Released Jan. 19, 1944: THE LODGER, starring Laird Cregar, Merle Oberon, and George Sanders. Directed by John Brahm (Guest in the House, Hangover Square, The Brasher Doubloon). Jack the Ripper is loose in London, murdering women, eluding police, and holding the city in the grip of terror. Against this backdrop, a mysterious man with peculiar habits (Laird Cregar) rents a room from a London family, who gradually come to suspect he may be the dreaded Ripper. That’s really all there is to the plot, but within that simple premise lurks a rich and absorbing film, thanks to a well paced story, beautifully atmospheric cinematography, and most importantly, Cregar’s captivating performance. Cregar has a way of being disturbingly creepy and sympathetic at the same time, so even when you’re fairly certain he is indeed the Ripper, a part of you still believes it might not be him, or at least hopes it’s not him. As he did in I Wake Up Screaming, Cregar steals the show with a captivating yet understated performance. His sad eyes, large frame, and soft-spoken voice create an unforgettable presence that immediately draws you in. What also makes The Lodger work so well is that it’s not a slasher film, but an eerie character study of a troubled and obsessive individual. Occasionally, the dialog becomes a little awkward, especially when Cregar has extended scenes with Merle Oberon and his cryptically veiled rants are all he has to offer, but this is a minor quibble with an otherwise excellent film. We give The Lodger 4.5 out 5 fedoras.