The Skin Game (1931)

Hitchcock's first "talkie" of my list (Blackmail being his first) certainly took every second it could for dialogue. There are many drawn out scenes especially in the beginning heavy with dialogue, it seems the coveted skill of hiding exposition wasn't figured out at this point. I noticed a much greater reliance on the dialogue to tell the story than the images. Instead of close ups like in the Lodger to show a character realizing something important or a major plot point, The Skin Game simply employed some lines of dialogue. A little disappointing.


There were a few cool shots, one where Hitchcock once again experiments with how to capture dream sequences. This particular instance isn't a dream but more of a headache driven hallucination that Chloe (Phyllis Konstam) has at the auction. Don't take my word for it, but it looks like Hitchcock bends the sides of the film to create a little distortion and then super imposed the face of the man who squealed about Chloe to Dawker (R.E. Jeffrey, cast as "first stranger").


Other interesting camera moves came in the form of long truck ins to show importance, such as when dawker tells Mrs. Hillcrest about the blowing the nose signal at the auction, or when Mr. Hornblower (Edmund Gwenn) interrupts Dawker (Edward Chapman) and Mrs. Hillcrest (Helen Haye) discussing the contract.


There were two camera moves that weren't quite successful, still showing Hitchcock's experimentation with the medium. The first was another truck in to Chloe with her great sobbing monologue at the end, but it's then ruined by poor blocking timing from Jill (Jill Esmond). Another also with Chloe after she is proven guilty at the end, Hitchcock pulls out from a close up to a wide, with only her and Mr. Hornblower in frame. But then instead of cutting away, we go right back into a two shot. It's just awkward.


Ending on a positive note, the scene with Chloe and Dawker in the garden I found for some reason very exciting. Maybe the romantic tension of it made it very cinematic. Also the isolation of just them two, intertwined in a story involving many more people gives it some charm. Just wanted to make a note of that mood.


That's it for me. Pretty good ending. The last shot of the tree falling was a nice touch.



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