Jamaica Inn Reviews
Riddle me this: When is a Hitchcock film not a Hitchcock film but in reality a Hitchcock film? The answer is "Jamaica Inn" which on the surface is just another period piece that gets off to an awkward start in introducing all the principal characters. But then it picks up steam, even with the dated material and primitive special effects, as there is more than one character who is not who he says he is. The fact that there is a little delusion mixed in is only icing on the cake, along with some excellent work from Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara.
The story concept behind this film is executed with intrigue limitations that bland to the point of dullness, but as a basic idea, I must admit that it's pretty interesting as a dramatic study on the tensions between classes of 1819, complete with some meaty conflicts and interesting characters, underdeveloped in storytelling, and brought about as much to life as they can be by a charismatic cast. Well, I don't know if it's being of dating or simply a shortage in material, but even the performances are rather underwhelming here, with a few being kind of mediocre, and yet, there's still enough charisma within and chemistry between the classic talents who make up this broad cast to reinforce some sense of charm, and therefore help in driving the final product. Now, the performances certainly don't drive the film especially far, like they probably would have if they were more consistent in their effectiveness, yet decency in the final product really is all but secured by the charm of its performances, and not just the ones found on the screen. Finding the film to be a disaster, possibly even before completing his duties as director, the great Alfred Hitchcock does not place all that much inspiration into this effort, but he does indeed try, not so much in crafting all that much atmosphere, let alone his trademark potent one, but enough to draw on the colorful elements in the material at enough times to keep you from completely falling out of the film. The moments of decency are, of course, few and far between in this limp affair, but they do indeed stand, found on the backs of interesting subject matter, charismatic performances and colorful highlights in direction, all of which do what they can, at least enough to meet the missteps and place some control on their sting. Really, when it comes down to it, the film is both too bland and, well, too charming to be close to bad, and while the strengths aren't rich enough in either quantity or quality, they join the limitations in contemptibility in all but saving the film as pretty fair. As things stand, however, the final product falls, albeit not that far, but far enough into mediocrity to be utterly forgettable, despite interesting ideas that aren't even all that thoroughly explored, let alone done justice.
I've talked about the film's interesting characters, of which there are many, so as an ensemble piece, this drama could have gone a fair distance, but it really messes up by simply being underdeveloped, and seriously so, failing to flesh out its characters as distinguished, leaving many of the potentially unique characters to run together, and not fulfill their ostensibly key roles in this narrative which thrives on the characters' depths and interactions. The characters would have been all but completely uninteresting in execution if so many of the performances weren't so charismatic, but the expository laziness that the overwhelmingly overblown screenwriting team of Daphne du Maurier, Sidney Gilliat, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville and J. B. Priestley seriously undercut the intrigue of this story, making it all that harder to ignore the limitations in intrigue that are even found in concept. Yes, the story is interesting, but the final product wouldn't be so easily mediocre if the story was more interesting, rather than light in scope for something of an adventure affair, as well as lacking in dramatic weight, despite its sometimes borderline abrasive efforts. I don't know if the film's histrionics are so much problematic because they're so severe, as much as they're problematic because they're just so recurring, falling over dramatic set piece after dramatic set piece, until it becomes too difficult to buy into them in the context of this melodrama as much more than cheesy, exacerbated by some camp. The film isn't terribly dated, but only so many of its attributes have aged with grace, and while the film is far from hilarious in its cheesiness, it's just so hard to take this film seriously, even when you take out of account the lack of storytelling meat that, quite frankly, could be forgiven if the film wasn't so dull. Constantly moving, at least with its dialogue, the film's narrative isn't all that overblown, but it is meandering, with near-monotonously do-little plotting that Alfred Hitchcock admittedly makes all the more glaring with an atmosphere that is present, with a number of highlights, but primarily bone-dry, maybe even cold, to the point of being, not simply bland, but just plain dull and distancing against a should-be entertaining opus that can't afford to distance you any more with all of its aforementioned problems. Undercooked, overblown and all around bland, the film has a charm to it that, when justified by some inspiration, all but saves the final product as yet another forgettable, but fair flick, yet when it's all said and done, the film doesn't do much of intrigue, and before to long, it becomes too hard to keep invested in it, in all of its mediocrity.
When it's time to check out, at least at the point at which the film would rather you would, charming performances and direction behind an interesting story concept are almost enough to save the final product, but through glaring underdevelopment and cheese, as well as sheer dullness to monotonous storytelling, Alfred Hitchcock's "Jamaica Inn" falls flat, as a borderline decent, but ultimately mediocre misfire to one of the more important filmmakers in storytelling, whose standards for inspiration are by no means exemplified here.
2.25/5 - Mediocre
All of that being said, the elements for a truly fun adventure/thriller are present here and one can easily imagine it being remade as potentially great film. Now if only they could resurrect Charles Laughton and get him to reprise his creepy villainous role...