Lay out the film reel, mark every meter on it - and you will find a twist in the tale or a gripping suspense being unraveled at every mark … That’s the typical Alfred Hitchcock treatment that you will find in Jamaica Inn!
This 1939 suspense drama is set on the backdrop of Jamaica Inn - a dingy inn in the small town along the Cornwall coast. A gang of ship wreckers led by the inn’s owner Joss (Leslie Banks) operate a wrecking racket out of the inn. They contrive to wreck ships, kill the sailors and steal cargo. The story begins when the beautiful young lady Mary (Maureen O’Hara) - who is Joss’s wife’s orphaned niece - comes to stay at the Inn. The local squire and magistrate Sir Humphrey (Charles Laughton) helps Mary reach Jamaica Inn on horseback. Then begins a series of twists - how the gang finds a rat amongst one of them - Jem Trahearne (Robert Newton) - who siphons off goods on the side, how the young Mary saves Trahearne’s life and they both escape from the inn, how the secret mastermind of this whole racket is unraveled and how Trahearne’s true identity is revealed.
The plot is timeless! A gang of smugglers, a pretty but brave damsel, and a dominating gang-lord and his dutiful wife - these things never go out of fashion do they? Hitchcock of course weaves in the twists quite well in this plot for an unassuming audience.
Of course, the cinematography and production being in the 1930s, the suspense isn't as edge of the seat and nail biting today but watch the plot like a 1930s movie and you will enjoy Hitchcock’s brilliance in the tale.
The food chain of smugglers is well depicted in the movie - the lowly executers in all shapes and sizes (tattooed, drunk, bald, bespectacled), Joss - the gang’s boss - a drunk but strong executor who has gained the loyalty of his gang over the years and then the man at the top of the food chain: the super boss!
Leslie Banks holds the movie together very well with his ‘gang-lord meets wife-beater’ character. Maureen O’Hara is very raw in the movie and Charles Laughton presents the ultimate in clichéd, crass acting!
But watch it for Hitchcock’s style of laying out a suspense plot and you will enjoy the movie!
3.5/5 for the twists in the tale and for Leslie Banks.
P.S. - May be a 0.5 extra just for the Cornish Prayer at the beginning of the movie - classic British humour!
Based in Mumbai, Deepti is a travel writer and a content builder for various projects. As an avid movie-watcher, she believes film makers should respect the audiences’ intelligence and need for ‘real entertainment’. She also writes about her travels with her toddler on her blog - neverjetlagged.blogspot.com.