Jamaica Inn (1939) - full review!
I almost didn't want to review this film for my website because I feel this is one of director Alfred Hitchcock's poorest efforts. Even though it's based on Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, and features a particularly evil character by Charles Laughton, I didn't find it to be a particularly engaging or satisfying drama. However, though it lacks much of the suspense and intrigue characteristic in most of his other films, I wouldn't label it a complete waste of time. Besides Laughton's performance, another plus for this picture is Maureen O'Hara, who plays the innocent, beautiful heroin. Most Hitchcock fans will find that, not only is the other "good guy" not up to the director's standards, its ending is rather convenient as well.
With nowhere else to go upon her mother's death, Mary (O'Hara) must find her way to the titled Inn, which is owned by her aunt Patience (Marie Ney) and uncle Joss (Leslie Banks). What she doesn't know is the Inn's reputation, as a place for bandits, pirates, and other sorts of unsavory characters. On the road to finding the Inn, she gets some idea of it, and in fact will only be taken as far as Sir Humphrey's (Laughton), the elected official of the region and, in effect, its law officer. Sir Humphrey, who lives rather lavishly, is naturally impressed with her beauty and agrees to escort Mary to the Inn. It appears that Sir Humphrey is a perfect gentleman, but appearances can be deceiving. In fact, it is Sir Humphrey that gives the scallywags who reside at the Inn the information they need to cause ships to crash on the rocks below it, such that they can loot their treasures and kill all aboard. This bounty allows Sir Humphrey to live the way he does, but his greed causes him to take too much from those who perform the evil deeds on his behalf. The fact that they depend upon his position, which protects them as well as providing them the ship's cargo information, keeps the pirates at bay.
Upset with these losses, an agent is sent to infiltrate the rogues to learn why they seem to know about the ships and when they are worth pirating. Naturally, there are conflicts between the evildoers themselves, and the agent, James Trehearne (Robert Newton), gets exposed. However, Mary is able to help him and, combined with help from Patience, who is finally overcome with guilt from her husband's complicity with Sir Humphrey, good eventually triumphs over evil, if unsatisfactorily.
Screenplay co-written by Joan Harrison, who received Oscar nominations for both of Hitchcock's films released in 1940. Basil Radford appears in his last of three Hitchcock films.