DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Suspicion (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Sep 4, 2004.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]


    Suspicion





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1941
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 99 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Academy
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.97
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase





    The Feature:
    Next week is a big one for fans of legendary British director, Alfred Hitchcock. Warner Brothers is about to release a ten disc (9 films) boxed set entitled, The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection. Among the new releases will be Dial M For Murder (1955), Foreign Correspondent (1940), I Confess (1953), The Wrong Man (1956), Stage Fright (1950), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) and a Two Disc SE of Strangers On A Train (1951). Also included in the set is the ultimate WB Hitchcock property, North By Northwest (1959) in a new style keepcase, and finally the featured film, Suspicion (1941). Individual titles will list for $19.97, while the two disc SE will list for $26.99 or the entire set lists for $99.92.

    During the second installment of the upcoming Hitchcock Collection, we look at a film whose stars would both be featured in some of Alfred Hitchcock’s best work. Just a year earlier, Joan Fontaine appeared in Rebecca (1940) while the other co-star, Cary Grant would go on to make a number of great films under Hitchcock’s direction such as Notorious (1946), To Catch A Thief (1955) and one of Hitch’s best films, North By Northwest (1959). While Fontaine was nominated for a Best Actress Academy for her performance in Rebecca, she actually won the award a year later for her work in Suspicion. The following year she would be nominated yet again for her performance in 1943’s, The Constant Nymph.

    Johnnie Aysgarth (played by Cary Grant) is a handsome and suave gambler. As strangers on a train, they have just met after Johnnie gets busted for riding in first class with a third class ticket – and cannot cough up the fare for the upgraded seat. A fellow passenger, Lina McLaidlaw (played by Joan Fontaine) comes up with the necessary fare and strikes up an interesting conversation with her new friend. By all accounts, Lina is considered a soon-to-be spinster, a term she’s eager to disprove. After a very brief courtship, she falls in love with Johnnie, much to the chagrin of her very wealthy and influential parents. It seems as though Johnnie’s reputation precedes him and their relationship is met with trepidation on behalf of Lina’s concerned father General McLaidlaw (played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke).

    After a number of lies are revealed, Lina soon realizes that Johnnie may not be who he says he is, and soon she becomes increasingly suspicious of him. A number of gambling debts are revealed as well as the fact that he has been fired by his boss, Capt. Melbeck (played by longtime Hitchcock favorite Leo G. Carroll), for embezzling - something he’s kept from Lina for the past six weeks. Even her father’s prized museum piece chairs that were given to them as their wedding gift have gone missing, sold to fund more horse races. Lina gets news that her father has passed away and Johnnie becomes excited at the prospect of finally becoming a wealthy man but is left a mere pittance as an inheritance.

    An old friend, Beaky (played by Nigel Bruce), suddenly shows up who is well aware of Johnnie’s conniving and deceitful ways. However, he unexpectedly dies when the pair decides to head off to France after researching a housing development. Regardless of Lina’s feelings toward her husband’s behavior, her unwavering love for him prevents her from seeing the true Johnnie. Always able to provide a plausible explanation for the circumstances he finds himself in, Lina tries to bury her suspicions rather than admit to herself the type of man she has married. But at what cost…?

    The film was an important one for the RKO Studio. Fontaine and Hitchcock who were on loan from David O. Selznick helped the fledgeling studio earn a profit of almost a half million dollars making it the biggest money maker of the year after studio executives were concerned the high cost of the production wouldn’t be recouped. The film was based on Francis Iles’ novel “Before The Fact” and apparently Hitchcock was insistent on the changes although would later blame studio execs for forcing him to change the ending.

    For fun, we’ll list the infamous Hitchcock trademark cameo shots throughout the series. In this case, he appears:

    At the 46:53 mark of the film, during a shot of the village he stands in front of a mail box depositing a letter.

    On a slightly disconcerting note, both Hitchcock films I have screened thus far (this and Strangers On A Train) have frozen just at the end credits portion of the film. Both movies finished completely but froze on the fade-to-black portion after the film ended. I have four Pioneer players (2 Elites and 2 regular players – hey, I’m brand loyal…) and the discs froze on all but one of the players. Both discs have worked fine so far on my PC. I’ll keep you posted as I make my way through the collection.

    The Feature: 4/5
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    Video:
    WB delivers with another excellent looking video transfer, not in the same league as the recent Strangers On A Train mind you, but very nice indeed.

    Blacks were exceptional and whites were quite clean and stark. The level of contrast and shadow detail was perfect. The level of grayscale was also quite nice.

    Image detail was fairly sharp throughout the entire film with occasional softness on many of the female close-ups and some of the wider shots, but all around, very nice. There was a moderate amount of fine film grain present throughout rendering a beautiful film-like image with a very nice amount of depth and dimensionality.

    There were moderate amounts of dust and dirt blemishes as well as vertical film scratches that infrequently appeared. There was also a moderate amount of light shimmer that appeared throughout although I didn’t find it bothersome. Light speckle also appeared but rather infrequently.

    While I don’t know what was used in terms of elements for the transfer, this film has a rather coarse look to it, similar to many of the RKO titles I’ve covered in the past – not a criticism, simply an observation. Remember, the film dates back to 1941, and considering the vintage, I think it looks pretty darn good.

    Video: 4/5
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    Audio:
    Not really a lot to speak of for the DD Monaural soundtrack and as we might hope for, the track is solid with nothing bad to say about it.

    The track was virtually clean and only a slight hint was present throughout the track. Other noises such as crackling or popping didn’t exist. The overall fidelity of the track was natural that never became edgy or harsh.

    Dialogue was always exceptionally bold and clear and was never lost during Franz Waxman’s wonderful light hearted score which also, at times, evoked a tense and suspenseful atmosphere.

    As we would also expect given the limitations of the period, the mono track was wafer thin with respect to dynamics.

    A solid track that does what needs to be done.

    Audio: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    The disc is complemented by two special features. They are:
    [*] Before The Fact: Suspicious Hitchcock. A number of Hitchcock historians and film aficionados participate in this feature such as Bill Krohn, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Osborne, Pat Hitchcock O’Connell among many others. A number of topics are discussed from the casting and what would be a long time relationship between Hitchcock and Cary Grant to the various differences between the novel and the film’s adaptation. There is also a brief discussion relating to censorship issues as well as comments from Robert Osborne pertaining to the Turner colorization of the film several years back. A very interesting group of discussions that adds a lot of interesting trivia relating to the film. Duration 21:35 minutes.
    [*] The only other feature is the Theatrical Trailer which surprisingly, is in pretty rough shape. Duration 1:39 minutes.

    Not a lot in terms of quantity, but the trailer is always appreciated and the featurette is super. Nice job.

    Special Features: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    For some fans of the original book, perhaps they may consider the ending flawed. For the rest of us, the film is yet another wonderful and playful example of Hitchcock at his best. While the film itself lacks the common whimsicality often associated with his films, a perfectly cast Cary Grant delivers that characteristic throughout the film with his menacing grin never showing his hand for even a moment. And as Hitchcock once said; “one doesn’t direct Cary Grant, one just puts him in front of a camera”.

    As expected, the extras are a slightly sparse but worthwhile nonetheless and the presentation is terrific. Fans of Hitch will no doubt want to add this to their library, but again consideration should be given to the boxed set for what amounts to be half the price.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Recommended..!





    Release Date: September 7th, 2004
     
  2. Bryan Ri

    Bryan Ri Screenwriter

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    Great review Herb!

    This isn't one that I'm picking up, but it's good to see that WB appears to have done a great job with the set.

    One question: does the featurette go into any detail about the alternate ending to the picture?

    Can't wait to read your Dial M review!
     
  3. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Thanks Brian.

    Yes they do briefly talk about an alternate ending and how Hitchcock wanted an alternate version, but the feature mostly talks about how the book differs from the film. According to an old book I have (The RKO Story), it's interesting to read how everyone pointed fingers at everyone else regarding the film's eventual ending.
     
  4. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Excellent review Herb [​IMG]
     
  5. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Thank you Herb.

    I've always liked this movie even though some have ranked it as lesser Hitchcock (largely due to the ending). To me, the great cast (I'm a big Nigel Bruce fan and Cedric Hardwicke always did a good job) comes together to make this a very fun film to watch.

    I'm especially pleased that Warners has used a good source print for this film. I've seen this movie in revival theaters and on television and it always looked like a rougher print was used.

    I really enjoy Pat O'Connell's comments whenever she does one of these documentaries and am very glad Warner gave her the opportunity to participate on these. As others have noted, "Lifeboat" remains the only American Hitch title that will be MIA. If Fox ever puts their classic catalog release program in full throttle hopefully they will invite her to participate on a release of that title.

    It's too bad Joan Fontaine no longer gives interviews, having her comments on this movie would have been "icing on the icing" on the cake of this release. Still, Warners has apparently come through with another first class release.
    Steve
     
  6. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

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    OK, Herb:

    First you get the Dead Ringer/Children of the Damned/Bad Seed "triple whammy", then Freaks, now the Hitchcock Collection. When are you planning on retiring so I can take over your job? (Unless you had an unfortunate "accident"...hmmmmm)


    I AM SO JEALOUS!
     
  7. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    I would love to have seen the original ending - presumably it is lost to time. Nevertheless, despirte the flawed ending we do have, it is a most enjoyable film, and I look forward to seeing it again.
     
  8. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Nice review Herb. I'm a big Hitchcock fan, especially big Cary Grant fan and have never seen this. Looking forward to this dvd.

    While Cary Grant was extremely famous and popular, he never got the respect or at least the awards he deserved. He's so good, it looks like he's not acting. [​IMG]
     
  9. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    I watched this DVD yesterday and it indeed is the best I've ever seen this film look. The picture quality is very good with only a few very minor issues that don't last very long. If you want to appreciate the work that Warners has done cleaning up the film just watch the documentary on this disc. The film clips used on it apparently were from an unrestored version of the film.

    I always thought the ending that Hitch originally wanted for this film was absolutely brilliant. It's a shame that it no longer exists for us to enjoy.

    Steve
     

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