24 April 2014

The Lodger (1944)
84 min.
Directed by John Brahm.
With Merle Oberon, George Sanders, Laird Cregar, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Sara Allgood, Aubrey Mather, Queenie Leonard, Doris Lloyd, Billy Bevan.
The setting is Victorian London, 1888.

The infamous Jack the Ripper is slashing his way through the city's Whitechapel district.

Meanwhile, in a nearby brownstone, a mysterious Mr. Slade (Cregar) rents a room from the amiable Bonting family.

But Mr. Slade is just too weird to escape notice. His conversational skills are painfully labored; he walks the streets at all hours of the night; he performs vague 'experiments' alone in the upstairs attic.

And worst of all, he seems to have some strange fascination with the Bontings' niece Kitty (Oberon), a popular showgirl.

Could it be...? Could Mr. Slade possibly be the notorious serial killer the police are seeking?

Yard Inspector Warwick (Sanders) is tracking the deadly ripper, and hopes he can bag him before lovely Kitty bites the dust.

This is the third film to be based on Marie Belloc Lowndes' 1913 novel (the first was Alfred Hitchcock's silent thriller in 1927).

A top notch cast headlines this time, most notably the lovely Oberon (1939's Wuthering Heights), while kudos should go to Hardwicke and Allgood for their good supporting work.

Cregar plays Slade with an admirable dose of venom, but unfortunately he leaves the character with nowhere to go.

There's clearly *something* wrong with Slade - regardless of whether he is or isn't Jack - but the suspense level is hampered here by the fact that Cregar plays Slade totally weird right from the start.

Still, it's worth seeing for director Brahm's solid storytelling and beautiful cinematography from Lucien Ballard.

Remade in 1954 as Man in the Attic with Jack Palance.

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