Lodger, The (1944)

“I enjoy the streets at night — when they are empty.”

Synopsis:
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…

Genres:

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
    Cregar
  • Merle Oberon as Kitty
    Merle
  • Sara Allgood as Cregar’s suspicious landlady
    Allgood
  • Wonderfully atmospheric cinematography
    Cinematography
  • Effective use of shadows and extreme angles to evoke fear
    Angles
  • The climactic denouement
    Denouement

Must See?
Yes, to see Laird Cregar in his definitive role.

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One Response to “Lodger, The (1944)”

  1. An unfortunate misfire; this could be a must…if the screenplay weren’t such an ultimate disappointment.

    I have to disagree with Peary as well; I think, by near end of the film, it’s clear enough that Cregar is Jack the Ripper. To go further, though, it seems clear to me almost from the beginning. That’s one problem with the script – playing his character as written, poor Cregar must try to work around the all-too-obvious nature of his lines. (Worse is the fact that this Ripper comes off as something of a bungler.)

    More strange is the fact that those around him where he’s lodging seem for the longest time to only slightly register the fact that he’s clearly bonkers. The same is true of Sanders (much too intelligent an actor to be asked to play this dumb).

    As for the decision to have actresses ‘understudying’ for prostitutes – idiotic.

    Of course, Cregar does have moments of real power. Dependable Sara Allgood and Cedric Hardwicke are shown to good effect. Oberon, however, fails to score as a chanteuse.

    Brahm’s direction is crisp enough (did they have enough dry ice?!), but the real star here seems to be DP Lucien Ballard; his work is endlessly inventive and, overall, the film looks great.

    Sidebars:
    Odd how Cregar seemed to ‘return’ one day in the person of Victor Buono.

    I’d have to revisit Hitchcock’s version, but could the best of the Ripper-inspired films actually be ‘The Ruling Class’?

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