Hitchcock (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Review Date: March 13, 2013
With his long-time home studio Paramount unenthusiastic about backing his latest project Psycho, which was based in part on the horrific Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) murders of the 1940s, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) decides to finance the film himself despite having to curtail the rather lavish lifestyle he and wife Alma (Helen Mirren) are accustomed to. Hitchcock is excited to be breaking new ground with the movie, but he’s fought every step of the way by Paramount chief Barney Balaban (Richard Portnow) and the MPAA production code head Geoffrey Shurlock (Kurtwood Smith). But he does have Alma’s support along with his agent Lew Wasserman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his cast headed by Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and Anthony Perkins (James D'Arcy) though his longtime assistant Peggy Robertson (Tonu Collette) is less certain of success. But Alma gets excited by another project that doesn’t interest Hitch, a suspense script she begins working on with writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), and his warm encouragement of her talent brings her to realize for the first time in years how under appreciated she is by her own husband.
Screenwriter John J. McLaughlin uses some unusual motifs for the film including several subconscious encounters with Ed Gein as Hitchcock runs into problems with the film’s production. These fairly brief sequences never work (though the one with Gein at the beginning of the movie that serves as the kind of tongue-in-cheek trailer that Hitchcock might have made for the movie is fun) and are intrusive to the storytelling and the character development. And even with several books available on the making of this very famous Hitchcock movie, some facts are either wrong or misrepresented: it wasn’t shot at Paramount; it was shot at Universal with his TV crew which is why he was able to finance it so cheaply and pay for it himself. The film also takes cruel, cheap jabs at John Gavin that weren’t needed. We only see tiny bits and pieces of Psycho in production, but one of the film’s best moments occurs when Hitchcock, frustrated by the film’s problems and not getting the performance from Janet Leigh he wants in the shower, takes knife in hand and does the faux-stabbing himself striking out in a vivid psychological montage of people he feels are ganging up on him. Unquestionably director Sacha Gervasi’s most stylish moment in the film, it’s also Anthony Hopkins’ most effective scene as Hitchcock. For much of the rest of the movie we’re focused on the heretofore less well known wife Alma Reville who by this stage of his career had ceased even taking screen credit for her work behind-the-scenes on Hitch’s pictures. The troubled marriage and the flirtation with an affair with an old family friend give Alma the spotlight that was denied her mostly in life and work well.
Care has been taken not to make either Anthony Hopkins or Helen Mirren duplicates of their real-life counterparts (in HBO’s concurrent The Girl, Toby Jones and Imelda Staunton are much closer physical matches for the two and seem a finer, truer Hitch and Alma) but merely to suggest them. Hopkins has the harder job since Hitchcock’s on-screen persona was so well known from years of movie and television appearances, and he works hard, but it doesn’t quite gel much of the time with his growing erotic attraction to his cool blondes introduced titillatingly but not developed. Helen Mirren is lovely and vulnerable and makes the firmer impression of the two as the woman-behind-the-man; her explosive scene confronting him about her years in the shadows is exceptional. Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles are both fine in unexceptionally written roles though never seem to be the least like their screen counterparts. On the other hand, you’ll almost swear that Anthony Perkins has returned from the grave with James D’Arcy’s impeccable impersonation making us wish he could have somehow been more a part of the film. Danny Huston gets to do his odious schemer once again to good effect, and Ralph Macchio is spot-on in his cameo of Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano. Michael Stuhlbarg, Toni Collette, Michael Wincott, Richard Portnow, and Kurtwood Smith all offer solid support.
The film is framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. On the whole the transfer is excellent with mostly consistent sharpness (with only an occasional soft shot) and good color reproduction. Skin tones are natural and appealing especially with the ladies unburdened by prosthetics. Black levels are just fine with good shadow detail. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix only occasionally makes use of its entire soundfield (mostly in the music by Danny Elfman and the scenes set at the beach) with the majority of the film’s audio being directed to the front channels. Dialogue has been masterfully recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
The audio commentary is by director Sacha Gervasi and author Stephen Rebello who wrote a definitive book on the making of Psycho. It’s a very talky commentary with the director effusive with praise for all his collaborators.
All of the bonus featurettes are presented in 1080p.
There is a deleted scene which runs 1 ¾ minutes.
“Becoming the Master” is a 12 ½-minute series of interviews with a cross section of cast and crew including director Sacha Gervasi, stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, costume designer Julie Weiss, production designer Judy Becker, and make-up artist Gregory Nicotero.
“Obsessed with Hitchcock” is the primary production featurette, 29 ¼ minutes with most of the principal cast, director Sacha Gervasi, and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth talking about what attracted them to the project, and the great amount of work that took place over the thirty-five day shooting schedule.
Director Sacha Gervasi’s cell phone behind-the-scenes shots cover much of the shooting days in a catch-all montage that runs 13 ½ minutes.
A funny cell phone public service announcement voiced by Hitch runs for ¾ minute.
“The Story” is the first of a few brief EPK overviews of the movie, this one discussing the film’s two plots. It runs 4 minutes with brief words from stars Hopkins and Mirren and director Gervasi all talking about the appeal of the material for them.
“The Cast” mentions this is the first time the two stars have ever performed together and also includes comments from Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, and James D’Arcy. It runs 4 ½ minutes.
“Danny Elfman: Maestro” is a brief 2 ¼ minutes of his score with behind-the-scenes shots of the composer conducting the orchestra.
“Hitchcock and Alma” director Sacha Gervasi and actors Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren speculate on the real-life relationship between the director and his wife. It runs 3 ¼ minutes.
“Remembering Hitchcock” gets brief comments from people who once worked with him including actors Jerry Mathers and Veronica Cartwright and author Stephen Rebello. It runs 4 ¾ minutes.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
The promo trailers include Stoker, The Sessions, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Atlas Shrugged Part 2, Life of Pi, and Twixt.
The second disc in the set is the combination DVD/digital copy of the movie.
3.5/5 (not an average)
An interesting if not altogether satisfying look at the behind-the-scenes professional and personal lives of Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville, Hitchcock offers some fun views of a Hollywood long gone with some good acting and a very good Blu-ray representation of the feature film.