Under Capricorn (Alfred Hitchcock's) (1949) (NTSC)

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Released 5-Jun-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1949
Running Time 116:59
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor
ViaVision Starring Ingrid Bergman
Joseph Cotten
Michael Wilding
Margaret Leighton
Cecil Parker
Denis O'Dea
Jack Watling
Harcourt Williams
John Ruddock
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Richard Addinsell


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Korean Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     I have reviewed many Hitchcock films for this website and have also seen most of them. Under Capricorn has been on my list of films I would love to see for many years. Made just after Rope in 1949, this film was quite unsuccessful at the time except in France where it was very well received. It was Hitch's second Technicolor film and one of his last English ones before starting to make films in the US a couple of years later. To be fair this is not great Hitchcock and despite having some thriller elements is really a costume melodrama set in Australia (but filmed in the US & UK). To my knowledge this film has not previously been available on DVD in Australia so we must thank ViaVision for bringing it to us. The film was derided by critics and even the cast members referred to it in a derisive way, Joseph Cotten referring to it on set and in his biography as 'Under Corny Crap'. This film is also infamous as being the film Ingrid Bergman was making when she started her scandalous affair with Italian director, Roberto Rossellini. All of these things make this an interesting film, as Hitchcock films invariably are, however it does not necessarily make it a good one.

     The story is based on a famous 1937 novel set in Australia written by Helen Simpson. It has also been adapted into a Television mini-series. The story involves a young man of good social standing, Charles Adare (Michael Wilding), who arrives in Sydney in 1830 in the early days of the New South Wales colony. He is a bit of a layabout and smart ass who has accompanied his cousin, the new Governor of New South Wales. He is looking for an easy way to make his fortune when he happens to meet Sam Flusky (Joseph Cotten) at the bank. Flusky is a prominent local landowner and businessman, however he is also an ex-convict having been sent to Sydney for murder. Despite being warned by the bank manager and his cousin to avoid Flusky, he accepts a dinner invitation to Flusky's house where he meets Flusky's wife. She is Lady Henrietta Flusky (Ingrid Bergman), daughter of an Irish peer, who eloped with Flusky back in Ireland. It turns out that Adare knew her as a child and is well aware of the whole sordid tale. She has been drinking heavily and is veering towards madness. Adare decides to try to rescue her from her despair and encourages her to stop drinking and try to rejoin society. Melodrama ensues.

     Being a resident of Sydney, it is almost impossible to accept that this film is set in Sydney at any period in history. The buildings are obviously either sets or Southern American plantations. The light is completely wrong for Sydney at any time of the year. However, British, American and French audiences of the 1940s would not have known this, so I suppose I should just ignore this and talk about the film. There are some obvious Hitchcock touches to this film, interesting camera angles, long takes such as were used in Rope and the use of light and shadows to add meaning. This is one of the things which makes this film interesting. Hitchcock also has his obligatory cameo in an early scene. Unfortunately, the film is also ponderous at times, seeming to move very slowly certainly in the middle act. The final third is much better but still below the quality of most films by the great director. The three main cast members sometimes feel like they are in three separate films, with Wilding playing for comedy at times, Bergman overacting like her life depends on it and Cotten looking bored and disinterested. Wilding is certainly the pick of the three and his character and performance are another thing which makes this film worth a look.

     This is not classic must-see Hitchcock but fans of the director who have not seen this colonial melodrama should take a look even if only to say they have seen it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video quality is pretty ordinary with no evidence of any restoration work. This is an NTSC transfer, seemingly based on the Region 0 US release.

     The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio which is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

     The picture was quite soft but watchable with abundant film grain. Shadow detail was poor.

     The colour was acceptable without setting the house on fire.

     Artefacts were plentiful and included lots of white spots and lines, plus hairs and marks (particularly noticeable at 15:50), some blue spots (13:15 is an example) and reel change markers throughout. On the film-to-video artefact side macro-blocking and aliasing were present although both of these were less obvious than the film artefacts.

     There are bizarrely only Korean subtitles available which come on automatically.

     There is no layer change during playback.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio quality is decent.

     This disc contains an English soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono which is normal for a film of this age.

     Dialogue is quite audible mostly although the soundtrack includes significant hiss and some clicks and pops at times.

     The score by Richard Addinsell is florid and a little over the top like the film. It sounds quite good with just a little distortion from time to time

     The surround speakers and subwoofer are not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras.

Menu

    The menu included music.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From a DVD perspective there is a Region 0 version by Image Entertainment which seems to be exactly the same as our local release (minus the Korean subtitles). There is a German release which includes extras in German only but is a cut version of the film. The local one is as good as any.

Summary

    A minor Hitchcock costume melodrama from 1949.

    The video quality is pretty ordinary.

    The audio quality is decent.

    The extras have been transported to New South Wales.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplaySharp LC52LE820X Quattron 52" Full HD LED-LCD TV . Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationMarantz SR5005
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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