Dir/Scr: Alfred Hitchcock Orig Story: Charles Bennett
Pho: Jack E Cox Ed: Emile De Ruelle
Music: Neil Brand (newly composed score)
Prod Co: British International Pictures
Cast: Anny Ondra, Charles Paton, John Longden, Cyril Ritchard
1929 / UK / B&W / 35mm / Silent / English Intertitles / 75min / Live Music Accompaniment
Alice kills a rapist with a bread knife in self-defence. Her boyfriend, Frank, a Scotland Yard detective, is assigned to the case but removes the evidence of her presence at the crime scene, an attempt which opens himself to blackmail and sets off a chain of events leading to a death and a renounced confession. To cash in on the new popularity of talkies, Blackmail was commissioned as both a silent and as a part-talkie with music and some dialogue scenes to be released simultaneously. Ever the visionary, Hitchcock surreptitiously filmed almost the entire feature in sound, turning technical obstacles into a visual spectacle that begins with an action-packed police operation, through a bewildered stroll along empty streets to frantic chase inside the British Museum, creating images borne out of the editing deck but reside in the realm of imagination. The long shot of a trembling curtain, half concealing and half revealing the action, redefines the cinematic experience with the interplay between the spoken and the unspoken, the visible and the invisible, the known and the unknown. The image of a woman in a daze with a knife gleaming in her hand is as memorable as it is spine-chilling. Hitchcock referred to this as his farewell to the silent era, to concentrate on what he did best – thrillers – and the rest, as the old adage goes, is history.
||Cinema, Hong Kong Film Archive
*Post-screening talk with Wong Ainling, in Cantonese
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