For Hitchcock buffs, THE LODGER easily deserves a four or five star rating. This 2012 blu-ray version boasts an excellent visual presentation, but is let down by a variable soundtrack score.
Silent film scores tend to work best when they DO NOT draw attention to themselves. They shouldn't detract from the visual experience ... silent films are a pictorial medium ... the score should subtly reference and flow smoothly with the imagery on screen and the moods they convey. There are obviously composers who know and understand this, with Carl Davis probably the most experienced and respected in this field. Several years ago, Turner Classic Movies actually created a competition for young composers to try their hand at scoring several of the silents in the MGM/Warner collections. Most of those scores were very well done. Whoever organized and watched over the results obviously understood the basic criteria for successful silent film scoring. On the flip side of the coin are the composers who are commissioned for this task who find it necessary to either "experiment" or personalize their music beyond the perimeters of SERVING the film they are commissioned to score.
The new score for THE LODGER, which is being promoted rather prominently for the new dvd/blu-ray release, is frequently much too busy a score to serve the film properly. The composer had the benefit of the London Symphony Orchestra to play it, though there are many instances when the music seems to go off in its own direction, failing to UNDERscore what is going on a particular scene ... I'm being a bit harsh here, because there are times when it DOES work, but there are also opportunities missed to complement or enhance the visuals (and serve the Hitchcockian suspense), which are instead subjected to a seemingly random orchestration as though synchronizing to the moods on screen were less a priority than exploiting the composer's personal intuition. That's all very well for the composer's ego, but it is not serving the silent film in a complementary manner. In cases like this, I very often simply reduce the volume so the musical accompaniment is barely noticeable (happily an easy option when viewing a film in a home theater), however I had to go completely silent when a totally inappropriate vocalization intruded upon a lengthy sequence early in the film (recurring once again towards the climax, threatening to undermine that sequence as well!). Vocalizations were occasionally used by studios in the late 1920's for silents like 7TH HEAVEN, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS and A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS, and they were mostly disastrous! I'm quite sure Hitchcock would NEVER have sanctioned it for THE LODGER!
Actually, THE LODGER has been issued on dvd before, and there have been two earlier "scores" available, one a rather poor compilation of old recordings, and another an uneven accompaniment which was at least an improvement on the previous one. I had high hopes that this new 2012 score might be definitive, but sadly this is not the case. Kevin Brownlow used a clip from THE LODGER in his excellent documentary, CINEMA EUROPE, and those moments from the film scored by Carl Davis were certainly an example of how well this film could be served by a proper score. This new score by Nitin Sawhney was apparently commissioned by the British Film Institute to accompany their restoration of THE LODGER. The visuals HAVE been improved significantly, so the blu-ray is definitely worth the investment for Hitchcock and silent devotees. But the score is a disappointment, and I hope, if the BFI continues to release blu-rays of the restored Hitchcock silents, that they will be more careful and selective in their choice of composer. Once again, the priority of a silent film score should be to serve the FILM most importantly, far less than the whims or "creative instincts" of the composer.
Concerning the image quality of the blu-ray, I found it necessary to lower the brightness and increase the contrast on my monitor settings to achieve the most pleasing picture. This may very well depend upon the equipment you are using, although I have found that this sort of adjustment has sometimes been necessary for vintage films on blu-ray, while others appear perfectly composed with a "standard" setting, without any adjustment. The image in general has been vastly improved by the BFI restoration, and the film grain is apparent and pleasing throughout most of the film. THE LODGER has been a somewhat problematic film in the past due to the obviously lackluster prints which survived, so this upgrade in the blu-ray format is certainly most welcome. I doubt if another orchestral score will be commissioned anytime soon, which unfortunately makes this release (a highly anticipated one) a mixed bag.