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Jamaica Inn (1939)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

I dare you to find one stick of chronic in this hotel...
I dare you to find one stick of chronic in this hotel...

Genre: Period Adventure Crime Drama (UK)

Starring: Charles Laughton (The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939); The Paradine Case), Maureen O'Hara (Miracle on 34th Street; Rio Grande)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Marnie; Vertigo)

Overview: When a woman arrives to Jamaica Inn in hopes of starting a new life, she's quickly swallowed up in a den of cut-throat pirates.


This is the kind of film where all the main characters seemed to have gone just a tad overboard (pardon the pun), while the supporting cast all does an awesome job. Leslie Banks, the molten faced man in the middle of the picture below plays a strong man and a strong leader of curs. His first mate had a tremendous presence as well, all filthy clothed yet somehow endearing in that horrible molesting, murder and pillage kind of way. If it hadn't been for the almost-comic zeal of the stars this could have been spectacular.
Rating: 8


As period pieces go, I suppose it was nice to watch. What you'll appreciate most is the hard lighting that is Hitchcock's signature. This film is shot in a bleak, oppressive kind of way that enhances the mood tremendously, and the outfits of the grungy pirates I found added a certain element. It's clear that a lot went into the sets and all the different locations, so kudos there.
Rating: 8


When speaking of the magistrate, there was a touch too much of the grand theatrical style I'm not so fond of, however the pirates and the wife of our head ruffian have these interesting telling moments that richly express their characters and their lot in life, really drawing you in. This isn't anything grand, but it's quite decent.
Rating: 7


The storytelling is a little odd. I guess the best way of putting it is to say awkward. We have a story where a woman's starting a new life in a new place and she quickly figures out about this den of curs and murderers. You'd think there would be tons of subterfuge and intrigue with dabs of suspense. Well it's all there but that ending just doesn't work. I gather Hitchcock again didn't have loads of creative control, because this was just a clunky story even though there was tons of promise.
Rating: 7


Our magistrate dons a rubber make-up head thing with the weirdest bushy eyebrows you've ever seen, slapstickily large. Every time he furrowed his brow I asked myself what on earth possessed the make-up department to think this was good or important. A period piece by Hitchcock is a rare thing and perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt, but for some reason, I just didn't buy it. As I told Girlfriend of Squish, "it's a good movie, just not a good movie for Hitchcock." Turns out it seems that this was one of Hitch's least favorite film productions ever.
Rating: 8

Stunning performances by the two men on the right make this film palpable.. otherwise I'd have had the pasties... yeah more gang
Stunning performances by the two men on the right make this film palpable.. otherwise I'd have had the pasties... yeah more ganja humour.

Overall Rating: 76% (Ja-Made It!)

The point at which I realized this was Hitchcock's last film made in England was really when I watched Rebecca, which starts off in a huge budget, "Selznick productions presents" kind of way. It's clear to see how much a producer can influence a film. It's almost sick how obvious it is. Luckily for us, Hitchcock's Hollywood trek would lead us to some of the best films ever made... or so I'm told.

| | | | | | | |

Yeah, Hitchock was ready to leave for Hollywood after The Lady Vanishes, but his contract with Selznick didn't start for a few months so he quickly made Jamaica Inn, which was a financially successful film, but an artistic failure in Hitch's eyes.

Selznick had a huge influence on Hitchock - they had a very prickly relationship but there was a lot of mutual respect there as well. It was also very quickly on in Hollywood that Hitchock figured out his "jigsaw" method of editing a film - so that the whole thing would unravel if anyone else tried to take creative control of the film after it was finished... 

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