The Manxman (Alfred Hitchcock, 1929)
I watched three Alfred Hitchcock movies I’d never seen before this week. One of them is considered among his best films; The Lady Vanishes appears on over half the critical thousand-best lists I have collected over the years. The other two, Young and Innocent and The Manxman, appear on none. These would seem to be considered relatively minor films as far as Hitchcock’s output is concerned. So it may be somewhat sacrilegious for me to say this, but I liked The Manxman, Hitchcock’s final silent film, just as much as The Lady Vanishes.
Based on a novel by Hall Caine (which had already been adapted into a film in 1917 by George Loane Tucker; while by the standards of the time it was an almost unimaginably lavish production, the few voters on IMDB who’ve seen it as I write this are largely unimpressed), The Manxman is the classic love triangle story. Kate Creegan (the delicious Andry Onna, who would later appear in Hitchcock’s Blackmail) is the daughter of the innkeeper on the Isle of Man, which lies between Wales and Ireland. Two childhood friends are both infatuated with her; fisherman Peter (Carl Brisson, returning from Hitch’s The Ring) is below her station, but a good, solid man who truly loves her; she’s altogether fond of him, but her father isn’t happy with the match. He sails off to sea to make his fortune, leaving Kate in the capable hands of Philip (Malcolm Keen, also a Hitch veteran; he’d appeared in The Lodger), an aspiring Deemster (island judge) who is as much above her station as Peter is below it; in this case, it’s his parents who don’t approve of the match. For, yes, Philip is just as much in love with Kate as is Peter.
It’s wonderful stuff indeed, with the classic love-triangle plot being used for all sorts of ethical dilemmas, acts of nobility, and the like. I feel like I should probably be more concerned by the fact that Onna’s character is more a vehicle for these dilemmas and acts than a character in her own right, but I wasn’t, and I’ve been mulling it over for a couple of weeks and honestly I still can’t. I found this little drama (“little” in the sense of “intimate” more than “minor”) charming, and the blush hasn’t faded as it’s stayed in my memory. A neglected Hitchfilm whose current presence on Netflix Instant (at least as of this writing) should be celebrated. ****
The full film is also currently available on youtube.