Blu-ray Review While we wait for a full HTF Blu-ray Review of Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    XenForo Template While we wait for a full HTF Blu-ray review of .  Of course, I have upgraded the picture and sound ratings to the full 5, as I have seen that the digital issues I was noting at the time have been addressed by my getting a 24fps HDTV, and I have come to appreciate the depth of the 5.1 sound mix a bit more.     DISC TEN:  THE BIRDS   VIDEO QUALITY 4 ½/5 The Birds is presented in an AVC 1.85:1 transfer (@ 30 mbps) that shows off good color and a lot of clarity throughout the movie.  There may be some digital massaging going on here, but it’s really subtle.  We noted a very slight red registration error just after the birds attack the school, but this went away very quickly.  Fans of this movie will have a lot of fun here.   AUDIO QUALITY 5/5 The Birds is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that is just as unnerving as when the movie played in theaters.  This isn’t a movie that has a big musical score.  It’s a movie that has a lot of sound effects and atmosphere that give the birds a presence and a voice.     DISC ELEVEN:  MARNIE   VIDEO QUALITY 1 ½/5 Marnie is presented in an AVC 1.85:1 transfer (@ 32 mbps) that falls short of the mark in two different ways.  I viewed the title both on Joe Kane’s optimal projection system and on my own 65” VT30 plasma HDTV.  Different issues appeared in each viewing.  On the projection system, we noted an uneven grain level and heavy filtration, the latter of which reflects the approach taken by Hitchcock during the filming of the movie.  The picture is overly soft during most shots of Tippi Hedren, something the Blu-ray really accentuates in a way I can’t imagine Hitchcock would have intended.  The effect doesn’t emphasize Ms. Hedren’s beauty but instead makes her shots jump out at the viewer in terms of their lack of clarity.  There’s a bit of visible pulsing around 21 minutes into the movie that has no explanation.  There are also many moments of good quality as seen in projection, but the last few minutes of the movie are extremely soft, making the film difficult to watch.  Now, this would be troubling enough on its own.  Except that when the Blu-ray is viewed on the VT30 (and this is a professionally calibrated set with the work having been done this past June), the digital grain noise mentioned by Nick Wrigley in his assessment jumps to the fore.  The digital noise appears for the first 17 chapters of the movie and then suddenly disappears in the final chapters.  I’ve been told this difference in PQ reflects a difference in presentation between a projection system and a flat screen HDTV.   It likely indicates a higher contrast setting on the HDTV which is bringing the noise out.  In either case, these PQ issues should not be occurring.    AUDIO QUALITY 5/5 Marnie is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that, again, does its job well.     DISC TWELVE: TORN CURTAIN   VIDEO QUALITY  3/5 Torn Curtain has an AVC 1.85:1 transfer (@ 32 mbps) that mostly shows a heavy amount of filtration that makes many shots too soft to comfortably follow.  I am grading this picture in the middle of the range as I am unsure how much of the problems here are direct choices by Mr. Hitchcock, and how much of the problems come from the transfer.  As it is, the movie is notable for some truly odd framing and staging choices.  (The opening love scene between Paul Newman and Julie Andrews has some very strange shots in it, although it does seem to be the inspiration for a similar scene in the early minutes of Michael Mann’s Heat.)  There’s also an outdoor restaurant scene, filmed completely on a soundstage with exterior “restaurant” plates rear projected behind the cast.  This is truly one of the oddest-looking movies I’ve ever encountered, on Blu-ray or otherwise.   AUDIO QUALITY 5/5 Torn Curtain is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that presents the dialogue and John Addison’s score quite well.     DISC THIRTEEN: TOPAZ   VIDEO QUALITY  4/5 Topaz is presented in a VC-1 1.85:1 transfer (@ 30 mbps) that is mostly quite strong in the picture area.  There is some pulsing during the opening titles, but the picture quality improves very quickly after that.  The picture shows some mild digital enhancement but the color is superb.  There is one very strange soft shot in an airport, but overall, this one looks quite good.   AUDIO QUALITY 5/5 Topaz is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that presents the dialogue and music in a pleasing manner.   . DISC FOURTEEN:  FRENZY   VIDEO QUALITY 4 ½/5 Frenzy is presented in a VC-1 1.85:1 transfer (@ 30 mbps) that is actually a lot stronger than I had been expecting.  There is some mild enhancement present, but the color and clarity are overall quite good.  I also note that the titles errors have been addressed, apparently by reattaching the original title sequence rather than using a textless background to recreate the sequence.       AUDIO QUALITY 5/5 Frenzy is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that has no problems I could discern.     DISC FIFTEEN: FAMILY PLOT   VIDEO QUALITY  1/5 Family Plot is presented in a VC-1 1.85:1 transfer (@ 30 mbps) that is best described as unfortunate.  Things quickly get off to a bad start with the varying grain levels seen in the opening scene with Barbara Harris.   These levels wildly shift throughout the movie.  Some scenes are better than others.  A mid-film store counter scene around chapter 5 with Bruce Dern actually looks quite good.  But then things devolve again.  Digital work is evident here, but it’s unclear what it’s accomplishing as the picture really doesn’t look very good.  A matte shot with a young-ish Craig T. Nelson looks absolutely horrible – in a manner I strongly doubt it did when originally presented in theaters.  I note that the movie has a strong color palette and the Blu-ray presents that aspect well.  But the transfer is of poor quality and really should be redone.   AUDIO QUALITY 5/5 Family Plot is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that brings both the score and the dialogue out well.     On the basis of what I’ve described here, I’m still going to Recommend this set for purchase – purely on the strength of the ten good discs. The other five discs have issues of varying concern.  Two of them are outright disasters, two are arguably close to that level, and one simply has a registration error that may or may not displease viewers who can detect it.  If you’re a fan of Rear Window, Vertigo and The Birds, not to mention Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, The Trouble With Harry, Topaz or Frenzy, this is a good set to purchase.  As an added bonus, the set also contains the excellent Blus previously released of Psycho and North by Northwest.  On the other hand, if you’re picking up this set out of affection for The Man Who Knew Too Much, Marnie or Family Plot, you may find yourself grievously disappointed.  If you’re looking for a pristine copy of Rope or Torn Curtain, you may have more questions after seeing the Blus of those titles in this set.  So I’m going to recommend this set with the qualification that you think carefully about which of the movies you’re interested in, and which are your personal favorites.  If you can find the set at a decent price point, this is a great opportunity to pick up ten great Hitchcock films, presented quite well in high definition.  Just don’t expect much from the other five.   Kevin Koster October 29, 2012.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Kevin,

    Thank you very much for your hard work and I look forward to your extended reviews. Unfortunately, I can't say much more as my order of this box set hasn't shipped yet.









    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Excellent review! I already ordered it! Sorry I couldn't make it to Joe's house over the weekend. Tearing down the theater from the meet took much longer than I anticipated.
     
  4. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    Thank you for quick review, Kevin. Between this and Robert Harris's comments, I decided to once again place my order for the U.K. set, as Family Plot and The Man Who Knew Too Much are not favorites of mine. It's too bad that every title in this set is not well done, though, as each of us Hitchcock fans has different favorite films. Marnie is the biggest disappointment for me personally.
     
  5. Craig Beam

    Craig Beam Screenwriter

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    My copy should arrive today, so I'll be tracking the package like a hawk. I'm fortunate that only one of the problem titles is among my favorites (Rope). I'm hoping that Universal will redo it (and a few others) and offer exchanges at some point down the road.
     
  6. JoHud

    JoHud Producer

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    I'm starting to wonder if one of the main problems with The Man who Knew Too Much and Family Plot on this set is Universal trying to "save" these transfers derived from poor source material with (as RAH would put it) lots of knob turning.
    Not too troubled by Marnie, because it seems the main problem is the very heavy soft focus, which appears to be something the film always had and doesn't lend itself to an HD presentation as well as other titles.
     
  7. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks for all the time you put into this. The Man Who Knew Too Much is one of my favorites so its too bad that it looks so bad. There are a lot of other titles out competing for my $$ right now, so I will see what Universal will be doing about it (if anything) before I take the plunge.
     
  8. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Great summation Kevin.
    I have the same plasma HDTV you do, so I'll have to see if I see what you saw.
    I am surprised TMWKTM is described as you did. That sounds more like a rough cut then a final release print. That is shockingly bad! I got the set today, though I may not watch TMWKTM right away. I'm not sure which title to see first! :)
     
  9. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    It seems like TMWKTM is just an example of what the deteriorated materials look like, that Universal has made a very accurate and sharp representation of the current state of the elements. Iinteresting and educational for those into film preservation, but not something to be watched as entertainment...
     
  10. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Precisely the kind of summation I was looking for to assist with my purchasing decision. Thanks for the work (and to Mr. Harris for his postings.) Still kind of on the fence, so we'll see. :) Thanks again for the information.
    - Walter.
     
  11. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Huh. I think I got a foreign set by mistake. My set arrived today and the back clearly states: "Perfect Hi-Def Picture!" I'm not sure what language that is. Can anyone here translate what that means for me? It's right smack dab in the middle and in bold lettering, so I think it's meant to be seen and comprehended.
     
  12. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Does this mean the UK version is superior? If so is it all region coded or will I need to buy a region free blu ray player? Thanks!
     
  13. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Obviously no one has it in hand yet, but the UK set is supposed to be region-free, which means the discs will play in any player. In general Universal's discs are region-free; the recent UK Monsters set is region-free and plays just fine in my stock US PS3.

    The main reasons a lot of us are ordering the UK set: (1) It's MUCH cheaper, even considering shipping from the UK; (2) It doesn't include a superfluous copy of North by Northwest.
     
  14. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Ah ok. I thought maybe someone had seen in a preview somewhere that maybe the UK versions were superior (it's happened before with other movies). But given how this is Universal in both regions, I'm betting they didn't bother to do two separate transfers for US/UK. I do see it comes out much cheaper and I do have NxNW so I'll probably go that way as well.
     
  15. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    We might need a ban on sarcasm because not everyone seems to be able to detect it...
     
  16. Paul Penna

    Paul Penna Supporting Actor

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    For all its problems that shouldn't have been there, I don't think that TMWKTM compares at all to the sheer ugliness of much of Family Plot, so my personal numerical relationship would have been the other way around, and a somewhat higher number for the former.
     
  17. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    In my rush to post the pre-review, I made two pretty good typos. Thanks to the readers who pointed them out, and sorry about that. I try to do a good spot check before I post, but the gremlins in my computer sometimes get away with mischief...
     
  18. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I finally have the set but have no idea of where best to post my comments. Here? The main overall thread? The separate Harris threads?
     
  19. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Thanks for the ongoing review. I am sorry that Family Plot looks so bad, because it is one of my favorites (the first Hitchcock I saw in the theater).
    While I have the U.K. Limited Edition on order, I may cancel that order and wait for the inevitable singles.
     
  20. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I've posted in the separate threads but will consolidate here for anyone who cares. Please keep in mind, these are films I know intimately - not only because I've seen them countless times from the time of their release on (for the 50s films), but because I've owned dye transfer prints on every single film that was printed that way. The caveat is I have only spot-checked each transfer, watching about thirty minutes of each film at different points.
    So: Vertigo: Exactly as Mr. Harris states to the letter. Color off in the main titles at one point (not quite sure how it happened but it's obnoxious). And the handful of other problematic shots, but as he said, 90% of it looks pretty terrific - and unfortunately, that only makes the other 10% look even worse than it is. But what looks good looks VERY good and the color in 90% of the transfer is pretty damn accurate. I'll be watching it in its entirety soon.
    The Man Who Knew Too Much: Terrible. There is no way around this. Let me start by saying it's a huge step up from the grotesque DVD in the velvet box. Let me finish by saying I don't find it sharp at all - in fact, it's clear from frame one that this is not off the VistaVision negative or anything close to it. The color pulsing is so odd it's not to be believed, actually. The bazaar scenes are completely faded. I had to laugh when someone said that's what the skies should look like in that kind of place. No. They should be blue - they were always blue. Otherwise at its best its middling and at its worst it's truly awful. A major botch job and I'm afraid not the only one in this set.
    Marnie: It doesn't matter what you watch this on. Something clearly went wrong somewhere in this transfer. If I had to posit a guess, I think they used the DVD transfer from the velvet box, used some DNR then put back in, well, can't call it grain, so just call it that ugly black crawling stuff and snow - yes, Mr. Wrigley called it right. This is a disaster. Dye transfer prints on this film were wonderful, whether you like what Mr. Hitchcock and Mr. Burks were doing or not. The street scenes at Marnie's mother's are just awful - they should be extremely sharp. And the color has been futzed with from the DVD color - you can see just how much very clearly in the pages of the credits and in the car ride towards the end of the film - the rear projection plate should be almost all gray with the rain - and here it's anything but that. But nothing works in this transfer and whatever they've done it has exacerbated the diffusion in a way that is grotesque. Shame on Universal for trying to spruce up something that was fine for DVD but hardly befitting something called The Masterpiece Collection in a little year called 2012. I now have to keep the velvet box.
    Torn Curtain: Can't agree with Mr. Harris on this one. Same transfer as the DVD (at least to my eyes) and it just doesn't look great to me. A new, fresh transfer off the actual camera negative would have produced a perfect Blu-ray. As it is, we're left with something a little sharper than the DVD, but not nearly enough. The problem is the DVD actually looked fine - but when you hi-def it suddenly you can really see the story, and, again for me, it's not what it should be. Not a disaster like Marnie of The Man Who Knew Too Much, but a disappointment nonetheless. It has nothing to do with the way it was filmed - you either like that or not - but the transfer is not up to 2012 snuff, at least not for me.
    I'll be checking the others tomorrow.
     

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