Watched Nov 01, 2012
Steve Grzesiak’s review:
Alfred Hitchcock didn't like it. I didn't like it. Watching Jamaica Inn was rather like going back to his pre-The 39 Steps crime melodramas. With a muddled tone, long scenes of boredom, and little of Hitchcock's visual flair on show, it's almost as if he couldn't stop himself from regressing into bad habits.
Based on the Daphne Du Maurier (she didn't like it either) story, it sees Maureen O'Hara arrive at the titular inn via peculiarly pompous squire Charles Laughton (also producing and, according to reports, interfering) and stumbles on a group of criminals who are deliberately causing ships to wreck on the coast and plundering their loot.
According to some accounts, Laughton really faffed Hitchcock around on this, insisting on a larger role and a different character and also interfering on the production side. These stories may or not be true, but there's no doubting that Laughton's performance here could, for the most part, be from another film. His overly haughty nature, ridiculous eyebrows, comical walk and constant bellowing for his butler ("CHADWIIIIIIIIIIICK!") make it a very difficult role to take to.
Seeing as though he has placed himself as far and away the most dominant character here, the rest of the film suffers as a result. Poor Robert Newton as the main hero barely gets a look-in but Leslie Banks as the leader of the wreckers and Maureen O'Hara, who Laughton recommended to Hitchcock for her role. both do rather better.
O'Hara is quite excellent, actually, portraying much of the beauteous determination that would be trademarks of almost all her best roles. It's difficult not to blame Laughton, obviously a truly great actor, for many of Jamaica Inn's problems but many of them DO surround his role and performance.
It does have a couple of very bright points, most notably a surprisingly vicious early scene after the wreckers murder the latest poor sods to wash up on their coastline, but this is not exactly the way that Hitchcock would have wanted to leave for American shores.