We are members of the museum and so received an email ages ago to give us a heads up that it was going on. I’m so glad we did, as it was a one off gala screening and rather a ‘once in a lifetime’ sort of thing. The film was to be shown in the open air, right in front of the museum, which had been chosen because it so heavily features in the film…. So we arrived to the museum well prepared for an evening outdoors, and settled down onto the grass on and under several layers of blankets, and with some very welcome cushions!
Blackmail is one of the Hitchcock films that the BFI has been working hard to restore. He actually made two versions of the same film, with almost the same cast and crew….one as a silent film and the other as Britain’s first ‘talkie’. The film started as a silent film, and indeed the director was said to prefer this format, which is why I was so pleased to see the silent version.
The soundtrack was provided by a live orchestra, performing Neil Brand’s specially commissioned score, and I have to say this was a real highlight for me. The music was fantastic in its own right, but moreover provided the perfect backing to the action and was certainly responsible for aiding the suspense and making me jump!
The film itself really is a masterpiece. The story of a young policeman, whose bored fiancee bites off more than she can chew when she is enticed up to an opposing suitor’s studio, I found myself compelled by the story from very early on. The film portrays a rather realistic and grimy London, although there was such excitement when the chase scene culminated right at the British Museum….. It was wonderful to se it as it was, and to recognise rooms featured in the villain’s desperate escape attempt.
I left wowed by the brilliance of Hitchcock, and this wonderful film……and instantly wanted to see more silent films, as well as North by Northwest (my favourite Hitchcock film).
You have another chance to see Blackmail, both the silent and talkie versions, at the BFI in August….you can still get tickets here.