From the back of the church comes rhythmic clapping and percussion. On screen, Mr and Mrs Bunting, landlord and landlady of a boarding house, go the door. It’s the police, led by Joe, the detective investigating the serial killer called The Avenger. Joe speaks; “We’ve come to have a word with your lodger”. They go upstairs as the tempo picks up and into the lodger’s room. The suspect is kissing Daisy. She is the landlords’ daughter and Joe’s girlfriend.

A baritone voice begins “Oh, you’re gonna lose your soul, tonight”. Joe shows his search warrant. The other detectives search the room. Joe and the lodger square up. The voices of the choir swell. The baritone, “Your gonna lose control tonight”. The police find a hidden bag. The choir sings “I get up in the morning to the beat of the drum. I get up to this feeling, keeps me on the run”. Inside the bag, Joe finds a pistol and a map, showing where The Avenger has struck. The arrest is made.

This is where the Herne Hill Music Festival’s showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger jumped from good to superb. The setting was St Faith’s Church on Red Post Hill, with its brightly painted ceiling and excellent acoustics. Pianist, Ashley Valentine drove the evening but was more than ably supported by the rest of the band and the Camberwell Community Choir. Meanwhile, the print was excellent, with scenes tinted blue, sepia and pink.

church roof st faiths dulwich

The Lodger was made in 1927 and was his first Hitchcockian film. Lots of classic ingredients are there. Daisy is blonde for a start and we have an innocent man suspected of a crime. There’s a MacGuffin in the form of The Avenger and even the protagonist’s mother plays a role. She isn’t perverse in a Strangers on a Train or The Birds way but a brief and wonderfully framed scene between her and the lodger is pivotal.

Ivor Novello is by turns creepy, romantic and tragic as the lodger. There is a remarkable slow, sensual, diffident kiss between him and June Tripp’s Daisy. The emotion is so strong Novello looks almost as if he’ll cry. It was the equal of the extraordinary kiss between Grace Kelly and James Stewart in Rear Window.

There are other Hitchcockian flourishes. We look down on a hand sliding along the banister, as the lodger descends the staircase, Mrs Bunting straining to catch his footsteps. The lodger pacing his room is shot through a glass floor. The opening montage follows a murder through to newspaper coverage hitting the streets. Meanwhile the finale recalls the end of the 1925 version of the Phantom of the Opera.

In the queue for the toilet at the interval, a member of the choir told me they had performed the The Lodger a few years ago. If they do it again, I strongly recommend it seeing it.

the lodger hitchcock herne hill