Blu-ray Review “Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection”

Starring: James Stewart, John Forsythe, Bruce Dern, Tippi Hedren, Karen Black, Priscilla Lane
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Format: Limited Edition
Number of discs: 15
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Universal Studios
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Run Time: 1759 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Man, when Universal says it is going to celebrate its 100th anniversary, they aren’t messing around. Earlier this month they released the stunning “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection”. and now this release even tops that. This ultimate box set is jam-packed with 15 classic Hitchcock films including 13 that have never been released on Blu-Ray. “Psycho”‘ and “North by Northwest” are the only films in this set that have released previously. The 15 films are included in this “Masterpiece Collection” that span over three decades from 1942-1976 including “Psycho”, “The Birds”, “Vertigo”, “Rear Window”, “North by Northwest”, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “Marnie”, “Saboteur”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Rope”, “The Trouble with Harry”, “Torn Curtain”, “Topaz”, “Frenzy” and “Family Plot”.

These films feature some of the best talent and performances that Hollywood has to offer, including James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Julie Andrews, Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, John Forsythe, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Priscilla Lane and even Sean Connery. If 15 amazing Hitchcock films in high definition isn’t enough this release also includes over 15 hours of bonus features including a newly produced documentary for “The Birds”. If you could want any more Hitchcock (if that is possible), Warner Home Entertainment has recently released both “Strangers on a Train” and “Dial M for Murder 3D” to Blu-ray. This “Masterpiece Collection” is only set to be available for a limited time only for if you are a fan of Hitchcock, then I would highly recommend not missing this release.

Everyone knows that the legendary Alfred Hitchcock is the “Master of Suspense”.  He has directed some of cinema’s most thrilling and recognizable classics. This release is definitely the definitive collection and it showcases Alfred Hitchcock’s true cinematic talent.  The packaging for this release is similar to “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection”. The 15 discs are packaged inside a really high-quality and sharp flipbook packaging with some amazing glossy images.  It also includes an exclusive 58-page collector’s book, called “The Master of Suspense”, which includes original artwork, trivia, and information about the films.  Besides “Psycho” and “North by Northwest”, which has been treated well on Blu-ray, each film has been digitally restored from high resolution film elements in order to guarantee the ultimate Hitchcock experience.

Here are the premises for the 15 films included: “Saboteur (1942)”: This riveting wartime thriller stars Robert Cummings as a factory worker who is falsely accused of sabotage and sets off on a desperate, action-packed cross-country chase to clear his name. “Shadow of a Doubt (1943)”: This thriller about a young woman (Teresa Wright) who comes to suspect that the uncle (Joseph Cotton) she idolizes may in fact be a murderer was considered Alfred Hitchcock’s personal favorite. “Rope (1948)”: Two friends strangle a classmate and then hold a party for their victim’s family and friends while their former teacher (James Stewart) becomes increasingly suspicious that his students have turned his intellectual theories into brutal reality. “Rear Window (1954)”: James Stewart and Grace Kelly star in this voyeuristic masterpiece about a photographer who becomes obsessed with watching his neighbors and discovers a possible murder. “The Trouble with Harry (1955)”: While no one really minds that Harry is dead, everyone has a different idea about what should be done with his body in this quirky mystery starring Shirley MacLaine and John Forsythe. “The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)”: James Stewart and Doris Day star as a vacationing American couple who accidentally become involved in an international assassination plot and must take matters into their own hands after their son is kidnapped. “Vertigo (1958)”: James Stewart and Kim Novak star in this dizzying web of mistaken identity, passion and murder involving an acrophobic detective and the mysterious blonde he rescues from the San Francisco Bay.

“North by Northwest (1959)”: Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint star in this edge-of-your-seat thriller about an adman who gets plunged into a realm of spy and counterspy and is abducted, framed for murder, chased and crop-dusted. “Psycho (1960)”: Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh star in this shocking classic about an unsuspecting visitor to the Bates Motel who falls prey to one of cinema’s most notorious psychopaths, Norman Bates. “The Birds (1963)”: ‘Tippi’ Hedren and Rod Taylor star in this horrific tale of nature gone berserk when thousands of birds flock into a seaside town and terrorize the residents in a series of deadly attacks. “Marnie (1964)”: ‘Tippi’ Hedren stars as Marnie, a compulsive liar and thief, who winds up marrying the very man (Sean Connery) she attempts to rob in this psychological thriller that races to an inescapable conclusion. “Torn Curtain (1966)”: Paul Newman and Julie Andrews star in this action-packed thriller about a world-famous scientist who goes undercover to get top-secret information and ends up running for his life from enemy agents. “Topaz (1969)”: John Forsythe stars as an American CIA agent who hires a French operative to travel to Cuba and investigate rumors of Russian missiles and a spy codenamed “Topaz”. “Frenzy (1972)”: In this morbid blend of horror and wit, the “Necktie Murderer” has the London Police on red alert and an innocent man (Jon Finch) is on a desperate quest to find the real criminal and clear his own name. “Family Plot (1976)”: Chaos ensues in this suspense-comedy when a phony psychic and her not-so-bright boyfriend cross paths with a slick diamond merchant and his beautiful girlfriend.

On the packaging Universal is pushing the fact that this release included PERFECT video and PERFECT sound and, hot damn, that is not a lie. I would literally call these perfect transfers. Here is the listings of the audio tracks available for each film. “Saboteur”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Rope”, “Rear Window”, “The Trouble with Harry”, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “Marnie”, “Torn Curtain”, “Topaz”, “Frenzy” and “Family Plot” all include a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono tracks. They all sound amazing on Blu-ray and work perfectly for each film. “Vertigo”, “Psycho” and “The Birds” include both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, as well as a DTS Master-Audio 2.0 Mono. Lastly “North by Northwest” includes the movie impressive with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track, as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track.

If the amazing collection of 15 years isn’t good enough each film is packed with some really ace special features. “Saboteur (1942)” includes three featurettes including “Saboteur: A Closer Look”, “Storyboards: The Statue of Liberty Sequence” and “Alfred Hitchcock’s Sketches”. There are also Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included. “Shadow of a Doubt (1943)” includes two featurettes including “Beyond Doubt: The Making of Hitchcock’s Favorite Film” and “Production Drawings by Art Director Robert Boyle”. There are also Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included. “Rope (1948)” includes a featurette called “Rope Unleashed”, as well as Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer. “Rear Window (1954)” comes chock-full of goodies. First there is a commentary track with John Fawell, author of “Hitchcock’s Rear Window: The Well-Made Film”. There are a bunch of great featurettes including “Rear Window Ethics: An Original Documentary”, “A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes”, “Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of The Master”, “Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock”, “Hitchcock-Truffaut Interview Excerpts” and “Masters of Cinema”. There is also Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included, as well as a re-release Trailer Narrated by James Stewart. “The Trouble with Harry (1955)” comes with one feature titled “The Trouble with Harry Isn’t Over”. There are also Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included. “The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)” includes a behind-the-scenes look into “The Making of The Man Who Knew Too Much”. There is also Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included.

The next four films comes with the most impressive extras.  “Vertigo (1958)” comes with two audio commentary tracks with Associate Producer Herbert Coleman, Restoration Team Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz + more and there is also one with director William Friedkin. There are four featurettes including “Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece” and “Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborators”, “The Vertigo Archives” and “100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era”.  As well as Hitchcock / Truffaut Interview Excerpts and the Foreign Censorship Ending.  Lastly this wraps up with the Theatrical and Restoration Theatrical Trailer. “North by Northwest (1959)” includes a commentary track from screenwriter Ernest Lehman.  As well as four featurettes including “The Master’s Touch: Hitchcock’s Signature Style”, “Cary Grant: A Class Apart”, “North by Northwest: One for the Ages” and “Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest”.  I also am a huge fan of the isolated music-only audio track included.  Lastly, there is a stills gallery and theatrical trailers and a TV spot included. “Psycho (1960)” starts off with a commentary track from Stephen Rebello, author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”. There are a bunch of amazing featurettes including “The Making of Psycho”, “Psycho Sound”, “In The Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy” and “The Psycho Archives”. There is also “Hitchcock-Truffaut Interview Excerpts” and “Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho” included.  Fans of “The Shower Scene” will be happy to find it here with and without Music and also in storyboards by Saul Bass. Lastly there are Posters and Psycho Ads, Lobby Cards, Behind-the-Scenes Photographs, Production Photographs and Theatrical and Re-release Trailers included.

“The Birds (1963)” is the only film wiht a newly produced extra, “The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie”. It also includes a rare Deleted Scene and Original Ending.  There is a featurette called “All About The Birds”. There is vintage “Tippi Hedren’s Screen Test” footage, as well as Hitchcock-Truffaut Interview Excerpts. There are two Universal International Newsreels included “The Birds Is Coming” and “Suspense Story: National Press Club Hears Hitchcock”. There are Storyboards, as well as Production Photographs and the theatrical trailer included. Lastly there is “100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics and The Lot”, which are also available on the “Universal Classic Monsters” release. “Marnie (1964)” comes with two featurettes “The Trouble with Marnie” and “The Marnie Archives” and wraps up with the Theatrical Trailer. “Torn Curtain (1966)” has two featurettes “Torn Curtain Rising” and “Scenes Scored by Bernard Herrmann”. There is also Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included. “Topaz (1969)” includes Alternate Endings, as well as a featurettes “Topaz: An Appreciation by Film Historian and Critic Leonard Maltin” and “Storyboards: The Mendozas”. There is also Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included. “Frenzy (1972)” includes one feature “The Story of Frenzy” and there is also Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included. The last film “Family Plot (1976)” includes two features “Plotting Family Plot” and “Storyboards: The Chase Scene”. There is also Storyboards, Production Photographs and a Theatrical Trailer included.

If you are a Hitchcock fan, I know this release might be a little pricey but it is honestly worth every penny.  The films look not only impressive but like I said perfect.  You may find that the UK also has this release available for cheaper (when converted) but be warned since the UK box does not contain “North By Northwest.” So depends how much that film is worth to you, especially since it has been previously released. I just wait till my daughter (not 5 months old) will get to experience these films with me.  I am going to look forward to spending a lot of time introducing her to the masterpieces of Alfred Hitchcock.


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