Alfred Hitchcock 3-Disc Collector’s Edition (Lionsgate/The
Ring/The Manxman/Murder!/The Skin Game/Rich &
Strange) + To Catch A Thief –
Special Collector’s Edition (DVD-Video/Paramount)
(box set)/B- Sound: C+ Extras: C/B Film: B
people discuss Alfred Hitchcock’s best-known films, they talk about how rich
the themes in each are, almost to a fault.
That includes getting so hung up on the themes that they miss other
things going on in the films. These
themes, including illicit transfer of guilty, suspense, the MacGuffin, the
politics of male/female relationships, food, animals and death (among other
things) have been in his films with some distinction since he began in the
to see this is to see certain early films and five of them have been issued by
Lionsgate in a solid new DVD set that are all must-see films for anyone
interested in The Master of Suspense or film history. The Alfred
Hitchcock 3-Disc Collector’s Edition offers five of his earliest and least
seen films, yet ones that deserve a much larger audience. You can see the growth and progress of one of
the most important filmmakers of all time in the films The Ring, The Manxman, Murder!, The Skin Game and Rich &
Strange. At the same time, Paramount
has reissued his influential hit thriller To
Catch A Thief in a new Special
Collector’s Edition that is long overdue and was the beginning of a new
stage in Hitchcock’s career. Like the
older films, he was constantly experimenting and being original.
The Ring (1928) takes the B-movie material
of a boxing story and makes it into a murder story, with clever little details
throughout showing Hitchcock’s axiom that if you lose the audience visually,
you lose them altogether. Here, he does
not and for a film this old, it is savvier than you could imagine.
The Manxman (1929/30) is Hitch’s last silent
film involving a love triangle with best friends (one of whom is a sailor) and
eventually needs for revenge over love. Sometimes
Hitchcock liked dealing with people and their connection to bodies of water,
with all the instability implied. Here
is an early example.
Murder! (1930) is about an actress
accused of homicide, but a male juror (who is also an actor) thinks otherwise
and races against time to find the real killer(s) before it is too late. Some innovative use of sound design here made
this an early winner for Hitch.
The Skin Game (1931) is the controversial hit
film Hitch was not happy with in the long run, but offers a strange scenario of
families feuding over land, one rich, the other poor. The pacing is not as tight as Hitchcock’s
films usually, are, but the themes become bizarre enough to make it worth
Rich & Strange (1931) has a married couple with
personal problems, which become worse and more twisted when they strike it
rich, then get stranded at sea! As you
can see, Hitchcock was working through themes throughout his career and at the
time, he was taking them on before anyone else.
Even when he was being influenced by other filmmakers, he was also
absorbing them and often surging ahead of them.
To Catch A Thief (1955) is interesting because here
is Hitchcock starting all over again.
This time, it was in entering the world of very big screen filmmaking by
shooting in the large frame format VistaVision, a chief competitor to
CinemaScope (which it was better than) and formats like 65mm. The story involves an infamous jewel thief
named The Cat who may be back stalking more rich women for their prized
jewels. Cary Grant is the man suspected
of being that robber in the French Riviera, now interested in poor little rich
girl Grace Kelly as robberies arte taking place he is not committing.
with aspects of characters like Leslie Charteris’ The Saint, John Michael Hayes
screenplay (based on David Dodge’s novel) is rich, witty, classy and clever
throughout with all kinds of touches the writer was capable of. As he did with his lone 3-D film Dial “M” For Murder (also staring
Kelly), Hitch decides to kick the tires of the new big screen/widescreen
VistaVision format by fooling around with it superior detail, depth, color
fidelity and goes back and forth between using it to its highest potential, by
subverting that potential with purposely odd, strange images and events that
are made sicker or odder the larger the screen you view it on.
secret to Hitchcock’s success is that of any great filmmakers in always trying
new things and being as innovative as possible.
That is why we strongly recommend both releases and can guarantee you’ll
get pleasant surprises from both.
Lionsgate films are all 1.33 X 1 black and white releases that have been as
restored rather thoroughly, though some spots look like they could use further
work and feature Jack Cox’s cinematography, an early collaborator who helped
Hitch establish the distinct look of his films.
To Catch A Thief had its
transfer upgraded for this new DVD and though the anamorphically enhanced 1.85
X 1 image is an overall improvement for the most part in clarity, depth and
detail, I question the color fidelity and accuracy in some shots that looked a
bit better in the older DVD. The film
was not only shot in VistaVision, whose larger frame has a larger color
vocabulary, but 35mm prints were in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor. It won the Oscar for Best Cinematography by
Robert Burks, A.S.C., a master cameraman and Director of Photography who was
one of Hitchcock’s best collaborators.
The look influenced many later films, including the 1981 James Bond film
(reviewed elsewhere on this site) For
Your Eyes Only.
though the early films are silent, they have instrumental accompaniment and all
six films are in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, though Thief is also in Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surrounds, but the surrounds are
weak. The film may have been played back
in Perspecta Sound, but that was an artificial way to bounce around to sound
stereo-like, but was not true stereo.
Lyn Murray’s score on Thief
is not bad.
extra on the Lionsgate box is a solid documentary called Pure Cinema: The Birth Of The Hitchcock Style and it includes
interviews with Patricia Hitchcock and Peter Bogdanovich, who does an excellent
feature length audio commentary on Thief
with Laurent Bouzereau. Bouzereau has
written books on Brian De Palma and made dozens of documentaries and
featurettes for DVD, including many on Hitchcock’s films. You also get the original theatrical trailer,
a stills section and four featurettes on Thief
including Edith Head – The
Paramount Years, Writing &
Casting To Catch A Thief, The Making Of To Catch A Thief and Alfred
Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief: An
Appreciation. You can never have
enough extras, but the older films in particular always arrived in basic
editions, so anything new with them is a plus.
- Nicholas Sheffo