A theme that appears in pretty much every single one of Hitchcock’s films has been that of the domineering men – that is, men that show assertive, controlling, or even abusive behaviors towards other characters, especially women. Hitchcock’s two films The Lodger and Blackmail can most assuredly be credited with helping to start this trend.
In The Lodger, there are two main male characters that can be seen as domineering, in very different ways. The lodger himself is a looming figure that strikes distrust into the heart of the viewer once he makes his arrival to Daisy’s home, his dark, hooded figure filling the doorway in his very first shot.
Though we learn throughout the film that the lodger is really a nice guy, not capable of murder or of standing up for himself when the police officers search his bag (seriously, YOU HAD A CHANCE), we still see Hitchcock’s desire to cast him as somewhat possessive of Daisy – some could even argue that he has become something of a “sugar daddy” for Daisy near the end. He gets in her space, is occasionally very handsy of her, and likes to be near her… very, very much.
Now, I personally like the lodger a LOT as a person/character, but there is no arguing that he is, to a certain extent, an example of an obsessive and domineering Hitchcockian male character. He is a poor example, admittingly, as the lodger is a much better example of the handsome leading man in Hitchcock’s films. I simply use him to the sake of argument. A much better example of the domineering male character in this film is, of course, Joe, the character that looks like he’s a member of the undead.
Joe is the domineering male of this film, though he is not, storywise, supposed to be seen as the villain. He is the policeman, the sort-of-boyfriend of Daisy, and the rival of the lodger. He immediately comes across as being very overtly aggressive in his romantic advances, and is always somewhat trying to corner Daisy and hide her from the admiring eyes of the new man in the house. He, in a sense, is corralling Daisy, along with the lodger, though he is the clear domineering and distasteful male in the scenario.
Joe is the man in charge, the man that ostensibly is in charge of the household and the people inside – Daisy’s parents look to him for advice and guidance, and he, of course, has an obsession with acquiring Daisy for his own. He also puts Daisy’s lover in danger for his own selfish desires, and tries to assert his control over Daisy by accusing the man she had fallen in love with.
I think we have established how dominating Joe is, so let us move on to the movie with the ultimate selection of domineering male Hitchcock characters, Blackmail.
The two domineering male characters in this movie are, of course, Frank and Mr. Crewe. Both are extremely overbearing and imperious characters, albeit in different ways. Frank is emotionally domineering, while Crewe is physically domineering. Crewe could be used as the ultimate example of the Hitchcockian domineering male character, as he does so in the most invasive of ways – rape. Given, it is only an attempted rape, but the attempt is enough to set him at the top of my list. He asserts his masculinity and possessiveness by forcibly kissing Alice and coercing her into sex. He overpowers her both physically and emotionally, stripping her of her innocence and safety in one go.
The other domineering male is arguably the more harmful one to Alice; he is the one silencing her and controlling every aspect of her life – how she presents herself, how she thinks, what she says, etc. At the beginning of the film, he is rebuffed by Alice, but still keeps up his pursuit.
After the rape attempt occurs and he finds the glove and goes to speak to Alice, it is from that point on that he truly becomes a oppressive presence in the film and in Alice’s life. He does not allow her to defend herself, thinking that he knows better than she how to handle the situation, despite not even knowing the details of what had occurred. He literally keeps Alice next to him at virtually all times, and shadows over her every move with the air of suppression hanging around him. There are many other characters like Frank in other Hitchcock films, such as the crofter in The 39 Steps, who literally keeps his wife closed away from the rest of the world.
In the end of the film, Frank has ensnared Alice in his trap, and she can no longer escape his vise without fear of being discovered – both as being the victim of a near-rape and of killing her soon-to-be rapist. She has been completely dominated, mind and soul, by the emotionally manipulative Detective Frank Webber.
There are many other domineering men in almost all of Hitchcock’s films, and one finds that this theme begins in these two early films of his, especially his first sound flick. This is unfortunate for the victims of these domineering characters, but not for the enthralled audience! More torture for the characters, more tension and fun for us!