Each film in this release includes not only the restored movie, but also a hefty featurette with behind the scenes info, production photos, and the theatrical trailer. Additionally, most films come with much more, including several with audio excerpts of an interview between Hitchcock and famed director Francois Truffaut, specific featurettes on longtime musical score collaborator Bernard Hermann, Hitch's signature style in cinema, and so much more. Several films included in this set were recently remastered and re-released on their own, so those will be the ones with the most comprehensive set of special features.
15 iconic films are included in this collection, as well as 7 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (his 30-minute show), and also 3 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (his 60 minute show). Personally, I loved almost every movie and television show in this collection and you can't beat the price for the sheer amount of content. As of this writing, it was about $86. Let that sink in. Even if you disregarded the 15 hours of bonus content and the 10 TV shows, that's not even $6 per Blu-ray movie - an absolute steal. The included films and TV episodes are as follows:
|Saboteur||The Man Who Knew Too Much||Marnie|
|Shadow of a Doubt||Vertigo||Torn Curtain|
|Rope||North By Northwest||Topaz|
|The Trouble With Harry||The Birds||Family Plot|
Lovable Robert Cummings stars as Bob Kane, an aircraft factory worker who is mistakenly accused of sabotaging his plant, an act of violence that killed his best buddy. In an effort to clear his name, he flees cross-country in search of the one man who is a witness, the true perpetrator. During this madcap dash, he'll link up with Pat (Priscilla Lane), the beautiful niece of a blind Good Samaritan, and the pair will clash often in their search for the truth, and they might just find love along the way.
Shadow of a Doubt
When Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) comes to visit his niece and namesake in her quiet hometown of Santa Rosa, Charlie (Teresa Wright) just can't wait to get to know everything about him. He's handsome, enigmatic, and worldly and she aims to discover all she can about him. Unfortunately, Uncle Charlie isn't exactly what he appears to be and Charlie's curiosity could be her greatest downfall... literally. Luckily, handsome detective Jack Graham (Macdonald Carey, Days of Our Lives) is looking out for her. A very young Hume Cronyn also co-stars. Hitchcock always regarded Shadow of a Doubt as his favorite film and it's a good movie. He loved the idea of presenting menace in the mundane, such as a small, sleepy town.
Well, as a friend succinctly once put it when he began watching Rope, "Well, that escalated quickly." Farley Granger (Strangers on a Train) and John Dall star as two highly intelligent young men who aim to get away with committing the perfect murder, and the first scene of the film is them strangling their "inferior" classmate. James Stewart stars as their professor and mentor, and, although he's discussed the perfect murder in class, he never expected them to do it and try to get away with it right under his nose. This film plays out across a long and awkward dinner party and is more like a play than any other Hitchcock film, especially since the entire movie plays out across only 8 takes. While not his best, it is an interesting work, if only for its technical camera feats.
Rear Window is one of my favorites in the collection and stars Jimmy Stewart (The Man Who Knew Too Much) as Jeff, a wheelchair-bound photographer who is reduced to staring out his window while he convalesces. As she joins him in his spying, his society girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly, To Catch a Thief) becomes convinced that the brooding salesman (Raymond Burr) across the apartment complex has murdered his sick wife and when they set out to prove it, the results could be disastrous. The standout performance has got to be Thelma Ritter as Jeff's nurse. She always knows exactly what to say. It's also cool to see Ross Bagdasarian AKA David Seville (Alvin and the Chipmunks) as the young songwriter, since he is usually just a voice behind a cartoon.
The Trouble with Harry
The Trouble with Harry is a rare comedic treat from Hitchcock. While all of Hitch's films had comedic relief, this is simply a dark comedy about a dead guy named Harry. Harry is just a body in the woods that some of the local townspeople mistakenly believe they killed, while some are simply happy he is dead, and others don't even notice him and step over his corpse as they go about their business. Shirley MacLaine makes her first acting appearance as adorable young single mother Jennifer, while Jerry Mathers stars as her young son, a few years before he rose to fame in Leave it to Beaver. John Forsythe (Dynasty) stars as Sam Marlowe, handsome painter and man about town. The Trouble with Harry is a ridiculous movie that is a joy to watch. The nonsensical nature of everything just builds and builds, in true Hitchcock fashion.
The Man Who Knew Too Much
James Stewart and Doris Day (Please Don't Eat the Daisies) star as Benjamin and Jo McKenna, an average American couple on holiday in Morocco who get tangled up in a political plot, simply by being mistaken for someone else. As a result, a spy takes Ben into his confidence as he lay dying, sharing the fact that an assassination is going to occur in London. When their young son is kidnapped to insure their silence, the McKenna's become determined to not only get him back, but to stop the assassination at any cost. This is another brilliant and classic Hitchcock suspense film and it's interesting to see Doris Day hold her own in something dramatic, as opposed to her typical comedies.
Ahh, the classic Hitchcock suspense, Vertigo is set across the foggy backdrop of San Francisco where Jimmy Stewart plays "Scottie," a detective who suffers from debilitating vertigo. He is asked by a college friend to tail his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak, Bell, Book and Candle), as he believes she is suffering from some sort of mental illness, since she is convinced she is possessed by the suicidal ghost of a past relative. As he follows her, Scottie falls deeper and deeper in love with the mysterious blonde, to his detriment. When he later spots another woman who bears a striking resemblance to his beloved Madeleine, he becomes obsessed with recreating his lost love. Arguably one of Hitchcock's best films, Vertigo is brilliant and unsettling. Like Rear Window, it's perfection.
North by Northwest
Hitchcock loved the plot of the mistaken man, and here we have Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill, NYC advertising exec who calls over the waiter at exactly the wrong time, and gets mistaken for a spy. In his attempt to escape what fate lies in wait for him, he falls in with a beautiful blonde named Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who is not all she appears. James Mason does an incredible job as Phillip Vandamme, menacing head of the spy ring. This film is filled with suspense, romance, fantastic locations and lots of bad luck for Thornhill. The man gets crop-dusted, for crying out loud! Yet another fantastic film during Hitch's golden age, where he was turning out hit after hit.
When Hitch introduced Psycho, his fans were stunned by its brutality. They were expecting a suspense about a mostly nice girl named Marion (Janet Leigh, Bye Bye Birdie) who steals $40,000 from her boss instead of depositing it at the bank, so she can help her boyfriend, Sam (John Gavin) pay off his bills and they can get married. She stops off at a quiet little motel during a rainstorm and determines to return the money, only to be butchered in the shower. Was it Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) or his cruel mother that did the deed? Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) is sure something happened to her and she teams up with Detective Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) to get to the bottom of Marion's disappearance. This often imitated, but never duplicated (in my opinion) film showed that you can craft pure horror without actually showing anything. Yet another reason Hitch was the master.
The Birds was Tippi Hedren's first film and it was a first for Hitch as well - his first "monster" movie. Hedren plays Melanie Daniels, a wealthy brat who drives out to Bodega Bay to play an elaborate prank on handsome lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor, The Time Machine) and finds herself in a living nightmare. For some reason, the birds out at the marina community have gone murderously nuts and attack at random. This is great horror and done completely without a Hitchcock classic musical score by Bernard Hermann, longtime Hitchcock collaborator. It's menacing, chilling horror at its finest. Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy, wife of Hume Cronyn) and Suzanne Pleshette (The Bob Newhart Show) also star.
Marnie was Tippi Hedren's second and last film with Hitch, and she was his second choice when Grace Kelly backed out. Hedren plays Marnie, a beautiful but troubled compulsive thief who goes from town to town, getting a job and committing fraud to support her lifestyle and her mother, from whom she desperately wants love. When handsome, wealthy bachelor Mark Rutland (Sean Connery, James Bond films) recognizes her from a previous job and hires her, intending to trap her in theft, he falls for her in the process and forces her to marry him to stay out of jail. While Rutland hopes to save the clearly troubled and frigid girl, he doesn't go about it in the nicest of ways, offering a gilded jail for a concrete one. He wants to crack her secret, but what will be left of her when he finally does? Diane Baker stars as Lil, Mark's younger sister-in-law who is out to trap him for her own.
Torn Curtain sees Hitchcock folding to the pressure of hiring big name stars Paul Newman and Julie Andrews to play in this espionage flick. Newman stars as Professor Michael Armstrong, attending an engineering convention with his assistant and fiancee Sarah Sherman (Andrews). She doesn't know it, but the engineer plans to defect to East Germany and her meddling gets in the way and lands her in Berlin with him. While she can't believe he would be a traitor to America, he has a deeper secret and tricking the Germans is dirty and dangerous business. Making it out alive will soon be the least of their worries. I enjoyed Torn Curtain, but it pales in comparison to his other espionage thrillers.
I am not going to lie - I hated Topaz. It was almost 2.5 hours of boring political intrigue, with the only familiar face being John Forsythe as an American agent. It was all Russian and Cuban spy stuff, but somehow it managed to be completely dull, with the only classic Hitchcockian scene being a beautiful death scene of a woman in purple. The sets were even laughable at times, and yes, I know Hitch didn't like traveling on location, but "Cuba" was clearly not Cuba and neither was Harlem. Blu-ray definitely doesn't do any favors for obvious set locations. This film was widely panned by his focus groups and Hitch even filmed three different endings in order to placate people. Skip it.
Frenzy marks another first for Hitchcock, a fair amount of nudity is shown and the film is much more harsh than previous offerings. It also marks Hitch's return to England and areas of England are proudly on display. Again, no real familiar faces are here, at least to Americans. Barry Foster plays Robert Rusk, a sexual sadist who is strangling women with neckties all over London. His buddy, Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) is a down-on-his-luck former military man and, sadly for him, Rusk is setting him up to be the fall guy. While the film is decidedly dark, Hitch's famous brand of off-kilter humor is present throughout. I don't like this film nearly as much as others, but it's worth watching.
Family Plot Family Plot was Hitchcock's last film, although he didn't realize he would need to retire at the time. It stars the adorable Barbara Harris (Freaky Friday) as a fake psychic and her boyfriend, George Lumley (Bruce Dern) is a cabbie who assists her with her schemes. Her latest scam is finding a long-lost missing nephew of one of her very wealthy clients, but with not much to go on. Meanwhile, there's a pair of kidnappers, Arthur (William Devane) and Fran (Karen Black) who are taking prominent members of society, leaving no clues, and ransoming them for huge diamonds, which they then cut and sell through their legitimate diamond store. When the paths of the kidnappers and the bumbling psychic and her cabbie cross, it can only lead to danger. I really enjoyed Family Plot as it had a lot of levity and silliness, kind of like The Trouble With Harry. There is danger and intrigue, but it's all tempered with humor. It's a different, but fitting end to Hitch's career.
In between making all of those great films, he also had two TV shows: Alfred Hitchcock Presents and when TV shows changed to an hour-long format, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. There are a total of 10 episodes provided here, 7 30-minute and 3 hour-long. All are pretty good and most are just plain great. They are typical Hitchcock stories with twists a-plenty and lots of stars as well. It seemed everyone wanted to be on the show and the episodes selected are a great representation of that, including stars like Vera Miles (Psycho), Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched), James Farentino (Dynasty), Barbara Bel Geddes (Dallas) and Bill Mumy (Lost in Space), to name a few. Good stuff in short format - nice tidbits of suspense.
Basically, long story short (too late!), this is an incredible collection and any Hitchcock fan would love to have it. It is rife with special features and also includes a neat little booklet with inside info for each of the films like costume sketches, storyboards and tidbits of info (some not even found in the copious featurettes). With the holidays around the corner, this would make an incredible gift. If you don't care about the TV shows, then you can save a few bucks by getting Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection, as it is identical except for the extra discs with the TV shows and their special features, but you will definitely get the most bang for your buck with this set. Highly, highly recommended!