Jamaica Inn (1939) / Adventure-Thriller

MPAA rated: Not rated, but probably PG for some violence
Length: 98 min.

Cast: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks, Emlyn Williams, Marie Ney
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: Sidney Gilliat, Joan Harrison (based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier)
Review published December 12, 1998

Jamaica Inn 1939An orphaned young woman named Mary (O'Hara, Miracle on 34th Street) travels to Cornwall to stay with her aunt and uncle in a place called the Jamaica Inn. The downside to this is the fact that the inn is the lair of treacherous and murderous land-pirates, who lure ships in and proceed to kill the ship's crews and steal everything on board.

After discovering the truth, she and one of the pirates, who is secretly a police officer (Newton, Oliver Twist), go to the local peace officer for help, little realizing that he is the kingpin for the whole operation (Laughton, Spartacus). Now their lives are in jeopardy due to the fact that no one can be trusted, and they must fight for their lives.

A commercial success, but a dismal critical failure upon its release back in 1939. Jamaica Inn would be Hitch's last film before leaving England for the Hollywood, and many claimed that Hitch seems to be looking ahead and cared very little about doing this picture, but they had already invested the money.

Long overlooked due to Hitchcock's many better films, Jamaica Inn deserves a second look as it's actually quite good. Charles Laughton gives a terrific performance, and is the best thing about the film as the corrupt peace officer on the take. The film also has a nice look, and colorful characters drawn from the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name.

It's not the best work Hitchcock has done by far, but he does give it an interesting look and feel, and there is a fair share of his trademark stylish moments strewn about. The only major weakness of the film is the casting of the uncharismatic Robert Newton as the film's main protagonist.

Sandwiched between The Lady Vanishes and Rebecca in the Hitchcock filmography, one can understand why the film is considered disappointment and often overlooked.  However, taken on its own terms, there are plenty of entertaining and interesting developments within the confines of this modest film to justify the time spent.

Qwipster's rating:

©1998 Vince Leo