Overall | Saboteur (1942) | Shadow of a Doubt (1943) | Rope (1948) | Rear Window (1954) | The Trouble with Harry (1955) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955) | Psycho (1960)

The Hitchcock Collection-Volume 1 (RW, Psy, etc) (1942)

The Hitchcock Collection-Volume 1 (RW, Psy, etc) (1942)

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Released 25-Jul-2001

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Overall Package

    The Hitchcock Collection Volume 1 is, as the name suggests, the first of two box sets planned for release by Universal Home Video, each containing 7 DVDs of the great maestro's work. This particular collection of seven films ranges from the 1942 film Saboteur through to the 1960 classic Psycho. Whilst it was originally planned that only two of the films would gain separate DVD releases - the previously released Psycho and Rear Window - all seven films will now indeed be given seperate release. Like any such set, the range of films is quite diverse and the quality ranges from decent to gem quality. However, Alfred Hitchcock was such a master filmmaker that his 'decent' is better than most people's best and his gems are true classics of the cinema.

    Universal Home Video have gone to some trouble to provide common theming across the six new DVDs and there is, for instance, a uniformly high quality in the extras packages. The film transfers are generally of a good standard, although obviously this has to be taken in the context of seven films spreading across eighteen years and both black and white as well as colour transfers. Certainly there is nothing here that could be considered to be sub-standard, and in some cases it is decidedly better than expected (most notably the films acquired from Paramount and which underwent restoration).

    Overall, I would have to rate this collection as good and if you have any interest at all in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, it is obviously an essential purchase - not the least because of the good value of seven films for $150. When you consider the sort of discounts obtainable from the discount department stores and online, there is little reason that this could not be bought in the $125 range with ease, which is about as good a value as you could expect. If you have only a passing interest in the films of the maestro though, you are left in a little quandry. Whilst Psycho and Rear Window are obvious purchases as solo DVD releases, which others are worthy single DVD purchases if you cannot afford the whole set? My personal choices would be The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Trouble With Harry, but obviously this may not accord to everyone's tastes.

    The collection is presented in a gatefold style package, similar to the packaging used for X-Files season releases. The six new DVDs are included in the gatefold, whilst Psycho is in a seperate envelope inserted where the production note booklet goes. This is the sort of packaging that I am not enamoured with at all. As far as I am concerned, the only way to package the seven DVDs is in separate Amaray cases within a cardboard presentation slip cover. A far more sensible packaging, and bound to last a lot longer than any gatefold design.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, July 06, 2001
Other Reviews
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DVD Net - Amy F

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Overall | Saboteur (1942) | Shadow of a Doubt (1943) | Rope (1948) | Rear Window (1954) | The Trouble with Harry (1955) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955) | Psycho (1960)

Saboteur (1942)

Saboteur (1942)

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Released 26-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-(35:24)
Storyboards
Gallery-Hitchcock Sketches
Gallery-Art
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:55)
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1942
Running Time 104:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (81:11) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Priscilla Lane
Robert Cummings
Norman Lloyd
Otto Kruger
Alan Baxter
Alma Kruger
Dorothy Peterson
Clem Bevans
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Frank Skinner


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 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

   The more I progress through the films making up The Hitchcock Collection Volume One, the older they seem to get (at least as I go through them alphabetically). Saboteur is the oldest of the seven films offered in The Hitchcock Collection Volume One, and one of the two black and white films in the set. Since it is nearly sixty years old and made during World War Two to boot, this is thus far the poorest quality of the transfers I have seen in the boxed set, and arguably another of the more mediocre films here (at least by Hitch's standards), especially in the light of those passing sixty years. Unlike Rope however, at least this is remembered for one of the more unforgettable endings to an Alfred Hitchcock film.

   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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The near sixty year old transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, since that was the ratio of the day (or at least very close to it) and it is obviously not 16x9 enhanced.

    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.

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

Audio

    The consistent presentation of the films in the box set continues with the obligatory two soundtracks on offer on the DVD; English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

    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.

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

Extras

    Another quite decent extras package which is consistent with the other "new" films in the box set, with a bit of variety for good measure.

Menu

    In common with Rope, these are not widescreen presented and are not 16x9 enhanced, although the main menu does come with the normal audio enhancement. Again the theming is only decent (and again reflecting a commonality in the menus of the other DVDs in the collection), and the continued impression is decent enough without being truly spectacular.

Featurette - Saboteur - A Closer Look: The Making Of Saboteur (35:24)

    The more I watch these admittedly good efforts from Universal, the more I wonder whether they might have been better served by making them into one super documentary and placing them on a separate extras DVD. Following the same format of featuring interviews with some of the crew members involved in the film, supplemented by the obligatory behind the scenes photographs and so on, this is another quite interesting voyage through the making of the film. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The sound at times is not quite right and sounds a tad too recessed, but other than that the only issue here is that the video is a little shimmery when focused upon Norman Lloyd's suit and there is some minor cross colouration issues in the same article of clothing.

Storyboards

    A fairly bland presentation does not overly help the value here, and I would have thought that some annotation would have been more than handy. Since it only comprises 22 actual storyboards, it also is not especially extensive.

Hitchcock's Sketches

    Exactly what it says - a small collection of sketches done by the master to plan the scene shown. Again some annotation might have been nice, and the length is not especially generous, comprising only 7 sketches.

Gallery - Art

    Comprising 45 stills of publicity and behind the scenes photographs together with poster work for the film, they are all unannotated. Decent enough quality, but do I need to mention the lack of annotation?

Theatrical Trailer (1:55)

    Mind you, when you see the trailer you realize just how much worse the film itself could have been! A somewhat over-the-top tagline is used to sell the film, but no doubt plays upon the paranoia rife in the United States during the war years (heck, they even incarcerated their own citizens for no other reason than they were of Japanese descent). The image itself is quite diffuse, with some noticeably washed out colour and detail, whilst the sound is strident and extremely hissy. There is also a lot of crackle in the sound, so overall we are not talking anything great in the technical department here. For the record, it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, it 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 nothing compellingly different enough to unequivocally say one is better than the other.

Summary

    Saboteur is another decent enough effort from Alfred Hitchcock albeit one that in the glow of fifty odd years of hindsight is not especially memorable. The climatic scene is so well known now that it no longer holds the kind of grip that it used to, and the whole thing now is decidedly mundane. Definitely a product of its time, it has not worn the years lightly.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, July 03, 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

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F
Web Wombat - John K

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Saboteur (1942) | Shadow of a Doubt (1943) | Rope (1948) | Rear Window (1954) | The Trouble with Harry (1955) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955) | Psycho (1960)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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Released 26-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-(34:47)
Gallery-Production Drawings
Gallery-Art
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:23)
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1943
Running Time 103:23
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Teresa Wright
Joseph Cotten
MacDonald Carey
Patricia Collinge
Henry Travers
Wallace Ford
Hume Cronyn
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 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 so we get to the most intriguing of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Why intriguing? Out of of the films he made, this is the one he considered to be his favourite. Yet of all his great films, this really is not the most likely to have been so chosen. Nonetheless, when the master picks a film as his favourite, then the expectations are somewhat heightened and the interest piqued. And this does really pique the interest, for quite why this is the maestro's pick is a little difficult to fathom at times. There does not seem to be much here to suggest anything special, and certainly the film is not in the same category as Rear Window or Psycho from The Hitchcock Collection Volume One.

   This is typical small town United States in abundance, being set in in Santa Rosa in California. Not only is this typical small town USA but the Newton family are a typical American family: slightly nutty father Joseph (Henry Travers), devoted homemaker Emma (Patricia Collinge) and beautiful, intelligent daughter Charlie (Teresa Wright), along with minor sprogs Ann (Edna May Wonacott) and Roger (Charles Bates) and unusual family visitor Herbie Hawkins (Hume Cronyn), who seems to have nothing but crime on his mind. So a typical American family in a typical American small town. So what is the big deal? Well, being typical means that life is typically boring and Charlie is not too thrilled about it. In fact she is so unthrilled about it that she is looking for ways to spice up life a little. She is about to get her desire with spades. For her uncle, Charles Oakley (Joseph Cotton), is about to descend upon the family for a stay. Now Uncle Charles is a bit of a mystery man, and at the moment he is well blessed with money and with two obvious police types trying to inconspicuously keep tabs on him. Obviously it is too easy for a man to evade tails in a place like New Jersey and heading off to small town USA on the other side of country is going to make it really tough to do so, but Charles does exactly that. His niece is overjoyed to see him, as is his elder sister, but a dark cloud starts to descend over Charlie's feelings for her uncle. His strange behaviour with a newspaper is a good starting point, especially when Charlie discovers what the story he was hiding was all about. Things get a little darker when two obvious police types turn up to interview the family at random for some form of poll. Of course, handsome Jack Graham (MacDonald Carey) is soon smitten by Charlie and vice versa. But Charlie is not quite so sure about her uncle after what she is told and wants nothing more to do with him as suspicions rise as to his true nature. But there is a twist in this tale, with a second thrown in for good measure, and you really will need to watch the film to find out what they are.

   Whilst it might sound rather mundane, the story is actually quite nicely crafted. The setting is well chosen as the means of establishing familiarity and complete ease with the situation of the Newton family, but as that dark cloud descends the familiarity and ease becomes questionable and uncomfortable. It is a very decent set up for the twist, and the effective counter twist, which is quite well-handled by Alfred Hitchcock. Indeed, the film tends to leave you wondering where this tale is going as it builds to something obvious, then pokes you in a different direction. Apart from the story, the other reason why it is so effectively executed is due to the performances. Teresa Wright does a good job in her portrayal of the naive young optimistic lady, slowly coming to terms with something she does not want to believe and in the process having her ideals turned almost completely around. She is however probably outshone by Joseph Cotten in a very deceptive performance, one that looks effortless and a little shallow, but one that is anything but. His ability to turn the mood in an instant and do it so perfectly is essential to the selling of the way the story unfolds. The rest of the cast is good but not terrific, but that is not entirely unexpected as the two central characters are really the whole point of this film. The appearance of MacDonald Carey does serve to confirm that yes he did actually do something other than Days Of Our Lives.

   This is a slightly stronger film than the previous two reviewed from the box set in all honesty (Rope and Saboteur), and as you analyse the film a little more it becomes a little clearer as to why Hitch had his views of it. It does an effective job of taking the familiar and comfortable, making the viewer familiar and comfortable with it (almost revelling in the mundane nature at times), and then derailing those feelings in a major way. A worthy enough film but not quite in the gem category, although this view is clearly at odds with those of the voters on the Internet Movie Database who have this film ranked at 215 in the Top 250 Films of all time at the moment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, being Full Frame format, and it is obviously not 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a generally sharp transfer throughout, with just a few odd lapses here and there to cause a bit of chagrin. There is especially a period between 72:00 and 73:00, during the bar scene, where the image is noticeably diffuse. These odd lapses tend to detract somewhat from the overall transfer. Like quite a few of the films in this box set, detail is at best only good, let down by some background work that looks decidedly false. Shadow detail is quite decent in this transfer, reflecting the slightly brighter tone of the film, and even during the night-time scenes there is little to complain about in this regard. There is again some grain present throughout most of the transfer, but nothing that really detracts too much from the enjoyment of the film - and that certainly does not impinge upon the clarity of the transfer in any serious way. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    In comparison to Saboteur, this is a much better looking transfer, not suffering at all from being overly dark. Whilst I would still have preferred a little more depth to the black and white tones here, this is not too bad a colourscape. The grey scales are reasonably well defined and there is little evidence of murkiness here at all.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The only really noticeable film-to-video artefact in the transfer is some cross colouration issues throughout the film, especially during the period between 36:00 and 37:30 in the pinafore worn by Charlie Newton. There is also some really minor aliasing at a few points in the transfer, but nothing really noticeable. Film artefacts are very prevalent in the transfer and the odd snowstorm here or there is just a little too obvious to ignore.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 75:32. It took them a little while to get it right, but this one is just about spot on! It comes during a black scene change and would have been completely undetectable had it not been for a slight interruption to the sobbing from Charlie Newton.

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

Audio

    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

    Well, you must be getting a bit fed up of me saying that there are two soundtracks on offer on the DVD, and that they are an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. And of course you do by now know that I only listened to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is generally easy to understand, funnily enough probably sounding the best of the "older" films included in the box set. There did not appear to be any serious audio sync problems in the transfer.

    The original music score for the film comes from Dimitri Tiomkin, but this is not the best I have heard from him. At times it sounds rather clichéd and some of the music is reminiscent of other music, both film and recorded that I have heard (but cannot necessarily immediately place where - which is the really annoying thing). Personally, I find it a little heavy-handed in its support of the film, but this probably suits the lack of subtlety that Americans seem to prefer in their films.

    The soundtrack is well 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, not at all strident and almost mellow in its tone that suits the style of the film very well, albeit probably unintentionally. Apart from some rather obvious extraneous distortion in the sound at 3:41, 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

    In common with the other non-widescreen releases in this package, these are not widescreen presented and are not 16x9 enhanced, although the main menu does come with the normal audio enhancement. The common style in the menus is maintained here, continuing the decent if not spectacular look of the menus.

Featurette - Beyond Doubt: The Making Of Hitchcock's Favourite Film (34:47)

    In common with the efforts on the other DVDs in the package, this is a nicely put together effort featuring interviews with predominantly some of the cast members involved in the film, supplemented by the obligatory behind the scenes photographs and extracts from the film. As such it does contain some spoilers and therefore is best watched after watching the film. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The video transfer is a little shimmery, with some consistent albeit minor aliasing issues throughout. There are also some noticeable cross colouration issues. An interesting enough effort, especially as the interviews are predominantly with Teresa Wright and Hume Cronyn.

Production Drawings

    These come from Production Designer Peter Boyle and total some 37 drawings of various aspects of the production. Whilst their relationship to the film is fairly obvious from the title stills between each group of drawings, a bit more annotation or even commentary would not have gone astray. Nothing wrong with the technical aspects in this collection.

Gallery - Art

    Comprising 50 stills of publicity and behind the scenes photographs together with poster work for the film, they are of course all unannotated. As ever the technical quality is quite decent.

Theatrical Trailer (1:23)

    This is actually the re-release trailer and not the original trailer. Accordingly, it is a bit more of a traditionally styled trailer in contrast to the different styles that Alfred Hitchcock himself had for his films. The technical quality is not much to write home about and it is particularly plagued with film artefacts. 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 nothing different enough to sermonize over one being better than the other.

Summary

    Shadow Of A Doubt is another good film from the maestro, notably for being the first truly American film that Alfred Hitchcock made. It was not the first American film from Hitch of course, but it is arguably the first to be devoid of any sort of British influence. The film has been given a decent enough transfer although it does show its age just a little. In comparison to some of the gems in this package, it could be easily overlooked but does not deserve that sort of fate.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, July 05, 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

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Saboteur (1942) | Shadow of a Doubt (1943) | Rope (1948) | Rear Window (1954) | The Trouble with Harry (1955) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955) | Psycho (1960)

Rope (1948)

Rope (1948)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 26-Sep-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-(32:27)
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 1948
Running Time 77:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:43) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring James Stewart
John Dall
Farley Granger
Cedric Hardwicke
Constance Collier
Joan Chandler
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Leo F. Forbstein


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 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

   Just as every collection of Alfred Hitchcock's films has a chance of including one of his gems, there is equally a good chance of it containing one of his misses. And unfortunately Rope is one of those misses. That is not to say that it is entirely a dud, but it wears its experimental nature on its sleeve a little too obviously. It was the first colour film that Hitch did, which is perhaps the least experimental thing tried here. What made this vastly different from any of his other films is the fact that this was filmed on a single set that was designed to allow this play to be filmed in long, continuous sequences. And yes, it is a play. Whilst that is not the cause of the issue here, it does actually contribute to the problems of the film in my view. Another contributor to the problems is the fact that the original play was very British and the translation to America has not been especially great. However, the big problem with the film is the complete lack of suspense, for the simple reason that we know what happened, we know how it happened and the sole purpose of the film is to see if anyone can trip up the perpetrators. The overt homosexuality of the film was certainly never guaranteed to ensure huge box office traffic in the ultra-conservative America of the times.

   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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    When you remember that this was made in 1948, you begin to realize that this is not too shabby an effort. Whilst by no means an early Technicolor film, it is fair to say that even in 1948 they were still working at perfecting the art of colour film making.

    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.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on offer on this DVD; an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

    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.

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

Extras

    Another quite consistent extras package with the other "new" films in the box set.

Menu

    Like the other DVDs making up The Hitchcock Collection Volume One, the menu presentation reflects the feature presentation. Accordingly, these are not widescreen presented and are not 16x9 enhanced, although the main menu does come with the normal audio enhancement. Again the theming is only decent (and reflecting a commonality in the menus of the other DVDs in the collection), and the overall impression is decent enough without being truly spectacular.

Featurette - Rope Unleashed: The Making Of Rope (32:27)

    Universal obviously went to some trouble to put these together and this is another consistent effort in line with the others seen so far. Mainly featuring interviews with some of the crew members involved in the film, this is another quite interesting voyage through the making of this somewhat unusual film. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is quite a good featurette overall and worthwhile watching, even though it is blighted a little with some minor aliasing issues and some cross colouration issues.

Gallery - Art

    Comprising 45 stills of publicity and behind the scenes photographs together with poster work for the film, they are all unannotated. Again of decent enough quality, but really needing some annotation.

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, but I am guessing that by the time I finish this collection I will be pretty fed up with it.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26)

    A slightly more conventional trailer for this film, but one that is not of the best quality at all. It suffers badly from hissy sound and has some fairly poor colour. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it 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 nothing overwhelming to suggest that the Region 1 version is significantly better than the Region 4 release.

Summary

    Rope is Alfred Hitchcock's experimentation film, and in some respects reminds me of Robert Wiene's Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, not as much for the look of the film obviously but rather for the attempt to do something different to highlight the story. Personally I see this as a failure on Hitch's part, but that still makes it better than average I guess. The transfer is by no means perfect, but for a relatively unsuccessful film from the 1940s, this is not too bad a transfer overall.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, July 02, 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

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F

Comments (Add)
A Printing Mistake on the Jacket Art? - NickM
b/w cover for other Hitchcocks in this series - Neil

Overall | Saboteur (1942) | Shadow of a Doubt (1943) | Rope (1948) | Rear Window (1954) | The Trouble with Harry (1955) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955) | Psycho (1960)

Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window (1954)

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Released 25-Jul-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-Rear Window Ehtics (55:11)
Gallery-Art
Trailer-Trailer Compilation (6:14)
Theatrical Trailer-1.66:, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:40)
Featurette-Interview with John Michael Hayes (13:11)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 109:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (93:18) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring James Stewart
Grace Kelly
Wendell Corey
Thelma Ritter
Raymond Burr
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Franz Waxman


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 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 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

   I don't know about everyone else, but when it was announced that we were to get the boxed set Hitchcock Collection Volume 1, I was more than happy. After all, any collection containing the films of Alfred Hitchcock has a fair chance of including at least one of his true gems. And so it has proven. However, from the seven DVD set, there was but one new film that was going to get an individual release under the initial plans (thankfully reappraised) - and it is an absolute gem and a half: Rear Window. Exactly why is this film such a gem? After all, it is an exceedingly boring-sounding story, since it is based entirely upon one person in one room.

   Mind you, that one person is James Stewart and that one room looks out onto one of the largest and most intricate sets ever assembled for a film up to that time.

   The simple story here is of one L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies (James Stewart), a professional photographer currently recuperating from his latest exploits, which resulted in a broken leg. He is thus confined to a wheelchair and has been for six weeks, which is enough to drive any globetrotting photographer insane. All he has to do in his apartment is gaze across the courtyard into a neighbouring apartment block - which actually proves rather interesting. There he finds: Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy), a dancer prone to doing some exotic dances in minimal clothing; Miss Hearing Aid (Jesslyn Fax), a modern artist who seems to have some weird artistic ideas; a newly married couple (Rand Harper, Havis Davenport), who keep to themselves through the simple expediency of the young bride's insatiable sexual appetite; a couple (Sara Berner, Frank Casey) with a penchant for sleeping on the fire escape for heat relief; Miss Lonely Heart (Judith Evelyn) who does all sorts of things in her place; a songwriter with a serious lack of inspiration (Ross Bagdasarian); and a costume jewelry salesman, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) and his wife Ann (Irene Winston).

   It really is interesting stuff that these ordinary people get up to, for it completely distracts Jeff, even when he is visited by his gorgeous girlfriend Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly). Indeed, the fascination with the next door neighbours' lives is seriously jeopardising the likelihood of him ever marrying the lovely Lisa. Well, that and the fact that he thinks she is far too good for him and totally unsuited to the life of globetrotting and living out of a suitcase. Which of course totally mystifies his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), who rightly sees Lisa as the epitome of every man's dreams. Well, that and the fact that Lisa is madly in love with him.

   As the story slowly unfolds, it becomes apparent that skullduggery is afoot in the apartment block and even though confined to his room and his wheelchair, through his voyeuristic peeping Jeff has to prove that Lars may have actually murdered his dear wife Ann. He attempts to do so with minimal input from Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey), former war time pilot for Jeff and now one of New York's finest. Slowly but surely though, both Lisa and Stella come to agree with his point of view and jump in to assist Jeff. The rest is only divulged by watching the film!

   Rear Window is a rare film in that it displays excellence in just about every way. It begins with a fantastic screenplay that was enormously detailed and brought every necessary nuance to the subjective point of view that is the basis of the film. In fact, about the only problem I have with the entire screenplay is the fact that not even Hitch could convince me that the goings on next door hold more attraction than Grace Kelly... But even beyond a great story, you need even more excellence. That comes in spades with a terrific cast. James Stewart starred in quite a few films for Hitch for the simple reason that he was so darned good. He is here in what must have been a difficult role, just sitting around in a wheelchair with his leg stuck up in a cast. The quality of his performance is demonstrated in the nuances, and none is better than the look of relief as he relieves the itches caused by the plaster cast. The beautiful Grace Kelly had previously starred in Dial M For Murder (the preceding film to Rear Window, and she would appear in the immediate follow-up To Catch A Thief), but this is an infinitely better performance - although blessed with one of the most memorable introductions of all times. Grace Kelly really was one of the true beauties of the screen and this really demonstrates that in abundance. Thelma Ritter brought a wonderful comedic sense to her role as the nurse coming in to look after Jeff, and is perhaps the most memorable performance here. But across the entire film, there is a distinct ring of quality in the performances.

   Then, you have the whole thing set on one of the best sets ever created. The story of how it was created is fascinating, as detailed in the making-of featurette, and the way it looks on screen is superbly convincing. It completely reinforces the peeping tom/voyeuristic nature of what Jeff is doing, and takes us right inside the private lives of the characters inhabiting the apartment block. Then you add in the classic touches of Alfred Hitchcock, even down to some of the nice little comic touches that raise a grin here and there. The result is a gem of a film that even today manages to maintain a grip upon you. It is for these reasons that Rear Window is such a highly rated film - appearances in the American Film Institute Top 100 Films of the century and Internet Movie Database Top 250 Films (currently at number 14) amongst them.

   You want excellence in film? It is very difficult to go past one of the very best films from one of the very best directors of all time. If you want rubbish, then I respectfully suggest that you look elsewhere, amongst more recent films. Rear Window is a strongly recommended purchase.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It is important to understand that Rear Window, along with Rope, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Vertigo, is one of the films acquired by Universal from Paramount in the early 1980s. When these films finally got into the hands of the restoration team of Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, they were in pretty diabolical condition. Indeed, the damage that had been inflicted upon this film is quite staggering, to the extent that many sections were suffering almost terminal damage. The efforts required to get this film restored, briefly touched upon in the featurette, are quite amazing and the result is very good. However, this is by no means a perfect restoration and nor should we realistically expect a perfect restoration. In comparison with other restorations seen (notably Vertigo), this is perhaps not quite as good. Despite that, however, this is still a fine restoration in most respects. You might however be interested in the review of the Region 1 version of the film on The Big Picture DVD - it does explain some of the apparent inconsistencies in the transfer, which appear to have carried over to the Region 4 release.

    The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. People with non-overscanning display devices will notice the slight mail-slotting required to achieve this aspect ratio (the preferred presentation method for 1.66:1 transfers).

    It may be forty seven years old, and may have been brought back from virtual film death, but what we have gotten in the way of a transfer is remarkably good. It is generally quite sharp throughout, with just a few odd lapses that are readily accepted given the age of the source material. Detail is very good throughout - perhaps too good, as some of the background looks distinctly unreal! There is certainly nothing missed in the whole narrow confines of the courtyard viewed from Jeff's small apartment. Shadow detail is perhaps the one place where the film shows it age - it is not the best, but certainly is no worse than would be expected for a film of this sort of vintage. Clarity was generally good throughout, but there is a degree of grain present throughout the film. It is noticeably poorer towards the start of the film, and improves quickly thereafter. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    One of the features of the restoration has been to bring the saturation level of the colours up, and the result is what I call the typical Technicolor look of the period - a tendency to oversaturation at times. Certainly, some of the building shots exhibit a slightly too saturated look in my view that is not quite natural, but overall this is a very believable transfer. It should be noted that there are inconsistencies in the colours (see the colour "pulsating" at around the 89:00 minute mark as an example), which are the result of source material degradation which the restoration process could not completely overcome. The earlier part of the film has a slight tendency towards oversaturation, but nothing really extreme and at times throughout the film there are some issues with the skin tones, but I would not call these at all distracting. There does not appear to be any problem with colour bleed in the transfer.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, apart from a loss of resolution in pan shots. I would suspect that these are more the result of deficiencies in the source material rather than mastering problems. Apart from some quite minor shimmer issues during the earlier parts of the film, there did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There was one instance of some jitter around 47:19, but this is unlikely to have been caused by the telecine process as it is up-down, not side-to-side. Despite the extensive restoration, this is still not a completely clean transfer at all, although it has to be admitted that none of the remaining artefacts are really that distracting.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 93:18. This is just at a scene change, but due to the presence of music is just a little too obvious and disruptive to the film. I feel that the layer change could have been placed a little earlier without creating any such issue.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks are on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

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

    The original musical score for the film comes from Franz Waxman, another of the great names from the pre- and post-war period. This is a really good score and deserving of an isolated music soundtrack, simply to demonstrate how the music propelled a film which lacks a lot of the sound effects trickery of most films. Silence is effectively used by Alfred Hitchcock once again, a fact that seems to be continually missed by modern directors.

    There is definitely nothing too memorable about the soundtrack on offer here. It does its job fairly well in conveying the dialogue, but just every so often you felt that that a nice surround encoded soundtrack would have done an even better job of conveying the feeling of the film. Even so, the quality of the original material still shines through and there is reasonably appropriate distance in the sound to emphasise the strong subjective point of view of Jeff. Thankfully free of any major distortions, this obviously has no contribution from the surround and bass channels.

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

Extras

    A nice extras package has been put together by Universal for this release. I would STRONGLY advise you to watch the film before watching the supplemental material, for it does contain major plot spoilers.

Menu

    Whilst they are 16x9 enhanced, and the main menu does come with audio enhancement, the theming is only decent albeit consistent with the other new releases in the collection. Decent enough without being truly spectacular.

Featurette - Rear Window Ethics: The Making Of Rear Window (55:11)

    Featuring interviews with some of the crew members involved in the film, and with film makers like Peter Bogdanovich and Curtis Hanson, this recent effort (made last year) is quite an interesting voyage through the making of the film. It also contains some audio bites from an interview with Alfred Hitchcock himself, which are suitably disparaging at times and indicate the rather dry sense of humour of the man. The featurette concludes with a look at the restoration process, including some before and after comparisons that to my mind indicate a much more distinct difference that is actually the case with the after comparisons. Presented in a Full Frame format, with film excerpts at their correct ratio, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is a very good featurette overall and well worth indulging in after watching the film.

Featurette - Screenwriter John Michael Hayes On Rear Window (13:11)

    This is a somewhat different perspective upon the film and really was deserving of far greater length than it was given. He has some interesting observations to make and overall this was well worth the effort of watching. It too is presented in a Full Frame format, with film excerpts at their correct ratio, is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Gallery - Art

    Comprising 45 stills of publicity and behind-the-scenes photographs together with poster work for the film, they are all unannotated. Whilst decent enough quality, a bit of indication as to what we are looking at would not have gone astray. It would also have helped if some of the posters were not slightly cropped in the presentation. The quality is quite excellent as befits its recent origin.

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 (2:40)

    Another slightly different approach to promotion of an Alfred Hitchcock film, albeit for the re-release of the film in 1962, it really is showing its age somewhat. As such, it provides a good indication of what the unrestored film would have generally looked like, with its slightly washed-out colours. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, it 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:

    Unless you desperately need the DVD-ROM features, there is nothing really different between the two versions, and judging upon the reviews sighted there is a degree of similarity in the transfers. Probably call this one even.

Summary

    Rear Window is one of Alfred Hitchcock's crowning achievements from his last great creative period. Given the apparently dreadful state of the film prior to restoration, it is doubtful that it has looked this good in years. Despite the odd blemishes here and there, this is overall a quite decent transfer in every respect and the presentation has been enhanced by some quality extras that add significantly to the enjoyment and understanding of this great film. If you do not want to extend to the full seven DVD collection, then you should certainly be adding this single DVD to your collection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, July 02, 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

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Mark W
DVD Net - Amy F

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Saboteur (1942) | Shadow of a Doubt (1943) | Rope (1948) | Rear Window (1954) | The Trouble with Harry (1955) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955) | Psycho (1960)

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

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

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Saboteur (1942) | Shadow of a Doubt (1943) | Rope (1948) | Rear Window (1954) | The Trouble with Harry (1955) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955) | Psycho (1960)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955)

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Released 26-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-(34:18)
Gallery-Art
Trailer-Trailer Compilation (6:14)
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:08)
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 114:55 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (82:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring James Stewart
Doris Day
Brenda de Banzie
Ralph Truman
Bernard Miles
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 Varies 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

   Amongst his extensive collection of films, Alfred Hitchcock's British period is best remembered for a couple of great films like The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes and The Man Who Knew Too Much. So when his American period needed some contractual films to be made, it is not surprising that Alfred Hitchcock looked to those earlier films as a source of potential fodder. Requiring a film to meet his contractual obligations to Paramount, Hitch innocently asked why not remake The Man Who Knew Too Much? So screenwriter John Michael Hayes went away and independently came up with a treatment that seemed to satisfy Hitch and a new version of The Man Who Knew Too Much was born. It should be clearly understood that the 1956 film owes little more than its name to the 1934 classic, and they are two distinctly different films. It is perhaps something of a large misnomer to suggest that the 1956 version is a remake of the 1934 version. What it really is is a return to a basic story in the light of twenty years more experience and twenty years of technical advances in film.

   And it is yet another return to that favourite theme of Alfred Hitchcock - the ordinary man put in extraordinary circumstances. Hitch might have flogged this theme to death, but he did it so much better than anyone else ever has that you never really tire of seeing it, time after time after time...

   The cast is headed by Alfred Hitchcock's quintessential ordinary man of an actor, James Stewart. This time he plays Dr Ben McKenna, a surgeon from Indianapolis, Indiana who is taking a vacation side-trip with his wife Josephine "Jo" (Doris Day), former Broadway singer Jo Conway, and son Henry "Hank" (Christopher Olsen) to Morocco and in particular Marrakech. The bus ride down to this famous town is highlighted by Hank inadvertently tearing the veil off a woman, thus enraging her husband. This provides a meeting with Louis Bernard (Daniel Gélin), a mysterious man who aids them in their argument with the enraged husband, and befriends the McKennas. Whilst in Marrakech, the McKennas arrange to have drinks and dinner with Mr Bernard, but he makes an unexpected exit, forcing them to the restaurant alone, where they just so happen to befriend an English couple, Lucy Drayton (Brenda de Banzie) and her husband (Bernard Miles). After a pleasant evening highlighted by Mr Bernard turning up at the same restaurant with a woman, the McKennas and the Draytons agree to join each other for a wander around the famed markets on the morrow. Whilst enjoying the sights and sounds of the markets next day, they are eventually accosted by Mr Bernard who just so happens to have a knife in his back. As he dies, he whispers something to Ben McKenna and instantly the McKennas are plunged into an extraordinary situation.

   It all involves a kidnapping, the disappearance of the Draytons and a desperate flight back to London to save Hank. And nothing further shall be revealed.

   It is perhaps a bit unfortunate that this film was watched straight after one of the maestro's true gems in Rear Window, for the inevitable comparisons are decidedly not in favour of The Man Who Knew Too Much. It is also perhaps a response to the 1934 version of the film, which does tend to give some plot hints away, but the 1956 version simply does not seem a particularly great film. A bad sign for any film is the number of times you hit the time remaining button whilst watching it: this one copped that fate four times. Whilst Hitch might have liked the treatment, frankly I find it a little laboured and it could have done with some judicious pruning here and there in my view without really destroying any of the suspense that might actually be here. By anyone else's standards, this is a good film, but by Hitch's standards I frankly find it a little average. And it is also a fact that Hitch should have told Paramount where to go when they insisted upon a song for Doris Day to sing. Okay, it is no average song, being Que Sera, Sera (which copped an Oscar for best song in 1956), but an Alfred Hitchcock thriller with a hit song? Mon dieu!

   The ever reliable James Stewart does his usual decent job, but this certainly is no performance in the league of that in Rear Window. Whilst not being especially memorable in any way, there is nothing really disappointing about the performance. The pairing with Doris Day is also not quite that with Grace Kelly, and in some ways the casting of Doris Day seemed an odd choice. At the time, she was almost exclusively known as a singer, and it must have been a bit risky to cast her in what was quite a dramatic role. She certainly ended up doing a decent enough job though. The rest of the cast were really only there to make up the numbers and that they did without much trouble. The featurette reveals that this was the first occasion that many had seen Alfred Hitchcock working in something other than a suit. Not only was he a bit relaxed in his choice of clothing in the Moroccan heat it seems, but that relaxation extended just a little to his direction. In hindsight, this might actually have worked in favour of the film, for the slight relaxation allowed perhaps a more natural style to the film.

   This is not amongst the true gems of Alfred Hitchcock's output, and whilst in my personal view is something of a disappointment, it remains a good film by everyone else's standards. Indeed, many a filmmaker alive today could only dream of being able to attain this sort of film-making ability.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Whilst this does not seem to have enjoyed a full restoration along the lines of Rear Window, it is a decent enough transfer that should be acceptable to most. One point at issue in the transfer however is the aspect ratio. The Internet Movie Database suggests that the original theatrical release of the film was 1.66:1, and the usually reliable Widescreen Review describes the theatrical aspect ratio as variable. Since the film is just a little before my time, and thus I have no personal knowledge of the aspect ratio, I would suggest that both are correct: this may be one of those instances where the film was presented in the United States in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 whilst it was presented in Europe at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Nonetheless, if anyone has the definitive answer, it would be appreciated. Whatever the original ratio, the transfer is presented here in an aspect ratio of 1.82:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is generally quite sharp throughout, with little in the way of lapses. Even those that are present are quite acceptable given the age of the source material. Detail is a little problematic throughout: many of the shots, especially in Marrakech, give the distinct impression of being shot against blue screen. The background is really quite flat-looking and lacking in any serious depth to the image. It takes just a little getting used to, as it is almost certain that the scenes were shot live action. Other than that, the detail is quite acceptable. Shadow detail is again a place where the film shows it age - it is quite good but certainly not good enough to bear comparison with more recent films. There is a consistent presence of grain in the transfer, but nothing that is especially distracting. As a result clarity is not quite as good as perhaps it could be. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours on offer here are very evocative of the locations, which means that those in Marrakech have a suitably dusty look to them. Overall, the colours are quite well saturated and entirely believable in the the respective colourscapes of both Marrakech and London. There are just a few minor inconsistencies in the colours as a result of source material degradation. There does not appear to be any issue with oversaturation or colour bleed in the transfer.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The film-to-video artefacts in the transfer comprise some relatively minor aliasing at times (none of which is that noticeable), plus some cross colouration in the suit worn by James Stewart early on (2:10, 8:04 and 8:22 being the worst examples). There is also some evidence of telecine wobble around the 88:35 mark but this is only mildly noticeable. There were quite a treasure trove of film artefacts on offer in the transfer, but nothing that was especially large so nothing that was especially distracting. There was a sequence around the 42:00 minute mark which is blighted with some spots that would appear to be residual blemishes of mildew.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 80:22. The immediate reaction to this one was appalling and even after watching it several times, I can think of no better way of describing it. It comes mid-scene as Doris Day is walking back down the street, boom she stops and then starts again. There would have to have been many places where the layer change could have been better hidden.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks are on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up reasonably clear and easy to understand in the transfer. 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, who also gets the rare treat for a composer of appearing in the film. Unusually, since the music he conducts is the pivotal scene of the film, he elected to stick with a reorchestration of the piece of music from the original film. However, his own score is actually quite excellent and provides an effective contribution to the film.

    There is nothing terrific about the soundtrack on offer here. It does its job fairly well but you do on the whole miss the additional oomph of some surround encoding or even some bass channel support. The quality of the original material is quite possibly not the best, and so the soundstage here is perhaps not the best, being quite central as it should be, but it is by no means the worst mono soundtrack that I have ever heard. It is free of any serious distortion, which is perhaps the most important point here.

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

Extras

    A decent extras package has been put together by Universal for this release.

Menu

    They are 16x9 enhanced, and the main menu does come with audio enhancement, but the theming is only decent (and reflecting a commonality in the menus of the other DVDs in the collection). Decent enough without being truly spectacular.

Featurette - The Making Of The Man Who Knew Too Much (34:18)

    Another recent effort prepared by Universal, and featuring interviews with some of the crew members involved in the film, this is quite an interesting voyage through the making of the film. Presented in a Full Frame format, with film excerpts at their correct ratio, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is quite a good featurette overall and worthy enough of a view. It is unfortunately somewhat blighted with aliasing, sometimes quite badly (such as James Stewart's suit).

Gallery - Art (4:16)

    Comprising 63 stills of publicity and behind the scenes photographs together with poster work for the film, they are all unannotated. Whilst of decent enough quality, barring the glaring cross colouration in number 48 in the sequence (not James Stewart's suit this time but rather his tie), a bit of annotation would not have been amiss. It is a self-running presentation (a bit of inconsistency here) and has musical accompaniment.

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, but I am guessing that by the time I finish this collection I will be pretty fed up of seeing it.

Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

    Another distinctively different approach to promotion of an Alfred Hitchcock film, albeit one that is not of the best quality at all. It suffers pretty badly from hissy sound, with plenty of crackle to boot, and has some fairly lousy colour. Add to the mix a somewhat diffuse image, and you will have guessed that this is really showing its age. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it 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:     It would seem that there is little to favour one version over the other, especially as Region 1 reviews seem to indicate a similar standard of transfer.

Summary

    The Man Who Knew Too Much is by Alfred Hitchcock's standards a somewhat middling effort - better than what anyone else could do but not amongst the best he could do. It is been given a generally acceptable transfer with only some relatively minor blemishes to detract from the overall package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, July 01, 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

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Saboteur (1942) | Shadow of a Doubt (1943) | Rope (1948) | Rear Window (1954) | The Trouble with Harry (1955) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (Universal) (1955) | Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960)

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Released 18-Oct-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Production Notes
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, Dolby Digital 1.0
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 103:59
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Anthony Perkins
Vera Miles
John Gavin
Martin Balsam
John McIntire
Janet Leigh
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music Bernard Herrmann


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    You've seen the remake, now here's the original. In a very smart marketing move, the original Psycho was released after the release of the remake, thereby maximizing sales of the remake. I had mixed feelings about the remake, so it was with a great deal of interest that I watched this original version of the movie, less than a month after I reviewed the remake.

    Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a struggling assistant in a real estate agency. She has a lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), who is in debt to his ex-wife. Once his debt is cleared, he intends to marry Marion. Marion's boss makes a big real estate sale, which the purchaser settles in cash, all $40,000 worth. Marion is entrusted with the task of taking this hefty sum of cash to the bank (in the remake, the cash amount has multiplied by a factor of 10), but temptation proves to be too much and she heads for Sam's residence. Along the way, she stops at the Bates Motel, run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), which is where things go from bad to worse.

    How do the two versions compare? Well, for starters, the original is genuinely edge-of-your-seat thrilling whereas the remake is rather dull. This is despite the two versions being shot-for-shot identical. There is something about the original that is simply far more convincing, not the least of which is the characterizations of the principal players, which simply seemed wrong in the remake. The fact that the original is black-and-white adds to the tension markedly. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I had not seen the original version of this movie until I viewed this disc - the first time I saw this movie was last month when I reviewed the remake.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is an acceptable transfer of an older movie, without being anything remarkable.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was reasonably sharp and clear most of the time, with a small number of scenes exhibiting some film grain. Shadow detail was reasonable in the brightly lit shots, but lacking in the lower-lit shots. There was no low level noise in the transfer.

    The film is black-and-white, so no comments can be made about the colours.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen. There was some image wobble present, especially early on in the movie, but I suspect that this was on the original print rather than something that was an issue with the transfer. In regards to film artefacts, there were some nicks and scratches that were visible at times, but they remained perfectly acceptable for a transfer of this vintage. Indeed, I was expecting to see more artefacts than were actually present. The opening logo and credits exhibited lots of film artefacts, but this settled down as the film proper began.

    English, French and Greek subtitles are available on this disc, and are selectable at all times. The packaging incorrectly states that the only subtitles on this disc are English.

Audio

    There are four audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 1.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0, French Dolby Digital 1.0, and Italian Dolby Digital 1.0. These are available no matter what Region the DVD player is set to. The packaging incorrectly lists only English as being available on this disc.

    Dialogue was relatively clear and easy to understand given the compressed and frequency-limited monaural nature of this soundtrack. Significant hiss intruded into the dialogue at times.

    Audio sync was somewhat problematic with this disc. Early on, the sync wandered in and out, and then settled down for the majority of the movie until the very end, when the psychiatrist's speech was again significantly out of sync. This sync problem was the same on both my DVD player (Pioneer DV-505) and on my DVD-ROM setup (Panasonic SR-8583 and PowerDVD 2.0), so it is inherent in the disc. It is my belief that this is most likely inherent in the original print of the movie, but I would need to compare this version of the disc to the Region 1 version of this disc and thence to the movie to confirm that this is not a mastering error.

    The score by Bernard Herrmann is excellently suited to the on-screen action. The frequently strident and jarring strings add enormous tension to the proceedings.

    The surround channels were not used.

    The .1 channel was not used.

Extras

    There is a small but good selection of extras on this disc.

Menu

    The menu is an unremarkable 4:3 menu.

Production Notes

    Extensive and very interesting to read.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Also extensive and interesting.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is a fascinating mini-tour of the set of Psycho hosted by Alfred Hitchcock himself. It is very lengthy by today's standards, running 6:35, and gives away a significant amount of the plot. However, what is fascinating to see is what is not given away, and I think that this trailer is a superb enticement to see the film, and in fact probably would add to the suspense significantly, since you know something is going to happen in certain places, but you are not quite sure just how it happens.

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 of this disc is a Collector's Edition, and is heavily feature-laden.

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     Normally, the lack of 16x9 enhancement on the Region 1 version of the disc would lead to me recommending the Region 4 version of this disc. However, with a movie such as this, the quality improvement afforded by 16x9 enhancement is likely to be minimal, and the additional extras on the Region 1 version of this disc make this the version of choice.

Summary

    Psycho (1960) is a great movie, and a superb thriller. Highly recommended despite the disc flaws.

    The video quality is acceptable given the vintage of the movie.

    The audio quality is poor, and sync is a problem.

    The extras are good but limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
Friday, October 08, 1999
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe Art-95 (95cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Amplification2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
SpeakersPhilips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVDownUnder - Matt G
DVD Net - Paul D (read my bio here or check out my music at MP3.com.)
Zone 4 DVD - Darren H
The Fourth Region - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
DVD 4 - Price P
AllZone4DVD - Wayne F
The DVD Bits - Allan H
region4dvd.net - Daniel R

Comments (Add)
2 versions available in Australia - Sam REPLY POSTED
Comparison of R1 and R4 transfers? - Alex Paige
R1 vs R2 vs R4 picture comparison - Anonymous
Special Edition Available - Dane S (Bio...were you expecting some smart alec remark?)