A US national tour of Alfred Hitchcock’s nine earliest surviving works, all newly restored by the BFI, will roll out with screenings presented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (Castro Theatre, 14-16 June); BAMcinématek (29 June – 5 July, kicking off at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Steinberg Screen in the Harvey Theater); and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (kicking off at the Academy’s Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles; date to be announced). The touring festival is a joint venture of the BFI, Park Circus/ITV Studios, and Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal.
The nine early Hitchcocks are also set to screen in Washington, DC, Berkeley, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Boston, and other American cities. Both the Brooklyn and San Francisco events will feature live music performed by the Colorado-based Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, British composer/pianist Stephen Horne, and other artists.
While Hitchcock is one of the most famous film directors of all time, his first 10 films – nine of which survive – are little known compared to his later work. Made from 1925 to 1929, Hitchcock’s extant silents are among the greatest achievements of early British cinema, containing the motifs and obsessions we’ve come to recognise as ‘Hitchcockian’, though most of the nine have been little-seen here, if at all.
The nine new BFI restorations include the director’s very first film, The Pleasure Garden, and such rarities as Downhill, Easy Virtue, Champagne, and The Farmer’s Wife. The familiar Hitchcock style begins to emerge strongly in at least four of the films: Blackmail, The Ring, The Manxman, and The Lodger, which the director himself dubbed “the first true Hitchcock picture” (it also features his first cameo appearance). One early Hitchcock, The Mountain Eagle, is lost.
The restoration of the ‘Hitchcock 9’ is the largest restoration project ever undertaken by the BFI, which holds some of the most important and earliest surviving copies of the silent Hitchcocks; the restorations also include materials sourced from other international archives. The restorations have made the films crisper and fresher than ever and uncover new layers of meaning, encouraging a deeper appreciation of the precocious genius at work.