Blackmail (1929) England

When: Saturday early afternoon
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Duration: 82 minutes
Live music: accompanist Prof Robert Constable
Presented by: Dr. Stephen Juan, Author and Academic, University of Sydney

This film is screened through digital presentation.

British International Pictures Produced by John Maxwell; Directed by Alfred Hitchcock; Screenplay by Hitchcock, Benn Levy and Charles Bennett, based upon the play by Bennett. Photographed by Jack Cox; Edited by Emile de Ruelle. Cast: Anny Ondra, Donald Calthrop, John Longden, Sara Allgood, Cyril Ritchard.

Completely finished first as a silent picture, Blackmail was substantially remade with sound prior to release, to become the first British talkie. The sound version became and remains famous; this original version, a masterpiece of high silent cinema, was forgotten after it was distributed to theaters not yet wired for sound.

It's one of Hitchcock's most interesting films, unusually frank, and ironic several times over. A young woman kills a would-be rapist and then is torn between concealing her role in the ugly incident and disclosing the truth in order to clear herself from the suspicion of murder. Her dilemma is exacerbated when she becomes the target both of a blackmailer and of a police investigator, who happens to be her boyfriend. In addition to the moral ambiguities it poses, Blackmail is a visually stylish work of great imagination, which shows the result of Hitchcock's apprenticeship at UFA studios during the flowering of German silent cinema.