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A few words about... The Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection


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#1 of 219 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted September 27 2005 - 08:31 AM

This is a huge boxed set.

Where do I begin?

Possibly by giving you the bottom line.

Those who already own most or all of the Universal Hitchcock films on DVD, and aren't terribly interested in qualitative increases in the look of the discs, and don't have high end gear to show off image quality, are not going to be gaining anything extraordinary.

For those who have only a handful or none of the discs, or simply want a higher quality copy of certain films, The Masterpiece Collection is the deal of the decade.

Checking online prices, the cost per disc is less than $6 a film.

Back in the days of 16mm prints, one could easily have spent almost $20,000 to own copies of all of these films, if one could find them. This is part of the miracle of DVD.


THE DETAILS

As has been reported, Psycho and "Vertigo" are now anamorphic widescreen, although I'm not certain if they are new transfers or adapted from earlier digital masters.

Psycho has a cleaner look to it overall, although still dupey in some sequences, possibly source related; "Vertigo" overall looks as good or better than the previous release.

With one small caveat.

Whoever was handling color erred in the main title sequence, which should be virtually colorless until the image moves in on the eye. It is now simply wrong. The title sequence in general looks better, and is brighter than the previous DVD which was too dark. It had been ported over from the laser disc. The rest of the disc is fine.

Back when the original DVD was being prepared, it was requested that the "original" monaual tracks be included. The studio position at that time was very simple. Buyers of those little CD-like discs were not going to be given anything more than the purchasers of laserdiscs. So be it.

You'll note that I use the term "original" tracks in quotes. There's a reason for this. The original tracks do not exist. What one hears today is mono audio derived from a used 35mm optical print - several generations away from any semblence to the quality of the magnetic originals.

Rear Window is sharper, with an apparent new transfer. This exacerbates the grain problem which is part and parcel of any 5247 Eastman Color production. The grain on the new DVD is normal and accurate.

The Birds has a cleaner look than the previous release.

The Trouble with Harry is a fine looking transfer, which has a cleaner and more accuragte look to it.

Saboteur is a major improvement over the older rendition.

Shadow of a Doubt, one of the great Hitchcock films, has a cleaner look.

Topaz looks cleaner with better shadow detail, and more accurate color.

Frenzy appears cleaner, with better color fidelity.

Rope seems to be a carry over. The same appears to be the case with Marnie and Family Plot.

The only really bad news here is that The Man Who Knew Too Much is probably only suitable as a coaster. Simply impermissible.

Two fine feature length documentaries, carried over from the earlier discs now find their way to disc 16. Quality work from Laurent Bouzerou, previous to his "talking head" period.

A television interview of Mr. Hitchcock conducted by Pia Lindstrom is a nice extra. However, anyone purchasing the boxed set to get the Hitchcock AFI tribute should be warned. The only thing here are about fifteen minutes of excerpts. This is not the broadcast.

In short only a few of the films appear to be carry overs, with improvements to be found in most of the other titles - some major.

At approximately $83 for the collection, which is beautifully packaged, as long as one doesn't mind extracting discs from beneath others, the new Masterpiece Collection is a solid buy of some of the greatest films ever created.

Universal is virtually giving this away, and it is certain to be one of the major Holiday gift items of the 2005 season.

Overall, from a personal perspective, as I love these films, I'm extremely impressed and pleased.

As an addendum, and after an extended re-evaluation of the discs on a higher end system, and on a large screen yesterday evening, Torn Curtain also has been upgraded.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 219 OFFLINE   Vincent-P

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Posted September 27 2005 - 08:36 AM

Was the title sequence color wrong on the previous DVD of Vertigo? I've only seen it once and that was over a year ago.

#3 of 219 OFFLINE   Dale MA

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Posted September 27 2005 - 08:38 AM

Thank-you Mr. Harris. I've been waiting for your comments on the set, I can't wait to recieve mine Posted Image Posted Image

#4 of 219 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted September 27 2005 - 09:04 AM

The color in the main title sequence was previoulsy correct. This may be something as simple as an increase in chroma by a lab tech who may have thought that it looked "wrong." In the big picture, this is minutia, and does not affect the value or importance of either the DVD or the Collecion. My intent in bringing it to the fore, is simply to have it on the table as part of an honest evaluation.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#5 of 219 OFFLINE   Brian PB

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Posted September 27 2005 - 09:12 AM

Interesting that Universal's press release states
Quote:
The final disc in this exceptional boxed set includes The American Film Institute's Salute to Alfred Hitchcock, a touching tribute to Hitchcock's lifetime of extraordinary work
which now appears to be misleading.

Granted, film clips from the non-Universal-controlled films would require clearance from the rights holders, but to give us only 15 minutes of excerpts out of the 100-minute telecast is ridiculous.Just another exapmle of Universal doing things on the cheap (see also the laughable 15-minute bonus disc in The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection set)


#6 of 219 OFFLINE   EricSchulz

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Posted September 27 2005 - 11:11 AM

My only other Hitchcock discs are the set from last year (Stranger on a Train, etc.) so this is highly anticipated! Psycho is one of my top films of all time.

Any word on the 36 page booklet that the ad in the new TV Guide magazine refers to?

#7 of 219 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted September 27 2005 - 12:34 PM

Mr. Schultz...

The 36 page booklet is a waste of space and time. Its use is to basically replicate the credit blocks, which would normally go on the backs of individual packaging.

If you're purchasing the set for Psycho, be aware that there are audio sync problems.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#8 of 219 OFFLINE   Douglas Bailey

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Posted September 27 2005 - 01:36 PM

RAH writes:
If you're purchasing the set for Psycho, be aware that there are audio sync problems.

Details, please? Where in the film? How badly?
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#9 of 219 OFFLINE   RickER

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Posted September 27 2005 - 01:37 PM

Once again Universal strikes! Why cant they be as great as they were in the LD days. I own 1/2 the movies from this set, and i guess all i would do is trade once problem for another. Sooo...I will keep the non anamorphic transfers i already have, and skip this set as i have enough to buy anyway. Thanks again Universal.

#10 of 219 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted September 27 2005 - 02:00 PM

I wish Universal would just hand over the best elements of the films they have to Criterion and ask for some HD masters scanneda 4K, with colour and digital clean up performed by Lowry digital.

Well, I hope that's what happens for the HD releases, because it seems that these new transfers will only be adequate for regular DVD.

I don't understand how Universal could be so short sighted. These films obviously make a lot of money for them, you'd think they would invest a few million now so that they don't have to revisit them for another 10 years.

#11 of 219 OFFLINE   MatS

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Posted September 27 2005 - 03:14 PM

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#12 of 219 OFFLINE   george kaplan

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Posted September 27 2005 - 03:22 PM

This is turning out to be a tough decision for me. I already own the 12 films in this set that I want. I don't mind double-dipping, but it appears that only some of these have improved PQ, and some have new problems.

Robert,

Is the sound problem on Psycho new to this dvd, or is it also on the current dvd?
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#13 of 219 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted September 27 2005 - 03:46 PM

I hate "sync" problems on videos/DVDs. Very annoying IMO.

Good example being the otherwise-very-nice pair of DVD sets that "Shout! Factory" put out of Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life". The video is horribly out-of-sync with the audio on most episodes. I'm guessing it couldn't be helped; because, given the care put into the remainder of those two sets, I cannot believe it simply "slipped through the cracks" unnoticed and was actually a fixable problem.

Another "Sync" problem is supposedly residing in the new DVD of "The Innocents" (a nice-looking 16x9 disc too IMO). But I had a look at that today, and the "sync" seems perfect. Even the "carriage door slam" in question seemed OK to me (because it's really a kind of "double sound" that we hear when she closes the door, IMO, a kind of "click-click", if that makes any sense. Anyway, I couldn't find any sync issues with that disc at all on my copy).

#14 of 219 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted September 27 2005 - 04:19 PM

I held off pre-ordering this....

I'm so glad I didn't.

I thought it would be great to have all new transfers, beautifully done, and great new extras. I was especially interested in the AFI Tribute (my Image LD is now suffering from laser rot).

Now that I know the truth, I'll save my money and wait for the HD-DVD editions...

Hopefully by that time, Universal would have gotten their act together.

Despite a very nice TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I have been constantly let down by every Universal DVD I've bought in the last several years.

What a shame.

#15 of 219 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted September 27 2005 - 04:32 PM

I wish Universal got the details right (color on Vertigo, sync on Psycho), but this is still a purchase I want. The only Universal Hitchcock I ever bought was Psycho (when it finally reduced to $9.99), so I'll be happy to have these anyways.

What exactly is the problem with The Man Who Knew Too Much? The captures on DVD Beaver make it seem that Universal added too much filtering (Miramax style).

On the other hand, The Trouble With Harry looks like it was shot in the last few years.

#16 of 219 OFFLINE   Ravi K

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Posted September 27 2005 - 05:34 PM

I was holding out on the non-anamorphic Vertigo and Psycho in anticipation of new transfers, but these new discs have problems too. I'm torn Posted Image
 

#17 of 219 OFFLINE   ScottR

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Posted September 27 2005 - 05:46 PM

Mr. Harris,
On the previous Psycho dvd, in the scene where Marion hears "Mother" speaking out the window, you can barely hear Mother. Is this the same on the new dvd, and if so, is that how it is supposed to sound? You can clearly make out "her" dialogue in the Making of doc.

#18 of 219 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted September 28 2005 - 12:49 AM

The sync is noted, but nothing horrific, nor does it continue for long stretches. It occurs during the scene in which Mr. Balsam is speaking with Mr. Perkins at the motel's front desk.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#19 of 219 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted September 28 2005 - 03:43 AM

This still sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Not perfect, but sweet.

Is this sync issue new? I haven't watched Psycho since it first came out, and can't remember specifically. I have noticed minor sync issues on other classic films, pressumably from ADR as opposed to faulty mastering, is this the case here?

It sounds like the only other issue is "the Man Who Knew To Much", wich is a shame as it is a favorite of mine, but I understand the original DVD was crap as well, is it possible that the materials are just shot for this title?

#20 of 219 OFFLINE   Bradley-E

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Posted September 28 2005 - 04:09 AM

I already own them all seprately. I'll pass on the new set.