Downhill ★★

Week 4 (late) of 52 Weeks of Hitchcock!

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Hitchcock's fifth film (his fourth surviving) reunites him with Lodger star and charisma volcano Ivor Novello (unfortunately for the last time). The film is more in the mold of The Pleasure Garden and The Ring than of The Lodger, unfortunately; while Hitchcock continues to refine his craft as a filmmaker, the story here is a thoroughly bland melodrama which strains credulity and, for what it is, goes on for far too long. Some technical flourishes from Hitchcock -- chiefly, some interesting overlapping POV shots towards the end, and a simple-but-effective use of color tinting in various scenes -- save this from being a complete slog, but it's probably for Hitchcock (or Novello) completists only.

There was a bit towards the beginning where I was a little lost; I'm not sure if this is because (a) I sometimes have trouble distinguishing one character from another in silent films, (b) Hitchcock continues to eschew the use of title cards whenever possible, here possibly to the film's detriment, (c) there were context clues to what was happening which a 1927 audience would have picked up on, but which I missed completely, or (d) a little of each.

This film is only available on streaming or cut-rate DVDs in the States; I was able to import a Blu-ray from Spain. The transfer was excellent, but the print was, at times, in sorry shape, with an almost distracting amount of scratches (it did appear to be free of specks and dirt). A full restoration would probably cost too much, however, given the likely limited appeal such a release would have outside silent film and/or hardcore Hitchcock aficionados. Still, the Spanish Blu-ray (which has the original English intertitles, with optional Spanish subtitles), if you have a region-free drive, is an excellent way to view this film.