A scene from "The Lodger," one of nine early Hitchcock films showing this weekend at the Castro Theatre.
Before Alfred Hitchcock moved to Northern California and became the biggest name in American film, he began his career in England in the 1920s, shooting a series of silent movies that have since been mired in obscurity. This weekend, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival hosts the British Film Institute’s restored and remastered versions of the master director’s earliest works.
Silent movies might not seem like your cup of tea, but Anita Monga, SFSFF’s executive director, makes a pretty compelling case for why you should give the Hitchcock 9 a try:
--Because you’ve probably never watched a silent film the right way: “Silent movies have a bad rap because in school people see silent movies that look horrible: movies on 16 mm in the wrong frames-per-second with bad music. It can often be quite dull. Good silent film screenings like this one are not easy to put together.”
--Because you’ve probably never heard a silent film the right way: “These movies were never meant to be screened without live music. Stephen Horne, our composer, and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra have put together entirely new scores that use classical music, 20s-era Jazz, even a Celtic harp.”
--Because you’ll see a whole new side of Hitchcock: “Hitchcock’s not normally known for his comedies, but here he did The Farmer’s Wife, which is a very goofy, eccentric comedy, and we’re showing Champagne, a very fluffy film. Easy Virtue is a complete melodrama based on a Noel Coward play—you don’t see much of that in his later vein. And The Ring has an incredible boxing milieu.”
--Because the movies were almost lost forever: “Although we call it the Hitchcock 9, there were actually 10 silent Hitchcock films; but there’s nothing left of The Mountain Eagle that can be turned into a print. The BFI had to go around the world looking for materials on these movies to save the best print possible.”
--And because Hitchcock really was that good: “You can see that, from the very beginning, Hitchcock was born to make cinema. These are real Hitchcock films, and you can trace a direct line between these and everything that came later. They are riveting.”
The Hitchcock 9 play at the Castro Theatre, June 14-16.