Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Directorial Debut: Alfred Hitchcock's THE PLEASURE GARDEN

Welcome to another installment of DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, where we look at the best, most interesting and iconic directors and the films that started their careers. This week we'll be reviewing Alfred Hitchcock's freshmen effort...THE PLEASURE GARDEN.

This silent film was made way back in 1925 and is about two chorus girls at The Pleasure Garden theatre in London named Jill and Patsy and their troubled relationships. As I watched the opening scene, I noticed two Hitchcock themes/motifs. The chorus girls descending the staircase reminded of Vertigo because it looked like someone was chasing them down the stairs. In Vertigo, Scottie chases Madeline/Judy up the stairs to her death. Staircases became more relevant in later Hitchcock films such as The Lodger, where a suspected serial killer's movements are tracked on a staircase. The movie Psycho featured staircases as well. Then there was the man staring at the girls with opera glasses with a voyeuristic gaze. He seemed to be spying on them without them knowing, which reminded me of Rear Window, where wheelchair bound L.B. Jefferies was admiring the young blonde dancer through his  binoculars.

The two chorus girls, Jill and Patsy, were played by Carmelita Geraghty and Virginia Valli. Geraghty plays the damsel in distress very well and used that ability to get the audience to sympathize with Jill. Virginia Valli's character, Patsy came off as more independent in her performance. I thought the actresses had great onscreen chemistry together. It was sad to watch the Prince and Hugh come between them and their friendship to be ruined. At first I liked Jill, but was surprised of how she treated Patsy after she had been so kind to her.

I am 
a huge fan of Hitchcock's work and that's why it's interesting that I only just discovered The Pleasure Garden a few days ago. The film was a predecessor for film noir. A prince, a dead mistress and two friends competing for a man make for a very interesting film. It was a great directorial debut for Hitchcock. He was able to combine suspense with romance. Hitchcock was able to showcase his talent as a director and this film was just the beginning of his great and influential career, becoming known as "The Master of Suspense". 

The Pleasure Garden was a great stepping stone for Hitchcock. Two motifs used in the film, the staircase and voyeuristic gaze, are seen in later Hitchcock films, and that's why I think this was an important film for his career. If you are into silent films, then give this little gem a look.

Lisa's Score: 7/10

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