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Blu-ray Reviews

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Review - Recommended



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#1 of 50 Kevin EK

Kevin EK

    Screenwriter

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  • Join Date: May 09 2003

Posted November 11 2012 - 05:14 PM

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collectionhas arrived on Blu-ray in a 15-disc set that includes ten solid high definition editions of Hitchcock films, and five discs that have varying degrees of problems.  In an overall manner, it is easy to Recommend this set for purchase, given the number of classic Hitchcock films presented well here.  But the viewer must be warned that Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Marnie, Torn Curtain and Family Plot all have picture quality issues that range from the mildly annoying to the disastrous.  The Man Who Knew Too Much, Marnie and Family Plot in particular have significant problems that those titles’ fans will need to consider before purchasing this set.  Audio quality throughout the set is excellent.  The special features included here are ported over from the most recent DVD editions, although the Vertigo disc is sadly missing a commentary.  Again, this set is Recommended, but with the caveat that the fans should look over this review carefully to confirm that their favorite titles are correctly presented.

 

f367edc1_HitchcockBlu-rayCover.jpeg


Studio: Universal

Year:  Various, between 1942 and 1976

Length:  Various, averaging around 2 hrs, but some run as short as 1 hr 20 mins  

Genre:  Suspense/Adventure/Horror/Comedy (sometimes all at the same time…)


Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 (3 Titles), 1.66:1 (1 Title), 1.78:1 (1 Title), 1.85:1 (10 Titles)

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, Some titles in AVC, some titles in VC-1 (Avg 30mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Most Titles), English Dolby True HD (1 Title), English DTS-HD MA 5.1 (2 Titles)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish on all Titles, French on some titles


Film Rating: Most Titles Rated PG, One Title Not Rated (North By Northwest), One Title PG-13 (The Birds), Two Titles Rated R (Psycho, Frenzy)


Release Date: October 30, 2012






To properly evaluate the picture and sound on these Blu-rays, I brought the discs over to Joe Kane Productions two Saturdays ago and spent over eight hours examining the contents on Joe’s professional grade system. I’m once again grateful to Joe for giving me the opportunity to do so, and I thank him for his generosity, graciousness and for his good counsel. For the record, Joe’s system is the Samsung SP-A 900, an HD projector that he designed, and the screen is a Daylight Affinity .9 Gamma that is 90” (7 ½ feet wide), also of his design. Joe’s system is calibrated to the nth degree, and is set up to allow whatever information is on a Blu-ray disc to be transmitted to the screen and speakers at around 90% - meaning that the system passes through the information without trying to reinterpret the signal. Sitting comfortably at a distance of approximately 8 feet from the 90” screen, Joe and I were able to evaluate all 15 discs as projected. I also brought along for comparison purposes the 2009 Warner Bros 50th Anniversary Blu-ray of North By Northwest and the 2010 Universal 50th Anniversary Blu-ray of Psycho.


The short version of this evaluation is that I’m going to Recommend this set for purchase, based on the strength of ten of the fifteen discs in the set. I cannot make this a Highly Recommended set, due to picture quality issues with the other five discs – Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Marnie, Torn Curtain and Family Plot. But fans of the other ten movies, including Rear Window, Vertigo and The Birds, are going to have a great time with this set. The movies on several of the discs look very, very good, and are worth being sought out, particularly as it is unlikely that any but the most popular of these movies will see individual non-box set releases.


Looking over the complete set, I find that all of the extensive special features here are ported over from the prior DVD editions, current to whatever the most recent release was in each case.  This is not a bad thing, as the existing featurettes and commentaries are a treasure trove of information about all of these movies, and having the whole pile together like this is akin to being given a full semester film school course in the fundamentals of Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography.   Not everything has made it – an excellent commentary on Vertigo has unfortunately been left off – but this is still a significant collection of materials, most of which created by Laurent Bouzereau over ten years ago.  The set also comes with a helpful 59 page booklet that includes plenty of trivia about the movies, along with a photo of the moment in each film where Hitchcock’s trademark cameo can be found.


Let’s take the discs in order.  As I go through each disc, I will note the picture and sound quality, as well as the origin and nature of all the special features to be found with each movie.


DISC ONE:  SABOTEUR

Studio: Universal

Year:  1942

Length:  1 hour 49 minutes

Genre:  Suspense/Spy Adventure


Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1, Black and White

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 30 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Content Rating: PG (Mild Violence)


Starring:  Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane, Norman Lloyd, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter, Alma Kruger, Dorothy Peterson, Clem Bevans


Written by: Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison and Dorothy Parker

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 5/5


The first disc in the set covers Saboteur, a wartime spy thriller that started filming shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack.  The movie covers solid ground for Hitchcock’s usual interests, including the wrong man being accused of nefarious crimes, a road adventure taking the hero (and the audience) across the country, and a smashing climax, this time atop the Statue of Liberty.  Among other delights to watch for here is the performance of a young and menacing Norman Lloyd.



VIDEO QUALITY 5/5

Saboteur is presented in an AVC 1.33:1 transfer (@ 30 mbps) that is truly a pleasure to watch. 



AUDIO QUALITY 5/5

Saboteur is presented with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that brings the music and dialogue clearly to the speakers.  No problems here.



SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of Saboteur comes with some extras, all brought over from the 2001 DVD edition.


Saboteur: A Closer Look  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (35:24, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette, assembled by Laurent Bouzereau for the 2001 DVD, covers a lot of ground from the origins of the movie through its production.  Key participants available for interview are included in the piece, particularly Norman Lloyd.


Storyboards: The Statue of Liberty Sequence  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (3:40, 480p, 4x3) – A collection of storyboards of the climactic sequence are included here, as they were on the earlier DVD.


Alfred Hitchcock’s Sketches  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (1:10, 480p, 4x3) – A brief collection of Hitchcock’s sketches of moments in the movie are included here, as they were on the earlier DVD.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (7:30, 480p, 4x3) – Again ported from the earlier DVD, this is actually a collection of various photos and artwork, including shots of the cast, shots from various scenes, and poster and promotional art for the movie.


Theatrical Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (1:55, 480p, 4x3) – The movie’s theatrical trailer is presented here in standard definition.  It’s actually a staged trailer, with Robert Cummings directly addressing the audience to discuss the movie.  The trailer is in fairly poor condition and as such, serves as a good contrast to the fine HD picture you’re getting elsewhere on the same disc.





DISC TWO:  SHADOW OF A DOUBT


Studio: Universal

Year:  1943

Length:  1 hour 48 minutes

Genre:  Suspense


Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1, Black and White

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 32 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Content Rating: PG (Mild Suspense and Violence)


Starring:  Joseph Cotten, Teresa Wright, Macdonald Carey, Patricia Collinge, Henry Travers, Wallace Ford, Hume Cronyn


Screenplay by:  Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, Alma Reville

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 5/5


The second disc in the set gives us the classic Shadow of a Doubt, which is known to have been Hitchcock’s personal favorite of the movies he directed.  Here we have another example of Hitchcock in top form, this time telling the story of the wicked Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) and his battle of wits with his younger niece Charlie (Teresa Wright).  There are great moments throughout as killer Charlie subtly tips his hand in the midst of a cheerful town community.  And we should note that there is a bit of a counterpoint between this film and The Third Man, in that there is a nice symmetry between Cotton playing Uncle Charlie and Orson Welles’ later performance as Harry Lime.   Each character has a nice monologue about his disdain for his fellow man, although I must give the edge to Harry Lime on that one…


VIDEO QUALITY 5/5

Shadow of a Doubt is presented in a VC-1 1.33:1 transfer (@ 32 mbps) that is once again, a pleasure to watch.   There is a bit more damage visible in the picture, likely reflecting scratches and other issues on the negative.  There is also a brief moment of pulsing that happens around 17:41 as Charlie’s train arrives, but I understand this to be an issue on the negative and not a problem with the transfer.


AUDIO QUALITY 5/5

Shadow of a Doubt is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that, again, presents the dialogue as clearly as one could want.


SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of Shadow of a Doubt comes with some extras, all brought over from the 2001 DVD edition.


Beyond Doubt: the Making of Hitchcock’s Favorite Film  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (34:48, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette, assembled by Laurent Bouzereau for the 2001 DVD, is another thorough look at the making of a Hitchcock classic.  Various key people are interviewed, including Teresa Wright, who recounts how Hitchcock told her the complete story of the movie at his desk, and Hume Cronyn, who relates amusing stories about how he wound up getting cast.


Production Drawings by Robert Boyle  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (6:10, 480p, 4x3) – A collection of Production Designer Robert Boyle’s drawings are included here, as they were on the 2001 DVD.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (8:30, 480p, 4x3) – Again ported from the earlier DVD, this is another collection of various photos and artwork, including shots of the cast, shots from various scenes, and poster and promotional art for the movie.


Theatrical Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (1:22, 480p, 4x3) – The movie’s theatrical trailer is presented here in standard definition.  It’s in fairly poor condition and as such, serves as another contrast to the better picture quality on the actual movie on the disc.




DISC THREE:  ROPE


Studio: Warner Bros.

Year:  1948

Length:  1 hour 21 minutes

Genre:  Suspense


Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1, Technicolor

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 32 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Content Rating: PG (Mild Violence)


Starring:  James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Sir Cedric Harwicke, Constance Collier, Joan Chandler


Based on the Play by:  Patrick Hamilton

Adapted by:  Hume Cronyn

Screenplay by:  Arthur Laurents

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 3 ½/5


The third disc in the set focuses on Rope, which is the first of five films in the collection actually owned by the Hitchcock family, and which was out of circulation for some time after its release before Universal picked up the rights to re-release it.  The movie is a curiosity, in that it is Hitchcock’s first movie with James Stewart, his first movie in color, and that it’s a movie that works hard to convince the audience they are seeing a single shot played out over more than an hour.  The movie’s story is one that would easily draw in a suspense master like Hitchcock – the audience is shown a murder in the opening moments and then waits to see if the murderers will get away with their crime as they brazenly throw a party right over the body of the victim.  Given that the material (which stems from a real-life crime story) was adapted from a stage play, Hitchcock chose to embrace the limitations of the play, confining the action to the apartment where the murder was committed and convincing the audience they are seeing the following events in real time.  (Of course, there is one major departure from reality here – it would actually be impossible for anyone to hide a recently dead body in a confined space with other people and not have the body be noticed very quickly…)  I don’t know that the experiment of a movie in a single shot actually works that well, but it’s fascinating to see this group try it.



VIDEO QUALITY 3/5

Rope is presented in an AVC 1.33:1 transfer (@ 32 mbps) that has a problem that may or may not be an issue for some viewers.  This is a Technicolor picture, and it was shot on one camera in extended takes.  Unfortunately, when the transfer was done, the technicians did not confirm that the registration settings were correct for the camera that shot the movie.  The result is that the transfer is slightly out of red registration, causing small red outlines to appear around people’s collars and around the horizontal slats of the window frames.  Since the same camera was used throughout the movie, this problem stays for the whole ride.  Now, if you’re using a smaller monitor, you will likely not see this issue as prominently as I did at 90”.  When I checked the same moments at 65”, the issue was not as prominent. 


AUDIO QUALITY 5/5

Rope is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that has no problems I could discern.


SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of Rope comes with some extras, all brought over from the 2001 DVD edition.


Rope Unleashed  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (32:28, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette, assembled by Laurent Bouzereau for the 2001 DVD, is another thorough look at the making of a Hitchcock film.  Interviews are done with both screenwriters  (including Hume Cronyn, who acknowledges he knew he’d be rewritten by a more traditional playwright) as well as with Farley Granger and Patricia Hitchcock.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (7:30, 480p, 4x3) – Again ported from the earlier DVD, this is another collection of various photos and artwork, including shots of the cast, shots from various scenes, and poster and promotional art for the movie.


Theatrical Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (2:26, 480p, 4x3) – The movie’s theatrical trailer is presented here in standard definition.  There is actually some additional interest here, as the trailer shows an exterior scene featuring the murder victim and his fiancée, presumably right before the murder is committed.  This brings up one little question that I have about the very opening of the actual film.   The way we know something terrible is happening in the apartment is that we hear the victim’s awful scream from outside the window.  Except that when we look inside, we can see that the bad guys are in the midst of strangling the victim with the title rope.  How the heck could he scream while being strangled?




DISC FOUR:  REAR WINDOW


Studio: Paramount

Year:  1954

Length:  1 hour 55 minutes

Genre:  Suspense


Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 33 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono, Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Content Rating: PG (Mild Violence)


Starring:  James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr


Based on the Story by:  Cornell Woolrich

Screenplay by:  John Michael Hayes

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 5/5


The fourth disc in the set focuses on Rear Window, which is the second movie in the five films privately owned by the Hitchcock family.   This is another bonafide classic – a case of Hitchcock doing the impossible and telling an irresistible story from inside the confines of a single apartment.  Except unlike Rope, where the action was confined to that setting, this time the action mostly takes place in all the OTHER apartments we can see from the title window as we and Jeff Jefferies (James Stewart) peep on all their comings and goings.  And of course, since this is Hitchcock, one of the neighbors appears to have done something unfortunate with his wife…  This movie continues to be great fun, now nearly 60 years after its original release.  I wouldn’t want to spoil any more about the movie than that.



VIDEO QUALITY 4 ½/5

Rear Window is presented in an AVC 1.66:1 transfer (@ 33 mbps) that is a pleasure to watch for almost the entire length of the movie, but there are a few minor issues.  During the opening titles, there is some weirdness with the grain levels on the background sky and buildings.  During an iconic profile kissing shot of James Stewart and Grace Kelly, contouring can be seen at the lower center of the frame.  During one reel of the movie, separation masters were used, which look a little softer in a couple of shots of the gang looking out the window around the time that Kelly delivers the letter.  But these are really minor quibbles over a picture transfer that looks terrific.



AUDIO QUALITY 5/5

Rear Window is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that brings both the score and the dialogue out well.



SPECIAL FEATURES   5/5

The Blu-ray disc of Rear Window comes packed with extras, mostly ranging back to the 2001 DVD release, but some stemming from the 2008 Legacy Edition 2-disc DVD.  There is one vintage pair of Hitchcock interviews that may in fact not have been part of any prior DVD offering. AMENDMENT:  That pair of interviews stems from the 2005 Masterpiece Collection DVD set, as noted by Albert Gutierrez in his comment below.  (And thank you to him for catching it.)


Feature Commentary with John Fawell  (FROM THE 2008 DVD) – This scene-specific commentary was recorded for the 2008 Legacy Edition DVD.  It’s good stuff, as Fawell, who wrote a book about this movie, really knows the material and is able to talk the viewer through everything we see, from the wider view of the movie to the smaller details we can find within it.


Masters of Cinema (FROM THE 2005 DVD SET) (33:39, 480p, 4x3) – This is actually a segment of the television series “Masters of Cinema” from 1972 in which Hitchcock is interviewed first by Pia Lindstrom and then by William Everson.  I can’t find any mention of this interview in any prior DVD edition of the movie.  AMENDMENT:  Thanks to Albert Gutierrez for pointing me to the 15th disc of the Masterpiece Collection of 2005, which is where this extra feature can be found.


Rear Window Ethics:  Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (55:10, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette has been available since the 2001 DVD.   It’s a pretty thorough look at the movie, both in terms of its production and the restoration work done for it by Robert Harris and Jim Katz.


A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (13:10, 480p, Anamorphic) – This interview with the screenwriter was conducted for the 2008 DVD.


Pure Cinema:  Through the Eyes of the Master (FROM THE 2008 DVD) (25:12, 480p, Anamorphic) – This featurette, created for the 2008 DVD, discusses and shows examples of Alfred Hitchcock’s pictorial style, with the idea being presented to show how Hitchcock would tell stories in a completely visual manner.


Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock (FROM THE 2008 DVD) (23:31, 480p, Anamorphic) – This featurette, created for the 2008 DVD, discusses how Hitchcock used sound in inventive ways as part of the storytelling process.


Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts (FROM THE 2008 DVD) (16:14, 480p, Anamorphic) – This is an excerpt from the interviews conducted by Francois Truffaut of Hitchcock for their famous book.  The excerpt here, of course, discusses Rear Window.  Clips from the movie are shown as their discussion goes on.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (3:07, 480p, 4x3) – Here we have another collection of photographs of the cast, of the production, and of the usual lobby cards and poster artwork.


Theatrical Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (2:40, 480p, Windowboxed) – The theatrical trailer for the movie is presented, in considerably poorer condition than the movie on this disc.


Re-Release Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (6:14, 480p, Windowboxed) – A re-release trailer for all five movies re-released by Universal in the 1980s is included here, narrated by James Stewart.




DISC FIVE:  THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY


Studio: Paramount

Year:  1955

Length:  1 hour 40 minutes

Genre:  Dark Comedy


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 32 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Content Rating: PG (Inappropriate Behavior with Dead Body)


Starring:  Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe, Shirley MacLaine, Mildred Natwick, Mildred Dunnock, Ryal Dano, and Jerry Mathers not as the Beaver


Based on the Novel by:  John Trevor Story

Screenplay by:  John Michael Hayes

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 3 ½/5


The fifth disc in the set focuses on The Trouble With Harry, the third movie in the five privately owned in this collection.  The story here is pretty slight.  Harry has unfortunately died, and his body is lying in a public field where several people come across him and wonder what to do.  And of course, several of them believe they may be the person who did Harry in.  It’s all appropriately cheerful – at least, as cheerful as one can imagine a Hitchcock film being.  As he would likely say – it’s all good fun.  The movie is notable as the first film of Shirley MacLaine, and is the first film in this set to feature a score by the master, Bernard Herrmann.



VIDEO QUALITY 4 ½/5

The Trouble With Harry is presented in an AVC 1.85:1 transfer (@ 32mbps).  This is a great Vistavision title and the colors here are a pleasure to see.  There are two brief shots at the very beginning that shows some gate jitter (and these shots are actually used, with the jitter, under the Main Menu!), and the movie is slightly softer in resolution than it should be.  But again, these are pretty minor quibbles for what is really a nice piece of work.  (We noted that the movie begins with the new Universal logo.)


AUDIO QUALITY 5/5

The Trouble With Harry is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that, again, does its job well.


SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of The Trouble With Harry comes with a smaller number of extras, all from the 2001 DVD.


The Trouble With Harry Isn’t Over  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (32:06, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette from Laurent Bouzereau was prepared for the 2001 DVD release.  It’s another thorough look at the making of a Hitchcock film, this time including interviews with Herbert Coleman and John Forsythe.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (6:20, 480p, 4x3) – Another collection of pictures of the cast, photos from the set, and poster art is included here for completion.


Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (2:26, 480p, 4x3) – A later-release trailer is presented here, using video titles that give it away a bit.






DISC SIX:  THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH


Studio: Paramount

Year:  1956

Length:  1 hour 56 minutes

Genre:  Suspense/Adventure


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 34 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Content Rating: PG (Mild Scares and Violence)


Starring:  James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda De Banzie, Bernard Miles, Alan Mowbray, Hillary Brooke and Christopher Olsen


Based on the 1934 Film of the Same Title

Written by:  John Michael Hayes

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 5/5


The sixth disc in the set focuses on The Man Who Knew Too Much, which is the fourth film in the group of five that are privately owned.  This is actually a remake of an earlier Hitchcock film of the same title, running the same plotline – although in this version it’s the son of the hero couple that is abducted where in the original it was the daughter.  This is another foolproof Hitchcock adventure, effortlessly carrying the audience and James Stewart’s everyman all the way from Marrakesh to the Royal Albert Hall.  It’s another one I really don’t want to spoil for a new audience.  I will note that this is the only Hitchcock movie to win an Oscar for Best Original Song, for Doris Day’s performance of “Que Sera Sera”.



VIDEO QUALITY ½/5

The Man Who Knew Too Much has an AVC 1.85:1 transfer (@ 34 mbps) that is the low point of this set in a big way.  Starting just a few minutes into the movie, a strong yellow pulse begins to happen which overwhelms the picture and leaves the viewer trying to figure out what is happening.  The sky shifts from blue to yellow, pavement shifts from gray to yellow, and I won’t go into what happens to the faces of Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day.  The problem repeats throughout the movie, subsiding for a few minutes at a time, only to return at varying levels of noticeability.  We stopped watching after finding so many instances of it that there was no point in trying to get to the end of the movie.  This is compounded by a very strange scanning artifact that appears at the 1:24:13 mark as Doris Day stands on a London sidewalk.  During her close-up at that time stamp, you can see a solid blue line running horizontally through the middle of the screen.  The line drops to the bottom and disappears but is enough to again leave the viewer mystified.  This is truly a shame, and the best way to deal with this would be for the title to be recalled and fixed.  Of course, fixing this issue will require actually doing the restoration work that this title needs.



AUDIO QUALITY 5/5

The Man Who Knew Too Much is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that works a lot better than the picture transfer.



SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of The Man Who Knew Too Much comes with a smaller number of extras, all from the 2001 DVD.


The Making of The Man Who Knew Too Much   (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (34:20, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette from Laurent Bouzereau was created for the 2001 DVD, and it includes then-current interview material with Patricia Hitchcock, Herbert Coleman and John Michael Hayes.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (4:14, 480p, 4x3) – Here’s another collection of pictures of the cast, set photos, lobby cards and poster artwork for the movie.  For those who are paying attention, a poster is thrown in from the original movie.


Theatrical Trailer   (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (2:09, 480p, 4x3) – The original theatrical trailer is presented here, although it is quite faded.


Re-Release Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (6:14, 480p, Windowboxed) – A re-release trailer for all five movies re-released by Universal in the 1980s is included here, narrated by James Stewart.





DISC SEVEN:  VERTIGO


Studio: Paramount

Year:  1958

Length:  2 hours 9 minutes

Genre:   Romance/Suspense


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 32 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 2.9 mbps), English DTS 2.0 Mono, French DTS 2.0 Mono, Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Content Rating: PG (Mild Violence)


Starring:   James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones


Based on the Novel D’entre les morts by:  Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac

Screenplay by:  Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 5/5


The seventh disc in the set focuses on Vertigo, the final of the five films still privately owned.  Vertigo was, and is, a classic tale of obsession and doomed romance. 


Quoting my review of the 2008 DVD edition:  Vertigo is one of the most striking and memorable films in the canon of Alfred Hitchcock. Unabashedly romantic, the film still dares to show that its hero character has tendencies that can lead him to villainy. Jimmy Stewart, in one of his best performances, plays Scottie Ferguson, a police detective who resigns after developing an extreme case of acrophobia in the opening moments of the film. Much of the film then concerns his pursuit of a beautiful woman (Kim Novak) who may be the reincarnation of someone who lived a lifetime ago. There’s a lot of thematic material here about obsession – with death, with the idea of love, etc. – and Hitchock places the audience in a pretty uncomfortable position as he repeatedly gives us more information than he gives Stewart. Where the film gets its power (aside from some beautiful visual compositions and a powerful score by Bernard Hermann) is the realization that Scottie is so obsessed with creating and recreating the image of this beautiful woman that he fails to see the reality of the person in front of him. The film still has resonance today – it moves a little slower than the thrillers we see today, but it has more power than almost any current film.


VIDEO QUALITY  5/5

Vertigo is presented in a VC-1 1.85:1 transfer (@ 32 mbps) that is really lovely to watch.  I realize that Robert Harris has made several good points about black levels, flesh tones and color matching, and I don’t dispute his expertise, particularly on a title he knows so well.  I can only say that we didn’t have the issues he was seeing.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  It means that neither Joe nor I are experts on this movie – we’re just fans of it, and it was a pleasure to watch.  We noted that this disc had an agonizingly long loading time, and that a new Universal logo is fronting the movie.



AUDIO QUALITY 5/5

Vertigo is presented in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that improves over the 5.1 mix presented on earlier DVDs.  This mix sounds a lot closer to the original one, only opened up for the surrounds.  Yes, the original gunshots are back.  No, there are no birds singing in the dead forest



SPECIAL FEATURES   4/5

The Blu-ray disc of Vertigo comes with a fair amount of extras, all ported over from the 2008 DVD, which itself pulled material going back to the Signature laserdisc edition of the 1990s.  One key commentary has unfortunately been left off this disc, leading me to dock the score here by a full point.


Feature Commentary by William Friedkin  (FROM THE 2008 DVD) – Friedkin sits down for a scene-specific commentary that has some information tucked in it, but mostly consists of Friedkin telling the story of the movie as it plays out. In some cases, Friedkin spoils later events of the film, and in other cases, he simply repeats what we already know. I didn’t find this to be a terribly rewarding commentary, but other viewers may get more from it.

Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece (FROM THE SIGNATURE LASERDISC) (29:16, 480p, 4x3) – The AMC documentary from 1997 included on the Signature Laserdisc is kept with the package.   It’s still an effective, informative examination of both the making of the film, and the restoration of the materials by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz. Interview material is intercut with footage from the film, video of the restoration work, and examples of how the restoration improved the picture quality.

Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborators – (FROM THE 2008 DVD) (54:51 Total, 480p, Anamorphic) – These anamorphic featurettes focus on four different people who were a key part of Hitchcock’s creative life: Saul Bass (titles), Edith Head (costumes), Bernard Hermann (musical score), and of course, Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s wife and companion throughout his life.

Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts (FROM THE 2008 DVD) (14:17, Anamorphic) – Audio from the famous interviews is included here, specifically excerpts pertaining to Vertigo. The audio is played over anamorphic clips from the film that can illustrate exactly what the filmmakers are talking about, with Hermann’s score playing for background mood.



Foreign Censorship Ending (FROM SIGNATURE LASERDISC) (2:08, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) – A brief epilogue for the film is included here, as it was on the earlier editions. This ending, shot to satisfy foreign exhibitors, features a radio broadcast indicating that the villain of the story will indeed be caught. This ending, of course, is completely superfluous.


The Vertigo Archives (FROM THE SIGNATURE LASERDISC) (9:44, 480p, 4x3) – The archive of sketches and pictures from the laserdisc is preserved here. You can click through the various items in the usual fashion.

Trailers – (FROM THE SIGNATURE LASERDISC) (2:29 and 1:23, 480p, 4x3) - As on the laserdisc, the trailers for the original release and the restoration edition are both included here.


100 Years of Universal:  The Lew Wasserman Era   (FROM VARIOUS 2012 BLU-RAY RELEASES) (8:50, 1080p) – This featurette, seen on multiple Universal Blu-rays this year, covers the work of Lew Wasserman as head of Universal over several decades.


What is noticeably missing from this admittedly nice group of extras is the fine commentary recorded for the Signature laserdisc and included on every other edition of the movie on disc up to this point.  This is a commentary with Robert A. Harris, James Katz, Herbert Coleman and Steven Smith that provided a lot of production information.  It’s absolutely inexplicable why this was left off the new Blu-ray, given that all the extras save one are in standard definition.




DISC EIGHT: NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Studio: MGM

Year:  1959

Length:  2 hours 16 minutes

Genre:   Suspense/Adventure


Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 27 mbps)

Audio:  English Dolby True HD 5.1 (@ an average 1.4 mbps), English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian

Content Rating: Not Rated (Mild Violence)


Starring:   Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis


Written by:  Ernest Lehman

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


VIDEO AND SOUND QUALITY 5/5, 4/5

North by Northwest gets a VC-1 1.78:1 transfer (@ 27 mbps) and a Dolby True HD 5.1 sound mix that look and sound just as good as when the movie was seen on the Warner Bros. 50th Anniversary Blu-ray edition in 2009.  In other words, this is the same Blu-ray, right down to the menus.  To save everyone some time, I’m going to recommend you read Cameron Yee’s excellent review.





DISC NINE:  PSYCHO

Studio: Paramount

Year:  1960

Length:  1 hour 49 minutes

Genre:   Suspense/Horror


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Black and White

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.0 mbps, up to 5 mbps in the shower scene), English DTS 2.0 Mono, French DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Content Rating: R (Violence, Suggestive Situations, Inappropriate Use of a Shower)


Starring:   Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Janet Leigh and “Mother”


Based on the Novel by:  Robert Bloch

Screenplay by:  Joseph Stefano

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


VIDEO AND SOUND QUALITY 5/5

Psycho is presented in the AVC 1.85:1 transfer (@ 30 mbps) that we saw on the 50th Anniversary edition release in 2010.  And we still have the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix created for that Blu-ray.  As with the exception of the opening Universal Studios logo, this Blu-ray is identical to the one released two years ago.  To save everyone a little more time, I’m going to recommend you read my decently worded review from the time.  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


Studio: Universal

Year:  1963

Length:  2 hours

Genre:  Horror


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 30 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono, Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Content Rating:  PG-13 (Violence, Blood, Bird Gang Attacks)


Starring:  Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette and Tippi Hedren


Based on the Book by:  Daphne du Maurier

Screenplay by:  Evan Hunter

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 4/5


The tenth disc in the set presents The Birds, which is the last big hit in the set before usThe Birds is an initially unthreatening movie that slowly but surely ratchets up the tension until it hits an unbearable level in the final sequence.  We are never told why, but large numbers of birds gather together and attack humans en masse in the town of Bodega Bay.  There is no rhyme or reason to this – only the certainty even after Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren barricade themselves in a house, that the birds are certain to attack again with even greater ferocity than the last time.  To keep things completely uncertain, Hitchcock did not have a score written for the movie – instead, the movie’s primary sound is that of the birds themselves.  It is a testament to the power of the movie that my mother will not watch it, even to this day.


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.



SPECIAL FEATURES   4/5

The Blu-ray disc of The Birds comes loaded with extras, many ranging back to the 2000 DVD edition, but two of which are actually new for this release.


The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie  (NEW FOR THIS BLU-RAY) (14:23, 1080p) – This new featurette discusses the movie in terms of the idea of Hitchcock using birds as monsters.  Several other directors are interviewed, including Joe Dante and Ron Underwood.


Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts (NEW FOR THIS BLU-RAY) (13:58, 480p, 4x3) – This is another excerpt from the Truffaut interview of Hitchcock, this time focusing on The Birds.  As with the other movies, the interview material plays under clips from the movie in question.  While I cannot find any other DVD editions with this extra present, I have a feeling this was actually prepared for a Legacy Edition DVD that was never released. 


Deleted Scene (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (4:20, 480p, 4x3) – This is actually a collection of script pages and storyboards for a scene that was shot but not included in the movie.


The Original Ending (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (3:40, 480p, 4x3) – This is another collection of script pages and storyboards, this time showing an extension of the ending of the movie, in which the final departure is a bit more complicated.


All About The Birds (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (1:19:49, 480P, 4x3) – Here is another Laurent Bouzereau documentary, thoroughly examining the making of the movie.


Storyboard Sequence (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (24:21, 480P, 4x3) – From the 2000 DVD, this is a series of comparisons of storyboards and completed shots as seen in the movie.


Tippi Hedren’s Screen Test (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (9:57, 480p, 4x3) – As included on prior DVD releases, Tippi Hedren’s original screen test for the movie is included here for posterity.


The Birds is Coming (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (1:17, 480p, 4x3) – This newsreel clip promoting the movie in 1963 is kept in from the prior DVD edition.


Suspense Story: National Press Covers Hitchcock (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (1:54, 480p, 4x3) – Another newsreel clip is kept in from the prior DVD edition.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (14:10, 480p, 4x3) – Here we have another collection of pictures of the cast, set photos, lobby cards and poster artwork.


Trailer  (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (5:11, 480p, 4x3) – The movie’s theatrical trailer is presented, as it was in the earlier DVD edition.


100 Years of Universal:  Restoring the Classics   (FROM VARIOUS 2012 BLU-RAY RELEASES) (9:13, 1080p) – This featurette, seen on multiple Universal Blu-rays this year, covers the restoration work done for the 100th Anniversary of the Studio.


100 Years of Universal:  The Lot   (FROM VARIOUS 2012 BLU-RAY RELEASES) (9:25, 1080p) – This featurette, seen on multiple Universal Blu-rays this year, gives an all-too brief history and view of the Universal backlot.





DISC ELEVEN:  MARNIE


Studio: Universal

Year:  1964

Length:  2 hours 11 minutes

Genre:  Suspense/Romance


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 32 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.9 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Content Rating: PG (Violence, Suggestive Situations)


Starring:  Sean Connery, Tippi Hedren, Diane Baker, Martin Gabel, Louise Latham


Based on the Book by:  Winston Graham

Screenplay by:  Jay Press Allen

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 3 ½/5


The eleventh disc in the set focuses on Marnie, which is considered by some to be Hitchcock’s last masterpiece.  Watching the movie today, it feels like a neat reversal of several of the plot elements of Vertigo.  Where the prior movie had a man falling in love with the illusion of a woman, this movie has a man falling in love with a woman who really is haunted by a past she cannot remember.  And where the prior film had the man deliberately recreate the illusion in place of the reality, this film has the man actively push to find out what is really going on.  It’s an odd movie, and it goes over the top several times before it’s done, but it’s also quite effective.  There’s a frankness to it that’s quite startling for a movie made in 1964.  And it’s a chance to see Sean Connery in the midst of his heyday as James Bond, working in a much more subdued mode in the Hitchcock milieu.



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.


SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5


The Blu-ray disc of Marnie comes with some extras, all brought over from the 2000 DVD edition.


The Trouble with Marnie  (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (58:26, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette, assembled by Laurent Bouzereau for the 2000 DVD, is another thorough look at the making of a Hitchcock film.  This one runs longer than most of the others seen on this set, covering everything from the multiple screenwriters who didn’t make the cut, to the actual production of the film.  Interviews are done with as many of the principle actors as possible, excepting of course Sean Connery.


The Marnie Archives  (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (9:01, 480p, 4x3) – Again ported from the earlier DVD, this is another collection of various photos and artwork, including shots of the cast, shots from various scenes, and poster and promotional art for the movie.


Theatrical Trailer  (FROM THE 2000 DVD) (4:43, 480p, 4x3) – As seen in the earlier DVD, the movie’s theatrical trailer is presented.




DISC TWELVE:  TORN CURTAIN


Studio: Universal

Year:  1966

Length:  2 hours 8 minutes

Genre:  Suspense/Spy Adventure


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 32 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono, Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Content Rating: PG (Violence)


Starring:  Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Lila Kedrova, Hansjorg Felma, Tamara Toumanova, David Opatoshu, Ludwig Donath


Screenplay by:  Brian Moore, Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 2 ½/5


The twelfth disc in the set focuses on Torn Curtain, a 1966 spy thriller starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews as lovers caught in the middle of a cold war spy game.  I wish I could say that this movie had aged a little better than it has, but it plays fairly creaky today.  The necessary chemistry between Newman and Andrews just doesn’t catch fire and the viewer is left to at least enjoy Hitchcock’s craftsmanship and a few nice set pieces before things wrap up.  I will note that the opening scene that introduces Newman and Andrews in bed appears to me to have been used as a model when Michael Mann shot a similar scene with Al Pacino in 1995’s Heat.



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.  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.


SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of Torn Curtain comes with a small gathering of extras, all culled from the 2001 DVD..


Torn Curtain Rising  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (32:25, 480p, 4x3) – This Laurent Bouzereau documentary comes from the 2001 DVD, and provides his usual thorough examination of the movie in question.


Bernard Herrmann Cues  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (14:38, 480p) – This is a nice bonus, carried over from the 2001 DVD.  As history tells us, Bernard Herrmann was the original composer of this movie, but left after a major falling out with Hitchcock over the tone he was told to use for the score.  This breakup would last until the end of both men’s careers and lives, unfortunately.  But while the movie was re-scored by John Addison, some of the Herrmann cues were actually archived.  Here on the disc, the viewer has a chance to see footage from the movie with the appropriate Herrmann music composed for those scenes.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (22:11, 480p, 4x3) – Here is another collection of photographs of the cast, of the production, as well as of lobby cards and poster artwork.


Theatrical Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (2:57, 480p, 4x3) – The theatrical trailer for the movie is presented, in considerably poorer condition than the movie on this disc.




DISC THIRTEEN:  TOPAZ


Studio: Universal

Year:  1969

Length:  2 hours 23 minutes

Genre:  Spy Thriller


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Content Rating: PG (Violence)


Starring:  Frederick Stafford, Dany Robin, Claude Jade, Michel Subor, John Forsythe, Karin Dor, John Vernon, Michel Piccoli, Phillipe Noiret, Roscoe Lee Browne


Based on the Novel by:  Leon Uris

Screenplay by:  Samuel A. Taylor

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 2 ½/5


The thirteenth disc in the set focuses on Topaz, an adaptation of a political thriller novel by Leon Uris that found Hitchcock once again trying to experiment with colors and shot selection as a way of telling the story more effectively than just relying on the dialogue.  The movie is interesting for its ambition – there are some startling shot choices throughout – but it just never catches fire the way one would hope a Hitchcockian thriller would.



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.



SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of Topaz comes with a bevy of extras, all from the 2001 DVD.


Alternate Endings (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (6:24 Total, 480p, 4x3) – Here we have three alternative endings to the movie, offering different outcomes for one character.  In one version, the man escapes to the USSR.  In another, he suddenly commits suicide.  The scenes can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” option.


Topaz: An Appreciation  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (29:30, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette from Laurent Bouzereau was prepared for the 2001 DVD release.  As is usual with Mr. Bouzereau, this is another thorough examination of the movie in question


Storyboards: The Mendozas (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (12:30, 480P, 4x3) – This is a comparison of various storyboards with the actual shots seen in the movie.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (6:10, 480p, 4x3) – Another collection of pictures of the cast, photos from the set, and poster art is included here for completion.


Trailer  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (3:03, 480p, 4x3) – A trailer for the movie is included.






DISC FOURTEEN:  FRENZY


Studio: Universal

Year:  1972

Length:  1 hour 56 minutes

Genre:  Suspense/Horror/Comedy


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.9 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Content Rating: R (Violence, Blood, Nudity)


Starring:  Jon Finch, Alec McCowen, Barry Foster


Based on the Book by:  Arthur La Bern

Screenplay by:  Anthony Shaffer

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 3/5


The penultimate disc in the set focuses on Frenzy, Hitchcock’s second-to-last film.  The movie itself is actually less of a horror film than it is a kind of dark comedy in the form of a horror film.  Hitchcock returns to familiar territory here, both figuratively and in reality.  The movie is set in modern London, and is centered around Richard Blaney (Jon Finch), a man who is incorrectly suspected of being a serial murderer of women.  The movie has a good deal of morbid humor both about the mechanics of murder and about the audience’s expectation of a Hitchcock film.  One great example of this comes about midway, when the audience knows that the murderer has just killed someone in an upstairs room.  The camera lingers outside the downstairs door as the secretary comes around the corner and goes inside the building.  Under normal circumstances, the viewer can count to five or so and then hear the requisite scream from inside.  Hitchcock keeps the shot going for more than ten seconds, until the audience is practically begging him to get it over with.  Things like this are indications that the director is having a good time…



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.



SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of Frenzy comes with a smaller number of extras, all from the 2001 DVD.


The Story of Frenzy   (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (44:46, 480p, 4x3) – This featurette from Laurent Bouzereau was created for the 2001 DVD, and it includes then-current interview material with Jon Finch, Anthony Shaffer and Barry Foster.


Production Photographs  (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (17:01, 480p, 4x3) – Here’s another collection of pictures of the cast, set photos, lobby cards and poster artwork for the movie.


Theatrical Trailer   (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (2:55, 480p, 4x3) – The original theatrical trailer is presented here.






DISC FIFTEEN:  FAMILY PLOT


Studio: Universal

Year:  1976

Length:  2 hours 1 minute

Genre:   Suspense/Comedy


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Color

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (@ an average 1.8 mbps), French DTS 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Content Rating: PG (Mild Violence)


Starring:   Barbara Harris, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, William Devane


Based on the Novel The Rainbird Pattern by:  Victor Canning

Screenplay by:  Ernest Lehman

Directed by:  Alfred Hitchcock


Film Rating: 2/5


The final disc in the set focuses on Family Plot, the last film Alfred Hitchcock directed in his long career.  It’s a very strange movie – mixing a fairly intricate plot with wild moments of comedy, sometimes at the strangest times.   There’s definitely some suspense here, but I would say that the movie tilts much more toward the comic side of the equation at any moment Hitchcock wants to go there.



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 Ed Lauter 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.  (As an added note, I must register an apology here to Craig T. Nelson, for whom I mistook Ed Lauter in my earlier draft of this review…)



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.



SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5

The Blu-ray disc of Family Plot comes with a few extras, all ported over from the 2001 DVD.


Plotting Family Plot (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (48:22, 480p, 4x3) – This Laurent Bouzereau documentary completes the set in an appropriately thorough fashion.  In addition to going through the details of how this movie was made, and interviewing everyone possible including Bruce Dern and William Devane, as well as Howard Kazanjian, the piece also includes an account of the end of Hitchcock’s career.  Hilton Green relates that in the midst of preparing a new movie called The Short Night, Hitchcock summoned him to his office and effectively called it a day.


Storyboards: The Chase Scene (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (9:40, 480p, 4x3) – Storyboards are presented for the inset chase sequence in the movie.


Production Photographs (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (14:30, 480p, 4x3) – The now-usual collection of set photos, cast photos, lobby cards and poster art is presented here.


Theatrical Trailer – (FROM THE 2001 DVD) (3:18, 480p, 4x3) – The original theatrical trailer is presented here, albeit in fairly distressed condition.


Looking over all 15 discs, subtitles are available for the movies and the special features in English and Spanish.  I have indicated which movies also include French subtitles.  Full chapter menus are available on each disc.  Pop up menus work as normal on every disc.


The set also includes a 59 page color booklet with trivia about Hitchcock, his movies, and specifics about the movies in this collection.



IN THE END...


As I’ve said, 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

November 11, 2012.


 



#2 of 50 MatS

MatS

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Posted November 11 2012 - 06:02 PM

The short version of this evaluation is that I’m going to Recommend this set for purchase, based on the strength of ten of the six discs in the set.

fifteen?! ;)

#3 of 50 Escapay

Escapay

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Posted November 11 2012 - 06:15 PM

Excellent review, Kevin. I'll pass on the box set for now and wait for individual releases. The Man Who Knew Too Much is a particular favorite of mine (I think it was the second Hitchcock film I ever saw, The Birds being the first), so I'll hold out for a proper presentation of it on Blu-Ray Disc. Regarding the "Masters of Cinema" interview included on the Rear Window Blu-Ray, it's from Disc 15 in Universal's 2005 box set "Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection." Due to the remastered presentations of The Birds and Psycho, their making-of documentaries were not on the respective movie discs, but on a 15th disc that also included the "Masters of Cinema" interview mentioned here, and a 15-minute excerpt from the AFI Salute to Alfred Hitchcock. Based on this review, I assume that the AFI salute is not included on any of the Blu-rays in the set. Also, the three Legacy Series DVDs released in 2008 (Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho) each included an episode from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," which haven't been included on these Blu-Rays. I had always hoped that Universal would have released The Birds in a two-disc "Legacy Series" DVD set, with the usual bonus features, along with the Masters of Cinema and AFI features. Instead, The Birds ended up the only remastered DVD from the 2005 set to not get an individual release

#4 of 50 John Gilmore

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Posted November 11 2012 - 06:52 PM

Very thorough review. Just wanted to make a slight correction to the review of The Birds. Bodega Bay is actually not a fictional town, it is a real town in Northern California. In fact, Tippi Hedren often makes appearances there, and signs autographs when she is in town. John
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#5 of 50 MatS

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Posted November 11 2012 - 07:21 PM

sometimes I'm glad that my eyes cannot pick up on the anomalies that others can the first movies I watched when I got the set were Rope and Marnie I thought Rope looked fine despite some flashing during the dark murder scene and some specks on the print I'd never seen Marnie before ... the soft shots were noticeable (not sure how much of it when shot was intentional to show a dream like state) but never did I find the movie unwatchable I just tossed in TMWKTM after reading this review and watched about the first 20 minutes .... again I go back to my original sentence because I did not see a strong overwhelming yellow pulse ... as hard I as looked the closest I could see were some slight fluctuations in the whiteness of Louis Bernard's shirt on the bus There was nothing I saw that would have made me stop watching .... in fact this is the best I have seen this movie look on home video I did forward to the 1:23:13 mark and did see the blue line that quickly ran down the screen (almost in sync with the music cue) if TMWKTM is the worst this gets I definitely got my money's worth from this purchase ..... I always want every release to be the best it can be but I guess I'll have to count on others for calling out some of these things I can't watching on 50" Panasonic plasma EDIT: after reading the "A Few Words About TMWKTM" thread I guess I just don't have the background others have with the film to know what colors are so terribly off

#6 of 50 Kevin EK

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Posted November 11 2012 - 07:40 PM

MatS, thanks for the correction.  I've fixed that line now.

Thought I'd caught everything but this thing is so long that trying to scroll through it in the editor is really, really slow...


I'll also amend the note about Bodega Bay.  I had forgotten to note that one of my favorite shots in The Birds is a close-up of the Lovebirds in Hedren's car as she's speeding through all the curves - the shot where both birds are tipping at the same angle.


Thanks to Albert for noting the Alfred HItchcock Presents episodes that were found on the 2nd discs of the Legacy Edition DVDs.  And for noting the additional disc in the 2005 Masterpiece Collection set.  I'll go back and look that up.  The AFI Salute is not on the discs, but in the piece on Alma Reville included in the "Partners in Crime" featurette collection on the Vertigo disc, they do have the clip of Hitchcock thanking all four of his collaborators.  There isn't a separate featurette or clip devoted to the AFI event that I could find anywhere on the discs.  I'll adjust the review to note the origin of the "Masters in Cinema."


I think Universal did intend to have a Legacy Edition of The Birds to go with the other 3 in 2008 but that they chose not to do it after having prepared the Hitchcock/Truffaut excerpt.  Had they done it, we would have seen something similar to the other discs - with a new featurette or two, a commentary and an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode.  But such was not the case.



#7 of 50 Charles Smith

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Posted November 12 2012 - 12:53 AM

Thank you, Kevin, for such a thorough and readable summary of the pros and cons.


Aside from the five picture quality failures, the single glaring thing for me is the inclusion of the wrong commentary for Vertigo.  It's as simple as that.  I can only think that someone made a simple (HUGE, but simple) mistake and ordered the wrong one to be included.  Nothing else even begins to make sense toward explaining this omission.



#8 of 50 Dave Pattern

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Posted November 12 2012 - 06:32 AM

Just for info, the UK set has extra audio dubs and subtitles, with the exception of "Topaz", which mirrors the US disc and contains the "director's cut" with the "airport" ending. The German box set appears to mirror the UK set, with the exception of "Topaz", which contains the so-called theatrical cut with the "suicide" ending and the following languages:
  • audio: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Latin American Spanish & Russian
  • subtitles: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Latin American Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian & Swedish


#9 of 50 Rafael82

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Posted November 12 2012 - 06:42 AM

Just for info, the UK set has extra audio dubs and subtitles, with the exception of "Topaz", which mirrors the US disc and contains the "director's cut" with the "airport" ending. The German box set appears to mirror the UK set, with the exception of "Topaz", which contains the so-called theatrical cut with the "suicide" ending and the following languages:

  • audio: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Latin American Spanish & Russian
  • subtitles: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Latin American Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian & Swedish

Hi Dave, Can you confirm which portuguese subtitles (Portugal or Brazil) are on each disk of the UK set? Amazon.co.uk says "Portuguese" for Rear Window, TMWKTM, Vertigo, Psycho and The Birds. For the rest they say "Brazilian portuguese", except Topaz, which doesn't have either. Thanks, Rafael

#10 of 50 andrew markworthy

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Posted November 12 2012 - 07:41 AM

Foreign Censorship Ending (FROM SIGNATURE LASERDISC) (2:08, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) – A brief epilogue for the film is included here, as it was on the earlier editions. This ending, shot to satisfy foreign exhibitors, features a radio broadcast indicating that the villain of the story will indeed be caught. This ending, of course, is completely superfluous.

Thank you for the excellent review. The above is the only point where I respectfully beg to differ. I think the alternative ending is far from superfluous and actually gives a much crueller twist to the end of the story. We are led to believe that Scottie is going to end up in a life of domestic bliss with Midge, and we know that neither of them is going to be completely satisfied for the rest of their lives. So the film makes the ironic statement that although justice seems to be done (with the arrest) in fact a natural injustice has also taken place. With the original ending, we are left to decide what happens to Scottie for ourselves - does he jump, does he find revenge, does he have a moment of self-realisation? The ending can be as happy or as sad as we want it to be.

#11 of 50 Dave Pattern

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Posted November 12 2012 - 08:44 AM

Hi Rafael When I get time, I'll go though each disc and confirm the languages on hitchcockwiki.com, but the box set packaging says this:
  • Saboteur: Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles
  • Shadow of a Doubt: Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles
  • Rope: Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles
  • Rear Window: Portuguese subtitles
  • The Trouble with Harry: Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much: Portuguese subtitles
  • Vertigo: Portuguese subtitles
  • Psycho: Portuguese subtitles
  • The Birds: Portuguese subtitles
  • Marnie: Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles
  • Torn Curtain: Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles
  • Topaz: none (only English audio and English, French & Latin American Spanish subtitles)
  • Frenzy: Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles
  • Family Plot: Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles
So, I'm afraid it's the German Blu-ray set that has "Topaz" with Brazilian Portuguese audio and subtitles :( I'm guessing, given the other languages that appear on the German "Topaz", other non-UK releases (e.g. France, Italy, Spain) will also use the same transfer as the German set.

#12 of 50 Robert Harris

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Posted November 12 2012 - 10:53 AM

Originally Posted by andrew markworthy 


Thank you for the excellent review. The above is the only point where I respectfully beg to differ. I think the alternative ending is far from superfluous and actually gives a much crueller twist to the end of the story. We are led to believe that Scottie is going to end up in a life of domestic bliss with Midge, and we know that neither of them is going to be completely satisfied for the rest of their lives. So the film makes the ironic statement that although justice seems to be done (with the arrest) in fact a natural injustice has also taken place. With the original ending, we are left to decide what happens to Scottie for ourselves - does he jump, does he find revenge, does he have a moment of self-realisation? The ending can be as happy or as sad as we want it to be.

Agreed.  And Judy is still lost.


RAH


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#13 of 50 Kevin EK

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Posted November 12 2012 - 12:11 PM

Um, isn't Judy rather easy to find at that moment?  It's not like she's going to get up and walk away.  He just has to look down at the...


Oh.



#14 of 50 haineshisway

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Posted November 12 2012 - 12:30 PM

The "foreign censorship ending": I've always taken exception to it being called that - it's in the script - I have every draft of Vertigo scripts, from Darkling, I Listen right through to the shooting script and that ending is clearly in the shooting script. They shot it and discarded it. That's how it seems to me. I don't think that ending was ever in any print of Vertigo anywhere.

#15 of 50 Robert Harris

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Posted November 12 2012 - 01:07 PM

The "foreign censorship ending": I've always taken exception to it being called that - it's in the script - I have every draft of Vertigo scripts, from Darkling, I Listen right through to the shooting script and that ending is clearly in the shooting script. They shot it and discarded it. That's how it seems to me. I don't think that ending was ever in any print of Vertigo anywhere.

Researched. It was used. And as a radio broadcast, was easily dubbed. Including by yours truly and Mr. Katz. 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


#16 of 50 haineshisway

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Posted November 12 2012 - 01:44 PM

Used in the UK and other foreign territories?

#17 of 50 PaulDA

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Posted November 19 2012 - 08:45 AM

Was on the fence about this regarding the problematic transfers on (far too many, in an ideal world) some of these titles. However, when I saw today's Amazon price of 149.99 (50% off), I bit the bullet. It averages out to 10$/movie and while some might not be worth half that in the current state, some others are worth twice that and more. No way would I pay list price (I'd have gone for the individual titles that matter most to me) but at half-price, I'll take the good and suffer the bad. Had originally thought (before any reviews had come out) to put it on my Christmas list but I'm glad I didn't do that. For one thing, my wife would have picked this up at the local brick and mortar for a lot more than half off AND local list price is 350$ plus 15% tax (yikes).
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#18 of 50 Mark-P

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Posted November 20 2012 - 08:55 AM

I finally received my pre-order from the UK and feel like I'm the last person on earth to have the set! I've now sampled all the discs and for the most part I am very happy with the set. The first one I put in was "The Man Who Knew Too Much" because of all the gripes about it. No it doesn't look as good as the other two VistaVision movies in the set, but I just don't get all the hyperbole about it being "unwatchable" and a "travesty". I looked hard for the pulsing color and was only able to spot it in a few places, but it is a relatively minor artifact. I have to be forgiving because I'm sure Universal did the best they could with the elements in their current condition. I really don't expect a full-blown restoration for every film in the set like "The Birds" got. "Man Who Knew Too Much" looks pretty darn good to my eyes. Next I looked at "Marnie." Now I get what the complaints are about for this one. It's got a lot of soft-focus, diffused photography which gives the impression that this is not HD, but a lot of knowledgable people have stated that this is the way Hitchcock shot the movie, so what is there to really complain about? Then I checked out "Family Plot." Okay, the complainers win on this one. I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong, but something definitely wasn't right with the transfer. Everything else in the set looked terrific.

#19 of 50 Doug Otte

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Posted November 20 2012 - 11:50 PM

I finally received my pre-order from the UK and feel like I'm the last person on earth to have the set!

No, that would be me! I'm still waiting for the UK set to arrive. And, based upon recent experience, the postal carrier who's busy chatting on his phone while walking his route could easily have dropped it at someone else's door. If so, hopefully, they'll be as kind as previous instances and bring it to me.

#20 of 50 Scott Merryfield

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Posted November 21 2012 - 01:53 AM

I finally received my pre-order from the UK and feel like I'm the last person on earth to have the set!

Nope, my order from the U.K. is still in transit.





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