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Alfred Hitchcock - Masterpiece Collection - 15 disc

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/hitchcock.htm
USA 19
42 - 76

 

Saboteur (1942)    Shadow of a Doubt (1943)    Rope (1948)    Rear Window (1954)    The Trouble With Harry (1955)    The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)    Vertigo (1958)    Psycho (1960)    The Birds (1963)    Marnie (1964)    Torn Curtain (1966)    Topaz (1969)    Frenzy (1972)    Family Plot (1976)    Bonus Disc

 

  14 Hitchcock films including some of his best work and covering over 30 years of cinema. New bonus disc extras and a collectable booklet help mark this as one of the most intriguing releases... in a year marked with extensive value. Re-mastered anamorphic transfers of Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960) only add more fuel to the fire. Is this DVD of the Year material ? or have they just simply changed the shape of the pixels and used the old transfers? Let's see...

Gary W. Tooze

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DVD Review: Universal (15-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC

 

 

Comments:

GOOD ENOUGH TO BUY?

We are making an assumption that many of you already own all or possibly a few of these editions in there original DVD Production format. The sole purpose of this review is in determining whether or not the 'upgraded' DVDs are worthwhile based extensively on the image quality (and a few other factors). As we feel this is such an important release we have made pure, uncompressed screen captures for most editions in the boxset (click buttons at the bottom of each mini-review). These images represent exactly what this DVD looks like with no filters or manipulation. However each system may have settings that visually alter this presentation to certain degrees. We will also be augmenting our older, more thorough, comparisons eventually. Hopefully with this though we can reach a conclusion whether, for you personally, this set is worth purchasing based on the 'new' image. Of course many may consider this a viable purchase based on other factors ex. the 16X9 transfers (for widescreen TV owners), the bonus disc, the 36-page collectible book etc.

Checking online prices, the cost per disc is between $5.73 to $5.06 per disc. Universal is virtually giving this away, and it is certain to be one of the major Holiday gift items of the 2005 season.

All the old issues had a slim black border around the edge (with exceptions) but all the new issue, that I have seen, are tight to the frame maximizing horizontal resolution. This is an improvement.

NOTE: Vertigo's mono track has some crackles and pops - it is from a 4th or 5th generation 35 mm print and is not the 'original mono' (which does not exist). It still does, however sound very good and better than the old 5.1 remix.

Another problem with Vertigo is the opening (girl's face) - it was meant to be in black and white (like the VistaVision logo) but could not initially be rendered so... it has now been boosted to full color (orangey) - and it is not technically correct.

The Man Who Knew Too Much  should not be sold in the manner that it is... it requires a full restoration (ala Harris/Katz?)

The AFI documentary on the Bonus disc is only 15 minutes long, where the actual broadcast 'show' itself was almost 2 hours.

The 'collectable' booklet is nothing abnormally special - it is slim DVD sized with lots of photos and very little text. Not really worthy of a keepsake in my opinion.

The case is beautiful - maroon felt holding 4 separated cases inside that each can hold  4 disc in dual overlapping fashion. (See images below)

Generally speaking, I don't like any of the new menus.

It is my opinion that this Masterpiece Collection is the greatest deal in the history of DVD Production.

Gary Tooze

Our, in-the-field reporter, WhiteShiek, has told us his impressions (queried if Vertigo and Psycho were anamorphic):

Yep, 16x9 (Vertigo and Psycho). But, to my eye, taken from the existing masters used for the last transfer. The real joys of the set are Torn Curtain and The Birds, both noticeably improved - brighter, sharper and better color. Topaz, Marnie, The Trouble With Harry and Family Plot also look sharper and better. Shadow of a Doubt and Rope are about the same. Saboteur is the biggest revelation - night and day. The older DVD was way too dark and very dupey looking - this new transfer has great contrast and looks the way it should. The Man Who Knew Too Much is a bit brighter, but it has a few weirdnesses (some kind of strange thing going on in certain things, almost a pulsing or wavering - check out the scene in the restaurant in the first third of the film and look at the floor) - it isn't present on the older DVD, so it's a bit peculiar. Happily, the Paramount and VistaVision logo is restored. Rear Window is a bit sharper and brighter, but not by much - I personally hated the "restoration" which was excessively grainy and looks nothing like the 35mm IB Tech prints of that film.

While it's great to have enhanced Vertigo and Psycho, neither of them looks as good as they should, especially
Vertigo, which has the same brownish color as the earlier DVD (I owned a 35mm IB Tech print of Vertigo and am here to tell you that the previous DVD and this DVD do not resemble the color in any way, shape, or form). However, it is glorious to have the original mono mix - the remix is one of the most inept things I've ever heard, and when you A/B them your jaw will drop at how bad those gunshots are in the prologue and how bad all the new foley is - they didn't even make an attempt to match the original foley.

Further points of note:

Although reported that work had been done on The Birds film elements it looks suspiciously similar; The Man Who Knew Too Much is most likely either newly off seps, which could easily have created the pumping, etc, or is off the older digital CineSite elements, which were not up to snuff.

Gary W. Tooze

 

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You're one of the ardent believers - a good American. Oh, there are millions like you. People who play along, without asking questions. I hate to use the word stupid, but it seems to be the only one that applies. The great masses, the moron millions. Well, there are a few of us unwilling to troop along... a few of us who are clever enough to see that there's much more to be done than just live small complacent lives, a few of us in America who desire a more profitable type of government. When you think about it, Mr. Kane, the competence of totalitarian nations is much higher than ours. They get things done.” - Charles Tobin (the villain in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur)

Saboteur was Hitchcock’s contribution to wartime propaganda, as evidenced by the clunky patriotic dialogue (above). A complicated film, there were 1000 scenes and 4500 camera set-ups, many at Universal City studios, but also in New York. Hitchcock used a telephoto lens for some scenes, shooting from a mile away or more, to create both a sense of surveillance and the vastness of the American continent.

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Theatrical Release: April 22nd, 1942

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/saboteur.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: YES - brighter - less grainy

 

 

This creepy Hitchcock chiller has you doubting till the end and the key to its discomforting fright is the subtle invasion of the warm, middle-class family home in small town, USA. Joseph Cotten is stirring as is the more-than-lovable Teresa Wright who helps makes this a favorite Hitch...

Gary W. Tooze

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Theatrical Release: January 12th, 1943

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/shadow.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: NO (looks identical)

 

Rope has the distinction of being filmed, (with the exception of a couple of close-ups) in one continuous take. So basically, the whole of the film takes place in real time, within the confines of a New York apartment. To demonstrate their intellectual superiority two university students (Farley Granger and John Dall) commit the `perfect' murder. Their philosophy professor (James Stewart) and others are invited over to their apartment for dinner and... let the games begin. Hitchcock was not fond of Rope with its stage-play banalities. Mainly because it removed one his keynote techniques - editing... and the choreography and staging of the filming process was extensive. Rope is certainly worth a visit for its use of language and Jimmy's role, but many feel it lacked the charm of some of Hitch's surrounding work.

Gary W. Tooze

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Theatrical Release: 1942 - 76

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/rope.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: DETAIL IS SAME BUT DAMAGE GONE

Eventually this edition will be added to our existing comparison HERE

 

Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest movie, Rear Window, is as fresh as it was when it came out, in part, paradoxically, because of how profoundly it belongs to its own period. It’s set in Greenwich Village during a sweltering summer of open windows, and it reeks of 1954.

Peter Bogdanovich notes in Who the Devil Made It that Hitchcock “didn’t use a score” in the movie, “only source music and local sounds,” which isn’t exactly true. In fact, we get quite traditional theme music from Franz Waxman behind the opening credits, and, more important, the film subtly integrates hit tunes of the mid-50s into the ambient sound track, most noticeably “Mona Lisa” and “That’s Amore,” which was introduced the previous year by Dean Martin in another Paramount picture, The Caddy. The only serious flaw in Rear Window is the hokey use of a song to resolve a couple of subplots—which audiences in 1954 didn’t find convincing either.

When this romantic comedy-thriller was made, TV hadn’t yet posed a serious threat to radio, much less to movies, and there’s nary a TV set or TV screen in sight. The movie’s overall narrative form of scanning past windows in a courtyard seems to anticipate channel surfing, but it reflects the way one turns a radio knob, tuning in and out of frequencies while the station indicator moves horizontally or vertically along the dial. The same pattern is apparent in the beautifully calibrated camera movements as well as the brilliantly mixed and nuanced sound recording.

Excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum's review at the Chicago Reader located HERE

Posters

 

Theatrical Release: August 1st, 1954

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/rear.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: YES - BRIGHTER AND BETTER COLOR (possibly sharper too)

Eventually this edition will be added to our existing comparison HERE

 

The Harry in question is the husband of Jennifer (Maclaine, in her first role) and the trouble is that he is very dead. His corpse is lying in some woodland where it keeps getting discovered by people who believe they may have contributed to poor Harry's demise.

As the one who originally discovers the body, local painter Sam Marlowe (Forsythe) ends up in charge of decisions relating to the corpse. Of course, it's mostly his friends who think they may have accidentally killed poor Harry. So it's up to Sam to make sure that his friends are kept safe from the local police and Harry is kept out of sight. And the fact that he's fallen head over heels for the attractive young widow doesn't help matters.

Although not one of Hitchcock's better known films (at least to modern audiences) this is definitely one of his best. The sense of foreboding and tension is built, not through the script, but by Bernard Hermann's distinctive score, marking his first collaboration with Hitchcock in what would become a long and illustrious partnership. Most of the comedy is provided by the elder couple Gwenn (everyone's favourite Santa Claus) and Natwick (The Quiet Man), as well as the troublesome Harry, who has a disturbing tendancy to be buried and later exhumed. And the townsfolk are rounded out with rich characterizations and some real oddballs, which adds nicely to the quirky, other-wordly feel of the movie.

Excerpt from The Movie Archive [Marjorie Johns] review located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: October 3rd, 1955

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/trouble.htm

Eventually this edition will be compared to the existing original issue

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: YES - drastically improved

 

 

Alfred Hitchcock's had presumably more confidence re-telling this story that he originally made on film twenty-one years earlier. James Stewart and Doris Day are excellent but in Hitchcock's overall canon this would still seem to be more of an also-ran. A good, seamless thriller, adeptly realized but lacking the punch of much of the Master's surrounding work. There are definite inferences of paranoia and cultural apprehensions during the early Moroccan sequences which builds well into the rest of the film. The dying man's whisper to the protagonist is an old ploy but Hitchcock pulls it off well, just not as masterful as he might have.

Gary Tooze

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Theatrical Release: June 1, 1956

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/mwktm-56.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: YES - Brighter and different color - better skin tones

Eventually this edition will be added to our existing comparison HERE

 

"Hitchcock's most memorable and haunting film of obsession wrapped in a surrealist plot of desperation. It is too easy to be swallowed whole by Hitchcock's eerie feel and majestic vision, pounding with Bernard Herrmann's powerful score. A tale that mocks our own perceptions of superficiality and inconclusive aspects of love... and why we cannot recreate it."

Gary W. Tooze

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Theatrical Release: 9 May 1958 (San Francisco, California)

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/vertigo.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: First impressions are - YES I think it is better

 

Eventually this edition will be added to our existing comparison HERE

 

 

 

Perhaps no other film changed Hollywood's perception of the horror film so drastically as did PSYCHO. Nowadays, when any psychological thriller featuring a loony with a knife is designated "Hitchcockian" in some quarters, it's easy to forget just what a dramatic change of pace this was for Hitchcock. Though renowned for stories of murder, intrigue, and high adventure, Hitchcock's Hollywood films of the 1950s generally boasted top drawer production values, big stars, picturesque surroundings, and, more often than not, Technicolor. In comparison to the likes of, say, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PSYCHO was intentionally sleazy and cheap both in look and subject matter.

The now familiar plot concerns Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a nervous, bird-like motel proprietor who lives under the domineering influence of his aged invalid mother. Norman takes care of Mother and, in return, she protects the disturbingly boyish man from temptation and corruption, particularly in the form of attractive single women who come to stay at the motel. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) stops at the Bates Motel after impulsively fleeing from her workplace with a large sum of stolen money. She had hoped this cash would allow her married lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), to divorce his wife and marry her. After chatting with Norman, Marion appears to resolve to return the money. However Mother intervenes, leaving a bloody mess for Norman to clean up. After he's scrubbed down the bathroom, the dutiful son places the corpse in the trunk of Crane's rented car and sinks all the evidence in a nearby swamp. The situation gets tense for Norman when Marion's sister, Lila (Vera Miles), Marion's lover, Sam, and private investigator Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) arrive to ask some questions.

PSYCHO is not at all like the many movies that tried to imitate it. It's got a jet black sense of humor that becomes increasingly apparent upon repeated viewings and there's no doubt that it is masterful filmmaking. Hitchcock himself approached it almost as a technical joke: he wanted to see what would happen to audiences if you killed off the star in the first reel. The film is a textbook example of audience manipulation, as Hitchcock shifts our identification from character to character with the alacrity of a magician.

Excerpt from TV Guide Entertainment Network, Movie Guide review HERE

 

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Theatrical Release: March 8, 1960

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/psycho.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: YES - I think so.

Eventually this edition will be added to our existing comparison HERE

 

One of Hitch's most under-appreciated and misunderstood films. The film's geography is in the idyllic fishing village of Bodega Bay. Here, exuding al her feminine ice-princess charm, is headstrong Melanie (Tippi Hedren) relentlessly tracking down a virtual stranger (Rod Taylor) for a possible romantic pursuits. But the local birds will have none of it and start attacking in formation. Both why this occurs and its impending corollary to other events leave us speculating - that and the invested long takes and pauses make this one of Hitchcock's more pure art forms, which of course, distances the general public and watered-down critics. Regardless, one of The Master's best films - I visit it frequently always wishing it would never end.

Gary W. Tooze

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Theatrical Release: March 28th, 1963

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/birds.htm

Eventually this edition will be compared to the existing original issue

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: NO - looks almost exact - colors tweaked.

Considered and initial failure, Marnie is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most fascinating films. With a cohesive mixture of blended mystery, crime, sexual dysfunction and psychoanalysis, I was quite riveted throughout. I give much of that credit to Tippi Hedren, who again plays an icy beauty that we can't easily solve. There is a lot akin to Vertigo in this film with its underbelly of obsession and mistaking needs for passion. Sean Connery is a treat in this too as one of those men, and we all know them, who want, and get, the wrong woman. The suspense is high, if the believability is in the lower half of acceptability. Still it remains one of my favorites.

Gary W. Tooze

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Theatrical Release: July 22nd, 1964

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Eventually this edition will be compared to the existing original issue

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: NO - initially looks very similar to me.

 

Torn Curtain was Hitchcock’s 50th film and admittedly is one of his weaker efforts, despite the stellar casting of handsome Paul Newman and the multi-faceted Julie Andrews. Amidst the Cold War, Newman plays Michael Armstrong, a physicist who defects to East Germany with plans to hand over Western secrets to the communists. Of course, Armstrong is a double agent seeking info from the red menace, extensively a famous German scientist working for the Ruskies. Nicely paced and suspenseful it still works on a very basic level.

Gary W. Tooze

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Theatrical Release: July 14th, 1966

 

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WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: NO - looks the same as I remember

 

Eventually this edition will be compared to the existing original issue.

 

 

Topaz is kind of unconventional for Hitch - with espionage the focus but rather leisurely paced steaming with a very convoluted plot. Topaz, the code name for a Russian spy ring within the French government, and is the lose film adaptation of the popular Leon Uris novel. Unfortunately, Frederick Stafford is not really capable of supporting the film single-handedly and it eventually succumbs to being a bit of a mess.

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Theatrical Release: December 17th, 1969

 

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/topaz.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: YES - definite improvement - sharpness, color etc.

 

Eventually this edition will be compared to the existing original issue.

 

 


Frenzy isn't classified as a whodunit mystery. The audience becomes aware of the identity of the true murderer within the first 30 minutes of the film, so the focus turns to unemployed Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) and a "innocent man" wrongly accused of the 'Necktie Murderer' as a sexually twisted serial killer is baffling police.

Gary W. Tooze

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Theatrical Release: June 21st, 1972

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 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews17/hitchcock/frenzy.htm

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: YES - improvement in color, sharpness and brightness

 

Eventually this edition will be compared to the existing original issue

 

Not since "To Catch a Thief" and "The Trouble With Harry" has Alfred Hitchcock been in such benign good humor as he is in "Family Plot," the old master's 56th feature since he began directing films in 1922.

"Family Plot," which opened at theaters all over town yesterday, is a witty, relaxed lark. It's a movie to raise your spirits even as it dabbles in phony ones, especially those called forth by Blanche (Barbara Harris), a sweet, pretty, totally fraudulent Los Angeles medium, who nearly wrecks her vocal cords when possessed by a control whose voice sounds like Sidney Greenstreet's.

But "Family Plot" isn't about anything as esoteric as spiritualism and its sometimes wayward votaries. It's about good old-fashioned greed, or, how to work very, very hard in order to make your fortune illegally. It's one of the many invigorating ironies of "Family Plot" that its con people are so obsessed by their criminal pursuits they never realize the easier way would probably be the lawful one.

Excerpt from Vincent Canby's article in the NY Times located HERE

Posters

 

Theatrical Release: April 9th, 1976

 

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Eventually this edition will be compared to the existing original issue

WORTHY OF AN UPGRADE PURCHASE BASED ON IMAGE?: DON'T KNOW - LOOKS SAME AS I REMEMBER.

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Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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