The Rat – 1925 | 74 mins | Crime, Drama | B&W
Ivor Novello redeemed his reputation with the play The Rat, which he co-wrote with actress Constance Collier. It is the story of Pierre Boucheron, the ‘swaggering, ultra-romantic hero of the Gallic underworld’. According to his creators, Boucheron was ‘a character without one redeeming feature in his make-up’.
The original screen adaptation of The Rat was Novello’s first film for Gainsborough. Directed with verve by Graham Cutts, it is full of fights, exhilarating chases (at one point, Boucheron disappears down a manhole to escape the police), and boasts its own sultry tango sequence, all too clearly based on Valentino’s tango in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). (To help his partner dance more easily, Boucheron rips her skirt at the hip.) Most of the action unfolds in the White Coffin, a demi-monde bar populated by Bohemians and ruffians. The story, which involves Boucheron seducing a wealthy, bored aristocrat whose jewels he covets, is far-fetched enough to accommodate Novello’s louche, anti-naturalistic style without undue embarrassment. After all, Boucheron is more pantomime hero than fully hewn character.
Ivor Novello: Pierre Boucheron
Marie Ault: Mere Colline
Hugh Brook: Paul
Esme Fitzgibbons: Madeleine Sornay
Iris Grey: Rose
Isabel Jeans: Zelie de Chaumet
James Lindsay: Detective Caillard