A very early Hitchcock movie, also an early take on the Jack The Ripper (JtR) mass murderer from 1888. The theme and atmosphere approximate the JtR crimes, but, here, there’s a case of mistaken identity, blonde victims, a different nickname for the psycho (The Avenger), and a romantic triangle that didn’t figure in the historical case.
Police detective Joe (Malcolm Keen) has his eyes on blonde model Daisy (June Tripp), daughter of the Landlady (Marie Ault) and her Husband (Arthur Chesney). The Lodger (Ivor Novello) comes calling at their boarding house to rent a room. He also develops an interest in Daisy; Joe wants to finger him for the Avenger.
There’s a fairly brisk pace, and what looks like on-location street scenes; these bits help to keep us engaged and interested. A victim lying in the street, the cops huddling up, news trucks dispatching the write-up of The Avenger’s latest crime…
For the abundant interior scenes, a glass floor comes into play here and there to give a sort of upside-down panoramic view, which is shrewdly playful, yet dizzying. The contrast from inside to the blueish eternal night in the streets is dramatic.
The Lodger himself is a bit much: he’s hardly menacing, and his bulging ping-pong ball eyes almost give his mug a 1950s sci-fi alien status. He just looks sickly, in a frantic way. “There’s something about him I just can’t stand!” remarks Joe, who is definitely more on-the-level. Actually, the Landlady could probably freeze the sun with one of her icy looks, but she’s a good counterpoint to her jovial Husband.
Let’s just say our Lodger creeps people out. When he’s playing chess with Daisy, he gives away something by telling her, after a cunning move, “be careful, I’ll get you yet.” Then he dotes on her “beautiful golden hair” (hmm, like the Avenger’s victims).
It definitely seems weird when Joe handcuffs Daisy; it’s supposed to be ‘fun’, but maybe he’s “that sort.” With a sort of Zorro mask, the Lodger/Avenger looks in on the Landlady, then skulks out. Shazam! Out in the bluish streets–another victim. Eerily, the mob of onlookers appears as intent on the corpse as so many vultures.
What’s this? Back home, The Lodger and Daisy are embracing…Joe is getting to the bottom of this mess. As for the Lodger, well, he might start avenging this latest outrage by the snoopy copper. The good couple suspects Lodger of being ye old Avenger, and sagely decides not to leave Daisy alone with his lot. Joe is backstage at Daisy’s next performance; then, at headquarters, he’s poring over maps to try and pinpoint the Avenger’s likely whereabouts.
Nice parallelism as we now see the Lodger filling in his map of the victims with his own triangular symbology. Then he wants to give Daisy a present, but dad won’t let her accept it because the Lodgers a “stranger.” His fragile ego in tatters, he desperately wants to peep in on her bath.
Through the door, he tries to chat with her, but she laughs. He puts on a strange, wistful look, even though it seems that she laughs him off. Unfortunately, what she does say isn’t in the subtitles, so it’s impossible to know what her thoughts are. They do go out later–quite possibly she was only laughing at what her father said about him.
Anyway, as we might suspect, Joe has his ping-pong ball eyes on them, “Let go of my girl’s hand, damn you!” That’s an order, Lodger. Daisy tells Joe off, as the two guys glare at each other. Now it’s Joe who’s love-lorn. All of the earlier mysterious scenes play out before Joe’s eyes, in the Lodgers footprint, no less.
Back home again, Daisy’s about to make out with Lodger, but backs away a few times before the kiss lands. Since he looks pretty much like Dracula closing in for the kill, her hesitation seems reasonable. Uh-oh, Joe’s got the cops to look in on the lucky Lodger–even while she and Lodger are still necking. So, with a warrant, they search his room. A locked drawer yields: a briefcase…ha! a .45 automatic, a map with triangles drawn on it, and “Avenger” newspaper clippings.
The plot thickens. Pictures of the victims! An open and shut case. Or maybe the Lodger is a Ripperologist, sorry, Avenger-ologist. Tons of folks are. I am. But Joe charges him with murder. Daisy still thinks he’s tops “He’s innocent!” For his part at busting the case wide open, Joe thinks he’s superman. But, taking advantage of a distraction, The Lodger flees out into the street.
Under a streetlight, the Lodger is a woeful sight. Very bizarrely, Daisy is the only one who can find him. He relates, via flashback, that his sister was the Avenger’s first victim. Which is why he’s been “tracking him down.” Ok, that sounds plausible. The immediate problem, though, is that he’s made at a nearby pub; when Joe comes in later, and the patrons clue the cops in, Joe calls headquarters.
Aha! But the real Avenger has been caught already; so The Lodger is in the clear, at least, legally. But that doesn’t prevent him from being lynched by a big mob. Ironically, now that Joe knows that the Lodger is on the square, he saves his rival. A rosy ending, as Daisy is set to become ‘Mrs. Lodger.’
The last part of the movie rescues The Lodger from love triangle melodrama status. The tension and suspense build quickly to an interesting denouement. Still, the Lodger suffers from key drawbacks of the silent era: there’s overacting from both male leads, and the conversations are truncated by very brief subtitles, leaving nuance to the imagination.
Farmermouse thought the street scenes, with their ghastly tones, were super creep–so he’ll give this eight streetlamps. 8/10.