Main Menu Audio
Trailer-Trailer Compilation (6:14)
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:26)
|Year Of Production||1948|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (60:43)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Alfred Hitchcock|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|RPI||$36.95||Music||Leo F. Forbstein|
|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|
Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) are a couple with some unusual views - or at least Brandon has and forces them upon Phillip. Out of interest, they decide to experiment with that view upon David Kentley (Dick Hogan), the current beau of a former girlfriend of Brandon's in Janet Walker (Joan Chandler). In celebration of their experimentation, they hold a party to which not only Janet is invited but also David's father Henry (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and another former beau of Janet's in Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick). Also invited is the boys' former prep school teacher in Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), the man who actually inspired their unusual views. Making up the party is David's aunt Anita Atwater (Constance Collier). Most of what goes on here is quite irrelevant as there really is only one person who can call the boys on this one.
But to be quite honest, the story here is subservient to Alfred Hitchcock's desires for experimentation. The shooting of the film in a small number of long, continuous takes is even today something of a rarity in film. The result is a fluidity of action that is refreshing enough but the edit points are rather unnatural (such as close ups of peoples backs, then pull backs to take in the action). However, whilst this sort of shooting would be fairly easy to do today with cameras such as steadicams, back in the 1940s with the huge Technicolor cameras it was something of a nightmare, and it shows at times with some of the most obvious camera movement you will ever see. The single set imposes its own limitations that are perhaps not quite overcome as well as they were say in the vastly larger and more intricate set used in Rear Window. This is a much sparser set and much more unnatural in its design. But really and truly the big reason the film does not work is the fact that Hitch unusually decided to let the entire raison d'être for the film be shown in all its glory in the first couple of minutes. By doing so, there really is no suspense at all here - we know what happened and where it happened and even why it happened. Not much suspense there at all really, and notably the screenwriter also disagreed with Hitch making the deed so obvious. Had he not done so, I cannot help but feel that the suspense would have been much heightened - where is he, what happened to him?
The need to play down the outright homosexuality of the play meant that there was a degree of stiffness to the performances that does not really create enough emotion in the play. And to be honest I find little of conviction from the performances of any involved, not even the usually reliable James Stewart. Clearly he had something of an issue with the role and it seemed to carry over into a slightly reticent performance, albeit one that is still the best on offer here.
This is Alfred Hitchcock very much in experimentation mode, and it is not an overly successful experimentation either. It is by no means an outright dud, for I doubt even Hitch in experimentation mode could actually create such a beast, and still has some merit compared to the overrated trash many directors come up with. But if you were looking for a good place to enjoy the art of the maestro, this is not by a long way what you are looking for.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is extremely close to the theatrical ratio of 1.37:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.
This is actually a quite sharp transfer, which I was not expecting at all. There sure are a couple of lapses here and there but they are relatively minor. As indicated, the set is a little sparse and this is quite evident in the flat look to the whole picture. Indeed, it is so flat that the cityscape outside the window is so obviously a painted background that it is not funny. Still, whatever detail there is in the set is brought out well enough by the transfer. Shadow detail is not an issue here, as the lighting is fairly constant throughout the film. A little surprisingly, there is not much of an issue with grain and the overall transfer is quite clear. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.
Unlike some of the later Technicolor films in the 1950s, the overall look here is of matte colours, with a tendency to undersaturation. The skin tones are not really that natural and there is a degree of unbelievability as a result. However, you soon adjust to the palette and find little to complain about. There is nothing in the way of oversaturation here at all and colour bleed is not an obvious issue either. There is something of an inherent problem in the early part of the film, right after the deed, in that there is a slight issue with the solidity of the blue colour of the suit worn by Brandon. This is accompanied by a blue colouration on the print itself that flashes on and off for about two minutes around this time.
There is a consistent loss of resolution in pan shots here, which I would attribute to the camera operators not being able to move those bulky cameras as quickly as they would like. Other than that there did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are little in the way of problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, apart from a few minor instances of moiré artefacting in Rupert's tie (around 71:34 is a good illustration of this). There are quite a few film artefacts floating around the transfer but nothing more than would be reasonably expected in a film of over fifty years of age.
This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 60:43. If I thought the layer change in The Man Who Knew Too Much was appalling, then this one has to be abysmal. Once again it occurs mid-scene during motion, this time with a gun being placed into a pocket - just before the gun is slipped into the pocket, stop everything! We have the layer change to throw in here. I am beginning to wonder just exactly how they chose the layer change points in these films, especially here as it is not a long film and there are several Hitch inserted natural change points.
The dialogue comes up clear and easy to understand in the transfer. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer.
The original music for the film comes from Leo F Forbstein, but this is not a real high point of the film and nor was it designed to be. The film is a play and was shot as a play, and thus does not demand much from any musical support.
Another somewhat unmemorable soundtrack, that is free of any serious problems but does not offer any real excitement. In comparison to the other films reviewed so far in the box set, it is a better overall soundscape, somewhat more believable and less mono sounding (although it still is mono of course). This is one film where the lack of surround encoding and bass channel support is not entirely missed.
|Surround Channel Use|
|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|