The Movie Waffler Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - MURDER! BLACKMAIL! | The Movie Waffler

Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - MURDER! BLACKMAIL!

blackmail 1929
Two of Hitchcock's early thrillers come to blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Review by Mike Vaughn

Every American film Hitchcock ever made has been released in some format, on video, DVD and Blu-Ray. His older British films have been released previously but mostly by cheap companies that put out extremely poor quality prints. Thankfully though, films like The Lodger, Downhill, The Lady Vanishes and others have received high definition transfers for film lovers to enjoy. Recently Kino Lorber has released two standalone releases from Hitchcock's early days, Blackmail (1929) and Murder! (1930).

blackmail kino lorber

Blackmail (1929)
blackmail 1929
Reflecting on his early career, Hitchcock once said that the silent era was the purest form of cinema. However, like it or not, sound came in and directors had to adapt with the times. The great Alfred Hitchcock was, of course, no exception. Blackmail is a noteworthy film in that it's his first all sound film. In fact, the film was released silent but later scenes with dialogue were added. This is why, even in the sound version of the film, some scenes lack dialogue (even though mouths are moving).

Alice (Anny Ondra) kills a man after he violently attacks her. It seems somebody else knows about the crime and is now blackmailing the young woman. But things aren’t that simple, in typical Hitchcock fashion. Blackmail takes an admittedly generic plot and is elevated by Hitchcock's masterful direction and visual flair. You also have motifs that Hitch would use time and time again, like building tension, injecting a love story, an exciting spectacle finale (this time on the roof of the British Museum) and even Hitchcock's cameo.

It’s a wonderful little film that, while not as good as his others, is still a suspenseful film that has the director's trademark wry sense of humour.

Kino provides both the sound version (86 minutes) and the silent version (75 minutes), as well as a second disc featuring a different aspect ratio and score. For film completists, it's extra touches like this that makes this company a standout for film lovers. Also included is a commentary by Tim Lucas, arare screen test by actress Ondra as well as the relevant audio portion of the legendary Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews. Rounding out the features is an introduction by French filmmaker Noel Simsolo. Overall an excellent release.

murder kino lorber

Murder! (1930)
murder 1930
Made right after Blackmail is Murder!, a film that Hitchcock used to experiment with the new medium of sound. In fact, this is believed to be the first film to use a voice-over on the sound track to convey a character’s inner thoughts.

A juror in a murder trial has second thoughts after a young woman is convicted. Now he must prove he is right before she hangs.

Murder! is probably the most Hitchcockian film of the two. You have tropes like a person who is wrongly convicted and the search for the real murderer, as well as a visually appealing film and Hitch’s trademark wicked sense of humour. It manages to weave a pretty engaging little mystery that is sure to keep you glued the entire time. Also, I think only Hitch could pull of such a macabre and bleak ending.

Like Blackmail, Murder! also features audio portions from the Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews as well as an introduction to the film by filmmaker Noel Simsolo. We also get a audio commentary, this time by film critic Nick Pinkerton, and an alternative ending. Probably most exciting of all is the inclusion of Mary (1931), a German remake also directed by Hitchcock. This is the first time this movie has been made available in America.

Both Murder! and Blackmail are wonderfully restored and are chock full of exciting extras. Both easily make my shortlist of favourite releases of 2019. Fans of the legendary Hitchcock will have cause to celebrate as Kino will be releasing a whopping six more pre-American films, due out in November. Any fan of Hitch must have these in their collection.

Blackmail and Murder! are on blu-ray now from Kino Lorber.

Michael Vaughn is a rabid horror and cult fan who turned that love into a career. He is a writer, blogger and film historian and now author of 'The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema' which Shock Wave Podcast named their pick of the month, and Chris Alexander of Fangoria called “recommended reading.”

His other credits include Scream Magazine, Fangoria and websites like Films in Review and Bloody Flicks(UK). Please follow his Twitter @StrangeCinema65 and Instagram @gorehound_mike.