The Trouble with Harry (1955)

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Released 26-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-(32:07)
Gallery-Art
Trailer-Trailer Compilation (6:14)
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:26)
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 95:18
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (77:58) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Edmund Gwenn
John Forsythe
Shirley MacLaine
Mildred Natwick
Mildred Dunnock
Jerry Mathers
Royal Dano
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Bernard Herrmann


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Dutch
Swedish
Danish
Norwegian
Finnish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

   And the final film off the review pile from the The Hitchcock Collection Volume One is finally upon me, and it is a bit of an upbeat way of finishing the whole collection. This is probably the most atypical film of all from Alfred Hitchcock, in that it is not really a suspense/thriller but rather a delightful blackish comedy. As a result, this was not a huge success upon initial release in the United States, because it was not what the audience were expecting: they wanted a suspense/thriller as was so expected from the master of the genre, and they ended up with a black comedy based around a dead body. This might have driven conservative America out of the cinemas in relative droves, but was far more acceptable in the more adventurous societies of Europe.

   The trouble with Harry is that he is dead. Now that would not be too much of an issue except that he is discovered out in the woods by Captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), who has been out doing a spot of slightly illegal shooting. Since he was shooting in the woods and Harry Worp (Philip Treux) appears to have been shot, Captain Wiles makes the rather reasonable assumption that one of his three rather wild shots must have killed Harry. Since there seems to be no one around, he decides to do the honourable thing and bury the poor deceased Harry. However, before he can do so, the isolated spot in the woods suddenly becomes busier than Grand Central Station. Amongst the visitors are virtually the entire population of the small village of Highwater: young Arnie Rogers (Jerry Mathers) who runs off to tell his mother, local spinster Miss Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick) and Arnie's mother Jennifer (Shirley MacLaine), plus eventually Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), the local artist. The latter two hold the key to the story but they aren't too keen to reveal them and indeed both are almost thrilled that Captain Wiles intends to bury the deceased. Indeed, Miss Gravely is so happy, she invites Captain Wiles to afternoon tea as the first man to break the no-man barrier at her home. Slowly but surely, the full story is revealed but it still centres around the poor deceased Harry, who spends the day being buried and unburied.

   This is a nicely done little story, with some delightful pieces of comedy both verbal and visual. The only slight downer is the handling of the sudden romantic twinge in the story - it was simply not really there and then suddenly there as the centre of the film.

    This story was brought to life by a very good cast. Edmund Gwenn is terrific as the poor suffering Captain Wiles, who suddenly acquires a lifetime of grave digging experience in a single day. He provides a sparkling performance that swings across a range of emotions with delightful ease. Matching his performance is a great one from Mildred Natwick, the oh-so-grateful spinster. Shirley MacLaine, an actress I have little time for, is actually quite decent here and is very aptly cast, whilst John Forsythe is terribly reliable as the artist. The whole thing was well-stirred by Alfred Hitchcock, proving that he was not just a master of one genre. He had a real deft touch here and I would hazard a guess that the maestro's famed sense of humour found much of its way into this film!

   This really is a terrific film and one that I believe is sadly underrated. I would rank it far superior to say Shadow Of A Doubt, but then again my views as far as The Hitchcock Collection Volume One is concerned are somewhat at variance to those expressed by others it seems. I really wish that this film was given a separate release, for it would enable people who did not want the whole collection to be able to obtain this very worthy comedy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    And we return to the widescreen era with this rather nice transfer for a film that is after all the wrong side of forty years old. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a nicely sharp transfer in general with just a few odd lapses to soft focus, not entirely unconnected with the presence of Shirley MacLaine on-screen it seems. This is another transfer where detail is hampered a little by some scenes having little depth in the background and looking a little false, but the on-location shots look really good. Overall though, this is a nicely detailed film that holds up better in comparison to most of the others in the collection. Shadow detail goes somewhat awry during the dusk/night scenes when they are burying Harry for some reason, as in the featurette they come across much lighter and more detailed in tone. However, apart from that sequence there is nothing much wrong with the shadow detail. Grain was not an issue in the transfer, and this is a pretty clear transfer. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer. Overall, I was quite impressed with this transfer, visually the best I think of the efforts in this collection.

    After a couple of black and white films, it is very pleasing to return to this rather nice colour transfer. Unusually for a Technicolor film of this era, the colours are if anything just a little undersaturated, which I find a rather pleasant change. This especially considering that any oversaturation was going to turn those lovely Vermont autumn colours into overly garish colours that would have looked pretty terrible. So with the slight undersaturation, we end up with a rather nice looking transfer that is colourful without being especially vibrant, and arguably the best looking of all the transfers in this collection. There is nothing much approaching oversaturation here at all, and colour bleed was not an issue. The only real point of note is that the exterior shots were done in Vermont, but they then moved to California and did most of the scenes involving the burying of Harry on a set. You will notice that there is a slight difference in colour as a result, but nothing really huge.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Whilst broadly speaking this is a relatively clean transfer, there are nonetheless a few noticeable dirt marks to be found here.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 77:58. It is perfect! Right bang in the middle of a black scene change, with no audio intrusion to highlight what is for all intents and purposes an almost undetectable layer change. I suppose after all the practice they had, they were bound to get one spot-on in the collection.

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

Audio

    Well, you know what is coming: two soundtracks on offer on the DVD, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, and I listened to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is easy to understand. There did not appear to be any serious audio sync problems in the transfer.

    The original music score for the film comes from Bernard Herrmann, and it is a good one indeed. Featuring some scatty sounding music that superbly supports the quirky, black comedy, this is deserving of an isolated music score. The film would not have been anywhere near as good without the music score.

    Rather boringly, this is again up to the standard of the soundtracks set by the other DVDs in the box set and nothing at all to complain about. A rather nice mono sound is offered here, quite a relaxed sounding effort that is wonderfully conducive for the witty dialogue on offer. This is free of any distortions or other blemishes.

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

Extras

    Another consistent extras package matching those offered with the other "new" films in the box set.

Menu

    Since we are back to a widescreen film, we return to a widescreen presentation of the menus, which are all 16x9 enhanced. The main menu has the obligatory audio enhancement. The common style in the menus is maintained here, continuing the decent if not spectacular look of the menus.

Featurette - The Trouble With Harry Isn't Over (32:07)

    Another nicely done effort, well up to the presentation of the similar featurettes for the other films in the collection. Featuring interviews with cast and crew members involved in the film, supplemented by the obligatory behind the scenes photographs and extracts from the film. Presented in a Full Frame format, with the film extracts in their correct ratio, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The video transfer is a little shimmery, with minor cross colouration issues as well. Another interesting effort.

Gallery - Art

    Comprising 38 stills of publicity and behind the scenes photographs together with poster work for the film, they are unannotated. The technical quality is quite decent.

Trailer - Trailer Compilation (6:14)

    Narrated by James Stewart, this is an extended promotional effort for the five films acquired from Paramount by Universal, duly restored and reissued in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, it is blessed with some oversaturation of the red credits, as well as some noticeable dot crawl. The presentation is in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The quality is pretty good overall.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26)

    This would appear to be a promotional trailer for a video release of the film, at least judging by the ending of the trailer. It is certainly far more modern looking and sounding than would be expected when you compare it to the trailer for Rear Window for instance. It is a little iffy in presentation, with a somewhat diffuse look to it. It is presented in a Full Frame format, is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version misses out on:     The Region 4 version misses out on:     There is not much decisive to favour one release over the other.

Summary

    The Trouble With Harry is a delicious piece of black comedy and it is really easy to see why it was not especially successful in the United States upon initial release, but was tremendously successful in Europe. There are some terrific comic moments here and it is all played so well by a very good cast. This is perhaps the one film in the whole collection that made a mockery of the original decision not to release all the films in the collection as separate DVDs. One of the unrecognized gems in the collection in my view, and proving that Alfred Hitchcock could effectively tackle other genres.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, July 06, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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