The Pleasure Garden (UK 1925)

Chum with Hugh

I am afraid this is a little last minute, having just returned from the ultimate filmbuff’s heaven, the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. Now this earliest of films directed by Alfred Hitchcock is screening at the National Media Museum on Sunday October 21st at 6 p.m.

The film has been restored by the BFI, adding 20 missing minutes to the running time, and restoring the image quality and the tinting. So for me, as for many others, it will be like viewing a new movie. Last time I saw the film the plot seemed somewhat confused, the print quality uneven. Now it should match the standard of the many of the revived silent screening of recent years.

The film possesses the recognisable touch of Hitchcock, and there are a number of familiar motifs or tropes. And the production is also the work of such luminaries as Alma Reville, Eliot Stannard and Michael Balcon. The film was made in 1925 so the cast is likely to be less familiar, but there is Miles Mander (seen recently in The First Born, (1928)) and the minor cult star Nina Naldi in a walk-on part.

The film concerns the romantic entanglements of two London showgirls, but also involved travels to Europe and West Africa. Truffaut’s famous published interview with Hitchcock includes a lengthy description of the production and location work on the film: and there is a detailed description of the film in Charles Barr’s excellent English Hitchcock (1999)

What I hope makes the screening more interesting is the intention of the National Media Museum to screen the nine surviving silent Hitchcock’s in chronological order (subject to continuing availability). A boon for Hitchcock fans, filmbuffs and bloggers. And, as always, there will be a musical accompaniment by Darius Battiwalla, who has enlivened a varied range of films with his playing.

PS –  We were expecting a screening of 83 minutes and we enjoyed 91 minutes, which included the credits for the restoration. Oddly the bfi Webpages still give 75 minutes?

Never mind, this is a film transformed. When I last saw it at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto the print image quality was rather poor, the plot was confusing to say the least and the film looked like the work of a tyro.

Now the image quality is very good, though variable. Some really nice tinting. The plot makes complete sense. Morover there are all sort of deft touches which make this is a really interesting film. The filmmakers include some sharp parallel cutting between the two showgirls and their two romances. There are some evocative close-ups that look forward to a recurring trope in the work of Fitchcock. And there is some delighful comedy.

I used ‘filmmakers’ above because it would seen that Eliot Stannard’s contribution is very important, and he is generally underrated. And there is an interesting parallel with The First Born (1928) which was scripted by Alma Reville.

I am inclined to think that this is a better film overall than one of two of the later Hitchcock silent titles.

Don’t get over-excited though, Chum the dog is probably the only character not to have suffered a cut in the truncated versions. Still, he is one of Hitchcock’s better protrayal of a canine friend.

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