Screening on Film
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
With Herbert Marshall, Nora Baring, Phyllis Konstam.
UK, 1930, 35mm, black & white, 108 min.

Taking a page from Hamlet (“The play’s the thing”), Hitchcock used Murder! to explore his interest in melodrama bleeding into reality and vice versa. Herbert Marshall stars as a respected actor serving on the jury when a young actress is brought to trial for killing another woman in her same company. Failing to persuade his fellow jurors of the girl’s innocence, Marshall stages his own investigation. Hitchcock would later disparage the film’s trappings as a whodunit, though the theatrical element brokers a sophisticated analysis of role-playing that encompasses gender and class. Ever willing to go to great technical lengths to achieve a subtle effect, Hitchcock employed a full orchestra to play the prelude from Tristan und Isolde just beyond the set where Marshall contemplates the murder case in a stream-of-conscious voiceover. The innovative approach to film sound expands the subjective tissue of Hitchcock’s filmmaking, but it’s finally the silent and still shocking death of the villain that stays in mind.

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