For film dorks who’s reading this from the U.K., if anyone happens to ask you which was the first talkie film in your country, you should be saying Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail. This drama is about a woman who kills a man in self defense after almost getting date-raped, leaving her in a terrified state of what’s to come when someone discovers the skeleton hiding in her closet.
Originally when this film was made, it was going to be mostly silent but then the British Institute gave Hitchcock permission to film a portion of the film in sound. Of course, Alfred Hitchcock was thinking the same thing we would have “Why would we do that?! Let’s make the whole film be in sound!” And that’s just what he did with the exception of the first six minutes being in sound. You can tell that this film was made during a time when if a woman murdered someone for whatever reason, the consequences would be much more dire than if a man were to do it. Do you think that people would have believed her if she said that she committed murder out of self-defense instead of in cold blood? Something tells me if the same situation happened today, women would be less afraid to come to the police if they were the victim making a desperate situation to stay alive. Agree?
Now who is that to the left? Would that happen to be an infamous Hitchcock cameo? Hitchcock shows of many of his trademarks such as seeing the main character innocently getting into trouble and the main female lead being a beautiful blonde. Here’s something fascinating- Anny Ondra, the female lead, had a thick Czech accent which she wasn’t prepared to show for the sound version so all of her lines were dubbed by English actress Joan Barry- making this the first film where an actress is dubbed. A lot of actors dealt with this challenge during the time talkies were being made when they now had to worry about having perfect a perfect voice and diction that was easy to understand to a wide audience.
Hitchcock did a great job making this film as chilling and tense as possible. Even in the murder scene, I like how much suspenseful the scene was where the action is hidden behind a curtain and you never hear and see the murder being done. As the camera slowly zooms in, you’re curious what went on behind that curtain until you see her slowly come out with a bloody knife. Ondra does a great job showing her anxiety as she’s being blackmailed and the intense fear that someone could one day find out. You were able to identify with her this way. This is the perfect film to see if you love Hitchcock films, suspense, and finally a classic film with sound.
Watch Britain’s first talkie film and write down your reactions in the comments: