The still-fresh overture pivots on Munch (the first victim in backlit close-up) and travels from the witness’ murmurs to the newspaper machinery, dread infecting the air. The killer leaves pyramidal calling cards on his fair-haired victims, but the feel for geometry isn’t stated until the detective (Malcolm Keen) draws the link between the noose ready for the culprit and the engagement ring saved for his fiancée (June Tripp), a model. The new tenant (Ivor Novello) materializes half-obscured in the mist, nests on the second floor of Boarding House 13, and acts "queerly." Portraits of women are removed from his chamber, the living room chandelier rattles from his constant pacing. The landlady (Marie Ault) is suspicious and, in an early whiff of Rear Window and Psycho, ventures into the darkened room while a potential murderer is nearby. (More Psycho: The knotted-up protagonist on one side of the wall and the blonde heroine in a bathtub on the other.) Alfred Hitchcock’s "story of the London fog" is no whodunit, the mystery is really a MacGuffin to be solved off-screen. No, Das Ewig Weibliche Zieht Uns Hinan is the theme, beauty protected and destroyed, shot fittingly with a Germanic eye for Murnau and Lang. A world of shadows and staircases and manacles, where death arrives at a debutante’s ball via the flip of a light switch. Yet how dreary "normalcy" is, how strongly the fear of the unknown goes together with the yearning to step into the beast’s lair. The danger and desire of "tempting providence," brought together in a Calvary of handcuffs, iron gates, and a glance of clemency exchanged privately in the middle of a bloodthirsty crowd. The boarding house is a Magritte template (L’Empire des Lumières), Lindsay Anderson pays tribute in If... (cp. Malcolm McDowell’s entrance). The line of thought continues all the way to Frenzy. With Arthur Chesney. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce