Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Downhill (1927)

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SYNOPSIS: Public schoolboy Roddy Berwick is expelled from school when he takes the blame for a friend’s charge and his life falls apart in a series of misadventures. – via IMDB

Wow, I don’t think I have ever had such a mission finding a movie poster for something in my life! Well, I have no idea when last I watched a silent movie. It’s been that long that I cannot even remember, and here I landed with two for the Alfred Hitchcock blogathon that Rob and I are hosting! Well, I suppose it was time to have a look see what an early Hitchcock film presented.

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At any rate, after starting this, I soon realised that this movie meant silent movie in the absolute extreme… it did not even have a score to back it with (I have heard them with scores to help out). The little text cards for explanation did not come up very often, and I was left floundering as to understanding what I was watching, and what was going on. It looked like Mabel (Annette Benson) had set them up for something. I later found out that Roddy Berwick (Ivor Novello) was being held responsible for her pregnancy, though the child is actually his best friend Tim’s (Robin Irvine). Tim says nothing to correct the accusation that Mabel has brought against Roddy because he cannot afford to lose his scholarship, and Roddy says nothing so as not to take everything from Tim. Roddy’s family is wealthy, and Mabel seems to be using this in her favour.

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Roddy is having problems when he informs his father, Sir Thomas Berwick (Norman MicKinnel), he has been expelled from school, and he and his father row. It seems everything is stacked against Roddy. Up until this point, when it finally made sense to me what Roddy was being accused of (thank you so much Wikipedia), I was wondering what he was going to do. The entire bit that followed seemed just a little bit bizarre and extreme, though I am sure it must make perfect sense to some.

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Roddy’s luck progressively worsens, after he leaves home he joins the theatre, where he falls in love with an actress, Julia (Isabel Jeans). He finally wins over her affections when he comes into some money, and his saving grace soon becomes his biggest problem. Julia turns out to be a big, cheating mistake, and when she is gone, so is his money. Leaving for Paris, he becomes a gigolo over there. That, too, does not pan out, and he ends up alone and delirious. Life is just not working out for him.

I did like the way that almost every time Roddy took a new blow, something signified everything going “downhill” – such as getting on an escalator, into the elevator, etc. Which was a cool touch. This movie is a drama, and it comes across as such, though there are sometimes where it almost leans out of that.

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I must say that the story was very uneven and inconsistent, and the characters were just all over the show. I thought the ending was such a cop out, making the previous time spent watching feel superfluous, which was not good. The limitations on the text cards was also frustrating. Downhill was shot well, but I must say that I am not a fan of silent movies at all. The actors played their parts very well, I am just not big on watching something for a prolonged period and piecing together what is going on and hoping that I am interpreting the silence correctly.

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24 thoughts on “Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Downhill (1927)

  1. theipc says:

    Silentest JB,

    This sounds like something I would absolutely fucking HATE! UGH – what a chore, eh?

    Thanks for taking this one for the team 🙂

    Fondest Thanks and Love,

    GSC

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      Kindest Grampy Spock Chop,

      I mean I know that you like less talking, but hell there has to be some somewhere along the lines!

      Meh, it’s a pleasure!

      Love,

      JB

      Like

  2. snapcracklewatch says:

    So glad you got that one out of the way. Poor Z woman! I think Hitchcock was just practicing at this time, piecing together randomness to create movies. Of course no gifs exist for this one at all!

    Like

  3. jjames36 says:

    My understanding, which could be wrong, is that most silent movies should not have a score accompanying them, if we are watching the original director’s original art. Not that people of the teens and 20s watched them literally silent, but that the musicians were actually present at the screening, sitting below the images, much as they would in a live play. These live musicians played the score the director intended, but were rarely recorded.

    And so. Now, when we watch silent flicks with a score dubbed over, they are just that: dubbed over. More often than that, they aren’t the original music. They are something added many years later.

    At least that’s my understanding. I might be wrong. Does Jordan Richardson ever come around here? He’d know …

    And. Generally, silent movies aren’t my thing either. Some are pretty excellent, though. Can’t say whether or not this is one of the excellent ones.

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      Josh! I am so sorry I missed this comment. WordPress you know…

      That’s really interesting, I had no idea! That must have been quite impressive back in the day.

      Jordan from Jordan and Eddie?

      Yeah, this was not so much a great one. It was alright, but nothing I am going to be rushing out to watch again.

      Like

      • jjames36 says:

        Jordan Richardson, the Canadian Cinephile. He’s big on film history.

        And did his own Hitchcock series, wherein he watched every Hitch flick on which he could get his hands.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Tom says:

    I think u summed it up perfectly at the end there, I am not sure if I could sit through many silent films myself. I don’t believe I have yet ever, so I have to at least try once, right?! Even if not multiple tries. This one sounds interesting. Figuring out puzzles seems interesting and a definitely old-school way of making stories work. Definitely a lot of work, though! Nice review!

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      Thank you Tom! Nah, I must say that it isn’t something I am a fan of. I guess once is enough to see if you like it. Yeah this one was better than most but still a little bizarre.

      Like

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