The Easter Sunday Intertitle: Storm

THE PASSING OF THE THIRD FLOOR BACK (available to watch free on the BFI Player) is such a terrific film that I’m not bothered by it being a sentimental Victorian Christ allegory at all. I like original author Jerome K. Jerome generally, partly because his name is Jerome K. Jerome, mostly because he wrote a great comic novel but seamed it with history and mysticism. Here, the last-named quality dominates. But it’s a very pragmatic mysticism — the Christ-like stranger (Conrad Veidt) effects change in the brutal inhabitants of a lodging house by simple politeness and kindness.

My dream product would be a set that includes this, LITTLE FRIEND by the same director (Bertholdt Viertel), and the novel Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood, a roman a clef about his collaboration with Viertel on the script for LF. The BFI would be the people to do it, but the fact that they’re providing TPOFTFB for free suggests they don’t think enough of its commercial chances.

Alma Reville on screenplay duties here! And the very fine cast all giving career-highlight performances, including the magnificently repulsive Frank Cellier, whose Priestleyesque self-made monster slowly reveals himself as every bit a Biblical creature as Veidt’s Stranger…

THE PASSING OF THE THIRD FLOOR BACK stars Paul Orlac; Mary Macree; Capt. Jeremy Stickles; Mrs. Malaprop; Inspector Lestrade; Mrs. Pleasant; Mrs. Midget; Mrs. Corney; Mrs. Fairfax; Matthieu Dreyfus; and Edna, the Church Organist (uncredited).

5 Responses to “The Easter Sunday Intertitle: Storm”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    An Isherwood work that merits screen adaptation is “Down There On a Visit,” his book about infamous gay sybarite Denham Fouts whose most famous incarnation is in Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited.” == the second TV adaptation of which is quite good (the first being unbearably ponderous)

  2. Highly enjoyable film. Going on the steamer to Margate via celluiod is probably going to be my most exciting outing this month. And Veidt was marvellous.

  3. Mark Fuller Says:

    As I’ve already said elsewhere this week, this is probably my favourite British film of the thirties, and I’ve seen a good few. I recorded it kn the early hours on Channel Four in something like 1988, and loved it on first viewing.
    Some time later I found a play script in a second-hand bookshop, and it makes for interesting reading. The religiosity is far more on the nose, and some interesting elements have been added to the screenplay, one assumes by Alma.
    Amongst other things, like the opening up of the film for the day trip, obviously. But that sequence where we are made to doubt The Stranger’s innocence briefly, the blonde daughter in peril……those specifically make me wonder if either 1) Bearing in mind the casting of a few of the Hitchcock Repertory Company, was this in gestation a project that he was going to direct, or 2) How many of the ‘Hitchcock’tropes should be thought of as ‘Reville’ tropes….

  4. Charles W. Callahan Says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m going to watch it today.
    I live in the United States so I can’t access the BFI, but happily the film is also available on Youtube.

  5. Enjoy! I think you will.

    I think I’ll watch the silent at some point, but it’s not likely to replace this version in my affections.

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