The Farmer's Wife ★★½

Week 5 of 52 Weeks of Hitchcock!

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Hitchcock's fifth surviving film is a romantic comedy neck and neck with The Ring for Most Misogynistic Hitchcock Film Yet. I think The Ring emerges as the "winner" here; the protagonist of The Farmer's Wife is a boorish, preening, arrogant misogynist, but the film mocks him for being so. The Ring has a more insidious brand of misogyny baked into the film's crust.

Even so, setting aside The Lodger, this is probably the most entertaining of Hitchcock's silent films so far. His craftsmanship is steadily improving, and there are a couple of nice innovative visual flourishes here (there's a nice representation of passage of time via laundry at the start of the film, and at the film's climax there's a nice moment of "reality" intruding on "fantasy" to represent the protagonist's sudden realization). It's still a little long for what it is; though I'm sure audiences of the day were entertained, some of the comedic beats drag on just a little too long. The performances are all pretty decent, though, and, again, other than The Lodger, this feels like the most focused Hitchcock film so far.

As for copies of this film, well, unfortunately it's apparently not considered an important enough Hitchcock film to warrant any sort of restoration or proper release. I could only find a copy in the Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins set, which is one of those collections where a company takes a bunch of shitty prints of films in the public domain, slaps them on disc, and tries to make a bit of a profit. The print here was in pretty atrocious condition, with a ton of dust, scratches, and scribbles. It wobbles badly at the beginning of the film, the whites and blacks are blown out, and even the soundtrack sounds appalling. Minor Hitchcock this film may be, but it still deserves better.