One of our history’s more famous serial killers, Jack the Ripper was an often used character in both literature and cinema. On the cinematic side, there are many movies made about Jack the Ripper. As early as 1927 with Alfred Hitchcock’s THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG and continuing on in contemporary cinema, Jack the Ripper films continue to thrill and scare us all. THE LODGER, directed by John Brahm (THE UNDYING MONSTER), was the third film with the character of Jack the Ripper terrorizing London. Based on the novel The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes, the film takes place in 19th century London, with beautiful ladies being brutally murdered by the Ripper. Seeking a place to hide, Jack, using the name Mr. Slade (Laird Cregar, I WAKE UP SCREAMING) finds a home where he tells his landlady Ellen Bonting (Sara Allgood, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE) to call him a lodger, who has some peculiarities and likes to go out at night. He takes a liking to another tenant, a singer/actress, Kitty Langley (Merle Oberon, WUTHERING HEIGHTS). As the murders continue, Inspector John Warwick (George Sanders, ALL ABOUT EVE) from Scotland Yard is brought in to investigate. The clues start to add up, slowly but surely it’s discovered that Mr. Slade is indeed Jack the Ripper, which leads to an exciting climax at a cabaret.
Much like John Brahm’s THE UNDYING MONSTER, his direction of THE LODGER is heavy on dialog, rich in atmosphere (notice all the scenes with heavy fog), with minimal but very effective chilling scenes and a terrific climax. The direction is terrific with beautiful cinematography, making THE LODGER a great period piece. It plays more of a crime mystery thriller than a pure horror film, but the scares are there. The acting is just fantastic with Laird Cregar’s Mr. Slade/Jack being over-the-top outstanding (take a look at his gazing eyes in this picture!) with his character being a combination of a polite, astute gentleman and a homicidal madman; his performance must and should have been an inspiration to aspiring actors who wanted to play madmen on screen. His role as Slade may actually remind you of his part in I WAKE UP SCREAMING as Inspector Cornell; both are sexually deviant, and highly perverted characters. Laird Cregar, who was a terrific actor, passed away much too young at the age of thirty. He was often labeled as ‘a heavy’ and ‘a 300 pound pervert’ from Fox Studios due to the characters that he played. He went on a crash diet which caused a stomach disorder, leading to him having surgery. His heart gave out and hhe passed away less than a year after THE LODGER was released.
Merle Oberon is wonderful as the entertainer and vulnerable Kitty, while George Sanders gives his usual terrific performance as Inspector Warwick. Sir Cedric Hardwicke (THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN), a terrific actor himself, gives another great performance as the landlord Robert Bonting. Another person that classic horror fans may recognize is Doris Lloyd (here playing Jennie) as she also appeared in THE WOLF MAN, THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE and NIGHT MONSTER, all for Universal. THE LODGER, which was a remake of the Alfred Hitchcock 1927 silent classic, THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG, would again be remade in 1953 as MAN IN THE ATTIC starring Jack Palance, while Jack the Ripper and similar type characters would appear in plenty of other movies including THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY, TIME AFTER TIME, JACK THE RIPPER (1959) and MURDER BY DECREE.
Kino Lorber presents THE LODGER on Blu-ray for the first time and it’s a dandy. The film’s image, in its original aspect ratio of 1:33:1, in 1080p with an MPEG 4 - AVC encode is just splendid. It’s a vast improvement over the previous Fox DVD release. The higher contrast has made the black and white outdoor cinematography look much more clear, sharp and detailed than previous releases. The night scenes with the heavy fog also look wonderful and clear. There are a few vertical lines and speckles/print damage that appear here and there due to the age of the film, but overall it’s visually satisfying. The greyscale is excellent; black levels look solid and rich in texture. Film grain is present throughout; no DNR has been applied. The audio quality used for THE LODGER is the usual Kino DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0. The dialog, music, and other sound effects are perfectly fine. There is the option for English subtitles on this release.
Kino has provided us with a good amount of extras for THE LODGER. I will mention that 99% of them are a few ported over features from the 20th Century Fox DVD release, such as the audio commentary by film historians Alian Siler and James Ursini, "The Man in the Attic: The Making of the Lodger", "The Lodger Vintage Radio Show" performed by Vincent Price and Cathy Lewis and the 2007 "Restoration Comparison". There is a new audio commentary by film historian Gregory William Mank. This new commentary is very straightforward, highly informational and will hold your interest all the way through. Mank gives very thorough remarks about the actors in this film, some behind the scenes tidbits such as film censorship and Cregar receiving hate letters as a result of his performance as Slade/Jack the Ripper. One thing he points out that no one caught—but you will now—is Helena Pickard who played Annie Rowley in THE LODGER, was also the first murder victim in this movie! There are plenty of references to the size of Cregar which led to his extreme dieting and untimely death. Rounding out the extras are an animated image montage and trailers for THE UNDYING MONSTER, THE LODGER and I WAKE UP SCREAMING.
Overall this is a great release and fans of THE LODGER are in for a real treat with this Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber. (David Steigman)
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