Hitchcock Silents: Blackmail

Catch the Hitchcock Silents and watch young filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock transform himself from a newbie into the peerless movie master we all know and love. The series includes four rare silent movies from the late 1920s. Only one could be credibly labeled “Hitchcockian,” that's the classic Blackmail (1929), partially reshot and dubbed when sound technique came to England. German actress Anny Ondra mouthed her dialogue while English actress Joan Barry stood out of camera shot and said the lines. It's an odd disconnect to say the least, but it gives the movie a unique strangeness, even with its surreal scene where Ondra, previously having stabbed a painter who made a pass at her (Cyril Ritchard, more memorable years later as Captain Hook), only hears the word “knife” during a harmless kitchen scene. The film, and its impressive chase sequence through the British Museum, was a sensation, and Hitchcock, over night, became the most famous director in England.

The boxing love triangle The Ring (1927), Hitchcock's only original screenplay written by him; the social comedy Champagne – which Hitchcock always described as “dreadful,” and the pastoral, melancholy romance The Manxman (1929), with its stunning cinematography by John Cox, show Sir Alfred in fine form, learning as he goes, developing that unique visual style that has never been topped, and honing his later themes of the wrong man thought guilty, moral ambiguity, and the movie spectator as not so innocent voyeur.

The Ring, 7 p.m. Friday; The Manxman, 1 p.m. Saturday; Blackmail, 6 p.m. Saturday and Champagne, 8 p.m. Saturday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $15.
Sat., May 17, 6 p.m., 2014

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover