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Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection - Limited Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 362 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The legendary Alfred Hitchcock is recognized for directing some of the most unforgettable and groundbreaking films of all time. Now, for the first time ever, five of the most iconic films from The Master of Suspense are available together in Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection including Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho and The Birds. Starring Hollywood favorites James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak and Rod Taylor, this essential collection captures the most memorable moments in the career of a true cinematic master.


For all the slasher pictures that have ripped off Psycho (and particularly its classic set piece, the "shower scene"), nothing has ever matched the impact of the real thing. More than just a first-rate shocker full of thrills and suspense, Psycho is also an engrossing character study in which director Alfred Hitchcock skillfully seduces you into identifying with the main characters--then pulls the rug (or the bathmat) out from under you. Anthony Perkins is unforgettable as Norman Bates, the mama's boy proprietor of the Bates Motel; and so is Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, who makes an impulsive decision and becomes a fugitive from the law, hiding out at Norman's roadside inn for one fateful night. --Jim Emerson

Rear Window
Like the Greenwich Village courtyard view from its titular portal, Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window is both confined and multileveled: both its story and visual perspective are dictated by its protagonist's imprisonment in his apartment, convalescing in a wheelchair, from which both he and the audience observe the lives of his neighbors. Cheerful voyeurism, as well as the behavior glimpsed among the various tenants, affords a droll comic atmosphere that gradually darkens when he sees clues to what may be a murder.

Photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart) is, in fact, a voyeur by trade, a professional photographer sidelined by an accident while on assignment. His immersion in the human drama (and comedy) visible from his window is a by-product of boredom, underlined by the disapproval of his girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), and a wisecracking visiting nurse (Thelma Ritter). Yet when the invalid wife of Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) disappears, Jeff enlists the two women to help him to determine whether she's really left town, as Thorwald insists, or been murdered.

Hitchcock scholar Donald Spoto convincingly argues that the crime at the center of this mystery is the MacGuffin--a mere pretext--in a film that's more interested in the implications of Jeff's sentinel perspective. We actually learn more about the lives of the other neighbors (given generic names by Jeff, even as he's drawn into their lives) he, and we, watch undetected than we do the putative murderer and his victim. Jeff's evident fear of intimacy and commitment with the elegant, adoring Lisa provides the other vital thread to the script, one woven not only into the couple's own relationship, but reflected and even commented upon through the various neighbors' lives.

At minimum, Hitchcock's skill at making us accomplices to Jeff's spying, coupled with an ingenious escalation of suspense as the teasingly vague evidence coalesces into ominous proof, deliver a superb thriller spiked with droll humor, right up to its nail-biting, nightmarish climax. At deeper levels, however, Rear Window plumbs issues of moral responsibility and emotional honesty, while offering further proof (were any needed) of the director's brilliance as a visual storyteller. --Sam Sutherland

North By Northwest

A strong candidate for the most sheerly entertaining and enjoyable movie ever made by a Hollywood studio (with Citizen Kane, Only Angels Have Wings and Trouble in Paradise running neck and neck). Positioned between the much heavier and more profoundly disturbing Vertigo (1958) and the stark horror of Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959) is Alfred Hitchcock at his most effervescent in a romantic comedy-thriller that also features one of the definitive Cary Grant performances. Which is not to say that this is just "Hitchcock Lite"; seminal Hitchcock critic Robin Wood (in his book Hitchcock's Films Revisited) makes an airtight case for this glossy MGM production as one of The Master's "unbroken series of masterpieces from Vertigo to Marnie." It's a classic Hitchcock Wrong Man scenario: Grant is Roger O. Thornhill (initials ROT), an advertising executive who is mistaken by enemy spies for a U.S. undercover agent named George Kaplan. Convinced these sinister fellows (James Mason as the boss, and Martin Landau as his henchman) are trying to kill him, Roger flees and meets a sexy Stranger on a Train (Eva Marie Saint), with whom he engages in one of the longest, most convolutedly choreographed kisses in screen history. And, of course, there are the famous set pieces: the stabbing at the United Nations, the crop-duster plane attack in the cornfield (where a pedestrian has no place to hide), and the cliffhanger finale atop the stone faces of Mount Rushmore. Plus a sparkling Ernest Lehman script and that pulse-quickening Bernard Herrmann score. What more could a moviegoer possibly desire?--Jim Emerson


Although it wasn't a box-office success when originally released in 1958, Vertigo has since taken its deserved place as Alfred Hitchcock's greatest, most spellbinding, most deeply personal achievement. In fact, it consistently ranks among the top 10 movies ever made in the once-a-decade Sight & Sound international critics poll, placing at number 4 in the 1992 survey. (Universal Pictures' spectacularly gorgeous 1996 restoration and rerelease of this 1958 Paramount production was a tremendous success with the public, too.) James Stewart plays a retired police detective who is hired by an old friend to follow his wife (a superb Kim Novak, in what becomes a double role), whom he suspects of being possessed by the spirit of a dead madwoman. The detective and the disturbed woman fall ("fall" is indeed the operative word) in love and...well, to give away any more of the story would be criminal. Shot around San Francisco (the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of the Legion of Honor are significant locations) and elsewhere in Northern California (the redwoods, Mission San Juan Batista) in rapturous Technicolor, Vertigo is as lovely as it is haunting. --Jim Emerson

Vacationing in northern California, Alfred Hitchcock was struck by a story in a Santa Cruz newspaper: "Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes." From this peculiar incident, and his memory of a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the master of suspense created one of his strangest and most terrifying films. The Birds follows a chic blonde, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), as she travels to the coastal town of Bodega Bay to hook up with a rugged fellow (Rod Taylor) she's only just met. Before long the town is attacked by marauding birds, and Hitchcock's skill at staging action is brought to the fore. Beyond the superb effects, however, The Birds is also one of Hitchcock's most psychologically complicated scenarios, a tense study of violence, loneliness, and complacency. What really gets under your skin are not the bird skirmishes but the anxiety and the eerie quiet between attacks. The director elevated an unknown model, Tippi Hedren (mother of Melanie Griffith), to being his latest cool, blond leading lady, an experience that was not always easy on the much-pecked Ms. Hedren. Still, she returned for the next Hitchcock picture, the underrated Marnie. Treated with scant attention by serious critics in 1963, The Birds has grown into a classic and--despite the sci-fi trappings--one of Hitchcock's most serious films. --Robert Horton

Special Features

Disc 1 - Rear Window:
  • Rear Window Ethics: An Original Documentary
  • A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes
  • Production Photographs
  • Production Notes
  • Re-Release Trailer Narrated by James Stewart
  • Theatrical Trailer

  • Disc 2 - Vertigo:
  • Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock's Masterpiece
  • Feature Commentary with Associate Producer Herbert Coleman, Restoration Team Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz and Other Vertigo Participants
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Restoration Theatrical Trailer
  • Production Notes
  • Foreign Censorship Ending
  • The Vertigo Archives

  • Disc 3 - North by Northwest:
  • Commentary by Screenwriter Ernest Lehman
  • Music-Only Audio Track

  • Disc 4 - Psycho (1960):
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Re-Release Trailers
  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho
  • The Shower Scene
  • The Psycho Archives
  • Production Photographs
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photographs
  • The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass
  • Lobby Cards
  • Posters and Psycho Ads
  • Production Notes

  • Disc 5 - The Birds:
  • Deleted Scene
  • The Original Ending
  • Storyboard Sequence
  • Tippi Hedren's Screen Test
  • The Birds Is Coming (Universal International Newsreel)
  • Suspense Story: National Press Club Hears Hitchcock (Universal International Newsreel)
  • Production Photographs
  • Production Notes
  • Theatrical Trailer

  • Product Details

    • Actors: James Stewart, Cary Grant, Anthony Perkins, Tippi Hedren, Grace Kelly
    • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
    • Writers: Alec Coppel, John Michael Hayes, Samuel Taylor, Joseph Stefano, Evan Hunter
    • Producers: Alfred Hitchcock
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
    • Subtitles: French, Spanish
    • Dubbed: French
    • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    • Number of discs: 5
    • Rated:
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
    • DVD Release Date: October 4, 2011
    • Run Time: 605 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (362 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B005EVY8MQ
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,275 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: Blu-ray Verified 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.
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    Format: Blu-ray Verified 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.
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    Format: DVD Verified 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?
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