By the time Hitchcock made Young and Innocent, he had been in the directing chair for some time. He had already made The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, and Sabotage. Yet he had yet broke into American fame (and therefore legend) and was still trying to prove himself a master of suspense. His persona was not fully formed. Maybe that is why this film feels like Hitchcock copycat more than a work of the master himself.
The film starts out with a startling murder and the discovery of the body by our handsome protagonist. A classic case of wrong place, wrong time, our handsome protagonist is accused of murder after they find out that he was named in the dead woman’s will. Thrown into jail, he is desperate to prove his innocence, so he enlists the police chief’s daughter to help him escape and look for the missing belt to his raincoat (one of Hitchcock’s silliest macguffins) and therefore the real murderer. The daughter is convinced by the protagonist of his innocence and a quick romance begins. The great climax scene reveals the true murderer and the mistake of the girl’s police chief father. Everything is solved and wrapped up into a nice neat bow.
Although the film is merely a piece of fluff, there are parts of it where you can glimpse at the true genius behind the scenes. The epic last scene is a great example of what we are to see later on in his career. Everything is leading up to the tramp identifying the true murderer. He only gets one chance or else he is condemning the handsome innocent protagonist to death. So the tramp must be careful. He scans the room full of people dancing and drinking. A crane shot goes from behind the tramp’s head to the true murderer, the drummer of the all black face band. The drummer recognizes the tramp and tries to cover up anything distinguishing him, but he cannot hide his facial twitch. This small thing is what ends up giving him away. Something so simple as a facial twitch had never been ingested with such suspense. He tried to control it, smoking cigarettes, taking pills, abruptly leaving the stage, but what he doesn’t know is that he is already caught. He is caught by the viewer. We know he did it, but can’t do anything about it at all. The only choice Hitchcock gives us is to watch as the heroes figure it out. This is what draws me to Hitchcock. Although the audience might already know what has happened and who did it, we are held captive until the hero figures it out for himself. The sense that you want to yell at the screen for the hero to understand, to figure it out, I feel like originated with Hitchcock. He is the master of it. That is why I still watch his early stuff and his minor works.