This is where to many I will get myself in trouble. The nerve of me to put Hitchcock’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ above the much more notable 39 Steps or the critically acclaimed Foreign Correspondent. However considering how similar those films are to the majority of his catalogue, this is where Jamaica Inn is a refreshing change of pace. The first of three Hitchcock adaptations of a Daphne De Maurier novel (followed by Rebecca and The Birds), this film is set in Cornwall in 1819 where a gang of criminals engineer shipwrecks and reap the rewards within the confines of their headquarters known as the Jamaica Inn (a real location in Cornwall which had been long associated with smuggling since the mid 1700’s and is today used as a pub and museum).
Actress Maureen O’Hare in her first major role was hand picked by Charles Laughton, the star of the film as well as the co-producer who often got in the way of Hitchcock’s vision. Both of them turn in excellent performances within a plot that has action, comedy, romance, and even some mystery despite not as much as Hitchcock would have preferred. Despite its deviation from the novel (much to the author’s chagrin), there is legitimate tension throughout the film which concludes with nothing less than a bang! This was his last British film before making the move to Hollywood and was a huge box office success, despite the director himself disowning it as he blamed Laughton’s influence as to why the film became “an absurd idea.” All the same the film still has many redeeming qualities despite not being a quintessential Hitchcock film.