Plot – A juror in a murder trial, after voting to convict, has second thoughts and investigates on his own before the execution – Murder!
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Released – 1930
Coming during the awkward transition from silent to talking pictures and only his second talkie. Hitchcock’s Murder! Unlike his markedly more experimental first sound picture, Blackmail, remains one of the better pictures from the period and showed even at this early stage, glimpses of the auteur he was bound to become.
Unusually for a Hitchcock mystery, here he doesn’t reveal the culprit straight away, instead, he focuses on creating intrigue as the audience works out who the real murderer is and how they are going to strike. However, this doesn’t mean that Murder! falls outside the usual Hitchcock pattern.
The audience doesn’t get drawn too much into the mystery, with the final reveal feeling merely incidental to the main plot of proving the innocence of Diana Baring (Norah Baring). Hitchcock instead focuses more on one of his most prolific motifs: the wrong man, or in this case wrong woman.
Hitchcock’s freedom experiment is plain for all to see, with Murder! containing the first-ever use of voice-over to provide a character’s inner monologue, while the camera work throughout feels impossible given the restraints of the day, with the scenes in the courtroom a particular delight, with the movement throughout feeling incredibly fluid in a time when most movies used a static camera.
Murder! Does, however, suffer from the same problem as many of Hitchcock’s other early features, with the skilled direction and innovation undone by a rather weak plot and standard structure. With some parts dragging unnecessarily and most of the characters poorly written stereotypes. Still, it holds up well for a film that’s almost 100 years old and marks an important step in Hitchcock’s development.
If you liked – 12 Angry Men, The Wrong Man, The Skin Game.