The BFI restoration of Alfred Hitchcock's silent masterpiece Blackmail was shown for the first time at a special outdoor screening at the British Museum, the location of the film's chilling chase sequence. The film was accompanied by an ensemble of eighteen musicians conducted by Timothy Brock performing Neil Brand's specially arranged score.

With the programme commencing before sunset the projection challenge was to make sure that the screen images were bright enough to be seen in almost full daylight conditions and also that this glorious BFI restoration could be fully appreciated by the sell-out audience of over 1,000. So four of QED's new Christie WU20K-J 20,000 lumens projectors were quadruple stacked in order to produce astonishing high brightness images of exceptional quality.

Additional pre-screening content was played back from high spec Macbook Pros. Source switching was handled by an Analog Way DiVentix II seamless switcher ensuring that all elements of the rig were fully digital, and the film was simultaneously relayed to an on-stage monitor for the conductor via a 100m DVI fibre-optic link so as to provide frame accurate synchronisation with the main screen image.

Prior to the screening the entire audience was asked to put on Alfred Hitchcock masks and were then captured by a photographer on the roof to create an eerie, yet fascinating group shot to commemorate this extraordinary once-in-a lifetime experience.

Photos 1 & 2 by Benedict Johnson
Photos 3 & 4 by Linda Nylind

Blackmail

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock | Starring Anny Ondra, John Longden, Sara Allgood | UK 1929 | Black and white | Silent | 84min
One of the best British films of the 1920s, Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail is a true masterpiece of the silent era. A young girl engaged to a stuffy policeman is enticed up to an artist's studio, laying herself open to the blackmail of the title.Through its mixture of location filming and roster of believable working-class characters, Hitchcock's seminal thriller (made in both sound and silent versions) also succeeds as a rich evocation of London life. From its opening sequence with the police tracking down a wanted criminal (encompassing location and studio shooting), through scenes on the London Underground (studio), Whitehall (location), the Lyon's Tea House at Piccadilly Circus (location), and on to the climactic chase in and atop the British Museum (location and studio), the film successfully eludes its theatrical origins. A highpoint in Hitchcock's early career, and of British silent cinema, the director would later revisit and surpass the knife murder in Blackmail with those featured in both The 39 Steps (1935) and, most famously, Psycho (1960).

The restoration was produced by the BFI National Archive in association with STUDIOCANAL with principal restoration funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation.
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