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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > British > Rebecca (Criterion DVD)

Rebecca (Criterion)

 

Picture: B     Sound: C+     Extras: A+     Film: A

 

 

By the time that Alfred Hitchcock released Rebecca, he had quite a few films under his belt already.  His style was already become concrete in form to the point that his formula was almost a guarantee.  Perhaps his two strongest films up until Rebecca’s release would be The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), but with his move into the states Hitchcock picked up the support from producer David O. Selznick, who had just enjoyed the success of 1939’s Gone With the Wind.  Although the relationship between Hitchcock and Selznick was at times jagged, they would rely on each other just the same.  Rebecca would go on to win Best Picture that year at the Oscars and sadly remain Hitchcock’s only win.

 

For this film the story became adapted from the Daphne Du Maurier novel and taking over the lead role would be none other than Laurence Olivier (coming off the success of Wuthering Heights) as Maxim Winter with Joan Fontaine playing the second Madame de Winter.  Here’s the story for those less fortunate to see the film.  Joan Fontaine takes the starring role and narrates the story of her life as the second Madam de Winter. Fontaine, young and innocent, meets the worldly and sophisticated Maxim de Winter (Sir Laurence Olivier) while vacationing on the Riviera. After a whirlwind romance and marriage, the two return to his opulent English estate, Manderley, where Fontaine begins to realize she is not entirely welcome in her new role.  This sets up the film and more than a few twists occur here and there.

 

There is a conversation shared between Maxim and the soon-to-be second Madame de Winter early in the film.  This occurs shortly after the two have met each other, but sets up the rest of the film with an allegorical story told by the lady.  The two are having breakfast together when she informs Maxim about a man she once knew who could paint, but he only painted the same tree over and over again.  When he asks why he painted the same tree over, she replies that he found the perfect tree and never wanted to paint anything but this perfect tree.  In essence, this man could not replace what he created once he found what it was he was looking for.  Now similarly Maxim is going through the same thing, but does not realize this.  His first wife, he adored, and because of this he compares everything to her.  She serves as his perfect tree for which he attempts to redraw by finding other women in his life to compare to her, but they all fall short.  People are different, unlike a painting, which can be reproduced much easier. 

 

This transfer was taken from the original camera negative, which explains why the black and white looks so good. George Barnes’ Oscar-winning cinematography is beautifully recreated presented in its original full frame, 1.33 X 1 ratio. There is very little grain on the print and virtually every scratch has been removed. Barnes would team up with Hitchcock for another fine picture in 1945 with Spellbound, perhaps that film was even shot better, but lost to Harry Stradling’s work on The Picture of Dorian Gray. Actually this DVD looks a touch better than the Criterion Edition of Notorious, even though that film was made six years later.  Both films are worthy of ownership regardless, but not the Anchor Bay issued DVD’s, which contain no extras and very poor picture and sound, despite their blowout bargain price.  You pay for what you get. 

 

The only major problem with the sound is that it should have been 2.0 mono, so that the sound could have been split into two channels allowing the sound to be distributed without trying to be pushed through only one channel, Dolby 1.0 Mono.  While the soundtrack is certainly clean, partially due to the noise-reducing system from which it was originally recorded, the DVD shines.

 

This has to be one of the most packed DVD’s on the market!  There are three radio broadcasts, a commentary, deleted material, Academy footage, interviews, essays, test screenings, and much more.  It is hard to imagine where all these extras were found, but fans will be glad that this material is readily available.  Rather than go through this extra material with detailed description it is better to just say that all of it is worth the time spent.  Criterion has done another astounding job making Rebecca one of their best releases, as well as one of their best Hitchcock venture.

 

 

-   Nate Goss


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