Jamaica Inn [DVD] [1939] DVD

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Its generally acknowledged that the Master of Suspense disliked costume dramas and Jamaica Inn--a rip-roaring melodrama drawn from a Daphne du Maurier pot-boiler, set in 1820s Cornwall--is about as costumed as they come. So what was he doing directing it? Killing time, essentially. In 1939 Hitchcock was due to leave Britain for Hollywood, but delays Stateside left him with time on his hands. Never one to sit idle, he agreed to make one picture for Mayflower Productions, a new outfit formed by actor Charles Laughton and emigre German producer Erich Pommer. An innocent young orphan (the 19-year-old Maureen OHara in her first starring role) arrives at her uncles remote Cornish inn to find it a den of reprobates given to smuggling, wrecking and gross overacting. Theyre all out-hammed, though, by Laughton at his most corseted and outrageously self-indulgent as the local squire to whom Maureen runs for help. Since his star was also the co-producer, Hitch couldnt do much with the temperamental actor. He contented himself with adding a few characteristic touches--including a spot of bondage (always a Hitchcock favourite), and the chief villains final spectacular plunge from a high place--and slyly sending up the melodramatic absurdities of the plot. Jamaica Inn hardly stands high in the Masters canon, but it trundles along divertingly enough. Hitchcock fanatics will have fun comparing it with his two subsequent--and far more accomplished--Du Maurier adaptations, Rebecca and The Birds.

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