Rich and Strange (1931) – full review!
I’ll say strange that is!
Directed & adapted by Alfred Hitchcock based on the Dale Collins novel with a screenplay by the director’s wife Alma Reville and Val Valentine this infinitely strange below average romance drama meanders for 80+ minutes and includes countless seemingly disconnected visual experimentations by the director. The story is a simple one – a bored 8 year married couple receives an inheritance (though this is never made clear) and decide to travel around the world by cruise ship. Though each has a shipboard romance with another passenger which leads one to enlightenment and the other to disillusionment eventually they come to their senses; a near death experience also helps to bring them back together. The movie’s sound on the DVD I received from Netflix was atrocious for a film that was made in 1931. The director used music and silent film placards throughout perhaps in an attempt to mask the abysmal sound quality.
Henry Kendall plays Fred Hill Joan Barry plays his blonde wife Emily. Accountant Fred is bored with his routine which includes a 35+ minute commute from the office to home utilizing London’s underground system. Hannah Jones (uncredited) plays the Hill’s landlord Mrs. Porter. The couple laments their staid urban life but luck is with them on this day – they receive a letter telling them that they can pursue their dreams of traveling. They cross the English Channel to Paris during which Fred gets seasick. After seeing some shows and getting inebriated the couple embarks on a cruise to the Far East aboard a luxury liner. The passengers include a busybody gossiping old maid (Elsie Randolph) an explorer named Commander Gordon (Percy Marmont) a "princess" (the lovely Betty Amann) and an unattached Colonel (Aubrey Dexter uncredited).
While Fred gets seasick again the Commander keeps company with Emily; eventually they kiss. The lonely old maid has given Emily something for her husband’s seasickness and soon he is feeling better. Shortly after coming on deck (for the first time?) Fred meets a beautiful woman that’s introduced to him as "The Princess". Unlike his wife Fred wastes no time in pursuing a liaison with the princess. By the end of the cruise (Singapore) each is ready to ditch their spouse for their new lover. But while the Commander who up until this point had held his tongue tells Emily what a useless sham her husband is he also lets slip the fact that the princess is just an adventurer who’s only after Fred for his money. Emily decides she can’t leave Fred and returns to expose this truth to her husband. Though he initially refuses to believe it he learns that the "princess" has left and taken his 1000 pounds with her.
*** SPOILERS ***
Fred and Emily for want of anything else stick together and book passage home on a steamer ship with the last of their money. However during their voyage the ship strikes something and begins to sink. Trapped in their cabin the Hills believe they are about to die. But when they wake they find themselves on a deserted (except for a black cat & a suicide victim) listless ship. A Chinese junk happens upon the now thanks to Fred & Emily leaving their porthole open sinking ship. Its passengers climb aboard to loot it while the Hills climb aboard the junk. They hungrily eat what they are fed until they learn that the cat was part of their meal. A baby is born to the junk’s (only?) woman. In the next scene the Hills are home and are amicably greeted by Mrs. Porter. Soon though they are back to the argumentative state of their marriage once again as if nothing had happened.