Alfred Hitchcock
Silent "Blackmail"
NOW ON DVD
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Blackmail, made in 1929, seems quintessential Hitchcock. A blonde heroine, a dull policeman, a chase in and around a familiar public landmark, a killing, suspense, even a cameo performance by the director himself, together with a number of stylistic "touches' readily ascribable to him. It was Hitchcock's tenth feature as director, yet only the second of his films to incorporate those features of the 'Hitchcockian' universe we now take for granted. Blackmail was based on a successful West End play but Hitchcock was to open it out and to inject into it a degree of cinematic panache, especially in some of the 'silent' sequences, which pushed well beyond the conventions of theatrical and literary adaptation. The film features Anny Ondra as Alice White, a naive young woman who murders the man who tries to rape her. She then finds herself caught between the Scotland Yard detective investigating the case (who also happens to be her boyfriend) and a treacherous blackmailer.
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Blackmail was released in June 1929. It was hailed as the 'first British all-talkie film'. The trade press at the time called Blackmail a 'film of outstanding merit', a view echoed by reviewers. But in 1929, the sound film was still a novelty, and most cinemas in Britain were yet to be equipped for sound. As with many films in this transitional period, both European and American, Blackmail was also released in a silent version, although not until the sound version had had a couple of months to impress audiences with its technical innovations. Understandably, the silent version has been overshadowed by the sound film, although as Charles Barr has noted, various critics - including Paul Rotha at the time and Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol and Francois Truffaut subsequently - make reference to it in their discussions of the original release version.
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While the sound version of Blackmail is a film of central importance to the history of cinema, many scholars and critics consider the silent version a work superior to the sound version. Availability of the silent version of Blackmail has been almost non-existent since its inception. We proudly possess an excellent copy. Recorded from TV. Black & White. 118 minutes. 1929 British International Pictures. DVD $40. US shipping $1 first class. International us$3. Starring Anny Ondra, John Longden, Donald Calthrop, Cyris Ritchard, Sara Allgood. (Comments based on BFI Film Classics "Blackmail" by Tom Ryall © 1993). This Hitchcock classic is traded collector to collector. The seller does not own rights to this movie and none are transferred or implied.