Friday, December 10, 2010

Film Review: Young and Innocent

"Young and Innocent" *** (out of ****)

"Young and Innocent" (1937) is one of Alfred Hitchcock's early British films. Though it isn't as well remembered as "The 39 Steps" (1935) or "The Lady Vanishes" (1938), two of Hitchcock's best British films, it is a typical Hitchcock film which shows the seeds of what was to come.

"Young and Innocent" deals with Hitchcock's favorite theme, the innocent man wrongfully accused. This time around the man is Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney) whom happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has discovered the body of a well known actress, Christine (Pamela Carme) on a beach. Two witnesses swear they saw him running away from the body. He admits he did but only to go and get help. A belt from his raincoat was used to strangle the woman. Robert however swears his coat was stolen from him. Since the police have no other clues or suspects, Robert is arrested.

Robert manages to escape and finds himself hiding in the car of Erica Burgoyne (Nova Pilbeam), whose father, (Percy Marmont) works with the police. Robert confides in Erica and pleads his innocence. His plan is to find his raincoat. If he can find who stole it maybe it is the same person who murdered Christine.

With Robert and Erica on the road together naturally Hitchcock has the two fall in love. Erica slowly begins to believe in Robert's innocence and desperately wants to help him clear his name before the police catch him again.

As I have said, Hitchcock has made films with similar story lines. The best example is "The 39 Steps". Other examples include "North By Northwest" (1959) and "Saboteur" (1942). All three are better pictures. If Hitchcock had made "Young and Innocent" in America I think it would have been a better film. "Young and Innocent" suffers from the same short comings most of Hitchcock's British films do. The film was made on a small budget, the acting is a bit raw and the film lacks great suspense.

Although Hitchcock fans may argue forever and a day over which period produced Hitchcock's best films, I prefer his American films. They have greater artistic sensibilities, better acting, better music and more suspense.

"Young and Innocent", like a good number of Hitchcock films, also has room for some dry humor. One entertaining scene involves Erica and Robert visiting Erica's aunt (Mary Clare) not realizing there is a birthday party being thrown for Erica's cousin. The two get stuck helping serve cake and ice-cream. Meanwhile the aunt tries to find out all the information she can about Robert, only she gets different stories when speaking to Erica and Robert alone.

The film was based on a novel written by Josephine Tey entitled "A Shilling For Candles" and was written by Anthony Armstrong, Edwin Greenwood (this was his final script before passing away) and Charles Bennett, who wrote a few of Hitchcock's British films including "Secret Agent" (1936) and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1934). He also wrote one of Hitchcock's first American films, "Foreign Correspondent" (1940), which also happens to be one of his best.

Another downside to the film has to do with the ending. It feels rushed and ends too neatly. Everything just happens so suddenly and right on cue. You get the feeling the writers didn't really known how to satisfyingly resolve this mystery. And in typical Hitchcock fashion the killer's motive isn't very clear. It appears to be a random act of violence.

Also into question is the film's title. Young and innocent can refer to Robert - a young man whom is innocent of murder. It can also be Erica though. She too is young and is innocent herself. Strangely enough the movie is also known by the title "The Girl Was Young". This makes one think the movie is actually her story not Robert's. Can young and innocent refer to their love?

Even though I admire Hitchcock's American films more, I haven't reviewed them. The only one I did review was my favorite, "Rear Window" (1954). I also reviewed "The Lodger" (1927) which I think is his best silent film. Right now though I've been watching his British films. I'm curious to see how it all began. "Young and Innocent" is no masterpiece but it has some great moments. It is a little rough around the edges but is still pretty solid entertainment wise. Those interested in Hitchcock's work should try and find this.