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The Inn

Jamaica Inn is a long way from decent folk.

The coaching inn stands alone on the northern side of the Cornish moors. It was built in the eighteenth century halfway between Bodmin and Launceston. Its isolation gives it a strong sense of privacy and menace.

To this day, the Inn remains barely changed, except it is now surrounded by museums. Over the decades, the vibe of menace evolved into bizarre. The aura of the Inn, however is lent to the museums; the small cluster of buildings in the beautifully desolate Bodmin moor have that same secluded feel.

Mr Potter's Museum features stuffed animals from around the world adding to the surrealism of the area. Other curiosities are also on display, such as the stuffed, two-headed calf and mice in tableaux. The Inn hosts a room devoted to Daphne du Maurier's writing environment.

The rooms have not changed much, with the old-style bathrooms and four-poster beds. Electric lights have been wired up in a subtle as possible fashion. But, the doors and rooms are very low (read 5'5"/165cm), with the corridors and stairwells proportionally small.

The coaches that arrive are powered by diesel engines, replacing the power of horses. They arrive in the bright of day full of tourists. The guests sneaking in at midnight, quietly loading and offloading their spoils, have become the subject of history and legend.

Because of its isolation, it has been the resting place of many a smuggler. However, there is only fictional record of piracy associated with the Inn.

Ghosts still reside in the Inn. The misdeeds of the original clientele, have associated their souls for all eternity with the Inn.

The Book

With such history, Jamaica Inn has been the setting of many books. The most famous book written about the Inn was published in 1936 with the same title, Jamaica Inn. The author was Daphne du Maurier, she later wrote The Birds.

The story follows a young woman (Mary) who moves in with her aunt (Patience) after the death of her parents. Her aunt is much changed in the years of separation from her niece. The reason becomes apparent to the niece when she meets the man of the house (Joss).

Joss' severe character is emphasised by the setting of this Inn. His accomplices are rough and ready, and the only native elegant society is Francis Davey, the vicar of Alternun. He is corrupt to the core. Jem the honest horse thief, also Joss' brother, becomes the love interest for Mary. Jem does not join Joss' operation because it is too immoral for him.

The reader and Mary have to wait until the end of the book to find out the exact details of Joss' operations. It is not until this moment, that Mary realises there are worse things than horse thieving.

Set in the moors of the harsh Cornish coastline, the landscape and the story is more macabre than works such as Wuthering Heights set in the Yorkshire moors. It can be considered a gothic romance novel, but the level of suspense gives the book more. The criminal intrigue is aimed at a 1930s audience and there may not be any explosions, or silencers, but the book is quite chilling with some obvious twists, and some surprising turns.

The Movie

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Maureen O'Hara (Mary), Leslie Banks (Joss), Charles Laughton (Sir Humphrey Pengallan).
Year: 1939

The last movie Hitchcock made in England before continuing his career in USA. It is not one of his best works, but it does carry plenty of his trademarks. Although it does not include his infamous cameo. It is also of interest as the movie introduces Maureen O'Hara in a leading role.

Hitchcock remains somewhat true to the main characters from the Inn: Mary, Joss and Patience. But he seems to have little regard for the book's plot. The vicar becomes an over-the-top nobleman, and changes his name. The love interest is an undercover cop that has no relationship with Joss, except to infiltrate his operation. It is a strange simplification of the plot, and the deviation is sometimes unjustifiably gross.

However, Hitchcock captures the enigmatic aura surrounding the Inn and the book, giving an avid impression of how the Inn was in its heyday.

For many reasons the movie is a must-have for any Hitchcock fanatic. As it separates Hitchcock's talent from Hollywood money.

References:
http://www.jamaicainn.co.uk/
http://users.chariot.net.au/~sahill/travel/england/jamaica/jamaica.htm

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