A few words about…™ Blackmail – in Blu-ray

4 Stars

I could have sworn that Hitchcock’s Blackmail has been previously released on Blu-ray, but found no mention. Strangely, I had memory of it tinted. I then realized that I was thinking of The Lodger.

But no matter, it can now be found – with a bit of danger – via Kino Lorber’s new release, which includes both the silent, as well as the sound versions, and tagging along, a disc in 1.20 aspect ratio. Not certain that I understand the rationale there.

From quality 35mm elements, albeit at least partially unrestored, Kino’s release is a quality disc.

Hitchcock’s first sound film, and second thriller is a worthy addition to every serous library.

Be aware that there are pirated versions available, in similar fashion to the original Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, Lady Vanishes, 39 Steps, etc.

And unfortunately, the vendors carrying these pirated goods are inclusive of those that you’d normally visit to get the legal releases – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy at the fore.

Kino has released Blackmail, along with the 1930 Murder, and the same caveats as to pirated copies via illegally functioning vendors applies. Presuming that Studio Canal also licenses the other early Hitchcock productions, hopefully Kino will be able to make those available.

Image – 3.75

Audio – 3.75

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Yes

Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

14 Comments

  1. I remember watching 35mm prints of both versions of Blackmail at MoMA. They made for fascinating comparisons in film technique: the work of a master of silent film; the work of an innovator using sound techniques.
    Looking forward to this disc and to Murder! which will also include its German version (new to me), Mary.

  2. I have Blackmail and Murder! on pre-order. It's going to be wonderful to finally have properly licensed US editions from good quality sources. Kino also confirmed they're releasing another six of Hitchcock's British productions (Champagne, The Farmer's Wife, The Ring, The Manxman, Number Seventeen, and Rich and Strange) later this year from the same British International Pictures (now owned by StudioCanal) library.

    It's been obnoxious how the market has been flooded with the utterly garbage editions of Hitchcock's British productions for so long.

  3. I just took a look at the screencaps of the three separate versions. The 1.33:1 talkie version is a waste of disc space. They could have had the silent & 1.20:1 talkie on a single disc and saved cost. The 1.33:1 talkie version is nothing more than the 1.20:1 version horizontally stretched to 1.33:1, which serves no purpose and distorts the image. If they had a true silent-aperture version of the talkie (showing the image underneath the soundtrack) that would have been great to include!

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  4. Mark-P

    I just took a look at the screencaps of the three separate versions. The 1.33:1 talkie version is a waste of disc space. They could have had the silent & 1.20:1 talkie on a single disc and saved cost. The 1.33:1 talkie version is nothing more than the 1.20:1 version horizontally stretched to 1.33:1, which serves no purpose and distorts the image. If they had a true silent-aperture version of the talkie (showing the image underneath the soundtrack) that would have been great to include!

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    You’re correct. No reason for the 1.33 version. Although it might be interesting in 2.76.

  5. Courtesy of a mutual friend, I had lunch one time with writer Charles Bennett. He was quite old at the time, and he was accompanied by a young fellow. I remember he said the two of them had written (or were in the process of writing the script for) a modern-day remake of "Blackmail." I guess nothing came of it…?

    I hope "Young and Innocent" (1937) is in this batch of Hitchcocks that Kino has plans for. Always liked that one, but haven't seen it in decades.

  6. I'm going to guess the inclusion of the second disc was a last-minute addition because of a geometry problem.

    I received this, Murder!, and Touchez pas au grisbi yesterday. The sound Blackmail still looks slightly rough, but I'll take some light film damage and grain over something overly processed. The silent version looks gorgeous, though.

  7. Hi Robert, or anyone who has seen the disc. Does the 1.20:1 version look vertically stretched to you? I have not seen the disc, but DVDBeaver’s captures of the 1.20:1 version are actually in 1.10:1 ratio (!!) if you actually measure the pixel dimension, which I did. Either DVDBeaver made an error in capturing or Kino Lorber fouled up the aspect ratio, which they have done before.

  8. Yes, it measures out on my screen to about 1.12:1 with my pixel ruler app. People look visibly squished (or stretched vertically) and it’s very annoying to have this in improper aspect ratios. I don’t know why Kino would have done this.

  9. kevin_y

    Hi Robert, or anyone who has seen the disc. Does the 1.20:1 version look vertically stretched to you? I have not seen the disc, but DVDBeaver's captures of the 1.20:1 version are actually in 1.10:1 ratio (!!) if you actually measure the pixel dimension, which I did. Either DVDBeaver made an error in capturing or Kino Lorber fouled up the aspect ratio, which they have done before. One of DVDBeaver's captures is a close-up of radio controls with circular knobs, and those circles look vertically stretched as well. Anna Ondra's body also looks stretched in the capture of the her holding a knife. I saw this film on Vudu, which uses the same Studio Canal print, and it doesn't look stretched at all, and 1.20 is 1.20.

    Yes, it's vertically stretched on the Kino disc. I saw the same Studio Canal print on the Criterion Channel, and it's presented correctly.

  10. I just ordered the Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and I have a question for those who have seen it. Since both of aspect ratios of the talking version have reportedly been stretched, either horizontally or vertically, which version would you suggest watching for the least amount of distortion?

  11. Definitely the 1.33 OAR silent version It is annoying they squeezed/pinched the RCA Photophne version down from 1.20 to 1.12 as both sound and silent versions display some differences. I really wish Kino would revisit this edition dumping the completely pointless 1.37 cropped talkie thing in the process

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