Here’s an interesting item; Alfred Hitchcock’s first feature film, The Pleasure Garden (1925), has just been restored by the British Film Institute. As Moving Image Archive News notes, “Alfred Hitchcock’s directorial debut, The Pleasure Garden, a silent melodrama made in 1925 when he was 25, follows the differing fortunes in love of two dancers at a London nightspot. Played by Universal star Virginia Valli and rarely again filmed Carmelita Geraghty, their fortunes take melodramatic, differing turns: One becomes a major star, while the other stumbles into a marriage with a dangerous womaniser, played by Miles Mander.
The British Film Institute’s restoration of the film, with a new score by Daniel Patrick Cohen, was unveiled at London’s Wilton’s Music Hall this week, and won the praise of the Guardian‘s Henry K. Miller: ‘It’s not just that 20-odd minutes have been added to the extant hour-long version; it’s that what we had didn’t entirely make sense without them. The most widely available version before now was pared down to the narrative bone, often at the expense of what became known as the Hitchcock touch.’
Miller describes what had been cut by the studio, Hitchcockian touches such as ‘comic business of various kinds, and a signature cut from a pot of tea being poured to a glass of champagne being filled.’ In the restoration, he writes, ‘above all, the film has got its rhythm back.’ A honeymoon sequence shot around Lake Como, for example, now ‘plays as Hitchcock inferably intended: longish, slowish, and sad, standing out from the rest. It is also in this section that the restored image comes into its own: almost unrecognisably cleaner, more detailed, pleasingly tinted and toned, and jerk-free.’”
The British Film Institute’s restoration of The Pleasure Garden is indeed astounding; the image is clear, sharp, bright, and absolutely crisp. This is a major accomplishment by the BFI, and makes a key film in Hitchcock’s career available for the first time in a really first-rate edition.