We’re looking at a Hitchcock-intensive Bluray period from Tuesday, 9.25 through Tuesday, 10.9 — the debut of Universal’s 14-film Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection on 9.25 (Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy. Family Plot) and then Blurays of Strangers on a Train and Dial M for Murder from Warner Home Video on 10.9. Two weeks, 16 films, a lot of quality assessment and no aspect-ratio laments except in the case of Dial M for Murder.
Which titles are high on the list, which are lesser priorities and which don’t really matter?
Vertigo and The Man Who Knew Too Much are the picks of the litter because they was shot in large-format VistaVision and will presumably deliver the most in the way of detail and color intensity. Vertigo will presumably look the best as it was nicely restored by Robert Harris and James Katz in the ’90s. I’ll be catching a Vertigo DCP in about two and a half weeks in a small theatre.
I’ve made no secret of my profound distaste for the fascist cleavering of Dial M for Murder on the part of Warner Home Video. What’s done is done and I may as well suck it in, but I hate it.
I can’t imagine WHV’s Strangers on a Train Bluray not looking sublime. I’ve loved Robert Burks‘ cinematography on this film all my life.
Nobody cares about having Blurays of Hitchcock’s five post-Birds disappointments or disposables — Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot. I don’t know if I can even stand to watch Marnie again, which I think is easily Hitchcock’s worst. Portions of Torn Curtain and Topaz are semi-intriguing — the kitchen-murder and the bus-escape scenes in Curtain, and the dialogue-free Topaz scene in which Roscoe Lee Browne persuades a red-bearded Cuban guy to allow him to snap pictures of secret documents. I tried re-watching Frenzy a couple of years ago and some of it is fine (“Mr. Rusk, you’re not wearing your tie”) but those scenes in which Alec McCowen is tortured by his wife’s bizarre “gourmet” dinners are just time-wasters.
Universal’s Bluray of The Birds will probably look luscious, although I suspect that some of the rear-projection and special-effects process shots will appear a bit more synthetic than they did in theatres 49 years ago. There’s an outdoor conversation scene in which Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren stand before a painted sound-stage backdrop — that’s going to look faker than ever.
The Psycho Bluray has already been released and is one of my all-time favorites, in part because it’s been beautifully DNR’ed and it allows you to see stuff that even first-run 1960 audiences missed, like Martin Balsam‘s facial makeup.
I’m especially excited about the other two monochromes — Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt — because black-and-white Blurays are the greatest.
Rear Window (presented at 1.66, Mr. Furmanek!) will also be special because the elements were restored by Harris-Katz. I’m not a huge fan of Rope or The Trouble With Harry, and I’m frankly wondering if I’ll have the discipline to watch them all the way through.
Universal’s Hitchcock package won’t be sent out until just after Labor Day, I’m told. I’ll be in Telluride and Toronto from 8.30 to 9.15 so viewings will have to wait.
HBO’s The Girl, a drama about the twisted relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren during the making of The Birds and Marnie, is coming out in October, although for some reason it’s not mentioned on HBO’s site.