BLACKMAIL

"Your touch is strangely disturbing... yet delightful!"(1929)
With Anny Ondra, Sara Allgood, Charles Paton, John Longden, Donald Calthrop, Cyril Ritchard
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

     Hitchcock's first sound film (and, by some accounts, the first talking film produced in Great Britain), BLACKMAIL is as creaky and static as most of the earliest talkies, but contains some memorable images, some creative use of the sound medium, and a well-executed chase finale through the British Museum that was filmed on a miniscule budget utilizing mirrors and trick photography.  It was also the first use of dubbing, and perhaps the only use of "live" dubbing, in film history.  Leading lady Anny Ondra had such a thick accent that Hitchcock employed actress Joan Barry to speak her lines off-camera while Ondra mouthed along.  Hitchcock first filmed a silent version of BLACKMAIL, later adding sound scenes at the behest of his producers.  Those who have seen both generally agree that the somewhat obscure silent version is the stronger of the two. - JL

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