DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
MANXMAN, THE (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: from the novel by Sir Hall Caine/Eliot Stannard; cinematographer: Jack Cox; editor: Emile de Ruelle; cast: Carl Brisson (Pete Quilliam), Anny Ondra (Kate Cregeen), Malcolm Keen (Philip Christian), Randle Ayrton (Caesar Cregeen), Clare Greet (Mother); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Maxwell; Synergy Entertainment; 1929-silent-UK)

 
"The stern morality melodrama contains very little of the filmmaking techniques that would later make Hitchcock a master of his craft."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The last silent film of Alfred Hitchcock ("Champagne"/"The Farmer's Wife"/"Blackmail") is only a fair but overly melodramatic one. It's shot in a straightforward manner, but bogs down with an unconvincing climactic courtroom scene of fireworks that could have easily been avoided if the plot wasn't so contrived. It's based on the 1890s best-selling novel by Sir Hall Caine.

It's an old-fashioned love triangle tale. The attractive but flighty Kate Cregeen (Anny Ondra, raised in Prague actress) promises, in a flighty moment, to marry good-natured but impoverished fisherman Pete Quilliam (Carl Brisson), while in love with his lawyer best friend from childhood Philip Christian (Malcolm Keen). When Kate's gruff father Caesar (Randle Ayrton), owner of Caesar's Inn on the Isle of Man, rejects Pete's proposal because he's penniless, the lad sails to Africa and works in a goldmine to make his fortune before he returns to marry his dreamgirl. Before Pete leaves, the trusting lad asks Philip to look after his gal. While Pete's gone, the cautious Philip, aspiring above all else to be a Deemster (magistrate), and Kate begin a secret romance. They receive word that Pete died, but he later returns alive and she marries him even though she doesn't love him and is pregnant with Philip's baby. The cheaters never tell Pete about their affair, and after she gives birth to a daughter she freaks out and tells Philip she can't live with her deceit anymore. But Philip was just appointed a Deemster and refuses to risk his career and friendship with Pete to take her away from hubby.

Things get resolved when Philip's first case as a judge involves Kate brought before the court for attempting to drown herself by jumping off a quay. In the unrealistic courtroom proceedings everything comes out in the open, as at last Philip is able to take responsibility for his actions and man-up about his love for his best friend's wife.

The stern morality melodrama contains very little of the filmmaking techniques that would later make Hitchcock a master of his craft and the moralistic story itself is uninspiring, as it plays out as one that hits us over the head with a sledgehammer to lecture us not to sin, not to lie and not to marry someone you don't love even if you promised to wait for them. Writer Eliot Stannard never brings more to the table and the pic begins to stink like a dead fish after sitting around for too long.

The film was shot in Cornwall, but is set on the Isle of Man (which is the reason for the title).

REVIEWED ON 10/7/2010       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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