Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:55)
|Year Of Production||1942|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (81:11)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Alfred Hitchcock|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The time is World War Two and the war industry of the United States is cranking up and cranking out production like crazy. Since this is the war, the United States is in the grip of paranoia about Nazis and Japs as only the United States can get gripped about such things. Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) works at an aircraft factory in California, and has an inadvertent meeting with a bloke he presumes is a fellow worker, Frank Fry (Norman Lloyd), as they head out for the evening meal break on the night shift. As they are enjoying their break, the workers are roused by a fire alarm. Dashing to the scene of the fire, Barry and his best mate are the first there to tackle the blaze. Fry passes Barry an extinguisher which his mate then grabs and heads off to fight the flames. Only problem is the extinguisher is filled with gasoline and the whole place goes up in a fireball that kills the young man. As the investigation commences, it would seem that no person known as Frank Fry is employed at the factory and thus the sabotage that killed the young man seems to have been the act of Barry Kane. The only hope for Barry is to try and locate Fry and thus he eludes capture and heads off in search of Fry - based upon the only thing he knows, the envelopes that Fry was carrying when they met, which had his address as a ranch in Springvale. Naturally the search is not that easy and at the ranch Barry meets Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger) who seems to be involved with Fry. Tobin has Barry arrested but he manages to escape and heads off in flight, which results in him meeting Patricia Martin (Priscilla Lane). What follows is a cross country jaunt to clear Barry's name and locate the true perpetrators of the sabotage at the aircraft factory - before they can strike again at the Brooklyn Naval Dock Yards.
This is certainly not a classic as far as the story goes and this is matched by the lack of any classic performances amongst the cast. Indeed, about the only classic thing here is the special effects and even those are so well known that they don't hold the same sort of wow factor they did fifty years ago. Frankly, I have never understood what sort of performance Robert Cummings was aiming for in the film, as at times he has the most ludicrous grin/smirk I have ever seen in what is supposed to be a suspense/thriller film. It is almost like someone has made a school yard dirty joke and he cannot get over it. Priscilla Lane (yes, she of Arsenic And Old Lace fame) plays the token blonde female lead well enough, even though it was not a role that Hitch required much from. Perhaps the standout amongst the reasonably ordinary cast was Otto Kruger, but I can't help but feel that it was more to do with the lack of quality around him rather than his own great thespian skills. Apart from a few interesting techniques, notably the climatic scene which has been dissected many times over the years, this was Alfred Hitchcock in almost film-by-the-numbers mode.
Not amongst the best thing to ever come from Alfred Hitchcock, and a film that is not wearing the years well at all. Still, perhaps you might have seen the film a few less times than I and will find more to enjoy here than my jaded self.
It is generally a reasonably sharp transfer throughout, although there are a few noticeable lapses here and there to just highlight the age of the film a little. Detail is at best only good, but more often is only reasonable throughout, which no doubt reflects the time in which the film was made. Many of the backgrounds are seemingly obviously painted sets, and the background often lacks any sort of depth at all. Shadow detail is quite poor, which reflects the fact that this is a dark transfer and any time there is dark involved, it gets really dark. There is significant grain present throughout most of the transfer, that whilst not really serious is nonetheless noticeable and a tad distracting. Clarity as a result is not as good as we would perhaps like. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.
This is something of a dark transfer as indicated above and as a result the black and white is not amongst the best I have seen. Indeed, having now seen what Universal have managed to do with the material, I am now inclined to be a little less harsh of the Laserlight transfers of even earlier films available through MRA Entertainment. With the transfer tending towards the dark side of things, the overall palette here is not the best. It lacks something in the way of vibrancy to start with, which compounds a relatively narrow band of black and grey tones. At times, this does not really aid the definition of the transfer, and overall has to be considered only reasonable looking. There is something of a lack of serious solidity to the blacks at times, whereas at others there is a little too much depth.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There is an exceedingly unusual artefact in the pan shot between 1:35 and 1:40, and my attempts to describe it are going to be woefully inadequate. It appears in the background against the corrugated wall and looks like a whole bunch of elongated black ovals moving from left to right across the wall during the pan. I don't know what it is but it is pretty obvious and quite off-putting. The only other artefact of note is between 46:15 and 46:45 where there is some noticeable wobble, but only in the shots of Bones, the human skeleton - suggesting that something was awry with the camera used for shooting these scenes. Other than that there did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, just some very minor aliasing that is barely noticeable. Film artefacts are quite prevalent and are occasionally quite obvious and very distracting, especially the large hairs.
This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 81:11. Well after a couple of shockers in this area, I suppose anything would be seen as an improvement. Well, this almost is, for they were obviously trying to place it in a black scene change. The only problem is that they missed it by about one tenth of a second. A near miss is still a miss, and in this case is too obvious a miss: the scene starts to fade to black, stops shy of actually getting black, layer change progresses with a ghostly image on screen, before continuing on to the actual black scene change. This really just looks sloppy, and as a result is very annoying and disruptive to the flow of the film.
The dialogue comes up reasonably clear and is generally easy to understand in the transfer, but there are a few places where the dialogue gets just a little recessed. I am supposing that this is the result of problems in the source material. There did not appear to be any serious audio sync problems in the transfer.
The original music score for the film comes from Frank Skinner, but really the film is probably highlighted by the lack of music rather than the score itself. Nowadays you get so used to the climatic scene of a film being telegraphed by hackneyed music that completely fails to do the job it is supposed to. Here, you get to the climatic scene and - where is the music? Yes, there is silence, broken only by small bits of dialogue as the climatic scene unfolds. Pretty decent change of pace in my view. When music is present however, it is not really that memorable.
The standard style of soundtrack for the DVDs in the box set and nothing to really complain about. It starts out a little stridently in the Universal logo (thankfully they have left the original here which is a really nice change), and the thoughts immediately are that this is going to be an ear-shattering experience. Thankfully, it soon settles down to a more acceptable level and really sounds a typical mono soundtrack, totally central and nothing else. It is free of any distortions or noticeable blemishes, and does not tax the old speaker system too much.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|