in 1929 the great British film Director Alfred Hitchcock began work on a film called Blackmail which was originally commissioned as a silent movie and late in the day the studio decided to add sound to the final reel and as such made it the first British ‘Talkie’. Hitchcock was yet to earn his title of ‘Master of Suspense” though the previous years ‘The Lodger’ could very much be viewed as the first Hitchcock film of the style we are now familiar with, but with Blackmail he showed some out of the box thinking by using the reel to add sound through out the movie instead of limiting it to one part. Of course this presented itself with a few problems as the woman Hitchcock cast as the leading lady, Anny Ondra, had a very thick Czech accent and as consequence she ended up mouthing the dialogue while another actress, Joan Barry recorded the lines off camera (this was in pre-dubbing days). This unfortunately caused the end of Anny’s film career and she joined the ranks of many fallen silent movie stars but it did at least prove Hitchcock’s resourcefulness. Blackmail makes a great use of sound in the way we hear the character here the word knife after she stabs the man who tries to assault her, note how the emphasis of the word knife keeps changing and her reactions to it.
Ultimately Blackmail is not a suspense masterpiece with the flow interrupted by long scenes of talking and often in a very stilted manner. It is worth knowing that the Newtwork DVD release also contains a silent edit which was sent to cinemas which didn’t have the facilities for talking pictures.