Look into Ivor Novello’s haunted, kohl-rimmed eyes in Hitch’s most overtly Hitchcockian silent film – his first of many ‘wrong man’ mysteries – and you can see generations of matinee idols coming full circle. Willowy and wounded-looking, Novello was the Robert Pattinson of his day, and his gracefully on-edge performance as a shy boarding-house tenant, suspected of a series of Jack the Ripper-style murders terrorising London, is as intriguing as the director’s resourceful formulation of suspense techniques that would later become his bread and butter. The money men forced Hitchcock into a tidier ending than he’d wanted, but there’s ambiguity aplenty in his leading man’s darting facial language – which we can now see clearly, thanks to the BFI’s pristine restoration. It’s never looked better, though I’m not sure the same can be said for how it sounds. Nitin Sawhney’s newly commissioned score is often playful, but marred by dreary, anachronistic songs – a tribute to Novello’s legacy as a balladeer perhaps, but an imposition on an otherwise glorious renewal.
Cast and crew