The restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s 9 surviving silent films has been the biggest and most complex restoration project undertaken by the BFI National Archive to date. Decades of damage and wear have been removed, the sharpness of the image improved, new shots discovered and intertitles and tinting restored.
The BFI has used elements borrowed from 7 international archives in the restoration process but film materials from the BFI National Archive – including a number of original negatives – have been central to the project.
All 9 titles have been restored from the best surviving source materials.
International touring and US distribution information can be downloaded below:
New scores for live performance
The BFI commissioned a number of new scores for live performance at the UK premieres of the newly restored films in 2012. See the booking information section above for contact details of composers and/or their agents.
Please include the full restoration credits in any publicity you may produce for screenings of the Hitchcock silents. See the booking information section for the correct wording in each case.
All 9 titles are available in the following formats:
- 35mm print (silent, full frame aspect ratio)
- DCP (The Lodger, Downhill and The Ring are available on DCP with music soundtrack. The remaining titles are on silent DCP only)
Films in the programme
The Pleasure Garden
UK 1926. With Virginia Valli, Miles Mander, Carmelita Geraghty, John Stuart. 90min
Hitchcock’s first film as director demonstrates many of his obsessions from the first frame onwards, which features a cascade of chorus girls’ legs tripping down a spiral staircase. A melodrama complete with apparitions, exotic locations and a sojourn in Italy, this is also the first of Hitchcock’s many films about a woman marrying – to perilous effect – a man she doesn’t really know.
UK 1926. With Ivor Novello, June, Marie Ault, Malcolm Keen. 90min
Described by Hitchcock himself as ‘the first true Hitchcock movie’, this masterly silent thriller is set in a fog-bound London terrorised by a Jack the Ripper-style murderer known only as The Avenger. His victims, all blonde young women, are discovered each Tuesday night. This is one of the great British silent crime films, starring matinée idol Ivor Novello as the mysterious new lodger in a London house who appears to be acting rather strangely.
UK 1927. With Ivor Novello, Isabel Jeans, Ian Hunter, Robin Irvine. 105min
The darkest of Hitchcock’s early films, Downhill follows the fall from grace of a public schoolboy who is expelled for getting a girl pregnant and subsequently disowned by his father. An early example not only of Hitchcock’s interest in guilt and its transference but of his highly ambivalent attitude to family life, this is a deceptively rich and often elegant work. A star turn from Ivor Novello, too.
UK 1927. With Isabel Jeans, Franklyn Dyall, Ian Hunter, Robin Irvine. 70min
“As adapted by Eliot Stannard, who scripted most of Hitchcock’s silent films, Noel Coward’s play becomes a study of the corrosive effects of being judged guilty by society, even if – as in the case of Laurita Filton, charged with infidelity by her drunkard husband – one is really innocent. Hitchcock’s handling of flashbacks shows impressive narrative flair, as does his frequently imaginative play with point-of-view.” – Geoff Andrew
UK 1927. With Carl Brisson, Lilian Hall-Davis, Ian Hunter, Gordon Harker. 108min
A love triangle melodrama set in the world of boxing, this was Hitchcock’s one and only original screenplay and one of his finest silent films. When boxer Bob Corby hires Jack Sander to be his sparring partner, he has no idea that he will become smitten with Mabel, Jack’s beautiful wife. The conflict between the 2 men gives rise to an inventive series of expressionist flourishes evoking the characters’ states of mind. Exhilaratingly bold filmmaking.
UK 1928. With Betty Balfour, Gordon Harker, Ferdinand von Alten. 105min
This romantic comedy-melodrama revolves around a millionaire’s decision to teach his frivolous ‘flapper’ daughter (played by the great Betty Balfour) a lesson by feigning bankruptcy. Built around Balfour’s effervescent energy, this early example of Hitchcock’s long-term fascination with the foibles of the filthy rich features some great experimental touches, including an opening shot filmed through a raised champagne glass.
The Farmer’s Wife
UK 1928. With Jameson Thomas, Lilian Hall-Davis, Gordon Harker. 107min
A charming, deftly-handled comedy about a middle-aged widowed landowner who decides to marry again. With the aid of his faithful housekeeper he draws up a list of all the eligible women in the neighbourhood and sets off to woo each in turn, with disastrous results.
“Often very funny, the film is directed with great subtlety; particularly in two virtuoso party scenes, Hitchcock’s use of long takes and his meticulous choreography of a large group of actors work wonders.” – Geoff Andrew
UK 1929. With Carl Brisson, Malcolm Keen, Anny Ondra. 100min
“Set in a remote Isle of Man fishing community (but shot in Cornwall), Hitchcock’s penultimate silent feature is one of the best and most mature works of his early career. The story follows two boyhood friends who take markedly different paths in adulthood: one becomes a fisherman, the other a lawyer, but both fall in love with the same woman – a complex, sensual performance from Anny Ondra, part vulnerable waif, part flirtatious femme fatale – and clearly the reason Hitch cast her in his suspense masterpiece Blackmail later that year.” – Bryony Dixon
UK 1929. With Anny Ondra, John Longden, Cyril Ritchard. 75min
Hitchcock’s silent Blackmail is one of the best British films, if not the best, of the late 1920s. Made in 1929, during the transition to the sound era, it was commissioned both as a silent and as a part-talkie with music and some dialogue scenes. Czech film actress Anny Ondra stars as Alice White, a young woman whose brief flirtation with an artist turns suddenly and terribly sour. Hitchcock’s masterly thriller boasts great London locations including the British Museum, Whitehall and the Lyons Tea House at Piccadilly Circus.