Jamaica Inn

1939, Movie, NR, 99 mins

Review

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JAMAICA INN had many interesting incidents associated with it. Unfortunately, very little of that interest reached the screen. Laughton had opened his own production company, Mayflower, and this, its third and final film after THE BEACHCOMBER and SIDEWALKS OF LONDON, finally sank the ship. It was hoped that Hitchcock, who had just finished his successful THE LADY VANISHES, would help the feeble script here, but even he couldn't make this one fly. Laughton and Hitchcock had some knockdown battles on the set, but as Laughton was also the coproducer, Hitchcock couldn't make him take orders and the result was a very hammy performance from the star. This was to be Hitchcock's last film in prewar England before coming to the US and beginning his memorable work. Laughton is an oily squire in Cornwall on the coast of England. He leads a pack of cutthroats who lure boats to the area with false lights, then allow them to be dashed on the rocks in the rough seas. Once that's done, Laughton and his brigands kill the passengers and loot the boats. Jamaica Inn is a local hostelry where O'Hara (just 18 and breathtakingly beautiful in her first major role) has arrived to stay with her aunt and uncle, Ney and Banks. It isn't long before she realizes that the inn is the headquarters of the killers. Newton is from Lloyds of London and is working undercover to see if he can learn why it is that so many ships meet their fate in this particular area. When his identity is discovered, the pirates mean to lynch him but O'Hara saves his life. In the end Laughton goes mad, climbs to the crow's nest of a ship, screams at anyone who'll listen, then jumps and goes right through the deck. The picture opened to big business but word of mouth travels faster than the speed of light and JAMAICA INN soon closed forever. Creaky, old-hat, and forgettable. Hitchcock had worked with coproducer Pommer once before when he toiled as a writer and art director on the silent film THE BLACKGUARD in 1924. He should have waited another 15 years before being talked into this job. leave a comment

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