Bright Lights Film Journal

The Lodger x 2

In 1944, John Brahm directed his suspensful period noir, The Lodger, starring the wonderfully silken-voiced Laird Cregar (above left) as a mysterious rooming house guest who may or may not be Jack the Ripper.

When I heard a Lodger remake was planned for the 2000s, and that it would star Alfred Molina (above right), my first thought was – Not a bad idea. Who better to step into Cregar’s sinister-but-fey shoes than the equally gifted Molina? They even look somewhat similar.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, the role played by Molina in the current Lodger remake is not that of the title character, but the detective investigating him (the role played by George Sanders in the Brahm version).

Even worse, where Brahm’s version was set in foggy 19th Century London, allowing the German-born director to fully indulge his considerable talent for atmosphere (see still, immediately below),

the 2009 remake, directed by David Ondaatje, is set in contemporary West Los Angeles, and, judging by the still below (with Simon Baker and Hope Davis), has about as much genuine atmosphere as a crime show shot by a TV hack. Yucch!

CINEHISTORICAL NOTE: Although Brahm’s version is, to my mind, the best version of The Lodger, it was not the first. That honor belongs to a 1927 British silent film directed by a young fella named Hitchcock (whatever happened to him?) and starring Ivor Novello in the title role. Fans of the 2001 Robert Altman film Gosford Park (in which Ivor Novello was a character) will recall that Novello also produced and starred in a 1932 sound remake of The Lodger that flopped.

Not unlike, I suspect, the 2009 version.