Rich and Strange (1931)
This film came across as a project Hitchcock wasn't very interested in doing. That might not be saying much from the same guy that's famously said shooting the picture is the most boring part of the process. But this one did seem like more of a crowd pleaser rather than one where he could let loose his creative vision. Sometimes scenes would jump all over the place in order to end up in a spot that wasn't worth the journey getting there. It was altogether void of a lot of entertainment value. Sure, "strange" is in the title, but I mean this not in a good way or even a bad way— the movie just struck me as lukewarm. Then add in the fact that it was Hitchcock's and the film renders me unimpressed. Although:
There were some simple effects like menu titles moving forward into frame to simulate Fred's inebriation (played by Henry Kendall). Or when Emily (Joan Berry) reads the farewell letter from Commander Gordon (Percy Marmont) and the shot blurs from her tears. Some nice dutch angles when Fred and Emily are on the boat. That set in general I liked. There's something about knowing it's a set that is more exciting for me. It's a little world.
I did like the aesthetic/relationship of Fred and Emily, I thought they worked well. This also reminded me of Sullivan's Travels, Hitchcock continually plays with the theme of riches in his films.
It was a huge plot jump, but I rather enjoyed the cut from the asian sky to the London streets, it gave me that feeling when you fly home after a long trip. Now in between that cut, you could insert Sansho the Bailiff and have a totally different story. The plot point in this movie of the Chinese men being nice makes it a much more positive ending, even after we see the Chinese men just watch and do nothing as one of their crew dies.
While there is obvious merit to this movie, there will be plenty others that I'd jump to first if I were to pick one to watch with a similar vibe. Namely: Sullivan's Travels, Gold Rush, It Happened One Night, African Queen/any Kathryn Hepburn movie...
Worth it just to have a better idea of Hitchcock's journey towards success, even if it's not the most exciting.