SECRET AGENT
1936, BFI, 86 min, UK, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Based on stories by W. Somerset Maugham, this espionage tale stars John Gielgud as Richard Ashenden, a British officer dispatched to Switzerland to kill a German spy. Sent to assist him on the mission are seasoned assassin (and scene-stealer) Peter Lorre and Madeleine Carroll, who is posing as Ashenden’s wife – which does little to stop suave Robert Young from chasing her. With several years of sound filmmaking under his belt, Hitchcock makes brilliant use of such audio effects as a sustained organ note and a dog’s howl.


MURDER!
1930, Rialto Pictures, 92 min, UK, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

The plight of the wrongly accused was something director Alfred Hitchcock returned to often in his career; here a young actress (Norah Baring) is mistakenly condemned for murder. Enter Sir John Menier (a wonderfully affable Herbert Marshall), a juror browbeaten into a guilty verdict who decides to investigate the woman’s case on his own. Hitchcock’s resourcefulness in the early sound era can be seen in the shaving sequence, where Sir John’s thoughts were prerecorded and played back on set, and the radio music he’s listening to is an orchestra performing offscreen.


THE SKIN GAME
1931, Rialto Pictures, 77 min, UK, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Director Alfred Hitchcock zeros in on class conflict in this film - specifically the conflict between the old-money Hillcrest and the nouveau riche Hornblower families. The two face off at a land auction (in a sequence that’s among the best of Hitchcock’s early British talkies), but a young woman is ruined in the process. Edmund Gwenn and Phyllis Konstam are excellent as the industrialist Hornblower and his disgraced daughter-in-law.


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