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Released: 2012-10-30

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Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection – 15 Movies [Blu-ray] by Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Movie Details

Director
Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Universal Studios Ho
Runtime
2182
Binding
Blu-ray

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Description

Saboteur (1942)
Robert Cummings stars as Barry Kane, a patriotic munitions worker who is falsely accused of sabotage, in this wartime thriller from Alfred Hitchcock. Plastered across the front page of every newspaper and hated by the nation, Kane's only hope of clearing his name is to find the real villain. If this sounds a bit like Hitchcock's later North by Northwest, it is. There are interesting echoes throughout, including a heart-stopping sequence on top of a national monument. But the most interesting thing about Saboteur is the frequency with which characters demonstrate their willingness to obstruct the police, going on nothing more than the fact that Kane seems like a stand-up guy. They do, again and again, apparently just because good people can spot other good people. Saboteur was made during the thick of World War II, so there are a few passages of heavy-handed jingoism to get through but they're relatively painless. The script as a whole is a clever one–Algonquin wit Dorothy Parker shares a screenwriting credit, and her trademark zingers make for a terrific mix of humor and suspense. Saboteur is a pleasure whether you're a die-hard Hitchcock fan or just someone who likes a good nail-biter. –Ali Davis

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Alfred Hitchcock considered this 1943 thriller to be his personal favorite among his own films, and although it's not as popular as some of Hitchcock's later work, it's certainly worthy of the master's admiration. Scripted by playwright Thornton Wilder and inspired by the actual case of a 1920's serial killer known as “”The Merry Widow Murderer,”” the movie sets a tone of menace and fear by introducing a psychotic killer into the small-town comforts of Santa Rosa, California. That's where young Charlie (Teresa Wright) lives with her parents and two younger siblings, and where murder is little more than a topic of morbid conversation for their mystery-buff neighbor (Hume Cronyn). Charlie was named after her favorite uncle, who has just arrived for an extended visit, and at first Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) gets along famously with his admiring niece. But the film's chilling prologue has already revealed Uncle Charlie's true identity as the notorious Merry Widow Murderer, and the suspense grows almost unbearable when young Charlie's trust gives way to gradual dread and suspicion. Through narrow escapes and a climactic scene aboard a speeding train, this witty thriller strips away the façade of small-town tranquility to reveal evil where it's least expected. And, of course, it's all done in pure Hitchcockian style. –Jeff Shannon

Rope (1948)
An experimental film masquerading as a standard Hollywood thriller. The plot of Rope is simple and based on a successful stage play: two young men (John Dall and Farley Granger) commit murder, more or less as an intellectual exercise. They hide the body in their large apartment, then throw a dinner party. Will the body be discovered? Director Alfred Hitchcock, fascinated by the possibilities of the long-take style, decided to shoot this story as though it were happening in one long, uninterrupted shot. Since the camera can only hold one 10-minute reel at a time, Hitchcock had to be creative when it came time to change reels, disguising the switches as the camera passed behind someone's back or moved behind a lamp. In later years Hitchcock wrote off the approach as misguided, and Rope may not be one of Hitchcock's top movies, but it's still a nail-biter. They don't call him the Master of Suspense for nothing. James Stewart, as a suspicious professor, marks his first starring role for Hitchcock, a collaboration that would lead to the masterpieces Rear Window and Vertigo. –Robert Horton

Rear Window (1954)
Like the Greenwich Village courtyard view from its titular portal, Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window is both confined and multileveled: both its story and visual perspective are dictated by its protagonist's imprisonment in his apartment, convalescing in a wheelchair, from which both he and the audience observe the lives of his neighbors. Cheerful voyeurism, as well as the behavior glimpsed among the various tenants, affords a droll comic atmosphere that gradually darkens when he sees clues to what may be a murder.

Photographer L.B. “”Jeff”” Jeffries (James Stewart) is, in fact, a voyeur by trade, a professional photographer sidelined by an accident while on assignment. His immersion in the human drama (and comedy) visible from his window is a by-product of boredom, underlined by the disapproval of his girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), and a wisecracking visiting nurse (Thelma Ritter). Yet when the invalid wife of Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) disappears, Jeff enlists the two women to help him to determine whether she's really left town, as Thorwald insists, or been murdered.

Hitchcock scholar Donald Spoto convincingly argues that the crime at the center of this mystery is the MacGuffin–a mere pretext–in a film that's more interested in the implications of Jeff's sentinel perspective. We actually learn more about the lives of the other neighbors (given generic names by Jeff, even as he's drawn into their lives) he, and we, watch undetected than we do the putative murderer and his victim. Jeff's evident fear of intimacy and commitment with the elegant, adoring Lisa provides the other vital thread to the script, one woven not only into the couple's own relationship, but reflected and even commented upon through the various neighbors' lives.

At minimum, Hitchcock's skill at making us accomplices to Jeff's spying, coupled with an ingenious escalation of suspense as the teasingly vague evidence coalesces into ominous proof, deliver a superb thriller spiked with droll humor, right up to its nail-biting, nightmarish climax. At deeper levels, however, Rear Window plumbs issues of moral responsibility and emotional honesty, while offering further proof (were any needed) of the director's brilliance as a visual storyteller. –Sam Sutherland

The Trouble with Harry (1955)
A busman's holiday for Alfred Hitchcock, this 1955 black comedy concerns a pesky corpse that becomes a problem for a quiet, Vermont neighborhood. Shirley MacLaine makes her film debut as one of several characters who keep burying the body and finding it unburied again. Hitchcock clearly enjoys conjuring the autumnal look and feel of the story, and he establishes an important, first-time alliance with composer Bernard Herrmann, whose music proved vital to the director's next half-dozen or so films. But for now, The Trouble with Harry is a lark, the mischievous side of Hitchcock given free reign. –Tom Keogh

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 remake of his own 1934 spy thriller is an exciting event in its own right, with several justifiably famous sequences. James Stewart and Doris Day play American tourists who discover more than they wanted to know about an assassination plot. When their son is kidnapped to keep them quiet, they are caught between concern for him and the terrible secret they hold. When asked about the difference between this version of the story and the one he made 22 years earlier, Hitchcock always said the first was the work of a talented amateur while the second was the act of a seasoned professional. Indeed, several extraordinary moments in this update represent consummate filmmaking, particularly a relentlessly exciting Albert Hall scene, with a blaring symphony, an assassin's gun, and Doris Day's scream. Along with Hitchcock's other films from the mid-1950s to 1960 (including Vertigo, Rear Window, and Psycho), The Man Who Knew Too Much is the work of a master in his prime. –Tom Keogh

Vertigo (1958)
Although it wasn't a box-office success when originally released in 1958, Vertigo has since taken its deserved place as Alfred Hitchcock's greatest, most spellbinding, most deeply personal achievement. In fact, it consistently ranks among the top 10 movies ever made in the once-a-decade Sight & Sound international critics poll, placing at number 4 in the 1992 survey. (Universal Pictures' spectacularly gorgeous 1996 restoration and rerelease of this 1958 Paramount production was a tremendous success with the public, too.) James Stewart plays a retired police detective who is hired by an old friend to follow his wife (a superb Kim Novak, in what becomes a double role), whom he suspects of being possessed by the spirit of a dead madwoman. The detective and the disturbed woman fall (“”fall”” is indeed the operative word) in love and…well, to give away any more of the story would be criminal. Shot around San Francisco (the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of the Legion of Honor are significant locations) and elsewhere in Northern California (the redwoods, Mission San Juan Batista) in rapturous Technicolor, Vertigo is as lovely as it is haunting. –Jim Emerson

North by Northwest (1959)
A strong candidate for the most sheerly entertaining and enjoyable movie ever made by a Hollywood studio (with Citizen Kane, Only Angels Have Wings and Trouble in Paradise running neck and neck). Positioned between the much heavier and more profoundly disturbing Vertigo (1958) and the stark horror of Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959) is Alfred Hitchcock at his most effervescent in a romantic comedy-thriller that also features one of the definitive Cary Grant performances. Which is not to say that this is just “”Hitchcock Lite””; seminal Hitchcock critic Robin Wood (in his book Hitchcock's Films Revisited) makes an airtight case for this glossy MGM production as one of The Master's “”unbroken series of masterpieces from Vertigo to Marnie.”” It's a classic Hitchcock Wrong Man scenario: Grant is Roger O. Thornhill (initials ROT), an advertising executive who is mistaken by enemy spies for a U.S. undercover agent named George Kaplan. Convinced these sinister fellows (James Mason as the boss, and Martin Landau as his henchman) are trying to kill him, Roger flees and meets a sexy Stranger on a Train (Eva Marie Saint), with whom he engages in one of the longest, most convolutedly choreographed kisses in screen history. And, of course, there are the famous set pieces: the stabbing at the United Nations, the crop-duster plane attack in the cornfield (where a pedestrian has no place to hide), and the cliffhanger finale atop the stone faces of Mount Rushmore. Plus a sparkling Ernest Lehman script and that pulse-quickening Bernard Herrmann score. What more could a moviegoer possibly desire? –Jim Emerson

Psycho (1960)
For all the slasher pictures that have ripped off Psycho (and particularly its classic set piece, the “”shower scene””), nothing has ever matched the impact of the real thing. More than just a first-rate shocker full of thrills and suspense, Psycho is also an engrossing character study in which director Alfred Hitchcock skillfully seduces you into identifying with the main characters–then pulls the rug (or the bathmat) out from under you. Anthony Perkins is unforgettable as Norman Bates, the mama's boy proprietor of the Bates Motel; and so is Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, who makes an impulsive decision and becomes a fugitive from the law, hiding out at Norman's roadside inn for one fateful night. –Jim Emerson

The Birds (1963)
Vacationing in northern California, Alfred Hitchcock was struck by a story in a Santa Cruz newspaper: “”Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes.”” From this peculiar incident, and his memory of a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the master of suspense created one of his strangest and most terrifying films. The Birds follows a chic blonde, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), as she travels to the coastal town of Bodega Bay to hook up with a rugged fellow (Rod Taylor) she's only just met. Before long the town is attacked by marauding birds, and Hitchcock's skill at staging action is brought to the fore. Beyond the superb effects, however, The Birds is also one of Hitchcock's most psychologically complicated scenarios, a tense study of violence, loneliness, and complacency. What really gets under your skin are not the bird skirmishes but the anxiety and the eerie quiet between attacks. The director elevated an unknown model, Tippi Hedren (mother of Melanie Griffith), to being his latest cool, blond leading lady, an experience that was not always easy on the much-pecked Ms. Hedren. Still, she returned for the next Hitchcock picture, the underrated Marnie. Treated with scant attention by serious critics in 1963, The Birds has grown into a classic and–despite the sci-fi trappings–one of Hitchcock's most serious films. –Robert Horton

Marnie (1964)
You could call this one Hoot Along with Hitch. With the possible exceptions of Topaz and Family Plot, this is Hitchcock's cheesiest movie, visually and psychologically crass in comparison with a peak achievement like Vertigo–although it shares some of that film's characteristic obsessive themes. Sean Connery, fresh from the second Bond picture, From Russia with Love, is a Philadelphia playboy who begins to fall for Tippi Hedren's blonde ice goddess only when he realizes that she's a professional thief; she's come to work in his upper-crust insurance office in order to embezzle mass quantities. His patient program of investigation and surveillance has a creepy, voyeuristic quality that's pure Hitchcock, but all's lost when it emerges that the root of Marnie's problem is phobic sexual frigidity, induced by a childhood trauma. Luckily, Sean is up to the challenge. As it were. Not even D.H. Lawrence believed as fervently as Hitchcock in the curative properties of sexual release. –David Chute

Torn Curtain (1966)
Paul Newman and Julie Andrews star in what must unfortunately be called one of Alfred Hitchcock's lesser efforts. Still, sub-par Hitchcock is better than a lot of what's out there, and this one is well worth a look. Newman plays cold war physicist Michael Armstrong, while Andrews plays his lovely assistant-and-fiancée, Sarah Sherman. Armstrong has been working on a missile defense system that will “”make nuclear defense obsolete,”” and naturally both sides are very interested. All Sarah cares about is the fact that Michael has been acting awfully fishy lately. The suspense of Torn Curtain is by nature not as thrilling as that in the average Hitchcock film–much of it involves sitting still and wondering if the bad guys are getting closer. Still, Hitchcock manages to amuse himself: there is some beautifully clever camera work and an excruciating sequence that illustrates the frequent Hitchcock point that death is not a tidy business. –Ali Davis

Topaz (1969)
Alfred Hitchcock hadn't made a spy thriller since the 1930s, so his 1969 adaptation of Leon Uris's bestseller seemed like a curious choice for the director. But Hitchcock makes Uris's story of the West's investigation into the Soviet Union's dealings with Cuba his own. Frederick Stafford plays a French intelligence agent who works with his American counterpart (John Forsythe) to break up a Soviet spy ring. The film is a bit flat dramatically and visually, and there are sequences that seem to occupy Hitchcock's attention more than others. A minor work all around, with at least two alternative endings shot by Hitchcock. –Tom Keogh

Frenzy (1972)
Alfred Hitchcock's penultimate film, written by Anthony Shaffer (who also wrote Sleuth), this delightfully grisly little tale features an all-British cast minus star wattage, which may have accounted for its relatively slim showing in the States. Jon Finch plays a down-on-his-luck Londoner who is offered some help by an old pal (Barry Foster). In fact, Foster is a serial killer the police have been chasing–and he's framing Finch. Which leads to a classic Hitchcock situation: a guiltless man is forced to prove his innocence while eluding Scotland Yard at the same time. Spiked with Hitchcock's trademark dark humor, Frenzy also features a very funny subplot about the Scotland Yard investigator (Alec McCowen) in charge of the case, who must endure meals by a wife (Vivien Merchant) who is taking a gourmet-cooking class. –Marshall Fine

Family Plot (1976)
Alfred Hitchcock's final film is understated comic fun that mixes suspense with deft humor, thanks to a solid cast. The plot centers on the kidnapping of an heir and a diamond theft by a pair of bad guys led by Karen Black and William Devane. The cops seem befuddled, but that doesn't stop a questionable psychic (Barbara Harris) and her not overly bright boyfriend (Bruce Dern, in a rare good-guy role) from picking up the trail and actually solving the crime. Did she do it with actual psychic powers? That's part of the fun of Harris's enjoyably ditsy performance. –Marshall Fine

Actors

  • James Stewart
  • Kim Novak
  • Grace Kelly
  • Cary Grant
  • Tippi Hedren

Format

  • Dolby
  • Full Screen
  • NTSC
  • Widescreen





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