May 12, 2014

Review: Juno and the Paycock (1929)

Juno and the Paycock is a real oldie. Only two years removed from the first talkie, JatP at times still feels like it could be a silent movie but it isn't. The dialogue is actually quite good which can be attributed to the fact that it is based off of a play by Sean O'Casey. I'm not much of a play guy but this seems like a pretty decent play overall. It's aged semi-gracefully which is an accomplishment.

If you're wondering what the heck a paycock is, it's a term that Juno calls her husband since he's as useful as a peacock is (not very) and he always has someone to pay since he's irresponsible with his family's money. For the most part, Captain Boyle likes to spend the money he gets on drinking which he does his best to hide from his wife Juno.


Genre: comedy, drama
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by: John Maxwell
Written by: Alfred Hitchcock
Music by: N/A
Running time: 85 minutes
Production company: British International Pictures
Distributed by: Wardour Films, British International Pictures, Harold Auten
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

Starring: Barry Fitzgerald, Maire O'Neill, Edward Chapman, Sidney Morgan, Sara Allgood



The story follows Boyle in his attempts at staying afloat without holding a job. Despite his wife's pestering, anytime a job opportunity presents itself causes Boyle to complain of leg pain and unable to do the job. As a result, Juno supports the household which also includes a daughter and a son. Boyle and his family's luck changes when a family member dies and leaves a pretty big sum of money that is destined for them.


It's definitely a depressing story but it does have a healthy amount of comedy. I'll be honest that it took me a bit of time to get used to not only the heavy Irish accents but also the difference in language compared to movies today. It's kind of like reading Shakespeare play in high school you know? For example, it takes about half the play before understanding what is going on in Hamlet. Once you get used to the language, it's a walk in the park. Obviously Juno and the Paycock isn't as bad as that but it's the same idea.

Some of the humour is outdated which is inevitable but there are a few laughs to be had. You probably think you can't laugh from a movie from 1929, but really, think again. The movie is exactly like a play with a few additions from Hitchcock. It was his decision to include a bar scene but the movie takes place in Captain Boyle's flat primarily.

However, there are some really unforgivable framing issues with whole heads cut off. It's possible though that this is simply the copy that I had that was at fault but there is a bit of wonky camera work going too. The camera will sometimes readjust itself suddenly for example, making it look very amateurish. The sound is pretty rough too but that's no surprise coming from a movie dating back to 1929. 

Juno and the Paycock is mostly Alfred Hitchcock doing a 100% faithful adaptation of the play. Make it 95% faithful. Like I had said, it seems like a pretty good play but there's nothing really special about it. There are some pretty blatant technical problems and Hitchcock doesn't get a chance to show his expertise. I'd say that Juno and the Paycock deserves a viewing if you're curious to see an Irish play of the time or if you're a Hitchcock completionist.



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