“How old would you say this man was?” “I’m afraid I couldn’t tell ya sir. He had his hat on.”
Alice White (Anny Ondra) is a young woman living in London with her parents (Sara Allgood and Charles Paton). Mr. White owns a tobacco store. Alice’s boyfriend, Frank Webber (John Longden), is a police detective at Scotland Yard. Frank spends a lot of time catching criminals, so Alice is feeling a little neglected. When Frank is late again for a date Alice makes plans to see an artist, Mr. Crewe (Cyril Ritchard). After another argument with Frank at dinner, Frank leaves and Alice meets up with Crewe. As they leave the restaurant Frank sees Alice with the other man.
Alice accompanies the artist up to his studio apartment. After some conversation Crewe tries to rape Alice. Alice manages to grab a knife and stabs Crewe to death. Traumatized by everything Alice wanders the streets of London all night long. In the morning she goes home but the visions of what happened begin to haunt her.
Crewe’s landlady (Hannah Jones) finds his body and calls Scotland Yard. One of the detectives assigned to the case is Frank Webber. While checking out the apartment, Frank finds one of Alice’s gloves. He then sees that the body is of the man he saw Alice with the night before. Knowing that the glove belongs to Alice, he slides it into his pocket.
Frank brings the glove to the tobacco shop and shows it to Alice. Before their conversation goes much further, they are confronted by an ex-con named Tracy (Donald Calthrop). Tracy has the mate to the glove that Alice left at Crewe’s studio. Knowing what Alice did, Tracy begins a slow dance of subtle blackmail.
“Blackmail” was released in 1929 and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a British crime thriller.
This is one of those films that were being made during the transition from silents to talkies. The film was shot silently but then sound was added in post. Originally the movie was about seventy-five minutes long. Additional scenes were done, and some existing footage was dubbed to make it a talkie. This resulted in the movie now being about eighty-five minutes long. This change makes the film Hitchcock’s first talkie. Technically it is Hitchcock’s “experiment” in sound film and his farewell to silents at the same time. Some of the film is still silent but there are no intertitles. I’m not sure if the silent version of the film was released or is available anywhere.
Unfortunately, the actress that plays Alice, Anny Ondra, was Czechoslovakian and had a thick accent. Actress Joan Barry was recruited to dub Ondra’s voice. Since dubbing technology was not in existence, Ms. Barry stood off screen and spoke the dialogue as Ms. Ondra mouthed the words.
I had my doubts about the movie at first, however, the more I watched, the more engrossed I became. I was especially pleased with Anny Ondra’s performance even though it wasn’t her voice. Her rendition of both a traumatized murderer and victim was wonderful. Combined with Hitchcock’s directing skills the movie ended up being a well-done thriller.
Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo is about ten minutes into the film. He plays a passenger on the subway being annoyed by a kid.