Jamaica Inn [VHS] 
Alfred Hitchcock directed this adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel - his last British film - before leaving for Hollywood and a contract with David O. Selznick. Young orphan Mary (Maureen O'Hara) arrives in 18th century Cornwall to live with her Uncle Joss (Leslie Banks), the landlord of Jamaica Inn. After finding work as a barmaid, Mary discovers that Joss commands a band of pirates who smuggle contraband from wrecked ships. Mary is further unnerved by the ever-present Justice of the Peace, Sir Humphrey Pengallan (Charles Laughton).
It's generally acknowledged that the Master of Suspense disliked costume dramas, and Jamaica Inn--a rip-roaring melodrama drawn from a Daphne du Maurier pot-boiler, set in 1820s Cornwall--is about as costumed as they come. So what was he doing directing it? Killing time, essentially. In 1939 Hitchcock was due to quit Britain for Hollywood, but delays Stateside left him with time on his hands. Never one to sit idle, he agreed to make one picture for Mayflower Productions, a new outfit formed by actor Charles Laughton and émigré German producer Erich Pommer.
An innocent young orphan (the 19-year-old Maureen O'Hara in her first starring role) arrives at her uncle's remote Cornish inn to find it a den of reprobates given to smuggling, wrecking and gross overacting. They're all out-hammed, though, by Laughton at his most corseted and outrageously self-indulgent as the local squire to whom Maureen runs for help. Since his star was also the co-producer, Hitch couldn't do much with the temperamental actor. He contented himself with adding a few characteristic touches--including a spot of bondage (always a Hitchcock favourite), and the chief villain's final spectacular plunge from a high place--and slyly sending up the melodramatic absurdities of the plot. Jamaica Inn hardly stands high in the Master's canon, but it trundles along divertingly enough. Hitchcock fanatics will have fun comparing it with his two subsequent--and far more accomplished--du Maurier adaptations, Rebecca and The Birds.--Philip Kemp
Top Customer Reviews
Don't get me wrong. Jamaica Inn is so over-the-top it's a delight to watch, especially when Laughton is chewing the scenery. Hitchcock, making his last movie in England before leaving for the United States, supposedly became so bored during filming that he didn't care what the actors did. The story is a bodice-ripper by Daphne de Maurier; in fact, Maureen O'Hara's bodice gets ripped not once but twice. The time is about 1800. The place is Cornwall on the rocky coast. Jamaica Inn is a stone hulk of a building close by the warning light that shows ships where to avoid the rocks in the stormy seas. Someone with advance knowledge of ships with rich cargos has been blocking the warning light.Read more ›
Hitchcock getting to grips with entangled innocence.
The original story is brilliant and would very much like to see some film producer take the story up and produce a film based on its original story from beginning to end. I'm sure that it would be a good murder, mystery and suspense, and of course I think it would create a lot of interest regarding Du Murier fans.
The plot, set around 1820, is on the eve of the creation of what was to become the Coastguard. This is an important point because the story is placed in the midst of a gang of wreckers, those who would lure a ship ashore to plunder its cargo and kill the crew lest they provide witness to the deed. In the book, the orphaned heroine Mary Yellan went to live with her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss Merlyn at Jamaica Inn, located at the very heart of Bodmin moor in Cornwall; her bestial uncle appeared to be the leader of the gang but was later revealed to be controlled by the local vicar from Altarnun, Francis Davey. The romantic interest was provided by Joss Merlyn's brother, Jem. In this film version, the lead villain was changed to introduce an entirely new character, Squire Pengallon (Charles Laughton), because critical portrayals of the clergy were forbidden by the Production Code in Hollywood. Laughton as co-producer (he was co-owner of the production company Mayflower Pictures) and also as star of the film, demanded that Hitchcock give his character more screen time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Set on the Land's End coast of Cornwall, this DVD movie is, to quote one critic, "tense and atmospheric". Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Enjoyed this film. Every film with Maureen O'Hara is bound to be enjoyable.Published 3 months ago by H. I. Sampford
The book was good, but this film was truly awful. Plus not a Cornish accent to be heardPublished 4 months ago by Lizzie J
Haven't watched it yet but know will enjoy!! Arrived as predicted. Packaging fine. Nothing to add.Published 6 months ago by michèle
wasnt very impressed with the film, nothing like the book, probably Charles Laughton's worst film. However Rebecca made up for it great film.Published 8 months ago by cornflake