It's rare that an artist can be both popular and one of the best at what he or she does. Alfred Hitchcock embodied both these elements. His films used suspenseful thrillers as a vehicle to try out inventive and often groundbreaking editing and camera techniques. While this collection from Warner Brothers doesn't include all his best films, there are enough here to justify picking up this generous and beautifully remastered collection of some of Hitch's best films.
"Suspicion" is the oldest of the nine films included in this boxed set. Cary Grant plays Johnny Aysgarth a womanizing gambler who flirts with the bookish Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine in her Oscar winning role). After he woos and marries her, Lina begins to suspect that Johnny may be trying to kill her for her money. Although RKO forced Hitchcock to change the ending from the one he wanted (I'll let you watch the short documentary on the film that's included to find out what occurred) and the film was seriously compromised by studio interference, it's still a worthwhile thriller that has Grant playing a cad at a point in his career when he was put into romantic leads. I'd be suspicious of anyone who said he loved me and still called me "monkey face".
"Foreign Correspondent" was made by Hitchcock while he was on loan from David O. Selznick's studio. Hitchcock relished the opportunity to work elsewhere as Selznick interfered too much with the making of the films he produced. Shot just as World War II was erupting in Europe dragging in other countries into the fray, the film stars Joel McCrea as reporter Johnny Jones (what's with all these Johnny's in Hitch's films?) discovers a conspiracy of fascists threatening to take over Europe. McCrea gives a energetic performance and, although he wasn't Hitch's first choice (Henry Fonda was his first choice but the production couldn't afford him), he more than lives up to the potential of the role.
"Mr. and Mrs. Smith" features Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery in a screw-ball (!) comedy directed by the master of suspense. Hitch directed the film as a favor to Carole Lombard a very good friend at the time. While the script has some clever moments and Hitch's direction has a number of nice set pieces, it's one of Hitchcock's lesser works. It's still worth viewing.
"Strangers on a Train" is a flawed masterpiece from Hitch. Guy (Farley Granger) frustrated because his unfaithful wife won't give him a divorce so he can remarry, chats with Bruno (the marvelous Robert Walker in one of his best roles) a passenger he meets on the train back to Washington D.C. After a drink Guy spills the beans about his wife and Bruno offers to swap murders. In essence, their crime will be perfect because their complete strangers and have no other connection other than the meeting on the train. Guy believes Bruno is joking and plays along. When Guy's wife is brutally murdered (in a stunning sequence where we see the murder reflected in the woman's glasses), Bruno expects Guy to reciprocate. Otherwise, he threatens to pin the murder on Guy. The stunning conclusion on the merry-go-round ranks as one of Hitch's best. This edition includes both the final theatrical version and "preview" versions of the film which differ slightly.
"Dial M for Murder" caught Hitchcock recharging his batteries. Whenever he felt the need to creatively regenerate, he'd pick a subject that would interest him technically but that was already put together. It's ironic, though, that he should pick another main character who is a tennis player. "Dial M" plays as a inverted version of "Strangers". Based on Frederick Knott's Broadway hit play, "Dial M for Murder" was originally shot in 3-D (and it's a wonderful film to see in that format if for no other reason than to see what a great film director can do with the format with subtly and style) but only exhibited in that format in certain venues. Ray Milland (subbing for Cary Grant who had an argument with Hitchcock and withdrew from the film) plays a slick tennis player who devises the perfect murder. He blackmails an old college chum (the impressive Anthony Dawson) to fake a break in and murder his wealthy wife (Grace Kelly). It seems that Milland has discovered that she had an affair with an American mystery writer (Bob Cummings). The inspector (the droll John Williams) in the case recognizes that appearances can be deceiving when he investigates a murder.
Hitch believed "Stage Fright" to be one of his miscalculations because of a technical narrative trick he used to clue in viewers on the story. Richard Todd plays an actor being pursued for the murder of a lover's (Marlene Dietrich) husband. Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) believes her male friend is innocent and goes undercover to try and catch the real killer. It's a marvelous and underrated Hitchcock minor classic with a brilliant opening sequence and conclusion. The actors all give exceptional performances particularly Todd and Wyman. Playing with the artifice of the theater world, Hitch also plays with audience expectations.
"I Confess" had a troubled history during its production. Breen's censorship office (which used to censor films even at the scripting stage) objected to Hitch's story of a Priest (Montgomery Clift) who hears a murder confession and is torn about reporting it to the police. His vow prevents him from doing so but it also implicates him in the murder. Also featuring Anne Baxter and Karl Malden, "I Confess" isn't entirely successful but its daring theme, performances and two stunning set pieces make it a worthwhile movie.
With "The Wrong Man" Hitch finally got his wish to work with all American icon Henry Fonda. Hitch elected to try the approach used by the Italian Neo-realism movement (best represented by DeSica's "The Bicycle Thief") in telling the true story of a musician named Manny who is identified as a robbery and murder suspect. This case of mistaken identity, the opposite of Hitch's later experiment with "Psycho", took an unusual tact with a more realistic performance style and less stylized look. It's a minor Hitchcock classic with a strong performance by Vera Miles as Manny's wife who ends up having a nervous break down due to what occurs.
All the movies look exceptional. The older movies have some analog inherent analog flaws due to the age of the films but, on the whole, have never looked better. "Strangers on a Train" has been digitally remastered for this edition and features a sharper image with less grain problems. The blacks, grays and whites are solid and less murky looking than on the previous edition. "Dial M for Murder" suffers from haloing due to the 3-D process used to shoot the movie but the colors are vibrant and rich. "North by Northwest" looks terrific. It was previously released on DVD and this is the same transfer using a cleaned up restored version of the film. The restored mono sound on "Dial M" and the many other films included here sounds crisp with good presence.
Making up for some of their oversights in the past, Warner has spent a lot of money to spiff up these classic movies. Every single movie has a short documentary on the making of the film featuring directors Richard Franklin ("Psycho 2", "Roadgames", "Flatland") and Peter Bogdanovich ("Paper Moon", "The Last Picture Show", "What's Up Doc?") commenting on Hitch's films. Franklin's a good choice as he's demonstrated tremendous skill in his overlooked suspense films. Bogdanovich who enjoyed a friendship with Hitch and interviewed the master for his book on Hitchcock has tremendous insight. He also does a killer Hitchcock imitation. Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell a fine character actress who appeared in two of the nine films included here, provides an insider's perspective on the great director's work and his overlooked collaborator his wife Alma Reville Hitchcock. There's also a generous amount of behind-the-scenes photos included in many of the documentaries and clips from various films included in the set.
Both "North by Northwest" and "Strangers on a Train" come with commentary tracks. "North by Northwest" features the same commentary track by the late great Ernest Lehman as the previous edition. "Strangers on a Train" combines comments from Bogdanovich, "Psycho" screenwriter Jospeh Stefano and clips from Patricia Highsmith who wrote the novel the film is based on. It's a pity that more clips of Hitch from Bogdanovich's interviews and others over the years weren't assembled to give us a running commentary from the master himself but both Bogdanovich and Stefano give great insight as they knew the man and/or worked with him and also have the distance of collaborators.
A great set from Warner Brothers, "The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection" should be an essential purchase for any fan of Hitch's. There's only one glaring omission from this set and that's "Lifeboat" which Hitchcock directed for Fox. Unfortunately, Warner wasn't able to secure the rights to include that for this DVD set. Oh, and I forgot to mention that every single title here is in the plastic Amray cases that Warner has recently begun releasing movies in so they're more durable than the cardboard sleeves for the previous editions of "North by Northwest" and "Strangers on a Train". My only complaint is with the box itself; it isn't all that sturdy and could have more details about the films and the extras. I'd also like to have seen an additional disc featuring maybe Hitchcock's films he made for the War Office during WWII as an extras here (similar to the episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" that Universal packaged with their boxed sets). Still, one can't argue with the price as it works out to be roughly $10.00 for each movie. You'd pay nearly double that to buy them separately.
on September 16, 2004
Alfred Hitchcock is unquestionably a master director of cinema. In Warner's new box set "Alfred Hitchcock: The Signature Series" film buffs will get to see why. This latest collection of Hitchcock classics is a revelation of sorts in that it allows audience to examine and judge the critical merit of a string of films that, for the most part, haven't been given a lot of play time. Many represent rarities and experimentations in the Hitchcock formula.
For some reason Hitchcock's first WWII thriller, "Foreign
Correspondent" (1940), never quite achieved the critical accolades orfame of say, "Notorious." It stars matinee idol, Joel McCrea as Johnny Jones, a New York reporter dispatched to Europe who inadvertently stumbles upon a troupe of fascists preparing to take over the world. Along the way, he encounters Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) whose father, Stephan (Herbert Marshall) may or may not be the lynch pin in all the espionage.
Next up is "Suspicion (1941). Following quickly on the heals of her success in "Rebecca" Joan Fontaine scored the coveted Best Actress Oscar for her role as Lina McLaidlaw, a bizarrely disturbed romantic wallflower. Lina's a repressed soul. But her traditional reservations are merely a façade for lusty home fires that seem to be sparked to satisfaction with her encounter of handsome playboy, Jonnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant). The two soon marry. However, as the romance progresses
Jonnie seems to be more than just an elegant rogue. Could it be? Is he a murderer?
"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (1941) is the most uncharacteristic film in
Hitchcock's canon and, indeed, this box set - a featherweight romantic comedy with shifting undercurrents; all about a feuding husband (David/Robert Montgomery) and wife (Ann/Carol Lombard) who, after living together for three years, suddenly discover that they're not legally married. When David hesitates in legitimizing their union Ann bolts for the nearest quick fix - a stoic romance with her business partner, Jeff Custer (Gene Raymond). In keeping with the formulaic conventions of classic screwball comedies, this one employs a series of hopelessly inept, though nevertheless hilarious, bits of complicated mischief in which David plots to win Ann back.
"Stage Fright" (1950) is a convoluted charmer. Rarely has Hitchcock's attention to comedy and suspense been more seamlessly blended than on this occasion. Jane Wyman stars as Eve Gill, a novice sleuth determined to solve a murderous who-dun-it in a theatrical setting. Together with her flighty father, Commodore Gill(Alastair Simms), a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the likes of Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich) the conspicuously aloof and greedy stage diva.
"Strangers on a Train" (1951) is often credited as beginning Hitchcock's second renaissance in Hollywood. It's a diabolical struggle of wills between the seemingly congenial tennis pro, Guy Haines (Farley Granger) and sycophantic admirer, Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker). When the two accidentally meet on a west bound train they exchange intriguing ideas on how to commit the perfect murder. Just one problem; Bruno takes the game seriously, murdering Guy's pregnant wife, Miriam (Kasey Rogers) in what is perhaps Hitchcock's most terrifying cinematic example of strangulation. This is decidedly a high water mark in Hitchcock's tenure, capped off by a visceral climax aboard a careening carousel.
It seems Hitch' had a yen for tennis players. In "Dial M for Murder" (1954) tennis pro, Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) plots the perfect murder of his wealthy wife, Margot (Grace Kelly) after he discovers she is having an affair with prominent writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). But things backfire when Margot accidentally kills her attacker with a pair of scissors, thus opening up Tony's chances at improvisation. Shot during the briefly trendy period of 3-D, Hitch' chose to eschew the usual (let's throw things at the screen) gimmicky approach and instead shot "Dial M for Murder" with a distinct foreground, middle ground, background perspective that really places
the audience in the center of the goings on. Only once, when Margot is being strangled by her attacker, does Hitch' succumb to the gimmick by having Margot reach behind her back (out into the audience) to grasp her lethal pair of shears; quite effective!
"The Wrong Man" (1956) is unique in its semi-documentary/film noir approach to a real life New York case. Henry Fonda is Manny Balestrero, a struggling musician wrongfully accused of robbery when he attempts to cash in his wife, Rose's (Vera Miles) insurance policy. The trail of accusations leads to a meticulous examination of police procedure in which the pressure of labeling the victim and hunting down the accused eventually culminate in desperation and a complete - if coerced - confession.
And finally we have the `wrong man' scenario to put all others to shame; "North by Northwest" (1959) is Hitchcock's slick and polished cross country adventure meets `the wrong man' scenario. When advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for an American CIA agent by the man he is supposed to be tailing, Mr. Van Damme (James Mason), Roger finds himself the victim of multiple attempted assassinations and a harried chase to unravel the mystery behind the insidious girl with whom he's suddenly fallen in love - Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint).
The black and white elements for "Strangers on A Train" and "Mr. And Mrs. Smith are impressive to say the least, with pure whites, deep solid blacks and little in the way of age related artifacts. The remaining B&W films (I Confess, Foreign Correspondent, Stage Fright, The Wrong Man and Suspicion) have varying degrees of visual clarity and cleanliness. The short answer is that NONE of the films will disappoint. The longer response is that of the remaining aforementioned titles, there is considerable disparity in both age related and digital artifacts. There's a somewhat obtrusive shimmering effect to darker scenes in "I Confess", some serious film grain in "Stage Fright" and varying degrees of tonality and rendering of fine details in the gray scale of "Suspicion". The contrast levels on "The Wrong Man" seem a tad low too. As for the remaining two color films in this box set, "Dial M for Murder" and "North By Northwest"...only the latter will amaze you. The former, although a considerable improvement on previously released versions, continues to suffer from grainy, haze and slightly out of focus image quality - which is in keeping with the shortcomings of 3-D photography, NOT the transfer itself. Finally, succinct featurettes accompany every film in this box set - with rare footage and interviews from surviving cast members.
BOTTOM LINE: An absolute must!
on August 26, 2004
How can a film lover resist buying this amazing collection. Alfred Hitchcock now has another marvelous collection featuring some of his great and less-well-known films:
*"STRANGERS ON A TRAIN" 2-Disc Special Edition: One of Hitch's most brilliant films in which a tennis-pro, Guy (Farley Granger), meets an insane fan, Bruno (Robert Walker), on a train who tries to convince him that they should "criss-cross" murders: Guy's free-spirited, pregnant wife whom he knows his baring someone else's child for Bruno's domineering father. The tension just builds from there.
1. Alternate 'preview' version of the film
2. Commentary by director Peter Bogdanovich, Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stephano, Strangers on a Train author Patricia Highsmith and biographer Andrew Wilson
3. New making-of documentary= "Strangers on a Train: A Hitchcock Classic", with Farley Granger, film historian Richard Schickel, Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell and other Hitchcock family members and colleagues recalling the making of this suspense landmark
4. Three intriguing featurettes:
...The Hitchcocks on Hitch
...Strangers on a Train: The Victim's P.O.V.
...Strangers on a Train by M. Night Shyamalan
5. Alfred Hitchcock's Historical Meeting, a vintage newsreel
6. Theatrical Trailers
*"SUSPICION": One of my favorite films, in which a beautiful and rich heiress (Joan Fontaine in an Oscar-winning role) marries playboy (Cary Grant) only to suspect that he is trying to kill her! Wait for the stunning climax!
1. New making-of documentary= "Before the Fact: Suspicious Hitchcock"
2. Theatrical Trailer
*"NORTH BY NORTHWEST": One Hitchcock's most famed films, in which a advertising exec (Cary Grant) is mistaken for an FBI spy and is followed by a cool blonde (Eva Marie Saint), a vicious villain (James Mason), and a low-flying cropduster all the way to Mount Rushmore! This is an amazing film and won Hitch's most enjoyable.
This DVD has all the old features on the original DVD with the addition of a music only track in Dolby stereo of Bernard Herrmann's classic score.
*"DIAL 'M' FOR MURDER": One of Hitchcock's best now on a long-awaited DVD. Set in England, a man named Tony (Ray Milland) decides to murder his wife (Grace Kelly) when he learns she is having an affair with a writer from America (Robert Cummings). He blackmails an old "friend" (Anthony Dawson) into murdering her, but when something goes wrong, he has to decide on a different plan. Look for the famous "Scissors" scene. This film was originally filmed in 3-D.
1. New documentaries:
...Hitchcock and Dial M
...3D: A Brief History
2. Newsreel footage from the movie's premiere event
3. Theatrical Trailer
*"MR. & MRS. SMITH": This is one of Hitchcock's only straight comedies. Ann and David Smith (Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery) are a feuding couple. When they find out their marriage isn't legal, Ann finds it as a way out while David wishes to stay with her. The comedy begins in this story of two problematic spouses.
1. New making-of documentary: "Mr. Hitchcock Meets the Smiths"
2. Theatrical Trailer
*"FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT": This Best Picture Oscar Nominee for 1940 is another classic. John Jones (Joel McCrea) is a American reporter who travels to Europe on what he think is the biggest story of the time. There, with the help of a girl named Carol (Laraine Day), he must track down a ring of spies!
1. New making-of documentary= "Personal History: Foreign Hitchcock"
2. Theatrical Trailer
*"THE WRONG MAN": This film is based on a true story featured in LIFE Magazine. The film is about Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda) who is arrested for crimes committed by a look-alike robber. His wife, Rose (pre-"PSYCHO" Vera Miles), is distraught while Manny's anger is visible, but never spoken. Hitchcock also cast real-life Balestrero case witnesses in minor roles.
1. New making-of documentary= "Guilt Trip: Hitchcock and the Wrong Man"
2. Premiere newsreel
3. Theatrical Trailer
*"STAGE FRIGHT": A great cast gets together to give a interesting "performance". A dramatic student, Eve (Jane Wyman), tries to clear her friend (Richard Todd) of the murder of his lover's, the famous actress Charlott Inwood's (Marlene Dietrich), husband by getting a job as her personal maid to investigate. But as Eve investigates on her own, she finds herself in love with the real detective on the case (Micheal Wilding).
1. New making-of documentary= "Hitchcock and Stage Fright"
2. Theatrical Trailer
*"I CONFESS": Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift) is Catholic priest. During confession one day, the church caretaker, Otto (O.E. Hasse) admits to murdering a man. Soon the murder is known everywhere but the authorities believe Father Logan committed the crime! Since the Father cannot reveal what was said to him in confession he doesn't know what to do. His friends, Ruth (Anne Baxter) who was once his flame and Police Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) try to help him but bring him deeper into trouble.
1. New making-of documentary= "Hitchcock's Confession: A Look at I Confess"
2. Premiere newsreel
3. Theatrical Trailer
This DVD set looks amazing! Warner Bros. has been really great with DVD releases this year. Look for three more Signature Collections from Warner Home Video in October: The John Wayne Signature Collection (Featuring the already released DVDs of "STAGECOACH", "THE SEARCHERS","RIO BRAVO", and "THE COWBOYS"), The Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy Signature Collection (With the already released DVDs of "ADAM'S RIB", "WOMAN OF THE YEAR", and "PAT AND MIKE" and the new DVD "THE SPENCER TRACY LEGACY: A Tribute by Katharine Hepburn", a 1986 Documentary on Tracy's life and career as told by Hepburn), and the Elizabeth Taylor Signature Collection (Featuring the already released "CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF", "NATIONAL VELVET", "FATHER OF THE BRIDE", and "BUTTERFIELD 8").
on September 29, 2004
I love this box set and the fact that Dial M for Murder, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Foreign Correspondent have finally been released on DVD. However, I have the same complaint as M. Aubin that booklets, even chapter listing sheets, have not been included. I called Warner Brothers (after they failed to respond to 2 e-mails) and was told that many of the studios are no longer bothering with package inserts. That's a shame. I'm sure it's a minimal expense and the chapter listings make it easier for DVD viewers and usually include some extra art from the film.
North by Northwest is one of my favorite Hitchcock films, but this DVD is identical in all respects to the one previously released except that it's now in a plastic rather than cardboard case. I would have appreciated at least one new extra on this. The second disc containing many new features on Strangers on a Train is exceptional. I do join with some of the other reviewers in wishing that Dial M had been released in its original 3-D format.
I've never been a big fan of Suspicion or I Confess, but it's great to have the films available. Also, I'm pleased that this set includes the very interesting and underrated Stage Fright and The Wrong Man.
All in all, a great set and certainly worth the money, but let's complain to the studios that are omitting the paper inserts.
on August 22, 2000
Alfred Hitchcock directed Mr. and Mrs. Smith as a favor to Carole Lombard (he was renting her home after she married Clark Gable) in this sophisticated comedy. Ann (Lombard) and David Smith (Robert Montgomery) star as a wealthy Manhattan couple who engage in some prolonged marital squabbles because they have agreed to keep themselves locked up in their bedroom until the matters are resolved. Some battles have kept them holed up for over a week at a time. After making up from one of these fights, Ann asks David if given the chance to go back in time would he marry her again. He answers that he wouldn't even though he loves her very much. David thinks that married life is too complicated. Before you know it, a man enters David's law office to inform him that due to a technicality, he and Ann are not married. David wants to keep this news a secret from Ann for a while, but she finds out anyway. Ann thinks that David is planning to propose all over again, waiting for the perfect romantic moment, but he doesn't. This causes Ann to kick David out of their beautiful New York City apartment declaring that she's not sure she loves him anymore. When Ann starts dating, David begins in earnest to win her back. But not after he spends some hilarious days at his club where he meets an old business associate, played by Jack Carson, who encourages David to go out on a double date with him. Montgomery's scenes at the supper club are pure comic genius. In these scenes alone, he proves his status as one of the greatest comic performers in film. All hell breaks lose when Ann starts dating David's partner, played by Gene Raymond. When David finds out that his partner and old college buddy is squiring his wife, he redoubles his efforts at getting Ann back. This is probably one of the oddest films in the Hitchcock canon because it is completely lacking in what we have come to expect from his movies. There is no violence, no real suspense, no mystery, no crazy mothers ruining their sons' lives, and so on. But taken on its own merits, it is a completely enjoyable film, which reminds us what wonderful comic talents Lombard and Montgomery were and how the likes of which we are unlikely to see again. With witty dialogue, great pacing and acting, including terrific character bits by Carson and Lucile Watson as Lombard's mother. Produced in 1940 and released in 1941, this film has some footage of New York during the time of the 1939 World's Fair. In fact Lombard and Raymond go to the Fair after a dinner date. This really isn't minor Hitchcock, but it isn't what you've come to expect from the master of suspense. Perhaps he was trying to prove (early on too) that he was also the master of any film project he decided to take on. If you love the screwball comedies of the 1930s and early 1940s, give this one a look.
on November 23, 2004
The newly released Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection contains nine of the Master of Suspense's movies from 1940 to 1959. It's an intriguing mix of the famous (North by Northwest) and the underrated (Mr. and Mrs. Smith). All of the films in the set range from Hitchcock's early American efforts to when he had fully hit his stride in the `50s. The mix of genres is also varied, from his trademark thrillers (Strangers on a Train) to an uncharacteristic foray into screwball comedy (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) to hard-hitting drama (I Confess).
All the DVDs include Making Of featurettes with such notables as Hitchcock's daughter, Pat, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and various film historians (like Robert Osbourne) talk about the significance of each movie and how they came to be. Also included are theatrical trailers for each movie as well.
Not surprisingly, the two most popular films of the set, Strangers on a Train and North by Northwest get the deluxe treatment in terms of extras.
The first disc of Strangers on a Train includes an audio commentary with several participants, most notably Bogdanovich interviewing Hitchcock about the movie back in the day and a Patricia Highsmith biographer who talks at length about the origins of the novel and its relation to the movie.
The second disc features the bulk of the extras, including a preview version of the movie that was discovered in 1991 and runs two minutes longer. "Strangers on a Train: A Hitchcock Classic" is an excellent 36-minute documentary that looks at the Hitchcockian themes prevalent in this movie: the wrong man and the flawed hero and villain tainted with guilt. The screenplay's troubled past is examined-at one point Hitch started filming without a finished script, a practice he rarely did. Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan shows up in his own featurette where he gushes about the movie and explains why it is one of his favourite films. "The Victim's P.O.V." is a seven-minute interview with Kasey Rogers who played Miriam in the film. She talks about how she got the role and her experiences working on the movie. "The Hitchcocks on Hitch" is an 11-minute look at the director's personal life with nice vintage home movie footage of the man spending quality time with his family that shows a warm, playful side to the filmmaker. Finally, there is "Alfred Hitchcock's Historical Meeting," silent footage of the director meeting someone and then getting on a train (?).
North by Northwest features a decent collection of extras. Up first is an audio commentary by the film's screenwriter, Ernest Lehman. This commentary tends to be a let down as Lehman often simply describes what we are already seeing with lots of lulls between comments.
An excellent 39-minute Making Of documentary more than makes up for the lackluster commentary. Hosted by Eva Marie Saint, this doc examines the film's origins: Hitch had the idea of filming a thriller that would feature a chase across the faces of Mt. Rushmore. Lehman rose to the challenge and set out to make the ultimate Hitchcock thriller. This was considered a very ambitious and expensive project at the time but has since gone to become a classic. There are also several trailers, including one hosted by Hitchcock with his trademark dry, cheeky humour. Also included is a behind-the-scenes stills gallery. Finally, one can listen to Bernard Herrmann's memorable score on a music-only track. This is a nice touch for a film where the music plays such an important role.
Fans of Hitchcock are in for a real treat with this collection. Many of the films included in this set have never been released on DVD before. Each movie features top notch transfers and substantial extras. Obviously, a lot of work went into this set and it shows on every DVD. Most significantly, this collection showcases some of the director's under-appreciated works with two of his more famous efforts demonstrating a versatility he possessed and that is not often recognized.
on October 12, 2004
If you make one dvd purchase this year - make it this collection. This set includes some of the master's best work - and features some excellent performances by Cary Grant, Robert Walker, Joan Fontaine, Henry Fonda, etc.
I have nothing bad to say about the quality of the discs - they are all restored and feature documentaries about the making of the films.
There are a few titles that stand out Dial M for Murder is a treat, as is Suspision (the follow up to Rebecca), and the much anticipated Strangers on a Train.
Hitchcock was truly a master film maker - and you can feel it in each one of these movies.
This breezy and sophisticated marital romp from the pen of Norman Krasna has a stunningly beautiful Carole Lombard in her prime and a funny performance from Robert Montgomery to make it topflight entertainment. Montgmery, who starred in many sophisticated comedies during the 1930's and discovered a new career when noir came along in the 1940's is marvelous here, matched only by the wonderful Lombard.
Alfred Hitchcock took this film because it was a chance to work with her, and the results are fabulous. This film ranks right up there with "The Awful Truth" but is not mentioned nearly as often, perhaps because Hitchcock was involved. That is a real shame indeed. As marital farces on film go, this one is as enjoyable as any.
Lombard simply glows as the adoring but volatile wife of lawyer Robert Montgomery, who spends more time follwing her rules for a perfect marriage than he does at the office. When it is discovered that their union in Idaho actually crossed a county line into Nevada and is not legal, Montgomery thinks it will be fun to have a mistress for one evening before telling her, but soon discovers differently when it backfires in his face! While Lombard gets a job and starts dating her husband's business partner, Montgomery gets some advice from a funny Jack Carson on how to get her back and spends the rest of the film trying to make her his Valentine-- or else!
There are some hilarious scenes in Krasna's script played perfectly by Lombard and Montgomery. Montgomery's obsession with a bowl of soup even the cat won't eat will have you laughing out oud, as will Lombard's pretending his old buddy is with her in the cabin in Lake Placid next to Montgomery; who has, of course, followed her there, faking injury to keep an eye on her. Perhaps the funniest moment here, however, comes when Montgomery tries to give himself a bloody nose so he can squirm out of a date. It will have you rolling on the floor!
This is another great RKO classic and one of the director's best. While it perhaps runs out of steam a bit late in the film, a terrific ending reminiscent of Gregory La Cava's "Fifth Avenue Girl" with Ginger Rogers makes it all worthwhile. Montgomery is absolutely superb and Lombard, dressed in gowns by Irene, is as beautiful as she is funny. Lombard and Montgomery are a match made in Hollywood heaven and you don't want to miss this one.
on September 14, 2005
The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection includes 9 different movies. These are not his nine best, but several are, and most rank near the top of his legendary career. Here are the reviews for the each movie:
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
North by Northwest is a timeless classic involving action, adventure, drama, suspense and even some well-timed comedy, all rooted from a simple case of mistaken identity. Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, a Madison Avenue executive, who is accidentally mistaken for a secret government agent named George Kaplan. Thornhill's main adversary is a spy for a foreign government named Phillip Vandamm (James Mason). Along the way, Thornhill meets a beautiful blond named Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who adds a lot of sex appeal along with several surprises to this wild and wonderful plot.
The movie is masterpiece for numerous reasons. The first reason is because of the some of the unforgettable action shots including Grant being attacked by a crop dusting plane in a remote cornfield and then being chased across the face of Mount Rushmore. But beyond just the action, there many brilliant scenes where Grant either alludes the people tracking him or simply just outsmarts them and does some impressive detective work on his own. The script oozes with witty and clever lines with many visually memorable scenes as well. Another strength of the movie is a powerful music score that accentuates every crucial moment in the film. Furthermore, Grant and Mason give outstanding performances, perhaps their best. The movie also breaks out of the old Hollywood overly restrained romance situations with some very forward dialogue and some sexually suggestive scenes between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint (but still extremely tame by today's standards). Finally, the widescreen color presentation is nothing short of spectacular. Not only is this Hitchcock's best, but from my personal viewpoint, it ranks #4 on my list of the greatest movies ever made behind Casablanca and The Godfather I & II. I have watched this movie at least six times over the past 25 years (now for the first time on DVD) and it still hasn't lost its edge.
As mentioned, the DVD quality is utterly fantastic for a film this old. The widescreen color transfer is completely immaculate, and rich in color and sharpness - rivaling movies made today. The sound is also outstanding for a film this old. There many bonuses, but the best is the making of the film with a cross the country diary of how and where the movie was shot. There is also a very good commentary by the Earnest Lehman who wrote the screenplay.
DVD Quality: A+
The movie opens on train where Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) sits down in a private first class compartment with a frumpy young woman named Lina (Joan Fontaine). Johnnie makes an excuse that he was in another first class car but couldn't stand the smoke. When the conductor collects the tickets, he finds that Johnnie doesn't have a first class ticket or enough money to cover the difference in fare. With some slick salesmanship, Johnnie gets Lina to pay the additional fare. This is a foreshadowing of things to come. They meet again and have a whirlwind romance and get married. Lida quickly finds out that Johnnie has champaign tastes on a beer drinker's budget and uses a lot of charm and shrewd chicanery to obtain money without doing an honest day's work. As time goes on, Lida losses trust in Johnnie but later develops legitimate fears that he may go as far as committing murder for financial gain. This sets up the remainder of the film with plenty of suspense and drama finding out who the real Johnnie is and how far he'll go with his money scheming shenanigans.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie for many reasons, but mainly because of the two leading actors: Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine. Not only were their individual performances terrific, but also the chemistry between the two was astounding. The Johnnie Aysgarth character was a spellbinding enigma throughout the entire film. Alfred Hitchcock masterfully directed the acting so that it was hard to tell if Johnnie was a charming, but irresponsible child in a man's body or deadly sociopath. Joan Fontaine won an Oscar for her performance as the emotionally tortured wife. Nigel Bruce also did a great job in a supporting role as Johnnie's old friend 'Beaky'. Another wonderful thing about this movie is that there is a clear comical element to the film - especially when Johnnie assumes that his newly wedded wife has lots of money but finds out she doesn't. The way Johnnie wiggles his way out several tight spots is a fascinating display of his creative and spontaneous ingenuity. All in all, it's a terrific suspense film with virtually no wasted moments in the entire movie. The ending is slightly controversial only because we find out in the commentary that the ending was change at the last minute. Some people would have undoubtedly preferred the original ending. I'm fine with the released version.
The DVD picture quality is nearly perfect for a movie this old. The transfer is sharp and blemish-free, with only a few grainy scenes. The sound was fine and DVD includes a bonus commentary segment about "Suspicion".
DVD Quality: A
The movie 'Stage Fright' opens with Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) and Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) fleeing London in a car. As they are driving off eluding the police, Jonathon tells Eve of the mess that he's in. His story in a nutshell is that a famous actress named Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich) killed her husband in their home and splattered blood on her dress and came to Jonathon's apartment for help. Jonathon explains that he ended up going back to the murder scene to get Charlotte a clean dress but was seen, thus making him the primary suspect. From this point on Eve does a number of things to protect and exonerate him including working as an operative so that she can find evidence to convict Charlotte of the murder.
The film uses some shameless chicanery to misdirect the audience. To avoid spoiling the plot, my problem wasn't so much that a subterfuge was used, but that it carried on this charade for just about the entire movie (until the final few minutes of the film). But that wasn't the biggest flaw for me. My bigger problem with the film is that its obvious that Jonathan is grossly infatuated or in love with Charlotte, and this becomes crystal clear to Eve, yet she still does everything possible to help him get out of this mess. Another significant problem is that Eve, who lives in London and has British parents speaks with an American accent except when she's a spy.
But in spite of these problems, Marlene Dietrich gives a mesmerizing performance that's truly Oscar-worthy. Even beyond her radiant beauty, she exudes confidence and poise in every scene she's in. Alastair Sim, who plays Eve's father in a supporting role, gives a very witty and extremely entertaining performance. If you get past the American accent, Jane Wyman does a decent job too. The movie is still very entertaining and fun to watch - again mainly due to Marlene Dietrich.
The B&W picture quality of this DVD is sharp but the presentation is marred by specs of film deterioration throughout the film. Sadly, a severe vertical scratch appearing for at least 6 or 7 seconds severely distracts the final scene of the movie. The sound was good for a film this old. The only worthwhile bonus on the DVD is a short commentary about the film `Stage Fright'.
DVD Quality: B
DIAL M FOR MURDER
The movie 'Dial "M" for Murder' is film adapted from a successful play. Alfred Hitchcock directed this picture and since almost all of the movie takes place in one setting, it really does have the look of a play put on film. But that does not in anyway denegrate the quality nor entertainment value of this movie. On the contrary, because of a brilliantly conceived story, coupled with superb acting, the film is terrific.
The story is set in London and involves a love triangle between a retired tennis pro Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), his wealthy and beautiful wife Margot (Grace Kelly), and an American novelist Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Halliday returns to London after an extended absence and Tony knows about this affair and concocts a brilliant plot to murder his wife. He develops what seems like a perfect murder plan by blackmailing an old college friend Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson), into committing the murder so that Tony has a perfect alibi. This sets up the remainder of the film where a death occurs and an investigation is opened by the police, and Tony, Halliday and the police detectives match wits figuring out what really happened.
The film is rather simple in format and even though there are several twists, the real magic of the movie is how well Tony Wendice, Halliday and the police intellectually involve themselves in the murder plot. Another major strength of the movie is the performance of Ray Milland, who plays a smooth, charming and very cunning mastermind of what seems like the perfect murder. His cool compsure from beginning to end in all sorts of troubled spots is an amazing sight to watch. When he confronts Swann with his plan, Swann seems like a trapped animal and appears to have no choice to commit the crime since Wendice has him between a rock and a hard spot. But the murder seems so well thought out that the risks appear to be minimal. Once the police are involved, Chief Inspector Hubbard played by John Williams shines as well with superb detective work figuring out how and why this killing really occurred. Grace Kelly also does a fine acting job in this film. Overall, its a great movie, but clearly a lesser challenging film for Hitchcock's cinematic brilliance. This was originally filmed in 3-D, so the movie exploits a lot of foreground/background subjects instead of showing characters and props mostly equal distant to the camera.
The DVD transfer is top notch. There is virtually no film deterioration present and the full-screen color is vibrant. The sharpness is very good, but not great and there were a few times some of the subjects seems out of focus, but that's probably attributed to the 3-D technology of that era. Overall, its still an excellent visual presentation of the movie. The sound was fine also. The extras include a short documentary analysis of the film plus a very short segment on the history of 3-D.
DVD Quality: A
I've been a big fan of Hitchcock since I saw the movie "The Birds" in the late 1960's and since then I thought I'd seen all of his movies on either video, TV or the big screen at some movie festivals. I recently bought the nine DVD "Signature Collection" and had seen all but two movies, one of which was "I Confess". I really didn't know what to expect and was a bit disturbed with the artwork which shows a priest holding a beautiful woman.
The storyline involves an immigrant named Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse) who works as a maintenance man in a Catholic Church in Quebec. One night Otto comes into the cathedral and sees a priest named Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) and asks the priest hear his confessions. Otto confesses to Father Logan that he killed someone earlier that night. Father Logan goes to that house of the murdered man the following morning, but the police have already arrived and Logan also runs into Ruth Grandfort (Ann Baxter), a woman he knows. The police have only one lead and it appears that some witnesses saw a priest leave the scene of the crime. The plot thickens intensely as Father Logan becomes a primary suspect, and his credibility is challenged since he appears to be involved with a married woman yet because of his oath as a priest, he cannot divulge the confessions of the killer. This sets up the rest of the movie for plenty drama and suspense.
This was one of those movies that sticks with you long after you watch it and gives you a lot to think about. There could be many parallels made to the life of Jesus who served and sacrificed his life for the sake of the sinners of the world (although Father Logan is in no way a Messiah). Other allegories include being ridiculed and scorned for acts he never committed or for being compassionate and forgiving for those who've harmed him. In all, its a story of compassion, sacrifice and love, but perhaps most of all staying true to your oath and calling, even in the face of death. The acting was nothing extra special, but I would say Karl Maldon was the best of the bunch. The script was superb and the picture certainly had that "Hitchcock look", especially in the opening segment at night. In case anyone cares, I'm not a Roman Catholic, but a Christian who attends a protestant church, yet I found this movie very inspiring. It was also refreshing to see a movie that wasn't trying to viciously scandalize the church as many movies do today. This film may be more for acquired tastes, but for myself, I was thoroughly pleased with the story, and was more challenged than entertained.
The DVD quality is nearly perfect for a movie this old. The transfer is sharp and blemish-free, but seemed a tad grainy in some scenes. The sound was fine and there were a few bonus features including a commentary segment about "I Confess".
DVD Quality: A-
The story takes place in the late 1930's where an American newspaper reporter named Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) is assigned to go to Europe to report on the possibility of a pending global war. His editor emphasizes that he doesn't want correspondence - he wants news. So Jones goes first to England and later to Holland where he witnesses an apparent assassination of a Dutch diplomat. This starts the beginning of a wild and dangerous investigation where Jones tries to uncover all the details and people responsible for this incident.
There are several things that I liked about this movie. The settings in Europe, especially the windmills in Holland, made a great backdrop to a very good plot. The underlying theme of foreign espionage with several surprising twists was also a major asset to the film. The acting was excellent and so was the cinematography. My only minor turnoff with the film was the noticeable complacency of the characters in very life threatening situations. Overall, it was an extremely relevant film, especially considering it was released shortly before America entered World War II. For me it was a very good movie but not a great one.
The B&W picture quality of this DVD is sharp and crisp but the film was clearly un-restored due to tiny specs of film deterioration showing up sporadically throughout the movie. The sound was very satisfactory. The only bonuses on the DVD include a trailer and a short feature entitled "Foreign Hitchcock".
DVD Quality: B
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
'Strangers on a Train' is Alfred Hitchcock's first American movie and certainly one of his better ones. The storyline involves a young tennis player named Guy Haines (Farley Granger), who sits with another man named Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) on a several hour train ride. Guy is somewhat of a celebrity and Bruno seems to know a lot about his turbulent personal life. At one point Bruno proposes a scheme where he could murder Guy's estranged wife in exchange for murdering Bruno's tyrannical and wealthy father. The plot appears foolproof since the each murderer in theory would be nearly impossible to track down. Guy is greatly disturbed by this proposal, yet through Bruno's distorted perspective, he seems convinced that the agreement to this devious plot is mutual. Not too long after this meeting, Bruno tracks down Guy's separated wife and murders her and reveals his so called end of the bargain to Guy. This sets up the remainder of the movie where Guy is put in a very precarious position by not only the police who view him as the primary suspect, but from Bruno who expects Guy to perform his end of the deal.
This movie is a lot of fun, mainly because Robert Walker does such an outstanding job as this devious sociopathic killer. His performance as the cool and calculated murderer masked by his wealthy, refined and well-educated appearance is extraordinary. His persistence of involving himself by in effect blackmailing and stalking his pseudo partner is also well done. Another fine performance is by Marion Lorne who plays Bruno's mother. Her naiveté and constant denial of her son's clear psychological problems is a real treasure to watch. There is also some terrific camera work in this movie, clearly due to the creative genius of Alfred Hitchcock. I was slightly unimpressed with the ending, but overall, its a very entertaining movie.
The DVD quality is a pristine full screen B&W transfer. The contrast and sharpness are superb for a movie this old. The DVD comes with plenty of bonuses including a second "preview" version of the film and lots of commentaries and documentaries.
DVD Quality: A
THE WRONG MAN
This movie is in effect a real life documentary of man being arrested and tried for crimes he did not commit. Henry Fonda stars as Manny Balestrero, a New York nightclub bass player who is arrested for a series of armed robberies. Balestrero has a wife named Rose (Vera Miles) and two sons, so his surprise arrest puts a huge financial and emotional burden on this family. The movie is very detailed as it goes through the entire legal process of his interrogation, arrest, arraignment, legal counseling and finally his trial.
This is a very serious movie and it's a clear departure from other mid-50's Hitchcock American films. The movie is shot in full-screen black and white, and has a very noir-type look. The soundtrack also doesn't sound like it's from a studio orchestra but rather a jazz band with it's very prominent score as opposed to being just background music. I liked the movie, but didn't love it. It seemed like Hitchcock went through the motions on this one but it does have a very strong ending. Overall, the film is emotionally draining and uses very little artistic creativity, but it's obvious that Hitchcock did not intend to entertain his audience but rather send a sobering message regarding how fragile life is. To it's credit, the film also reveals a message of divine intervention when we turn to God in our time of deepest pain.
The DVD transfer very sharp but some tiny deterioration was noticeable periodically throughout the film. The sound is excellent as the music soundtrack sets an important tone to the movie. The extras include a short documentary analysis of the film.
DVD Quality: B+
MR. & MRS. SMITH
This was Hitchcock's first and last attempt of directing a comedy. 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' is a comical farce about a married couple named Anne (Carole Lombard) and David Smith (Robert Montgomery) who clearly have some relationship issues since Anne has an established pattern of spending days at a time in bed anytime she has a disagreement with her husband. After making up from their latest tiff, Anne asks David, "If given the chance to go back in time would you marry me again"? His instant response is "No", but then realizes he's made a terrible gaff and unsuccessfully tries to cover his tracks, but at least does enough damage control to keep them together. Shortly after David learns that through a legal snafu, their marriage is void. When Anne learns about this legal wrinkle, she separates and this sets up a cat and mouse game between the two seeing if they can salvage their relationship.
As much as I like Hitchcock and Carole Lombard, both Hollywood legends in their own right, I can't say this movie worked magic for me. I do know that films like this were very popular in their day, but I didn't find any of it laugh-out-loud funny, although some of scenes put a smile on my face. I did like the slice of life look of the film as it showed many interesting backdrops including several original interior shots plus scenes at an amusement park and a ski resort. If you like screwball comedies from this era, you will probably be very entertained with the film. If you don't like that type of humor, or hope to find lots of Hitchcock's creative artistry and cinematic brilliance, you will probably be disappointed with the film.
The B&W picture quality of this DVD is sharp and crisp but tiny specs of film deterioration showed up sporadically throughout the movie. The sound was very satisfactory for a film this old. The only bonus on the DVD is a short commentary about the film.
DVD Quality: B+
on November 16, 2004
Long dubbed "The Master of Suspense", it is a surprise to learn that Alfred Hitchcock is responsible for the directing efforts in this light comic effort from 1941 which he made very soon after possibly one of his greatest suspense dramas in the classic "Rebecca",in 1940. At first glance you may think that Alfred Hitchcock directing Hollywood's screwball comedy Queen Carole Lombard might not work however the two meshed well together here in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", and produced a funny if not hilarious comedy. It certainly showcased the beautiful Mrs Clark Gable at the peak of her beauty and matured talents just prior to her tragic death in a plane crash while on a war bond selling tour . In her second last film Lombard combined for the only time with MGM leading man Robert Montgomery and the pair make a pleasing team here in this tale of a marriage that turns out not to be legal and where both parties get a unique chance to test the loyalty and commitment of their "former" spouses. While not the crazy type of comedy one comes to expect from Carole Lombard it is an enjoyable farce and the second half in particular when it picks up speed contains many enjoyable comic highjinks that are sure to raise a laugh.
Based on a story by Norman Krasna "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", concerns the story of David and Ann Smith (Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard), a affluent couple who have an agreement that they will never part from each other in the middle of a disagreement. The beginning sees the Smiths holed up in their bedroom for three days until the dispute is resolved much to the annoyance of the staff who have to pass meals and mail etc through a crack in the door. Reconciliation of course follows and when at the breakfast table Ann innocently asks David if he had his time over again whether he would marry her he unthinkingly replies that no he wouldn't. Later that day David is visited by a gentleman who informs him that because of a legal technicality based on the boundaries of two of the states, he is not legally married. Unbeknown to David this man knows Ann's family from where they were married and he later visits the apartment and informs Ann and her mother Mrs. Krausheimer (Esther Dale), of the turn of events concerning their marriage. Trying to remain calm Ann hopes David will suggest a second marriage right away until she remembers his words at breakfast. She decides to test him and plans a romantic evening where she hopes David will propose to her. The evening however does not go well and David fails to even raise the issue making Ann feel that David does mean that he would never marry her again. Locking him out of the apartment Ann resumes her maiden name and takes up a job as a Sales Clerk. Suddenly single Ann begins to see David's business partner in the law firm Jeff Custer (Gene Raymond), much to David's annoyance and the former husband and wife begin a long game of one upmanship designed to get the other jealous. Jeff is reliable but very dull and secretly Ann misses David just as David misses Ann after a terrible night out with two very unpolished women at a night club. Following Jeff and Ann up to a mountain resort the fire works really begin as David attempts to break the pair up. Ann works out what his plan is after he tries to paint Ann as a loose woman in front of Jeff's conservative Southern parents (Philip Merivale and Lucile Watson), and she decides to play him at his own game however the pair eventually do realise that they are meant for each other and both really do want to become "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", again. The couple then make up and enjoy an embrace in between a pair of snow skis.
It is said that Alfred Hitchcock agreed to direct "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", as a favour to Carole Lombard, an actress he greatly admired. Whether that is correct or not Hitchcock in his rare foray into the comedy genre proves to have a nice light touch in his staging of the marital mishaps of the Smith's in this story. There is an amusing story that Carole Lombard in her usual wacky style learnt that Hitchcock supposedly "treated his casts like cattle", so early one morning as a prank she actually set up a farm yard on the set complete with cows wearing nameplates for Hitchcock, Robert Montgomery and herself! Having just completed three fine dramas in a row for RKO with "In Name Only", "Vigil in the Night", and "They Knew What They Wanted", this effort was a much welcome return to the comic genre that Lombard was so renowned for. In her portrayal of the suddenly single "Miss Krausheimer", after three years of a non legal marriage Lombard displays her finely tuned comic abilities in a pleasing manner. She makes a great foil for Robert Montgomery who is actually very amusing in his role as the husband David who finds himself without his wife and having to face the fact that she seemingly doesn't seem to want him back after he foolishly said he wouldn't marry again if he had his time over. Gene Raymond as Jeff Custer the stuffy friend and business partner of David who pursues the suddenly single Ann also displays just the right bland sort of delivery and he is especially good in his drunk scene where he is offered some strong spirits by Ann after they are caught in the rain while on the parachute ride at the fun park. The second half of the story does pick up the screwball element and the best comic interludes include the very funny scene where David attempts to discredit Ann in front of Jeff's parents making her out as a "loose woman", which is very memorable as are the attempts by Ann in the chalet to make David jealous of Jeff by screaming out and dropping books on the floor which can be heard clearly through the fine walls into David's room in the hope David will come to her rescue. In this final stage of her highly successful career Carole Lombard could ask for and get the best in all facets of a production and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith",was no exception. Not only does this film boast a first class director like Alfred Hitchcock, but also outstanding photography by Harry Stradling that makes Carole Lombard look probably her most glamourous on screen ever. The art direction by Van Nest Polglase is also top rate in particular for the Smith's apartment and the scenes at the ski lodge. Famed Hollywood designer Irene also goes all out in the glamour stakes here and provides Carole Lombard with some of her most beautiful clothes ever on screen. If ever the image of Lombard as one of Hollywood's best dressed women started with one film it would certainly be because of her outfits in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith".
For an enjoyable if not terribly memorable comic outing "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", makes an enjoyable way to pass the time. This type of marital comedy based on misunderstandings almost entirely disappeared once the Second World War really got underway with America's involvement. Indeed the film has a very 1930's feel to it which does add to its charm with the passage of time. I appreciate "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", first and foremost for the comic playing on a much less frantic level than in previous efforts to be sure, by the legendary Carole Lombard. It is almost haunting to see her here so beautiful and full of life knowing that she would be dead within a year and a half. Enjoy the marital mishaps of the "Smiths", when a marriage which was "forever", becomes a battle royale between two parties out to test the loyalty of each other in Alfred Hitchcock's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith".