The series of crane shots which mark out the final Grand Hotel sequence of Young and Innocent begin with the most celebrated of Hitchcock’s British period. Starting in the hotel lobby, the camera moves up and across the adjacent ballroom, over the dancing crowd and into the bandstand, settling on a tight close up of a blackfaced drummer, pausing on his eyes as they furiously begin to twitch. It’s a remarkable sequence, unlike much else in what is ostensibly a frothy, frightfully English countryside caper that puts a decidedly comedic spin on the ‘wrong man’ thriller.
We know the twitching drummer is the killer, having been thrust into the midst of an argument between him and his wife in the niftily executed opening moments. When Robert Tisdall (Derrick de Marney) stumbles across the body of the strangled victim on a beach and is seen running for help, he’s arrested and accused of her murder, absconding from the station with the chief constable’s daughter (Nova Pilbeam) in tow. Tisdall’s innocence depends on the recovery of his stolen raincoat, one of Hitchcock’s most throwaway MacGuffins and little more than an excuse to get the young couple together and out on the road.
It’s a film stacked with coincidence and silly contrivances that bear little afterthought, for the most part getting by on its charm and good humour, both of which it possesses in plentiful supply. Whilst lacking the tension or sinister air ofThe 39 Steps, it certainly shows Hitchcock in a much more playful mood, particularly when it comes to showing up the two bumbling policemen on the couple’s tail. Edward Rigby is a treat as Old Will the china mender, the recipient of Tisdall’s raincoat brought along to pick out the killer from the crowd, and Hitch manages to throw in a great little chase scene across some railway tracks that ends in an abandoned, collapsing mine.
Never less than entertaining and often delightfully funny, it bears little weight of comparison to either The Lady Vanishes or the similarly structured 39 Steps. There’s too much fun to be had for Young and Innocent to be filed under ‘minor’, the final sequence alone preventing that from really being an option.
Young and Innocent - 1937 - United Kingdom - 80 mins - Alfred Hitchcock