Plot – An old traditional family and a modern family battle over land in a small English village and almost destroy each other – The Skin Game.
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Genre – Drama
Released – 1931
Hitchcock spent much of the early ’30s experimenting and finding his footing in with talking pictures, homing his skill with theme as much as with technique, fast discovering his skill of producing crime thrillers such as Blackmail and Murder!. But that didn’t put him off turning his attention to other genres, with The Skin Game his attempt at finding similar success with a talkie drama adapted from a stage play concerning a feud between two rich families, one old money and one new.
Despite the plot being a rather straightforward drama without any major thriller elements, Hitchcock nevertheless employs all the techniques he had perfected earlier in his career, including the use of dynamic editing, the overriding themes of guilt and fear, as well as some innovative sound techniques heard in his previous talkies, with these elements working to various degrees.
The use of tension in the auction scene with fast pans between rival bidders and quick editing working extremely well, reminding me greatly of the tennis scene in his later film Strangers on a Train and although you don’t really care about the outcome, you get drawn into the drama surrounding it.
Sadly for all Hitchcock’s hard work, it’s the fairly pedestrian plot that lets the film down. The lack of interesting characters and the only real drama coming right at the finale, your interest is only held by Hitchcock’s interesting direction choices. But even then, this is one of the very few Hitchcock movies that even his creative flair couldn’t prevent the project from feeling a little dull.
The Skin Game rarely grips you the way you’d expect for a Hitchcock picture and without his name attached, it would have most likely been lost to the ravages of time, but this doesn’t mean it’s completely worth ignoring, containing a couple of powerful moments and a memorable through little absurd ending. Plus, the short run-time prevents you from ever getting too bored.
If you liked: Murder!, A Simple Favour, Topaz