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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Mystery > Suspense > Voyeurism > Murder > Photography > Comedy > Detective > Obsession > Large Fr > Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection 4K with Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho and The Birds (1954 - 1963/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Set)

Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection 4K with Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho and The Birds (1954 - 1963/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Set)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+/A-/A-/A- 1080p Picture: B Sound: B (B-: Vertigo 1080p Blu-ray) Extras: B+ Films: B+/B+/A+/B

Over the last few decades, Alfred Hitchcock's films have been getting slowly restored and reissued, including his oldest British films, if not all of them yet. This is excellent news for fans of The Master of Suspense and pure cinema all around. This includes some high profile theatrical rereleases of films that had been out of circulation, but have now been out on home video in various formats for a while. Now, for the first time, four of his gems, including three of what are arguably his best films ever, are the first of his films to be released in the 4K format.

This will be the third time and versions we have covered of Rear Window, Vertigo and Psycho, and the second of The Birds. They are all also in a much larger Blu-ray set of his films from Universal issued on Blu-ray in two versions. We covered one of them at this link:


That also links to the three DVDs of the first time we looked at the previous titles first and the box has its Blu-rays repeat here, save Psycho, with its upgraded new sound and a corrected framing of its transfer. Thus, all the previous extras are also retained in this set and they are included on the 4K titles, unusual for the majority of 4K releases, but the bitrates here are high and healthy. That does not affect what we see in any major way.

So, that only leaves us covering the upgraded 4K discs' performance since I summarized the films long ago and I can tell you in advance that they all look great.

All films are framed at 1.85 X 1 and are here in 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image, all issued originally in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor, save Psycho in remarkable black & white and now correctly framed versus the issues with the awkward framing that cut off too much of one part of the top and side of the frame that ticked fans off. They can be assured this is now fine.

Rear Window was in bad shape before its restoration and in its color separation masters, the yellow layer was shot and even gone, so that had to be reconstructed, corrected and figured out before it was fixed and brought back to the state it was most originally intended. Shot on standard 35mm film in flat widescreen, the color in 4K is even more accurate and wide-ranging than any other time I have ever seen the film, save the 35mm three-strip Technicolor film print I saw in theaters at the time of its exciting reissue. That print was still a little better all around (this is in 10-bit color and not 12-bit Dolby Vision for whatever reason) but this is the next best thing with demo shots above my letter grade and has just a couple more flaws than the other films.

Vertigo was originally shot in the large-frame VistaVision format, but the negative was also in trouble at the time and it was decided it was best to save the film in the smaller-but-still-large-frame 65mm color negative format. That would help the lesser footage that was needed to fill in a few frames not look so bad and the rest would be a reduction print that would still retain the detail, depth and clarity the VistaVision format would deliver. This is even closer to the 35mm color presentations I saw of this film in theaters and has even better color range than Rear Window thanks to the larger format used. That also makes this the first film shot totally in VistaVision to make it to 4K, though several films that used the format for small parts of their films (up to most recent Christopher Nolan films) have made it to 4K already. Impressive!

Psycho is one of the greatest films ever made, my favorite Hitchcock film and at least as effective as Vertigo to me, but they are different kinds of films. It is also one of the greatest black and white films ever made. I have seen this film in almost every format it was ever issued in and some great 35mm prints, but there are shots here that are so clear, vivid and have such depth, you would think you were watch a Kubrick film and this is the most effective upgrade in the set. Of course, we get more footage in a longer version being dubbed UNCUT, some of which apparently was issued on home video in Germany. Either way, the additions are welcome and just confirm the masterpiece status of the film I have been lauding all along. After endless imitators and so many bad thrillers, especially of late, it endures better than ever and the grey scale here is very effective, as well as the superior Video Black. Anyone who has not seen this in 4K is in for some new shocks.

The Birds is not always given the respect it deserves and it may not be at the higher levels of the other three films, at least not all the time, but Hitchcock was even experimenting here and it works more often than not, so this first of the Natural Disaster Horror films (especially in an era of sloppy, silly, stupid digital visual effects) remains one of the greatest films of its kind ever. In 4K, it is even more surrealistic and the color gets you more involved. The cast is stronger than often noted and Hitchcock was still in full control of his filmmaking powers here.

Again, I wish these were all 12-bit Dolby Vision color (including Psycho, where the 12-bit would make the black and white look more like an expensive 35mm print, though this still is very impressive) and we should note that Hitchcock preferred matte painting, matte work visual effects and in-studio work, so those parts of the film are intended and not flaws or 'old filmmaking' as some might jump to say. It was his choice and what he wanted, even as films were starting to more and more move to location shooting, thanks to the French New Wave and advanced in filmmaking technology. The upside is it gives the films character and atmosphere it would not have otherwise.

As for sound, the big surprise is that both Vertigo and Psycho have been upgraded to lossless, 12-track DTS: X sound. Rear Window and The Birds retain their fine, solid, DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes, but the other films get nice upgrades added to their Mono DTS-MA presentations.

All films were originally theatrical mono releases, with Hitchcock rejecting the simulated stereo option being used on all VistaVision films being made at the time on all of his films shot in that format. When restored, Vertigo got a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, but fans (like me) complained (like several films getting restored at the time) that the audio was too much in the center channel and you can hear the 5.1 mix only on the Vertigo regular Blu-ray here. Now, the dialogue is more naturalistic and brilliant Bernard Herrmann score even richer, fuller and with a better soundstage, so this is a pleasant surprise.

That leaves Psycho, the oldest monophonic film ever to get a 12-track upgrade and though it seems some of the audio stems and soundmaster might not have survived or as well as we would like, Universal have retained the film's DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix for purists, but I like the DTS: X more because the sound effects and ambient sounds of the film have been elevated as well as the dialogue and (again!!!) Bernard Herrmann's all-time classic music score.

Most monophonic films, including just about everything filmed before 1952, really should not get such treatment, but Psycho has a soundtrack so smart and complex for its time that this actually works. Sure, you can hear the age of the audio and especially in some parts, but much of it is as clear and clearer than ever and that never sounded fake to me.

That makes this (we expect only first) Hitchcock 4K collection one of the best of any films in the format to date, will spark brand new interest and debate on these classics and will drive fans to want all of his films in 4K. Hope Universal started the next set!

- Nicholas Sheffo


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