Stage Fright (1950)

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Released 2-Mar-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Hitchcock And Stage Fright
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 105:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (36:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Jane Wyman
Marlene Dietrich
Michael Wilding
Richard Todd
Alastair Sim
Sybil Thorndike
Kay Walsh
Miles Malleson
Hector MacGregor
Joyce Grenfell
André Morell
Patricia Hitchcock
Ballard Berkeley
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music leighton lucas


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Let me start with a couple of statements so you can gauge my level of objectivity when it comes to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred Hitchcock is responsible for the greatest body of work produced by any one director. His level of consistency across his body of work is truly amazing (perhaps with the exception of a couple of films very late in his career and one or two of the early films). So, now that my level of objectivity is clear, let's move on...

    This film is the oldest of the four films included in the newly released Warner Home Video collection of Alfred Hitchcock films made for Warners between 1950 and 1957. They are not available separately.

    Stage Fright is a film which has generated much debate; amongst critics on its release, amongst film historians now and even in Hitchcock's own mind. The reason for this debate is a device which Hitchcock uses near the beginning of the film, the impact of which does not become clear until the end. Some critics believe this device is a stroke of genius and others believe it is an unfair trick played on the audience. I strongly believe that the first viewpoint is correct, as to my mind it makes this movie stand out as a great piece of cinema. I will not discuss the particular device in detail as this would spoil the film for those who have not seen it. Hitchcock said in later years that it was a mistake. You need to make up your own mind.

    The plot revolves around the murder of the husband of Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich), a self-serving and manipulative femme fatale, who is also a famous actress. She is the blonde ice-queen character which is a common motif in Hitchcock films. A young man, Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd), is madly in love with Charlotte and would happily do anything for her. He is also carrying on a relationship with a young unsuccessful actress, Eve Gill (Jane Wyman), who loves him. Once Eve realises that Jonathan has got himself mixed up in this murder, she decides to investigate herself in order to clear his name. She arranges to take over from Charlotte's dresser in order to get closer to whom she believes committed the murder. She also meets (and subsequently falls in love with) a detective working on the case, Wilfred Smith (Michael Wilding). She enlists the assistance of her eccentric father, Commodore Gill (English comedy great Alistair Sim) who gets involved in various schemes (many of them amusing) to help her rescue Jonathan even though he does not think much of him. It is also interesting to note that Hitchcock's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, appears in the film as Chubby Bannister, a friend of Eve.

    This is one of Hitchcock's lighter films, like The Trouble with Harry, and is full of excellent comedic touches and dialogue in addition to the core thriller story. Alistair Sim and Sybil Thorndyke as Eve's estranged parents are both wonderful, as is a short scene involving shooting ducks, which are targets in a side show. Even though this scene does not really advance the storyline, it is so amusing that you don't really care. The rest of the cast are uniformly excellent. The requisite appearance by Hitch occurs at 38:16 as Eve is walking down the street. Despite the lighter tone, there are some scenes which are quite intense, especially the final scene between Eve and Jonathan beneath the stage in the theatre. Hitchcock's use of lighting and close-ups in this scene is fantastic. There are many other examples of his various trademark techniques throughout the film, such as the introduction of Charlotte via a close-up of her legs and dress. Another interesting device used in the film is the opening of the credits being over a theatre safety curtain, which rises to reveal London, rather than a stage. Also, the role of the safety curtain in the climax adds to this device.

     This is a wonderful film, well worthy of a place in the top half of Hitchcock's canon of movies. I am extremely pleased to have been able to finally get the chance to see it and review this DVD release.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is disappointing, especially considering the quality of previous Hitchcock releases.

    The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is close to the original aspect ratio, which was the Academy ratio of 1.37:1.

    The picture was generally clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. The sharpness is affected by some reasonably heavy grain. The shadow detail was not spectacular, but considering the age of the film, not too bad.

    The film is in black and white. Generally the contrast between black, white and the various shades of grey was very good. The blacks were certainly well saturated.

    Artefacts is where this transfer lets itself down. I would have hoped for some more restoration work to have occurred for a major film by a major director. There are some quite glaring film artefacts and also some MPEG artefacts, although these are not as obvious. On the film artefacts front, there are significant amounts of specks, flecks, splodges and lines. Some bad patches occurred at 31:40 (bad section), 54:28 (large spot), 21:56 (a flash of lines/hairs), 39:48, 53:05 (hair at bottom of screen), 76:15 (a bad line), 104:50 - end (a very bad thick vertical line down the middle of the screen). Additionally, there was a reel change marker at 60:30, some effects akin to comet trails from Marlene Dietrich's earrings at 59:30, a jump possibly caused by a missing frame at 86:00 and a section of film which looked like it had been stretched at some point at 103:29. On the MPEG artefacts front, there was some macro-blocking in backgrounds here and there, and some aliasing mostly affecting clothing such as the jacket at 31:00 and the jacket which Jane Wyman first puts on at 36:50 and then continues to wear for a lot of the rest of the film. If you need any more, there was also some edge enhancement, mostly minor.

    There are subtitles in 6 languages including English & English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read although somewhat smaller than most.

    The layer change occurs at 36:00 and is well placed and not particularly noticeable.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is fine but will give most of your speakers the night off.

    This DVD contains three audio options; an English Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in French and Italian.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand , however, there was an occasional minor audio sync issue, probably due to ADR rather than the transfer itself.

    The score of this film by Leighton Lucas is fine but does not really stand out.

    All speakers except the centre are not used..

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu includes stills, and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles.

Hitchcock and Stage Fright (19:22)

    A fascinating, if somewhat short, recently made documentary about this film and its place in Hitchcock's body of work. The controversy I mentioned above is covered as are the differing viewpoints on it. Included are interviews with three different film historians, Jane Wyman and Patricia Hitchcock. There are some amusing anecdotes and fascinating insights into the film. It does contain some significant spoilers so watch the movie first.

Theatrical Trailer (2:44)

    This is a slightly strange trailer which starts with footage of Jane Wyman receiving a Playbill Magazine award and then follows up with a more traditional trailer which to my mind does not really do justice to the film. The voiceover is especially grating.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc is in exactly the same format as Region 1 with the exception of PAL/NTSC differences. Region 4 gets the nod on that basis.

Summary

    A excellent film for anyone other that Hitchcock, and a very good one in his canon of work.

    The video quality is disappointing.

    The audio quality is fine and in the original mono.

    The disc has a short but fascinating featurette on the film and a trailer as its extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Stage Fright - Brent R (bio-zet is especially formulated for front loading machines) REPLY POSTED
Stage Fright and Hitchcok Box - REPLY POSTED
Hitchcock box - Brent R (bio-zet is especially formulated for front loading machines)