the british film resource

the british film resourceEarly Hitchcock
the british film resourceAuthor:Matt Pearson 
Introduction Introduction
Blackmail Blackmail
Sabotage Sabotage
The Aberrant Woman The Aberrant Woman
Sex and Violence Sex and Violence
Crime and Punishment Crime and Punishment
The Transfer of Guilt The Transfer of Guilt
Masculinity Masculinity
Subjective Misinterpretation Subjective Misinterpretation
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Blackmail was Hitchcock's first film to make use of sound. There were two versions of the film at the time, one with and one without sound. The film introduces for the first time many Hitchcock themes which were to recur in later films; the aberrant woman, the transfer of guilt, the perversity of couples' relationships etc. It was also quite a shocking film to a 1930's audience not as attuned to sex and violence as they may be now.

The film opens with a ten minute sequence showing the arrest of an anonymous criminal and the police procedure the criminal is subjected to. This serves little purpose to the plot but succeeds in giving the audience an impression of the weight of the law which can be bought down on a convicted felon. This is for us to bear in mind as we judge the case of Frank, the detective, and his girlfriend Alice White. Alice kills an artist in what appears to be defence of attempted rape. Frank is assigned to the case of the murdered artist. A blackmailer, Tracy, who had seen Alice leaving the crime scene attempts to blackmail Frank. Frank turns the tables on Tracy by contriving to get him suspected of the murder, he is successful and Tracy becomes a wanted man. Tracy is killed when he falls through the roof of the British Museum whilst fleeing police. At the same time, a guilt stricken Alice has gone to confess but Frank, returning to report Tracy's death, manages to prevent this. Tracy is attributed as the murderer and Alice survives the film as a free woman.