“That place — Jamaica Inn. It’s got a bad name. It’s not healthy, that’s why. There’s queer things goes on there.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Indeed, as many have noted, Jamaica Inn is actually a “Charles Laughton picture” rather than a “Hitchcock picture”, given Laughton’s role as both producer and lead actor. He has great fun playing the corpulent baddie here, slyly fooling everyone around him, and coming across as simultaneously grotesque and calculating.
Equally impressive is beautiful Maureen O’Hara (in her first significant film role), who displays every ounce of her Irish spunk — no simpering early-19th-century maiden she! Her Mary is refreshingly fearless, refusing to be cowed.
I especially love the scene near the end of the film, when she resolutely ties the top strands of her dress back together after nearly being raped.
Less successful, however, is the overall arc of the story, which is unevenly paced and lacks narrative punch; we should care much more about what’s going on than we do. Part of the problem is that essential character motivations are left unclear: for instance, while we understand that Mary’s Aunt Patience (Marie Ney) is firmly attached to her no-good husband, we never discover why:
And, unless I missed something, we never learn why Pengallan holds the sway he does over Joss — nor why this must be (conveniently) kept a secret from everyone else in the gang. Overall, Jamaica Inn remains one of Hitchcock’s lesser outings, and is not must-see viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: