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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (1942-76)

"Mother, uh, what is the phrase? She isn't quite herself today."
- Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), in Psycho

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: April 06, 2006

Stars: Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Norman Lloyd, Otto Kruger, Vaughan Glaser, Joseph Cotten, Teresa Wright, Hume Cronyn, James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr, Wendell Corey, Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe, Mildred Natwick, Shirley MacLaine, Jerry Mathers, Doris Day, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, Janet Leigh, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, Frederick Stafford, Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli, Roscoe Lee Browne, John Vernon, Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Lila Kedrova, Jon Finch, Alec McCowen, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, William Devane, Barbara Harris
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 27h:05m:10s
Release Date: October 04, 2005
UPC: 025192834622
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

A masterpiece is a singular thing—they don't come in collections, as a rule, and Hollywood history and economics being what it is, there's no one-stop shopping for a Hitchcock primer. But this is just about as good as it gets when it comes to the Master of Suspense, collecting 14 of his films. It's easy to see what's not here: none of the work from England before coming to the U.S. to make Rebecca, none of the great early American work now in the Warner catalog (the prime example of which is probably Strangers on a Train), and, most shocking of all, no Cary Grant. But the array of talent assembled here, in the 1940s and 1950s particularly, would be enough to do any self-respecting studio proud, and to have all of this work done at the behest of a man who promised to treat them like cattle is a testament to his talent.

Saboteur kicks things off in high style, and Shadow of a Doubt makes for quite a #2 hitter. (See the reviews of the individual titles for further discussion of their relative merits.) Rope is some nasty piece of work, and what in many ways is the paradigmatic Hitchcock picture, Rear WIndow, follows. In context, The Trouble With Harry and the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much seem relatively minor; the next great ascent is Vertigo, a film that, despite any sort of reluctance, will wear down its naysayers through its extraordinary combination of craft and obsession.

Psycho makes for a great Mother's Day present, and Hitch continues to work out his Grace Kelly abandonment issues in The Birds and Marnie. The final four—Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot—sag in comparison, but then anything would, and they've got their own particular fascinations.

Hitchcock was a great filmmaker, but he made only one sort of movie—he doesn't have the breadth of Billy Wilder, the depth of Bergman, the pitiless vision of Kurosawa. But this box set reminds us that Hitch is always a real fun date, and delivers on the implied promise of a good time at the movies. Lock the door, turn the lights down low, and come find out where the bodies are buried.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes

Image Transfer Review: Picture quality varies somewhat—some, like Rear Window and Vertigo, look quite spectacular, while others (Shadow of a Doubt, Family Plot) have been done no favors here.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio quality varies as well; Vertigo is the only title here with a 5.1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 281 cues and remote access
4 Documentaries
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
15 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Reviews of the individual titles include a look at the extras included with each; the set also comes with a bonus fifteenth disc, bringing with it some more strong stuff. An AFI Salute to Alfred Hitchcock (15m:05s) shows the director in his dotage, being feted by some of the most famous actors to appear in his films: Henry Fonda, Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant and James Stewart, among others. Hitchcock himself makes a few gracious remarks, particularly about his wife, Alma. This piece does look as if it's been rather severely edited, however. Masters of Cinema (33m:38s) is a tag team interview: Pia Lindstrom, looking so like her mother, asks questions in the first half, and then passes the baton to William Everson, in a career overview.

Finally, there are two amazingly thorough, feature-length documentaries on two of the films in the set. (I was remiss in grading the extras, feature by feature and disc by disc, and should have accounted for these. Apologies, gentle reader.) All About The Birds (01h:19m:46s) features interviews with many members of the production team, along with Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor—it's more about aviary animatronics then you could ever want to know, or have even imagined. And The Making of Psycho (01h:34m:07s) traces the project from story evolution up through its theatrical release, including the inevitable shot-by-shot breakdown of the iconic shower scene.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

A grand collection of fourteen films from perhaps the most recognized director, both personally and stylistically, in the relatively short history of movies.


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