The Pleasure Garden ★★

Week 1 (late) of 52 Weeks Of Hitchcock

Hitchcock's first film is, in many ways, emblematic of its time. It's a rather forgettable melodrama about a pair of women and their gentlemen callers, and the hijinks which ensue when two of the individuals involved reveal their true colors. If Hitchcock himself hadn't gone on to bigger and better things, this would be just another mildly diverting silent flick from the '20s with little to recommend it.

But Hitchcock did go onto bigger and better things, and so we are forced to re-evaluate The Pleasure Garden within the context of his greater body of work. At first glance, it's not difficult: the film opens with a row of sweaty, disgusting, elderly white men ogling a chorus line of beautiful young blonde women. One particular slug even peers at the womens' legs through a pair of opera glasses. The comparisons to Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, and others are inevitable, to say nothing of the fact that the man then goes backstage and compliments one of the women on her blonde tresses. It's an amusing scene devoid of context (the woman reveals her blonde hair is, in fact, a wig), but looking at it now, with 51 other Hitchcock films alongside it, it's hard not to shake one's head and say "oh, Hitch."

The rest of the film, as I've said, is fairly unremarkable; the 75 minute running time is all but interminable at times. There's an interesting character role reversal and subversion of expectations that's kind of fun, but the middle section drags. There's a bizarre murder towards the end which seems to occur for no reason at all, but in the end everyone who deserves to be happy winds up so.

The real star of the film is the dog who plays Cuddles. I need to know that this dog lived a full and happy life.