The last of Hitchcock’s British pictures, Jamaica Inn was produced by star Charles Laughton through his own company – leading Hitchcock into battle with Laughton’s business partner, the director and German expatriate Erich Pommer, whose meddling oversight infuriated Hitchcock. Siding with Pommer, Laughton brought his own micro-managing to the set, such as instructing Hitchcock on what camera angles to use. Despite the strained production, the film features a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse as disguised lawman Robert Newton attempts to put an end to a gang of thieves who instigate shipwrecks, then loot the wrecks and kill the survivors. This was the first time Hitchcock adapted a Daphne du Maurier story, a source he would return to twice more for Rebecca and The Birds.
Foregrounding the romantic elements of Hitchcock’s “double chase” plots, Young and Innocent is as much screwball comedy as thriller. A constable’s daughter takes her chances with a wrongly accused man on the run, and the pair encounters all walks of life in their search for an exculpatory raincoat and a chance at unmasking the real murderer by his telltale twitch. Hitchcock’s denouement – a single dolly shot travelling nearly 150 feet from a wide view of a ballroom to a tight close-up of the killer’s eyes – is both an astonishing technical feat and a characteristically complex meditation on spectatorship: our triumph at the disclosure of the man’s identity comes tempered by the killer’s anxiety and the camera’s aggression. The American release of the film excised the birthday party centerpiece, in many ways the most purely Hitchcockian sequence in the film, but nevertheless proved instrumental in convincing David O. Selznick to bring Hitchcock to Hollywood.