“I enjoy the streets at night — when they are empty.”
While Jack the Ripper prowls the streets of London, a mysterious lodger named Slade (Laird Cregar) comes to stay in the house of Ellen and Robert Burton (Sara Allgood and Cedric Hardwicke) and their actress-niece, Kitty (Merle Oberon). As Slade’s behavior becomes increasingly suspicious, Ellen begins to fear that Kitty’s life is in danger; meanwhile, a police detective (George Sanders) searches for clues to the killer’s identity…
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent thriller benefits from “first-rate” acting (especially by Cregar, in his definitive role), “solid dialogue”, “fine bit parts”, “exciting scenes”, and “atmospheric direction” by John Brahm. Although it’s based on the unsolved Jack the Ripper killings which plagued turn-of-the-century London, the Ripper’s actual victims (prostitutes in real life) have been turned into actresses here; indeed, the infamous killings seem more like an atmospheric plot device than anything else, since, as Peary notes, “we’re never given 100% proof that [Cregar] is the one and only Ripper”, thus leaving things open to interpretation. I’ll admit to a preference for Brahm, Cregar, and Sanders’ next outing together — the “even more stylized” Hangover Square, made in 1945 — but The Lodger remains worthy, must-see viewing on its own merits.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Laird Cregar as Slade; Peary nominates his performance here for an Alternate Oscar
- Merle Oberon as Kitty
- Sara Allgood as Cregar’s suspicious landlady
- Wonderfully atmospheric cinematography
- Effective use of shadows and extreme angles to evoke fear
- The climactic denouement
Yes, to see Laird Cregar in his definitive role.