Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection
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Universally recognized as the Master of Suspense, the legendary Alfred Hitchcock directed some of cinema’s most thrilling and unforgettable classics. Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection features 15 iconic films from the acclaimed director’s illustrious career including Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest and many more. Starring Hollywood favorites such as James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery and Kim Novak, this definitive collection showcases a true cinematic master at his best. Featuring over 15 hours of insightful bonus features plus an exclusive collectible book, each film has been digitally restored from high resolution film elements for the ultimate Hitchcock experience.
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1. Rear Window
2. The Trouble with Harry
3. Vertigo [the color issues discovered in the pre-release copies have been corrected, and the U.S. edition does have a fine sounding mono option]
The two transfers that have had previous releases and are still available as "stand alones" are also stellar:
1. North by Northwest (despite some color issues)
Seven of the transfers are acceptable high definition upgrades from their previous standard def releases:
2. Shadow of a Doubt
4. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) [This one really needs a restoration--but the problem here, isn't the transfer per se]
5. Torn Curtain
7. Frenzy [The problem with the credits that were discovered in pre-release copies has been corrected]
That leaves us with three very problematic transfers:
1. The Birds -- clearly a lot of work went into this so-called restoration -- and I understand how difficult it is to work with the primitive process shots that never looked very good to begin with -- but the amount of digital artifacting that is evident in some scenes (particularly the segment involving Tippi Hedren crossing and re-crossing a bay) is simply unacceptable. Much of the movie looks better than it ever has on home video, but "traveling" video noise should never be evident.
2. Marnie - I *love* film grain, but too frequently the grain in this transfer looks like old fashioned television static from a poor signal.
3. Family Plot - Grain the size of basketballs and an overall look that implies the movie was shot through a sand filter makes this disc, by far, the worst transfer in the set. Depending on your sensitivity to such things, the movie is viewable, but still this transfer should never have been allowed to leave the studio. It's an embarrassment.
But there are real defects in two of the titles in this set: Both "Marnie" and "Family Plot" were given slipshod transfers. "Marnie" particularly (a film I consider one of Hitchcock's masterpieces) has visual specks throughout, and some scenes of "weak" color. If you don't believe me, just go to a scene mid-way in the film and freeze the frame on a closeup. You'll see what seems a shabby grill on the faces. The images aren't clear and seemingly form a grill pattern. ("Frenzy" also exhibits flaws but not as seriously as those two.) These problems are obviously due to a lack of quality control in mastering these discs. To see the difference compare these two titles to "The Birds" or "Rear Window" and check the clarity and brightness of their color images in a freeze-frame. This crappy transferring is reprehensible for Universal in not taking the proper care to make sure the master Hitchcock has been given the treatment he deserves. They made so much money from the great works by this brilliant filmmaker they could have at least given ALL these films the highest quality treatment in Blu-ray technology!
This is certainly a trivial point, but also demonstrating Universal's inherent sloppiness, is that on a few of the discs, the spectacular new Universal corporate logo is actually shown TWICE in a row through an error in the disc making! (Note: I noticed this only in the UK region-free release!)
Most of the other discs are very good to superb, but these two (and some transferring flaws in "Frenzy" as well) could be enough for many to reject this set. I won't return it because most of the discs are essential to anyone's collection at it is, but I will continue to hope that in the future a new Blu-ray master of "Marnie" will be redone and made available in a beautiful transfer! UNIVERSAL OWES IT TO EVERYONE WHO LOVES THE ART OF CINEMA!
The technicians at Universal who are responsible for these shabby transfers should be ashamed of themselves!
PS: Many chastise reviewers for lowering the rating of great films because of flaws in the quality of the discs; They say only the film should be rated. I agree with them for the most part. But still, the low quality of several of these disc transfers, I think, should properly reflect at least one star lower to warn buyers. I admit if these discs were all superb the set would inarguably garner 5 stars by anyone remotely interested in film. These movies are among the greatest in the history of cinema. They ALL need to handled with the utmost of care as if they were treasures (which they are!).
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