Marnie (1964)

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Released 15-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-The Trouble With Marnie (58:26)
Gallery-Photo-(9:01)
Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (4:45)
Booklet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 125:01
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (105:21) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Tippi Hedren
Sean Connery
Diane Baker
Martin Gabel
Louise Latham
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Bernard Herrmann


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
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 what is arguably the last of the great films from Alfred Hitchcock's last purple patch of film making. Preceded by Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho and The Birds, it is somewhat inevitable that comparisons to the stature of those films will be drawn. And to be honest, it is certainly not up to the calibre of the first three from that list, yet the film has more connection to these true gems than it does to the output of Alfred Hitchcock that came after it.

    Another relatively simple story notwithstanding, the maestro certainly delivers a film with a bit of bite. Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is first met as she is walking down a station platform readying herself for a train journey away from her most recent job. Marnie Edgar is no ordinary woman, and her most recent job was apparently managing to rob her employer Sidney Strutt (Martin Gabel) of something in the order of $10,000. And it comes to pass that he is not the only recent recipient of her vocational skills! But this most recent job is slowly going to bring a noose around her.

    Not that Marnie necessarily does these jobs for herself, for she has a slightly invalid mother Bernice (Louise Latham) who lives in Baltimore and to whom she sends some of the money to help her keep on her feet. However, Marnie's visits home are rare enough it seems, and not the least of the reason is the rather cold way in which she is treated by her mother, as if her mother finds her repugnant in some manner... And exactly why the colour red holds such a distinct horror for Marnie is something that she would like to know.

    Marnie soon is in need of a new job and so Mary Taylor finds herself in the offices of Rutland & Co. in Philadelphia seeking a job in the payroll department. Whilst awaiting an interview, she sees someone that she saw at her previous employer - Mark Rutland (Sean Connery), boss of Rutland & Co. and client of Sidney Strutt. Unbeknownst to Mary/Marnie, Mark recognises her as the former employee of his accountant and thus the person he knows is responsible for heisting the ten grand. Intrigued, he insists that the general manager hire her on the spot. And thus begins Marnie's latest job, one that she hopes will net a healthy profit from that rather large safe in the manager's office - a safe to which said manager cannot remember the combination and must continually refer to the cheat sheet kept in the locked drawer of her colleague Susan Clabon's (Mariette Hartley) desk. But things don't quite go to plan as Mark Rutland finds himself really attracted to Marnie despite his knowledge of her history - a history that he is determined to discover more about. Marnie might get the money but she also has to contend with Mark, former employers who keep on cropping up, Mark's slightly jealous sister-in-law Lil Mainwaring (Diane Baker) and the obvious problem with the colour red and something that Marnie cannot remember, even though it means she cannot stand being touched by men.

    Which is a slight problem when Mark has obvious desires for her.

    There is nothing really convoluted about the plot other than the fact that Marnie does not really know how much Mark knows about her and Mark is not entirely sure he has the full story either. Each is determined to rectify that situation to their own ends - which may not necessarily be the same, at least initially. But it is not so much what the story says but the way it is told - and Alfred Hitchcock tells this one marvellously. This is a constant collection of two steps forward then one step sideways as we think we know where this is going, then have that road blocked by a dead end sign. It is simple but it is elegant and no one does it the way Alfred Hitchcock does it! And he basically does it with four characters, of which one is not entirely necessary to the plot but is to the story, if you know what I mean. Since it hangs so heavily on these four characters, their performances are of the greatest import to the film. This is perhaps where the film does indeed fall down just a tad, but not by much. He might still be one of the sexiest men on the planet according to various women's magazine polls, but Sean Connery needs more than sex appeal to pull this role off. I am not entirely convinced that he does, but it is a pretty good fist at it anyway. As the obligatory blonde female lead is the returning Tippi Hedren in her second film for Hitch. Again whilst she makes a fair fist of the role, I am not entirely convinced that her acting abilities did the role the ultimate justice that it needed. I just don't get convinced of her vulnerability at times. Better was the performance of Louise Latham as Marnie's mother with a secret, and she is perhaps the most convincing here.

    To some extent shunned by the public upon initial release, Marnie is a film that has grown somewhat in stature since and represents a fine entry in the oeuvre of Alfred Hitchcock. Unfortunately, like the film that immediately preceded it, the DVD does not do the film the justice that it deserves.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The original theatrical presentation of this film was in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, as exemplified by the excerpts of film seen in the extra package and as exemplified by the transfer afforded the Region 1 release. Unfortunately, Universal have once again seen fit not to bless the Region 4 release with this aspect ratio and have given us instead a transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Now the all-important question is whether this is a pan and scan abomination or not. Regrettably, none of the readily accessible sites I checked out could give me any definitive answer in this regard, so I have to revert to gut instinct by checking out the excerpts in the extras package and comparing them to the feature transfer. That less than scientific checking would seem to suggest that the format is in fact Full Frame, since there appears to be more top and bottom information than is contained in the film excerpts. However, if someone could give a definitive answer, please feel free to let us know.

    Either way, it is still disappointing that we have been deemed unworthy of a transfer in the proper theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 for another release in Volume 2 of the Hitchcock Collection.

    Since the lack of widescreen presentation is in common with the release of The Birds, I suppose I should not be surprised that the transfer holds other common factors with that release. Foremost amongst these is the somewhat grainy transfer that we get here: whilst sometimes quite moderate, there are unfortunately some sections which are heavily blessed with the problem and this detracts from the overall transfer enormously. Now the dumb thing is that the film excerpts in the extras seem to be far less afflicted with the problem, which makes me wonder whether the problem is the result of poor mastering. Adding to the image problem created by the grain is the one created by the somewhat diffuse image that is presented here. Whilst some sections are quite sharp, there are others with some obvious problems with a soft image and when you pause the playback at these points you really get to see how indistinct the image is. Detail is adequate enough although this serves to highlight some of the problems with the lack of using location shooting: the backdrop to the house in Baltimore is so obviously a painted effort it is not funny. Shadow detail is adequate enough, but really the film needed to have more detail here to really make it completely watchable. Obviously we are not talking about a really clear transfer here and there are indications of some low level noise issues in the transfer.

    The colour palette is another fairly typical example of early Technicolor transfers, with a slight tendency towards the oversaturated end of the spectrum without actually getting oversaturated. Once again there is a lack of consistency here. It is not a really vibrant transfer and the lack of full restoration is quite evident. The overall palette is quite believable enough though. There did not appear to be any significant oversaturation issues in the transfer. There were however some issues with colour bleed, most notably facial skin tones against light backgrounds (such as at 99:25).

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were some apparent film-to-video artefacts in the transfer; nothing really grotesque but just enough consistency to make the problem a tad noticeable. There were a fair few film artefacts in the transfer and this is one area which highlights the lack of a full restoration of the film, even though they were not really disruptive to the film itself.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming at 105:21. This is an excellent layer change as it occurs during a fade-to-black scene change.

    There are a reasonable number of subtitle options on the DVD. The English subtitles are very good, with very little missing in the way of dialogue, and certainly nothing in the way of essential stuff.

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

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is easy to understand. There are no significant audio sync problems in the transfer.

    The original music score is more work from Hitch's favourite composer, Bernard Herrmann - although it would prove to be their last successful collaboration together. It is a pretty good score but really does not help push the film as perhaps it should. As far as his work with Hitch goes, this is perhaps one of the weaker efforts, despite it being pretty good overall.

    There really is not much to say about the sound. Whilst obviously it could have been remastered to better effect, I am guessing that this is very much the original soundtrack. The sound is just a little congested and has no space to it at all - very much typifying an unremastered mono sound in my view. Obviously the action is centre channel stuff and the surround channels and the bass channel are pretty much superfluous here. Thankfully there are no obvious distortions in the soundtrack.

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

Extras

    There is a rather nice collection of extras here in quality if not in quantity, which adds quite significantly to the film experience.

Menus

    Nothing much to bother about, with just the main menu having some audio enhancement - with the usual, rather familiar music common to all the other new release DVDs in the collections. The theming is also in common with the new release DVDs from the collections.

Documentary - The Trouble With Marnie (58:26)

    And there were plenty of troubles with Marnie. Originally conceived as the follow up to Psycho, with Grace Kelly in the lead, things slowly unwound in just about every way before it finally got made. Very similar to the other efforts in the collection, the contributions by all the main actors apart from Sean Connery is the big plus. There is a lot of background information about the film and especially the gestation of the screenplay, with some notable disagreements it seems over the rape scene (if you really want to call it that). Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The technical quality is generally good, although suffering somewhat from aliasing and minor cross colouration, as well as some Gibb Effect. The content is interesting though, making this essential viewing.

Gallery - Photos

    Comprising some 135 plus publicity shots, stills from the film, behind the scenes photos and some poster stills, this is a decent if not especially extraordinary collection of photos.

Theatrical Trailer (4:45)

    Another one of those different, extended promotional efforts in which Alfred Hitchcock seemed to excel. Done in his usual droll fashion, this is wonderful stuff. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing much awry here and in some ways highlights the comparative lack of quality in the video transfer as the film excerpts included in the trailer are of much better quality than the feature!

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 release misses out on:

    You can pretty well guess that Region 1 is the preferred version of the DVD.

Summary

    Marnie is not amongst the very best that Alfred Hitchcock directed, but it is a good film that holds more connection with the films that preceded it rather than the films that succeeded it. Once again though, the transfer has its problems (whether source related or not) and large screen owners might again have significant problems with this effort. The extras package is pretty good though and overall this gains a qualified recommendation. Once again we can but hope that Universal will see fit to rethink this for a future re-release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, October 08, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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