Submitted by melissa on February 1, 2012 - 10:07am
Whether you're watching for the first time or the fiftieth time, you've never seen them like this. My original viewing of these classics was on VHS decades ago, then again on DVD just a year ago. Watching now on Bluray, I was delighted at the clarity of the opening titles and balance of the black and white. Those viewing for the first time will probably not be as amazed at the clarity because of the high standards of today's technology (not to mention the larger flat screen TVs). But for those of us who viewed on VHS, complete with scratches, spots and 15" TVs, it's simply the best version to date.
Each Bluray has an impressive list of special features that any cinephile will enjoy, but Notorious has by far the most and the most interesting. It's truly wonderful that these bits of cinema were found and brought back to life. Go behind the scenes and get a taste of cinematic history while being thoroughly entertained.
Don't forget that Hitchcock appears in every one of his films, whether it be in the crowd or coming off an elevator. Keep your eyes open!
Submitted by melissa on February 1, 2012 - 12:40am
By far my favorite of the three released, Notorious is fantastic in story and cinematography. I don't think I fulled appreciated this film until this viewing, as I was utterly captivated by each frame. Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) is a carefree socialite who's father has just been convicted of treason. Devlin (Cary Grant) inadvertently falls in love with her as he's recruiting her for a top secret assignment. When it challenges their affection for each other, their relationship becomes bitterly professional. The film was delayed in release due to the subject matter and the secrecy surrounding World War II.
Here again are some terrible soundstage work, but outside of that, the cinematography is phenomenal. Hitchcock uses the camera in ways that are still very impressive by today's standards. The Bluray makes this my best experience of the film to date.
It's a joy to watch the fantastic chemistry between Grant and Bergman as they bicker and quarrel with their own emotions. These are very complex characters and written as real people. There are also several lengths of time when there is no dialogue and the music just builds and builds. Truly a stunning film.
Notorious Rated: Approved (before MPAA rating) Theatrical release - 1946, Blu-ray January 24th, 2012 Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock Written by: Ben Hecht Featuring: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains Plot: A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?
Academy Award Nominations
Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Claude Rains
Best Writing, Original Screenplay, Ben Hecht
There are two different and distinct tracks with Commentary of Film Professor Rick Jewell and Commentary of Film Professor Drew Casper each from the University of Southern California. Rick Jewell focuses more on history, where Drew Casper comments mostly on what is taking places in the scenes.
What's interesting is that there is an Isolated Music and Effects Track, that presumably lets you experience purely the music of the film. I found this to be more of a novelty.
The featurette, The Ultimate Romance: The Making of Notorious, is more on producing, and what led up to the film and not really about the production. Best factoid: it was bought for Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind) to star.
If you're a Hitchcock fan, then don't miss Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster which focuses on the famous filmmaker and his affinity for mysteries.
A very short bonus includes The American Film Institute Award: The Key to Hitchcock which is a snippet of only 3 minutes. It's really fun to watch just to see Ingrid Bergman speak. She's so lovely.
1948 Radio Play Starring Joseph Cotten and Ingrid Bergman (That Joseph Cotten has quite the voice!)
Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock, short, only 2 minutes, but Francois Truffaut Interviews Hitchcock is 15 minutes, Hitchcock talks about the MacGuffin that he popularized in The 39 Steps.
The neatest feature is the side-by-side Restoration Comparison. You can see that it must have taken hours and hours to restore all the scratches and spots that happen naturally in film.
Always a treat, the Original Theatrical Trailer is included for your viewing pleasure.
Submitted by melissa on February 1, 2012 - 12:33am
Pscyhoanalysis was coming to the mainstream in the 1940s when Hitchcock started working on Spellbound. He collaborated with the famous surrealistic artist, Salvador Dali to create the elaborate dream sequences for the film. It holds up amazingly well and even though the film tends to have more of a dramatic quality, the dreams certainly are worth watching, not only in filmmaking, but in artistry.
In the film, Dr Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) meets a man who is accused of murder (Gregory Peck) and attempts to help him get his memory back, all the while falling in love with him. This story is more love-at-first-site as the two explore his "guilt complex" to attempt to uncover the truth.
This film relies more on location shooting, except for a unbelievably terrible skiing scene that is downright hilarious. Besides that, there are some very cool shots of inside the Empire State Building and Penn Station in New York. The music is also very dramatic and this is one of the very first films featuring the theremin, and it's incredibly powerful when something triggers the patient's memory.
Again, the Bluray although not perfect, it does highlight the dream sequences quite well and is again, a premium viewing experience.
Spellbound Rated: PG Theatrical release - 1945, Blu-ray January 24th, 2012 Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock Written by: Ben Hecht (screen play), Frances Beeding & John Palmer & Hilary St. George Sanders (suggested by novel "The House of Dr. Edwardes"), Angus MacPhail (adaptation by), May E. Romm (contributing writer: foreword) uncredited Featuring: Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov Plot: A female psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.
Academy Award Winner: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, MiklÃ³s RÃ³zsa
Academy Award Nominations: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Michael Chekhov; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, George Barnes; Best Director, Alfred Hitchcock; Best Effects, Special Effects, Jack Cosgrove (photographic); Best Picture, (Selznick International Pictures)
The Commentary with Author and Film Professor Thomas Schatz & Film ProfessorCharles Ramirez Berg, each from the University of Texas-Austin is enjoyable because you have the perspectives of two different people and it's more of a discussion. They do tend to talk more about the film in general and don't comment too much on the scene at hand though.
If you choose to watch only one special feature, watch this one: Dreaming with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism and Salvador Dali. It's the closest thing you'll get to deleted scenes, as there are also stills of the other sections of the dream sequence that did not make it into the film.
Guilt by Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound is just under 20 minutes and explains the context of the film as therapy was more in the public eye due to the trauma after World War II. David O. Selznick related to the story of Spellbound, as his analysis was actually listed as an advisor. Since You Went Away (1944) and Let There Be Light (1946) are two World War II documentaries, the latter was not released for over 30 years due to it's striking authenticity of shell shock in war veterans. Several interesting facts are given, such as how Spellbound was the first Hollywood film to show psychoanalysis.
One of the young actresses in the beginning of the film is given her own short featurette, A Cinderella Story: Rhonda Fleming, and talks about how she was hired and her role in the film. My favorite story from this: Ingrid Bergman met Rhonda's husband when the Hollywood actress was entertaining the troops, then called to tell Rhonda that he was alright and that she told him how wonderful it was to work with his wife.
The 1948 Radio Play, Starring Joseph Cotten and Valli (aka Alida Valli), is an interesting feature and really takes you back in time.
You can listen to an original recording when Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock. I love that these pieces were preserved and are being rediscovered.
I always enjoy watching the Original Theatrical Trailer, to see how different they are from today. It's quite eye-opening to see how trailers have evolved.
Submitted by melissa on February 1, 2012 - 12:20am
Based on the novel by Daphne Du Marnier, Rebecca is a Cinderella story gone wrong. As Hitchcock's first American film and only Best Picture winner, it set the bar high in terms of filmmaking. As far as the story goes, it is not as relatable to today's audience, as it has many elements that are unfamiliar. The future Mrs. de Winter, (Joan Fontaine) is a paid traveling companion of a newly wealthy socialite (Florence Bates), when a prince-like Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) basically chooses her for his wife. He shows no real affection, but she is completely smitten and caught up in the fairytale world he lives in. When she moves into the mansion that was once occupied by him and his deceased wife, Rebecca, it soon becomes clear that the housekeeper prefers the former Mrs. De Winter.
Shooting on a soundstage was common practice at the time and it is very noticeable viewing it on Bluray and on a larger TV screen. For those who are familiar with classic films in general, this becomes a novelty and is easily forgiven as a remnants of a time gone by.
Rated: Approved (before MPAA rating) Theatrical release - 1940, Blu-ray January 24th, 2012 Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock Written by: Daphne Du Maurier (novel), Robert E. Sherwood & Joan Harrison (screen play), Philip MacDonald & Michael Hogan (adaptation) Featuring: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson, George Sanders Plot: When a naive young woman marries a rich widower and settles in his gigantic mansion, she finds the memory of the first wife maintaining a grip on her husband and the servants.
Academy Award Winner: Best Picture (Hitchcock's only win); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White Winner
Academy Award Nominations: Best Actor in a Leading Role, Laurence Olivier; Best Actress in a Leading Role, Joan Fontaine; Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Judith Anderson; Best Art Direction, Black-and-White, Lyle R. Wheeler; Best Director, Alfred Hitchcock; Best Effects, Special Effects, Jack Cosgrove (photographic), Arthur Johns (sound); Best Film Editing, Hal C. Kern; Best Music, Original Score, Franz Waxman; Best Writing, Screenplay, Robert E. Sherwood & Joan Harrison
For those who have seen the film many times, the Commentary with Film Critic Richard Schickel runs along with the film and provides insightful comments on each scene as well as the actors and actresses. Commentary tracks are usually my favorite of all bonus features. The Isolated Music and Effects Track is somewhat of a puzzle to me. Just like the names states, it's completely without any dialogue, just the music and effects. I certainly wouldn't want to watch the entire film this way, but perhaps there's a piece of music that you enjoy and there's always people talking over it. This is your chance to have to all on its own.
The Making of Rebecca is a little less than a half an hour and provides lots of interesting facts about the production and the people involved. I quite enjoyed hearing about the rivalry between Olivia de Haviland and Joan Fontaine. Apparently Hitchcock really wanted them to appear together onscreen just to capture their hatred of each other. Also, apparently Hitchcock had wanted to buy the rights to Rebecca, but it was Selznick who bought the rights and then brought Hitchcock over to direct as his first American film.
Another behind-the-scenes story is The Gothic World of Daphne Du Maurier. At just about twenty minutes long, it's a fascinating and very intimate look at the life and career of the popular fiction writer.
So here's something that I've rarely seen, the actual screen tests from casting. Screen Tests: Margaret Sullavan, Vivien Leigh & Sir Laurence Olivier. It's the type of stuff you just don't seen in older films probably because they didn't think of keeping it.
Radio Plays: 1938 starring Orson Welles, Margaret Sullavan, Mildred Natwick & Agnes Moorehead (Featuring a rare interview with Daphne du Maurier); 1941 starring Ronald Colman, Ida Lupino, Judith Anderson; 1950 starring Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Betty Blythe
There are two Hitchcock Audio Interviews, one by Peter Bogdanovich and the other by Francois Truffaut. Each provide an insight from Hitchcock with the benefit of hindsight that is much appreciated.