A Few Words About A few words about... The Hitchcock Signature Collection

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Sep 12, 2004.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I've been sampling the new releases in Warner's new Hitchcock Signature Collection, and while a few of the films are showing their age, I've come away very pleased.

    Dial "M" for Murder was always a problematic film as far as color was concerned. Photographed on early Eastman stock and processed by the Warner lab, it didn't fare terribly well over the years.

    The new DVD in some ways actually looks superior to some older dye transfer prints, with astonishing reds and blacks. Contrast is apparent, but the overall look is far superior to anything that we've seen in the past 40 years, so this one's a winner.

    The Wrong Man looks fine in its anamorphic widescreen format, with rich blacks and superb grays.

    Suspicion and Mr. and Mrs. Smith look nice for their age, and with fine gray scales retained even from dupes.

    Foreign Correspondent looks much better than I would have thought, as it was produced independently and was not a part of a studio preservation program.

    I Confess looks much as it has over the years, apparently designed with a more contrasty feel.

    Stage Fright is also a fine representation.

    This set is a major release for anyone who love the work of The Master of Suspense.

    With the release of the set, we are lacking a single Hitchcock film, Fox's Lifeboat, which hopefully is being looked after for a release as part of their Classics series.

    The deal of the year is, of course, on the box set. Nine films for an online price of about $75, works out to about $8 per title, inclusive of the new two disc release of Strangers on a Train and the old North by Northwest in new packaging. The old one makes a nice gift for a needy friend.

    All of these films come highly recommended, especially at the price point.

    My only gripe about the set are the generic, "cookie-cutter" documentaries by Laurent Bouzereau.

    While he uses many of the proper (and wonderful) ingredients such as Pat Hitchcock O'Connell, Richard Schickel and others, and although interesting information is shared, they appear to have been produced on a tiny budget.

    Each interviewee was obviously quizzed about all of the films in a single session in the same clothing with the same setup. Each documentary follows the same path, with hardly a bit of creativity thrown in. You can actually sense some of the on-camera talent growing weary from an apparent long day.

    The documentaries are basically a free add-on, but they could be so much more with a bit more budget or in different hands.

    Its almost as if the DVD documentary has gone the way of the Ford assembly line. One color and one style fits every film, and that's a pity. Some new ideas and new talent could go a long way.

    Imagine a set of documentaries on the Hitchcock films created by someone like Kevin Brownlow. That would be nirvana.

    RAH
     
  2. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Thanks Robert. I just bought this set for my dad for his birthday next week so I'm glad the quality of the presentations are good.

    I grew up watching the Grace Kelly Hitchcock films so I'm pleased about Dial M For Murder. It's always been one of my favorites, just below Rear Window, and N-NWest.

    I'll be getting this set for myself soon too. [​IMG]
     
  3. Bryan Ri

    Bryan Ri Screenwriter

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    I was really impressed by the transfer of Dial 'M, myself. I had heard some horror stories floating around about how it was initially shot in 3D that the product on the DVD would suffer; thankfully, they were just rumors. Grace Kelly's red dress, particularly, was very vibrant.

    I'm a huge Hitchcock fan, and this set did not disappoint.
     
  4. Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks Second Unit
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    I watched "Dial M for Murder" from my set today. It looks great.
     
  5. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Yeah. I really didn't like the spliced together commentary for "Strangers." I would have preferred if they gave Bogdanovich his own commentary. While he typically comes off a bit dry, he knows his stuff.
     
  6. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    I totally agree (and said so quite loudly in another thread) about the documentaries by Laurent. I have grown to really dislike anything he does because they all look and sound exactly the same. I really dislike the way he uses music, too. Bogdanovich actually looks and sounds like he's going to fall asleep - I had to actually fast-forward through his stuff (and Shickel's, whose voice and manner I find off-putting). But the set is a total treasure.
     
  7. Matthew Anderson

    Matthew Anderson Second Unit

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    Thanks Mr. Harris for your review of the Hitchcock set. I have watched Foreign Correspondent and Mr.&Mrs Smith and so far I have been very pleased with the presentation overall. Foreign Correspondent is a little gem of a film and the documentary on that film was very good too.
     
  8. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    It's always good to get Robert's approval! [​IMG]

    Yes, it quite startling how Laurent Bouzereau's style hasn't changed over the years. The way his interviews are shot and edited are dull and can be a real chore sometimes. And his best work - Jaws 2hr Laserdisc documentary and 2hr Close Encounters documentary are cut on DVD! Gah!

    I feel that the best place to interview an actor is in their own home, so that they feel more comfortable. I can think of a lot of DVD retrospective pieces where the actor looks wearied by having to travel to Burbank for a low-paying 8-hour interview for which they won't ever get royalties for, but will be seen by perhaps millions of people for years to come.

    Bogdanovich looks like he is about to fall asleep - he seems bored? Now he knows how John Ford felt! "Cut!" [​IMG]

    Anyway... I can't wait to revisit these classics.
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    As an interesting sidenote to Foreign Correspondent. Rudolph Mate was born in Austria-Hungary in 1898, and photographed a myriad of European productions, inclusive of the brilliant Passion of Joan of Arc in 1928, and later films such as Cover Girl and Gilda in the U.S.

    He became an American citizen during the production of Foreign Correspondent and received a framed (painted) American flag courtesy of the art department, signed by the entire cast and crew inclusive of director Hitchcock.

    For his CV, go here:

    http://pro.imdb.com/name/nm0005789/

    RAH
     
  10. RichardCrowther

    RichardCrowther Stunt Coordinator

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    I didn't which of the threads to put this in, so I've gone with this one.[​IMG]

    Has anyone else noticed an odd couple of moments during the new Stage Fright disc?

    The first comes at the 1h18m23s mark:

    There seems to be an odd jump or instability in the picture on the cut between the lines “I don’t care if you crawl home” and “Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I’m not mean…” Also, these two lines don’t really seem to follow each other, when heard in context, as if some dialogue has been chopped out. Has the film always played out like this?

    Next, at the start of Chapter 29 (1h47m48s) as we see the two leads exit from the carriage, the image is very obviously slowed down at this point. Again, has this always been the case, or is this an attempt to hide some print damage?

    Any help appreciated.
     
  11. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    There should not be any problems, Dial M was phtographed in dual-system 3-D, so the film has a normal 35mm negative (actually, two: one for the left eye and one for the right). When I ran a new print in dual system 3-D last year, it lookd fine aside from some slight negative fade, which (t sounds like) has been dealt with here in the telecine/colorist stages.
     
  12. PaulP

    PaulP Producer

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    I may be in the minority, but I completely enjoyed the documentaries on this set so far, as I've posted in another thread. Good info is all one can ask for, and we're shown great stuff. I especially enjoyed the piece on Hitchcock and his family, hearing from his grand-daughters and seeing footage of the family. It's priceless.



    Well, I paid $62 in total, from Amazon with Share the Love discount and free shipping, so I really made out like a thief, with each title costing under 7 bucks. [​IMG]
     
  13. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    As an aside to Mr. Harris’ glowing review of this Signature Collection which I am very much in agreement of, I’d like to comment on the special features.

    Are these the best special features that have ever been included to complement feature films…? No, in fact far from it. I’ll go even further by stating that I haven’t seen special features that I’d gush about since the WB Legends set last year. But, I’d argue these are far and away, better than many (most) of the drivel that’s being added nowadays.

    I think we must temper, to some degree, a touch of perspective for those not happy with the special features in this collection.

    The most common complaint (or perhaps desire) I hear or read is when members request the inclusion of those who are still with us – those who actually participated in the production in one capacity or another. In this case, that’s been done. Granted, the special feature(s) included in this set is basically one huge feature that has been edited for specific comments for pertinent films to be included on those discs. Aside from a number of respected biographers, directors & film historians, Hitchcock’s daughter (actress), actress Kasey Rogers, art director Paul Sylbert are just a couple that quickly come to mind.

    They may look tired and yes they’re all wearing the same clothes throughout the elongated feature but what they have to offer is invaluable – they were there…! Put me in a studio for 12 hours in front of a camera and allow me to boast about my favorite thing in the world (my two kids) and even I would grow tired and weary after awhile. Point is; I’d take these any day of the week over inflated budgeted “advertisements” now becoming the norm with these “so-called” special features.

    IMO, for fans of classic film, this Signature Collection is perhaps one of the best boxed set releases - ever - and it’s priced ridiculously low, as far as I’m concerned. I think we’d have all been just as happy with the price and the quality of the transfers had these been Paramount releases – read: no special features. And frankly, I’m glad to have them.
     
  14. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Great post Herb. Well said. [​IMG]
     
  15. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    As always, Mr. Harris' comments are much appreciated. Thank you.

    I totally understand what he is saying in regards to the low budget feel of the documentaries. At the same time I do rather enjoy them and I think they are a great "primer" to Hitch for fans sampling these films (or even Hitch) for the first time. To take a more "scholarly" approach might turn off the casual fan.

    Between these documentaries and the ones on the Universal discs, Hitchcock fans can find a wealth of info covering the highlights of these films.

    Greater detail can be obtained from many of the wonderful books written on Mr. Hitchcock. I particularly enjoyed "A Life in Darkness and Light" which runs over 700 pages and is well researched. I will be rereading it.

    In an ideal world, Mr. Hitchcock would be the subject of one of those PBS style multi-episode documentaries. Even more ideally this would have been undertaken 7 or 8 years ago when many of his contempories were still alive.

    An entire episode alone should be dedicated to wife Alma who was more influential on his work than many realize. (Pat O'Connell has written a book on her mother within the last couple of years.)

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Harris in hoping that Fox releases Lifeboat with a similar documentary.

    I would also hope that a major studio will take it upon themselves to restore and release the major British films still lacking a mainline release.

    Steve
     
  16. Louis-Olivier

    Louis-Olivier Stunt Coordinator

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    Am i the only one who got a snapper in the box-set? I'm really dissapointed as I was expecting a re-packaged north by northwest in a keepcase, but instead i got the same old edition in a snapper which really stands out from the rest of the discs [​IMG]
     
  17. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    I think it is worth mentioning that Bouzereau did an great job with the 90 minute documentaries on the "Psycho" and "The Birds" DVDs. Each one is quite comprehensive, covering every stage of production, including interviews with everyone still alive who worked on the films.
     
  18. PaulP

    PaulP Producer

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    Because you're in Canada. I've read that people who bought this set from Amazon.ca for example did receive the old snapper version. The US release is in a keepcase.
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The ancillary material showpieces coming from Warner will be the That's Entertainment package.
     

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