Saturday, June 21, 2008
Murder! (Alfred Hitchcock, 1930) B
Leave it to the great Alfred Hitchcock to make a sleek and adult talking picture in Great Britain when in America we were still trying to figure out how to make talking pictures work. Murder! is no classic, but it proved that talking pictures could be more than just people standing around talking and that Hitchcock was going to have a long and successful career. The story is pretty simple: a young actress is convicted of murder, but another actor on the jury (Herbert Marshall) has an attack of conscious and decides to help find the real murderer. It's obvious that Murder! was based on a stage play from the way the scenes are staged, but Hitchcock, as he usually does, tells the story more visually than most talkies of the period. The scene where the jurors are deliberating is pretty fascinating because a normal director would have filmed it mostly in a long shot with a couple of cut-ins. Hitchcock, however, has the camera flowing around the room, bouncing from juror to juror and hardly repeating the same shot more than once. My only major problem with Murder! is the fact that the sound balance hasn't quite been worked out. Whenever there was background music, it was usually so loud that it covered up the dialogue (which was already hard to understand because of the thick dialects). But I can't complain too much; American pictures of the same time could barely compete in terms of quality with this picture.