Who could that towering dark figure hiding in the shadows be? Could that be Jack? This review is for the horror mystery, The Lodger (1944)
What’s going down?
In the dark foggy shadows of Victorian London a macabre mystery is taking place around the Whitechapel East End district of the City. A series of shockingly brutal murders had began to occur through the darkness of night. The attacks seemed targeted at the local prostitute community. All being murdered in devilish, horrifying ways. The midnight streets were quiet. The ladies needed to work. The silent fear of the dark and creeping shadows was one thing. However it was the bloodcurdling scream’s before the silence returned once again that tore dread through your soul. Daylight brought with it the horrific nature to this twisted serial killer’s lust to mutilate these unfortunate, innocent victims.
The main players
Merle Oberon plays Kitty Langley
Laird Cregar plays Mr. Slade
George Sanders plays Inspector John Warwick
Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays Robert Bonting
Sara Allgood plays Ellen Bonting
Aubrey Mather plays Superintendent Sutherland
Queenie Leonard plays Daisy
Tagline – PROBING EYES that marked the woman he loved for death!
Sure I’ve seen them in something?
Merle Oberon is one stunning lady. I don’t believe I’d ever seen her before. I’d been recommended The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) with Leslie Howard that I know I need to see. Plus she’s the lead, Cathy, in the Emily Brontë film adaption of Wuthering Heights (1939) by director William Wyler.
I’d become deeply sadden by the Laird Cregar story. See my article on his last film, Hangover Square (1945). You can also see him in I wake Up Screaming (1941) with Betty Grable and Victor Mature. And This Gun For Hire (1942) with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. But where he’s hired muscle in those film’s it’s good to see The Lodger and Hangover Square are his films.
Oh the wonderful George Sanders aka Shere Khan. That voice of his is just magnificent. He appeared in so many great films. So far only Hangover Square (1945) and This Land Is Mine (1943) have been featured on my movie site. However I have seen Man Hunt (1941) and the two big ones, Rebecca (1940) and All About Eve (1950). I’m always up for recommendations.
Cedric Hardwicke, who plays the landlady’s husband Robert, vocal tones will be know to many as the narrator for classic sci-fi film The War Of Worlds (1953).
Notes on production?
The dark alleys and cobbled street’s of Victorian East End of London are created effectively and realistically well for a sound stage at 20th Century Fox Studios Los Angeles. You got the working class patrons coming out of the local boozer. Pearly Kings and Queens still carrying on their knees up and jollies as they stagger on home. The bobby on the beat, flat foot’s their way through the twisting turning roads. Happily swinging their billy clubs until they pause, for an instance, to the bloodcurdling screams. The ear piecing police whistles screech out. The shock discovery of yet another horrific murder seen though the thick fog. A pea souper! The black crimson red seeps through the cobbles. It’s true to say The Lodger recreates Jack The Rippers world very convincingly.
The Lodger was a novel written by English writer Marie Belloc Lowndes in 1913. Based on the real life Jack The Ripper murders of 1888. It had inspired many film adaptions. The first, a silent film, called The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) was made by Alfred Hitchcock. Then a talkie in 1932 by director Maurice Elvey which also goes by the title The Phantom Fiend. Then in 1953 Jack Palance got to star in that creepy role in the Man In The Attic. Even in 2009 they had another go with Alfred Molina bringing the story to a more modern times twist. Yeah I’m not fussed at all about seeing that one either!
The Lodger is directed by John Brahm who also made the brilliant Hangover Square (1945). Apart from those two I haven’t seen any of his other work. Please let me know what to see. The Locket (1946) with Robert Mitchum has just gone on the to watch list.
Hits like a sledge hammer
The wonderful Laird Cregar plays the mysterious lodger to perfection. From his hulking size and those intense shadowy facial features. Giving off a creepy air of fear. Uncontrollable anger fits break to small almost tender moments. As those guilty looking eyes stare as he stands, clutching that sinister black leather suitcase. Filled with his trusty tools of death.
The whole subject matter hits like a sledge hammer to be honest. Made worse for the fact that they are based on the real infamous historical serial killings.
“He cuts their throats and then uses his knife. They say the papers don’t print all the details!”
“When the evil is cut out of a beautiful thing then only the beauty remains!“
“It’s a very saucy dance, almost as daring as the can-can!“
Ok slight spoilers ahead but hey it’s so obvious it’s Laird right from the start and hey, the film is 76 years old! Though there’s a slight twist which I don’t think was intentional. Something that may of played different in the book? Kind of a red herring that they didn’t use. There’s this little scene where Inspector Warwick shows Kitty around his death room, The Black Museum, in Scotland Yard! What with George Sanders unique smooth voice more known to conjure up devious thoughts. “They are the death masks of various murderers, some of whom were publicly hanged. You can see the rope marks on their necks!“. It’s a really creepy scene especially the way he tries to get a date! I’d got myself ready (well hoped for) for a sweet double bluff. It could of been a superb little twist if Mr Slade was undoubtedly strange but innocent all along. I think it was just me wishful thinking. Taken in by Laird’s real life sad story and just wishing, willing him, to be the good guy.
I thought it was excellent and actually watched it twice. Once last year desperate to do a article on it but only getting to it today. So I watched it again. The Lodger is on YouTube to stream here.
Wolfman’s rating 8.5/10 IMDB 7.1/10
Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf
PS check this awesome French poster.