196 of 208 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2000
A sumptuous film version of Daphne du Maurier's Gothic suspense novel. Brilliant direction by Alfred Hitchcock (his first American-made feature), dazzling cinematography by Oscar-winner George Barnes, and splendid art direction by Lyle Wheeler underscore impeccable performances by the entire cast. Laurence Olivier is excellent as the enigmatic Maxim, whose brooding ambivalance masks a dark secret; Joan Fontaine hits all the right notes as the confused and insecure Second Mrs. de Winter; and Judith Anderson (made up very much like Gloria Holden in Universal's "Dracula's Daughter") is chillingly repellant as the malevolent housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. These three Oscar nominees are ably abetted by George Sanders playing Rebecca's cad of a cousin, and Florence Bates as the vitriolic social butterfly Edyth Van Hopper. In what must have been an incredibly close race, this film beat out 20th Century-Fox's landmark "The Grapes of Wrath" for the 1940 Best Picture Oscar.
The Anchor Bay DVD offers a fine video transfer of this classic mystery. The picture is sharp and clear with excellent contrast throughout, and the soundtrack is clean and crisp. Although the package doesn't mention it, the DVD does offer Chapter Search (always a welcome plus). There aren't any bonus materials like theatrical trailers, cast biographies, photo galleries, etc., but this is still a worthy edition of a genuine film classic.
117 of 127 people found the following review helpful
Joan Fontaine stars as a miserably shy and awkward lady's companion who meets the sophisticated and recently widowed Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo. They seem an odd couple, yet after a few short weeks they marry and come home to his imposing English country estate, Manderley. The young bride is overwhelmed with her new, lavish lifestyle and is especially intimidated by the forbidding housekeeper who keeps her first mistress' memory and influence alive. Maxim reveals a terrible secret which forever alters the couple's life, and affects the very existence of Manderley.
This wonderfully atmospheric tale, complete with swirling fog and spooky organ music, will take you away to a world where little Cinderella really does marry the handsome prince and lives in the mysterious castle, but things have a nasty habit of going bump in the night. Joan Fontaine gives a breathtaking performance, convincing us she really is crippled with feelings of inadequacy, despite being a flawless beauty. Judith Anderson is the sneering, contemptuous housekeeper whose devotion to her former mistress turns to madness. Laurence Olivier makes a properly snobbish and mysterious Maxim and manages to be the hero despite a fatal flaw. The title character, Rebecca (the first Mrs. de Winter), is never seen but is a powerful force, as is the imposing house of Manderley. If you like gothic romances filled with 1940's elegance and lots of creepy atmosphere, you'll enjoy Rebecca.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2004
Rebecca achieves greatness. Nothing is off in this film. You'll never forget Judith Anderson's sinister portrayal of the obsessed housekeeper, or George Sanders' cold and cynical charm as "Rebecca's favorite cousin." As for Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, they will never be seriously challenged in any remake of this tantalizing and psychologically molten story. It is their film from start to finish, though one fine character actor after another comes and goes with perfect pitch and perfect proportion. The black and white photography has a porcelain gleam to which color could bring nothing. Like Bronte's great novel, Jane Eyre (in which Joan Fontaine also starred), Rebecca is a seminal tale following an old pattern that has been imitated ad infinitum. But nothing can detract from this pure and innocent effort. I first saw Rebecca when I was a little girl, taken by my mother to a small theatre in New Orleans famous for showing foreign films and artistic films, and what an enchantment it was this world of Maxim de Winter and his great house and the crashing sea -- and finely controlled voices with English accents speaking so carefully but with such feeling. I've seen the film a dozen times since, and it has lost none of its silvery luster. There are times when I don't want to do anything except make a cup of hot chocolate and go in and watch Rebecca. Highly recommended. Add it to your collection.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The Best Picture in 1940 and an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's famous novel. It is not at all surprising this movie won two Academy Awards and nine other nominations. Through the masterful direction of Alfred Hitchcock, you will be kept in complete suspense. The newly restored version from the original negatives is presented full-frame and has been digitally mastered for optimum picture and sound. The result is a sumptuous black-and-white film that is better than I have ever seen it before. They do say this movie gets better each time you watch it, and I must agree.
The opening scenes convince you that this is going to be quite a forbidding story. A meandering path overgrown with foliage and a ghostly manor (Manderley) appears out of the Cornwall, England mist. The gothic quality is only the stage for a love story haunted by the memory of Rebecca. While this is mostly filled with suspense and mystery, there are a few moments of humor.
While a young woman (Joan Fontaine) is vacationing in the South of France as a ladies companion, she meets a wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Lawrence Olivier). His wife, Rebecca is said to have died in a boating accident. They fall in love, marry and then he takes her home to Manderley. She is ill prepared for such a position in society and stumbles through her days trying to adapt as best she can.
"Rebecca" is the theme of this movie, yet the heroine is the second rather timid Mrs. de Winter when she rises to the occasion and takes on this ghost who haunts her husband. Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) manages the manor and seeks to keep the first Mrs. de Winter's memory alive in an almost obsessive way. She is cold and has no regard for Maxim's new wife's feelings. Judith Anderson is just magnificent in her role and her character is in a way is Rebecca's ghost personified.
The conclusion is surprising as we find out how Maxim really feels and the story unfolds one detail at a time to finish with a satisfying conclusion. You will never once think these characters are actors, they are their characters from start to finish.
You must watch this movie in complete darkness with just a few candles burning for it to be just slightly scary. One of my all-time favorite movies. Definitely worth owning!
~The Rebecca Review
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2003
Note: Get the Criterion DVD before it is too late! (It's supposed to go out of print on the 31st of December, 2003). While Hitchcock's masterpiece is still stunning after all these years, the DVD I watched, published by Anchor Bay, is pretty weak; the Criterion Collection DVD of "Rebecca" has much more in the way of extras and special features, which is half the appeal of getting a classic on DVD.
Anchor Bay's DVD only has a chapter selection and "start" on the menu. Not even closed captioning, which makes this DVD inaccessible to older or deaf fans.
Still, even a weak DVD presentation can't take away from such a beautiful film. A TV presenter recently introduced "Rebecca", by saying that Joan Fontaine was too pretty to be believable in the role of a plain girl. Missing the point! "Rebecca" is a story from the point of view of a scared, insecure heroine who believes the worst of herself and is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like the heroine of "Northanger Abbey," perhaps the gothic atmosphere here is really created out of her hopes and fears - "Rashomon"-style where each person sees a different thing. The book "Venus in Spurs" has most of a chapter devoted to "Rebecca," and how much this film and book relate to women who struggle through insecurity, despite being loved. (To say more might ruin the movie for first-time viewers).
Fontaine is, of course, very good, as is Laurence Olivier, who has scarcely *ever* been more handsome and commanding. Among the strong supporting cast is George Saunders and Dame Judith Anderson. While Anderson's usually singled out in reviews and hindsight, her obsessive maid could hardly be that malevolent, if the audience didn't feel so sympathetic towards Fontaine's sweet, mild Mrs. de Winter. Really, Fontaine needed Anderson in this performance to really pull it off; and the reverse is equally true. I also think Florence Bates adds quite a bit here as the bitchy and bossy Mrs. Van Hopper, also providing a strong showing in another wonderful film, "A Letter to Three Wives," which, come to think of it, is also about wives and their suspicions of their husbands... and Bates' character sets up trouble for one of the "Letter" wives with her thoughtlessness in that picture, too.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2000
Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock's first American film, is a classic suspense thriller and his only film to win an oscar for Best Picture. It is a haunting story about a young woman (Joan Fontaine) who marries a rich widower (Laurence Olivier) and who begins to learn dark secrets about his first wife, Rebecca. I liken the tone of the film to that of Vertigo, which is probably my favorite Hitchcock film. The story has an almost supernatural, gothic feel to it, and one almost expects a ghost to appear. It is a chilling story that works very effectively and is a good demonstration of why Hitchcock is considered one of the greatest suspense-thriller directors ever.
The performances are quite good. Olivier's character is like a caged animal, and one can practically feel his frustration boiling under his cool exterior. Fontaine plays her usual mousy screen persona, which is very effective at portraying the uncertainty and low confidence of the young wife. And the character of the maid....brrr. Very chilling.
Those who have seen this movie before will enjoy the DVD. The transfer is quite good, and the film shows only a few minor signs here or there of its age. The image is a tad bit soft but nothing that distracts in any way from the movie. Sound, of course, is monophonic. My only real complaint about the DVD is that it is quite bare-bones. It is just the movie and nothing else. Still, this movie is a worthy addition to any collection and is a strong testament to how "they used to make 'em."
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2000
From the opening shots and line about dreaming of a visit to Manderly again, to the final shots of Mrs. Danvers and the flames, Alfred Hitchcock creates a dark, eerie atmosphere that will remain with the viewer every time you see the film. Although Rebecca is never seen, her presence is felt throughout the entire movie. Laurence Olivier, as the late Rebecca's tortured husband is good, although I think his moods and personal torture are played too strongly. Joan Fontaine, never an actress I have especially admired, is surprisingly excellent as Olivier's new, unnamed, naive wife, thrust into a world she is unprepared to deal with. But the greatest performance of the film belongs to Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca's housekeeper, and consequently, Fontaine's nemesis. With her daunting profile and posture, and her chilling delivery of lines, she creates one of the most memorable film characters I have ever seen. With its winding plot, terrific performances, and the direction of Alfred Hitchcock creating tension and atmosphere on a Gothic scale, Rebecca is one of the greater suspense films I have ever seen.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2001
Let me begin by strongly discouraging you from purchasing the cheaper Anchor Bay issue over this Criterion release. Next, while I think either Notorious or Rear Window is Hitchcock's greatest artistic and technical achievement, neither film has enchanted me quite as much as Rebecca. Rebecca was the first film Hitchcock made in Hollywood and the first product of his collaboration with Selznick. The film upon its release was among the director's most popular and critically successful pictures, winning an Oscar for Best Picture (the only significant Oscar ever awarded to a Hitchcock film, and even this one was given to Selznick, as producer). Nonetheless, in Truffaut's interviews with Hitchcock the director is rather unenthusiastic about this picture (a sentiment which Truffaut does little to challenge). Admittedly, Rebecca feels more like a Hollywood picture than much of Hitchcock's later work, which is understandable, given that he had little experience with working in that environment at the time. Some of the criticisms leveled against Rebecca, all of which I would contend are unfair, include: the plot exposition is long and meandering, the conclusion is drawn out, and Olivier and Fontaine are poorly cast (the former, coming across as stiff, the latter as excessively meek). Nonetheless, what strikes one most about Rebecca is where it departs from the Hollywood model for the Gothic romance, most notably, in the thrilling ending. I have always been struck by the parallels between "Citizen Kane" and "Rebecca," (which are nowhere more glaring than in the image of the letter "R" in the final shot of both films).
The Criterion DVD issue is superb; do not waste your money on the Anchor Bay release (which I owned prior to this release). Even if you do not care for the overabundance of extras, the superiority of the transfer alone is reason enough. I also owned the Criterion laserdisc issue of "Rebecca," which is an outstanding transfer; however, this DVD surpasses even the laserdisc in video and audio quality. Besides, I do not mind paying the extra dollars for Criterion releases, given their commitment to outstanding digital transfers of classic films. Now if only Fox Lorber would have shown a similar committment to consistent quality in its Godard series. Also, unlike some companies that load their DVDs with both useless and carelessly engineered extras, Criterion, as is its track record, has assembled a list of extras that enhance one's understanding of the film. Besides two separate audio commentaries, among the other valuable resources include numerous screen tests (including Joan Fontaine's), feedback from audience test screenings, and examples of the different letter "R"s considered for the film. Once again, this is an all-around excellent DVD issue of an even more excellent film.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again...."
Joan Fontaine is captivating in Hitchcock's beautifully realized romantic drama of a new wife competing with a memory so strong it hangs like a shadow over every facet of her existence. Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison crafted a riveting screenplay from Michael Hogan and Scottish mystery writer Phillip MacDonald's adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's now classic tale of dark romance.
Franz Waxman's lovely score and George Barnes' lushly photographed scenes frame David O. Selznick's stellar production like a mist forming on the grounds of Manderly. A wonderful cast of screen veterans make this very long film a mezmerizing drama from which you can't look away.
Olivier gives a strong performance as the dashing yet troubled widower, Maxim, but it is Fontaine as the young and unsure girl overwhelmed by his romantic attentions who stole our hearts and became a film favorite, winning the Academy Award the next year for Hitchcock's Suspicion.
Fontaine is swept off her feet by the debonair but brooding widower, Maxim. Mousy and shy, there is an endearing charm to her performance in the early portion of the film which has the viewer falling in love with her. It all seems like a dream to her, and Hitchcock uses a rainy windshield to give she and the viewer a snow globe like first glance at Manderly, further augmenting the story's dreamlike quality.
Their fairy-tale romance has its darker elements, however, and from her first moments at Manderly she begins to realize that Rebecca is still very much alive, though long dead. She must compete with a ghost at every turn, diminishing her self-confidence. Friends like Reginald Denny and Nigel Bruce cannot offset the twisted loyalty of Maxim's housekeeper, Miss Danvers (Judith Anderson).
Just when she finds the strength to break free from Rebecca's memory, a battered boat and startling revelations from Maxim about his marriage turn everything upside down. George Sanders causes much trouble during this phase of the story but the revelations are not as yet fully disclosed, nor is the outcome for Manderly and the couple certain in any way. Fontaine is amazing as she grows up and becomes an anchor for Maxim, finally becoming Mrs. De Winter.
A romantically haunting drama with a tremendously enchanting performance from Joan Fontaine, Rebecca is a cinematic masterpiece and a must see film.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2000
Alfred Hitchcock's first American film, produced by David O. Selznick, is a wonderful adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's bestselling novel. When a shy, young woman (Joan Fontaine) falls in love with the sophisticated, but moody Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) during a trip to Monte Carlo, she begins to wonder if she has made a terrible mistake after they are married. Maxim is the heir to a family fortune which includes the magnificent Manderley estate in Cornwall (England). Upon her arrival, Fontaine discovers that the shadow of Rebecca, Maxim's late first wife, is a long and dark one and is a threat to her marriage. Rebecca's former servant, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), is the supervisor of the estate and she has an unnatural loyalty to her dead mistress. Danvers has such contempt for the new Mrs. de Winter that she'll do almost anything to intimidate and embarrass her. What is the secret to Rebecca's powerful hold over people...even from the grave? In one of her first starring roles, Fontaine is right on key. Her characterization of a woman trying to save her marriage from a spectre from the past is wonderful to behold. As the picture progresses, she becomes more and more assertive, finally able to stand up to the formidable Danvers. But to what end? Rebecca is a wonderful example of mystery and suspense. A beautifully mounted film that used all the resources and technology Selznick's bank account could offer. Great performances from all the principles, including George Sanders as one of Rebecca's many lovers, Florence Bates as Mrs. Van Hopper, Gladys Cooper as Maxim's sister, et al. Olivier gets top billing and he is appropriately dark and moody, the way every hero of a gothic romance should be, however, it's Fontaine's delicate and balanced performance that anchors the film and gives it much of its richness. A wonderful job all around and the only Hitchcock film to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Note: Foreign Correspondent released the same year was also nominated for Best Picture of 1940.