tell him what happened, but she can’t talk about, still too traumatized. Frank gives her the glove.
While they are talking, a guy, Mr. Tracey, knocks on door and asks to talk on the phone since they aren’t using it. He is the one from the night before that say Alice enter the building. He lets them know he wants to speak to Scotland Yard, letting them know by his innuendo why he wants to talk to Scotland Yard.
Alice is frightened and worried, but Frank quickly asses the situation. The Tracey lets them know what he saw and that he wants to be treated right or else.
Frank buys him the most expensive cigar, at his request, and then the two make him breakfast. Might not be much, but this guy is planning on milking them for everything!
Meanwhile, back at the police station they are questioning the landlady. They discovered the note that had the artist all aflutter and want to know more about who wrote it. Unfortunately, the landlady is not very observant and the only thing she noticed was that he tilted his head and twisted his hands around. They have her look through the criminal books, until it come up as Mr. Tracey.
Mr. Tracey who at this moment is living like a king. Best cigar, great breakfast, cup of tea…
Frank gets a call from Scotland Yard, catching him up on the latest news of the case. He hangs up the phone and he has an idea. you can sees it in his eyes.
Frank has Alice lock the door. Then he starts discussing that there was a suspicious looking man with a criminal record hanging around the murdered artist’s place. Alice is freaking out, and doesn’t want to do this, this blackmail. Yeah, I bet you never saw that one coming? Eh? We all knew that Alice would be blackmailed, but did you ever see Frank turning the tables coming? I sure didn’t the first time I saw it.
But, lets not get too hasty…Mr. Tracey has one more trick up his sleeve. Tracey says that he will talk, all about Alice. But Frank isn’t worried saying that Tracey’s word is nothing. His plan to sit and wait for the squad car who is on its way now.
The two argue, and Alice freaks out. The chains of guilt weigh heavy on her and she doesn’t want Tracey pay for her crime. Frank doesn’t really want to listen to her as he is still a angry and hurt over what happened with Alice going off with another guy and that she hasn’t told him anything about what happened.
Tracey tries to convince Frank to let him go. He tells him “I’m not bad I was just in a bad situation…”
Yeah right you were trying to blackmail that other guy and then you were trying to do it to them.
Frank and Tracey’s eyes are locked on each other as the other police officers come. Tracey jumps out the window and the chase is on! Music for this next part as we repeat the opening scene of these guys trying to hunt him down and take him off to jail. when they were looking for him.
Here we have a great repeat of Alice’s earlier trance of seeing the knife everywhere; except instead of a weapon Tracey sees cops everywhere. Cops searching for him!
Meanwhile, for the first time since everything started, Alice actually thinks on what happened and tries to figure out what she should do.
Tracey takes off to hide in a museum, but doesn’t look at any of the exhibits making him seem super suspicious.
He eventually heads up to the roof, climbing over the famous building. Oh Hitchcock and you love for having people climb the tops of famous architectural creations. I mean there is the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur, Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest, etc.
Tracey ends up killing himself accidentally when the glass breaks on the roof. And that is the end of that. They believed him to be the murderer, the evidence pointed toward him, and with him dead: case closed.
Oh, but not quite as Alice has decided to turn herself in, leaving Frank a note and heading to the New Scotland Yard.
When she arrives the Officer thinks she is here to see Frank but she lets him know that she is here to see Inspector Walls. She is sent to his office and walks down the hallway, with certainty that every step brings her closer to doom.
Worried and afraid Alice goes in and sees Frank is there with Inspector Walls. Frank tries to stop her as they “solved the murder”. Alice is scared trying to get everything out, but before she can Inspector Walsh is called away, and Frank is to take care of her.
Frank takes Alice aside and tells her that he knows what happened. Alice tells him he doesn’t know, and starts to relay the whole story, how she was attacked and was defending herself.
Alice and Frank walk out, with a better understanding and a hope for the future. The officer asks if Alice told him who did it, and Frank says yes. The officer jokes that he better watch out she might have his job. They all laugh. Except Alice, she sees the jester painting…
What a great film for cinema history and to see Hitchcock working out things that he would become known for later.
To start Horrorfest V from the beginning, go to Who You Gonna Call?: Ghostbusters (1984)
For the previous post, go to It Was the Curse. My Curse: The Cheerleader Murders (2016)
For more Alfred Hitchcock films, go to We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes: Psycho (1960)
For more films centering on blackmail, go to The Perfect Murder: Dial “M” for Murder (1954)
For more films that center on a painting, go to Murder is My Favorite Crime: Laura (1944)