64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2013
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
Before Blu-ray, the very best home video version of Vertigo was the anamorphic DVD that Universal sold only as one of the 14 Hitchcock titles in the Masterpiece Collection. (I believe this collection also had the only anamorphic DVD version of Psycho.) It appears that Universal has released its Blu-ray version of Vertigo only as part of two collections: The Masterpiece and The Essentials collections.
I am glad that Universal has made Vertigo available in its far less expensive Essentials Blu-ray collection. In my opinion, Vertigo is not the greatest film ever made, but it is of special interest to me because of its San Francisco locations and overall Bay Area setting. Vertigo, along with Shadow of a Doubt and The Birds may also be of interest to Northern California natives. Anyway, here are my quality ratings of the 5 films contained in the Essentials Collection in order of their appeal:
1. North By Northwest: I have seen nearly every Hitchcock film and this one is my all time favorite. It features outstanding video quality in nearly every scene. The contrast is almost perfect, the picture detail is remarkably-clear and the color is about as good as it gets on Blu-ray. The North By Northwest disk in this collection is exactly the same as the Blu-ray disk from the Warner Bros. 50th Anniversary Edition, with two exceptions: The artwork on the disk is different and the option for selecting a music-only soundtrack is not available on the disk included in the Universal Essentials Collection. If you can do without Warner's 44-page book and the music-only soundtrack, the Universal Essentials Collection is the way to go for this title.
2. Vertigo: This film has very good to excellent color and picture detail. The Blu-ray version is a giant leap ahead of the anamorphic DVD and the sound is greatly improved. In view of the challenges encountered during the restoration of this classic, the quality of this latest Vertigo release is nothing short of amazing and Kim Novak's entrance in Vertigo is absolutely breathtaking. While it remains one of my favorite movies, Vertigo still has two insurmountable obstacles for me. First, I have trouble believing that shop girl Judy Barton could transform herself into a sophisticated Madeleine Elster. Second, I have no trouble believing that 50 year old 'Scottie' Ferguson could fall for 25 year old Madeleine/Judy, but I don't see how she could have fallen for him.
3. Rear Window: The elaborately-detailed set featured in this film requires fine detail and accurate color. This disk delivers on both counts. There are some variations in picture quality when scenes change, but the overall film presentation is very well done.
4. Psycho: The look of this black and white film is clear and well-detailed, with good contrast and enough film grain to avoid that pasty look so common in other black and white films transferred to Blu-ray.
5. The Birds: The dated special effects didn't transfer well to this high-definition format. Some scenes are very good, but others are not so good. This film is not one of my favorites, so I am not too concerned that it doesn't look all that great overall. Still, the film is highly-watchable and the great improvement over its DVD predecessor is a welcome change. If this is one of your favorite Hitchcock films, you will be able to overlook the flaws.
After reading the one-star reviews from 2011, I finally noticed that Amazon has mixed the Blu-ray and DVD reviews together. If I hadn't noticed this important fact, I would have been under the impression that these five Hitchcock Blu-ray disks from the Essentials Collection were made from out of date, vastly-inferior recycled masters. Then I discovered that Vertigo was first released on Blu-ray in October 2012. I already owned North By Northwest, which was released by Warner Bros. in 2009 and this disk is one of the finest Blu-ray releases that I have ever seen. So, when reading the reviews, keep in mind that many of them are for the DVD collection.
159 of 187 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Though he was an undisputed genius of the cinema, not everyone needs the complete Hitchcock features. If you're a keen fan, they're available on DVD in large, rather expensive box sets: the 15-disc Masterpiece, nine-disc Signature, and eight-disc Premiere Collections (these don't include his "non-Hitchcockian" silent films and talkies from the 1920s and early 30s). But many Hitchcock lovers recall the five films on this reasonably-priced five-disc set most fondly, and they are without question among his finest achievements, all of them produced in Hollywood between 1954 and 1963.
Presented with a few interesting extras and options, the DVDs will do nicely for many folks -- though not for the angry Blu-ray aficionados who've given the box single-star ratings. This may come as a shock to them, but some people who are just discovering Hitch have ordinary DVD players and 32-inch TVs and are not planning to spend thousands to upgrade their collections or their equipment. If you have a big TV and want Blu-rays, however, this and the Masterpiece boxes are both available in that format, offering excellent video and audio quality and far more supplementary material than their DVD editions.
Following is a brief review of each film in this set. All are in color except for "Psycho," which is black and white.
Rear Window: Jimmy Stewart is a housebound photographer who thinks he's witnessed a neighbor (Raymond Burr) commit a murder. He enlists his girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly, to investigate, and they're both drawn deeper and deeper into hotter and hotter water. A master class in the art of suspense.
Vertigo: Stewart plays a detective haunted by loss, while Kim Novak portrays two women, one of whom is a doppelganger of the other. Is she a twin or a ghost? This is a mysterious, compelling tale of obsession, madness, and death, with one of the most brilliant climaxes in the history of film.
North by Northwest: Cary Grant is an innocent man on the run in this gripping spy thriller. Eva Marie Saint plays his love interest and James Mason his nemesis. The film is propelled by renowned set pieces -- a stabbing at the UN, a chase by a crop duster, and a literal cliffhanger atop Mount Rushmore.
Psycho: An embezzler played by Janet Leigh meets Anthony Perkins, a motel manager with maternal issues, in one of most influential horror movies ever made. "Psycho" is filled with twists that don't just shock; they chill you to the bone. You may want a hot shower after this one (or maybe not).
The Birds: Tippi Hedren follows Rod Taylor to a small town where birds suddenly start terrorizing the inhabitants. We never learn why; in fact, the randomness and lack of reason are among the most frightening things about the film. A terrific movie and a fitting conclusion to this must-see collection.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2013
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
I have just received this item. I already had owned all of these movies, all but one in the "Masterpiece" DVD collection, also offered by Universal. My reason to purchase the present set was to own "Vertigo" in the High Definition Blu Ray format. It is one of my favorite movies, and recently named the best of all time by the British Film Institute. Filmed in VistaVision, the large frame format would seem to provide an excellent substrate for high resolution images. Within a few minutes, it was obvious how wonderful this new Blu Ray transfer is, compared to the already excellent DVD version. The mosquito noise, seen on the DVD, has vanished, revealing absolutely crystal-clear images- one can read the license plates on most of the cars, and even the small newsprint Scotty is perusing, while eavesdropping on Kim Novak, as she leaves her apartment. As importantly, color fidelity, and particularly color saturation, is awesome. Certainly, we have to thank Mr. Robet Harris for his miraculous restoration of the negative, which was in such poor condition that it was almost beyond recovery. I know other very alert reviewers have found flaws in the transfer, particularly at the end of the film. But, even allowing these imperfections, the overall improvement in picture quality derived from the Blu Ray transfer is more than worth the purchase price.
My only concern is what may be some very brief dropouts of the audio- I don't know if this is a disk problem or a malfunction of my player. Otherwise, the audio quality is excellent, with a remarkably fine stereophonic reproduction of Bernard Hermann's magical score, which makes an absolutely critical contribution to this extraordinary motion picture.
I really look forward to seeing other disks, including "The Birds," "North by Northwest, "Psycho," and "Rear Window," but even if all of them are unplayable, I'm still glad I purchased the new version of "Vertigo"- for those who love this movie, as the title of this set says, it's an "essential" addition to one's personal library!
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2013
This is a great collection , and these were the restored films out of the 15 disc set. The rest of the films in that set are not restored. So they picked the restored films and put them in a nice set. It is worth owning and a lot cheaper than the 15 disc version , but then you don't have 15 films here. The movies here are all cinema classics of the highest order. In fact they are among hitch's strongest. The blu rays are great. Most of the one star reviews are complaining about earlier releases. that were dvd's only,
29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2011
These films are classics and it's about time that they have released these four movies in a single pack, i have been waiting for these to come out for a while now. Although I already have Psycho on DVD, I would thoroughly enjoy having these movies together in one package. Any body who appreciates film would understand that we are rating the product on DVD, those who have blu-ray complaints should take it out towards Universal or WB. Ragging on his for it's lack of overrated blu-ray capabilities is like beating up a man who didn't do anything wrong. It remains pointless. So please, check out these films if you haven't even seen them (yes i do know some people who actually haven't seen these movies yet), or especially if you don't own these movies yet! They are amazingly well crafted pieces of art!
28 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2011
This DVD box set is Beautiful, Great Art work! It is nice to see that this came with every movie on its own disk. Many company's are putting 2-3 movies on one disk. Also for never owning any of these movies there are many extras. I see that people are wanting it on Blue which I do not buy but I am sure it will come out eventually. I own about 12 Box sets and this is the nicest one I have bought and for 17 Dollars it was A steal.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Please make sure you check each disc individually. I purchased my set and only watched Rear Window and Vertigo, then let the set stand for a few weeks. When I finally made time to watch North-by-Northwest, I realized that my set has 2 copies of Rear Window, and NBNW is missing!!! These movies are a definite improvement over their DVD versions.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2013
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection [Blu-ray] (released 6/4/2013) This collection was superbly remastered and transferred to blu-ray. In addition it is loaded with hours of extras for each of the five movies.
I hope they release more remastered collections including: Strangers on a Train, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Dial M For Murder, The Trouble With Harry, and Notorious.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I believe the Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection is just that. These five films are essential films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. NORTH BY NORTHWEST, REAR WINDOW, PSYCHO, VERTIGO and THE BIRDS can certainly all be called Alfred Hitchcock essentials.
THE BIRDS metaphorically plays out the frailties of the human heart as befuddled humans' fears are visually juxtaposed against hoards of birds gone on a destructive rampage. Humans rebel against nature and each other as the birds represent nature in harmony turned against human progenitors who stand to disrupt harmony. Rod Taylor's solid performance, as the steadfast Mitch Brenner who gradually realizes (but cannot fathom why) that things are beyond even his control, is pivotal to the progression of the story. The importance of Taylor's performance has been long overlooked. This film is a masterpiece full of vivid histrionics running the gamut of human emotions.
1954's REAR WINDOW is a brilliant study on voyeurism and insatiable curiosity. Wheelchair bound James Stewart spies on his neighbors in the courtyard from the window of his Greenwich Village apartment. Convinced that he has uncovered a murder, Stewart maintains his vigil with his society girlfriend (Grace Kelly) by his side. Hitchcock asks the viewer about the ethics of interpreting what goes on behind the closed doors of our neighbors, as his courtyard is an allegorical cross section of American society and mores during the 50s.
Released in 1959, NORTH BY NORTHWEST is and remains a brilliant piece of filmmaking from Alfred Hitchcock. Bernard Herrmann's magnificent groundbreaking score truly stands out in this film and has become legendary in many ways as so many of the images are in the film. To watch it again and enjoy like never before is to realize just how entertaining this film is and how it has stood the test of time. They really do not make them like this anymore. Cary Grant inimitably is Roger Thornhill. I like his personal book of cigarette matches monogrammed with R.O.T. The O stands for nothing so he tells Eva Marie Saint on the dinning car of the 20th Century Limited. You know, I have been drinking Gibsons ever since Cary Grant ordered one in that scene. Just one of the libations you pick up watching this endearing film.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock was trying to make a statement that we as moviegoers are voyeurs and are just as fanatically obsessed by the images on the screen as "Scottie" Ferguson is with Madeleine in VERTIGO. VERTIGO is in effect a movie about people who love the cinema and are captivated by it. Those people who do not like VERTIGO state that it is not realistic and too improbable. That is just the point. VERTIGO is about an artificial world and the fascination of that world. Those who like VERTIGO are drawn to it over and over because it is about something that is inside each of us that is ever so fleeting and will always remain unobtainable. Bernard Herrmann, the film's composer seems to have understood the essence of this film as he captured the erotic passion and ultimate hopelessness of its characters with his haunting score. Herrmann had always expressed his desire to be a symphony conductor, yet the lure of the cinema was more than just a means of collecting a paycheck for him. I think he had a great understanding of the cinema and its power over human emotions, yet it seems to have remained an enigma even for him.
1960'S PSYCHO is probably one of Hitchcock's best known film. Its images and sounds are indelibly etched into the psyche of our culture. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the Bates Motel, Bernard Herrmann's score, Saul Bass' main title designs, the shower scene and many other elements are cinematic icons. One element of this film that has not been given due recognition is Martin Balsam's performance as Milton Arbogast the private investigator. Balsam embodied the personification of professionalism and determination yet he was cut off in mid stream. I think there is a statement being made about the very nature of justice and fate and that life is not always fair. I would call these five films essential Hitchcock.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2014
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
Perfect collection of films from this auteur. No way you can be disappointed especially if you find this on sale for 30 dollars. All of the films in this collection have good to excellent transfers with good to great bitrates. Nothing much else to say. This is a must have if you find it for that range. I didn't want the bigger boxset, as I have this and the three film release with Notorious, and that is enough Hitchcock for me. The actual set is very nice looking with a very well-designed interior.