Jamaica Inn is definitely lesser Alfred Hitchcock, but it's not the terrible film it's often assumed to be. True, it suffers considerably from the fact that star Charles Laughton was also the producer, interfering mightily with Hitchcock and not allowing the director the free hand he needed to salvage what was admittedly a rather dull script. In spite of this, however, there are a number of Hitchcockian touches, including an amoral, misanthropic man who teeters on (and goes over) the brink of madness (think Strangers on a Train and Psycho). And the director does very well with his large-scale action sequences, as well as guiding new leading lady Maureen O'Hara in an impressive star performance. (For the record, O'Hara also looks simply stunning.) Laughton is a much bigger problem, giving a performance that is ludicrous and over the top; it's true that he holds your attention (even when the character shouldn't be doing so), but Laughton becomes tiresome very quickly. Robert Newton, as the hero/love interest, is also a bit stiff. Still, even with Hitchcock operating at less than his best, he does manage to make Jamaica reasonably entertaining -- especially when Laughton gets out of the way.
by Craig Butler review