Blackmail: Hitchcock’s Last Silent and First Talking Picture

December 16, 2007 at 11:38 am | Posted in Film | Leave a comment
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I saw two wonderful Alfred Hitchcock movies yesterday at the Filmmuseum in Vienna – they are currently putting on a review of his complete works. I first saw The Lady Vanishes from 1938 (which I always wanted to see because it’s referenced in When Harry Met Sally, a film I’ve analyzed to death – and it is hilarious), and then Blackmail (1929).

The curious thing about Blackmail is that it was filmed as a silent picture, but with the plan to synchronize it afterwards. As a result, the dialog often seems to be slowed down, or the voice and particularly laughter set in a little bit later than you’d expect from the movement; atmospheric sound and voices do not really seem to correlate, yet this gives the movie a rather interesting, artistic atmosphere. The actors’ faces still echo the expressive spectrum of a silent movie – Anny Ondra in particular is one of loveliest faces to be gazed at in a talking picture ever.

She couldn’t cope with the transition though – she was an Austrian-Hungarian citizen, and her heavy accent disqualified her for the synchronized version. Here is Hitchcock’s first sound check, with Anny’s real voice – not the one to be heard later in the movie. The mentioned “squad van” is a reference to Blackmail.

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