Universal: Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection

Discuss North American DVDs and Blu-rays or other DVD and Blu-ray-related topics.
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denti alligator
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#101 Post by denti alligator » Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:45 pm

I finally watched the HD DVD of Casablanca the other day and--to follow Person's doubts about HD presentations of pre-1950s films--was not all that impressed. Half of it looked no better than its SD counterpart. Admittedly, the other half was pretty stunning, but still...
Last edited by denti alligator on Sun Mar 02, 2008 5:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Person
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#102 Post by Person » Sun Mar 02, 2008 5:03 pm

Heh heh! Funnily enough, the very second after I posted that comment, I checked for a review of the HD Casablanca, and it turns out that Beaver has a comparison. The HD brings out the finer detail better, but I would imagine that viewing the film in HD at a distance on a mid-sized set wouldn't be a noticeably superior experience. What I have noticed thus far with Blu-Ray is that it is the colours that are instantly recognisably superior to SD, often by a jaw-dropping margin. The detail, too, of course. But what I suspect is that with Eastmancolor films of the 50s and 60s, as well as black and white 1.37:1 films, the benefits of Blu-Ray won't be as great as with a vintage, lushly photographed film that has been well-preserved/restored and certainly not as good as a film from the last 10 years. But it would be with films from 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s that are not on SD DVD that were to be released on Blu-Ray that would over-rule this creed. For instance, I'd spend $150 on a Blu-Ray set of the 330-minute version of Gance's Napoleon in a heartbeat. But I wouldn't spend $20 on a bare-bones Blu-Ray of Mamoulian's Jekyll and Hide to replace my SD double-pack set, if that makes sense.

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denti alligator
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#103 Post by denti alligator » Sun Mar 02, 2008 5:11 pm

We're getting off topic, but the Warner HD DVD of Adventures of Robin Hood is stunning. Well worth the upgrade.

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david hare
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#104 Post by david hare » Sun Mar 02, 2008 6:08 pm

That's interesting - I thought Casablanca looked fantastic on the plasma (at 720p rez.) I've recently played it though on the new 1080p PJ and I agree with you - it varies from scene to scene. Some of it looks just barely superior to upscaling, yet other scenes are stunning.

In terms of grayscale and shadow detail however I think it is clearly superior to the SD.

Anyhow this (the need to remaster fully to 2k or even 4k) may be what's behind Warner holding back a lot of their classic library to 2009. DId you notice the gatehair imprinted onto the WB lgogo at the top, BTW? (On the left, it's incredibly annoying.)

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Gigi M.
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#105 Post by Gigi M. » Sun Mar 02, 2008 8:06 pm

David, is there a big difference on your PJ between 720p and 1080p?

There's none what so ever in mine. By the way in almost 99.9 inches away from ordering your Pj. How's it comming along after 100h on the bulb?

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david hare
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#106 Post by david hare » Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:21 pm

No Gigi. The Plaz only has a rez of 768 and I was playing the Toshiba to it as 1080i which the Plaz then downscaled.

What I am saying - obviously confusingly - is everytihng played 1080i straight out and deinterlaced by the PJ to 1080p on a much larger screen is far more telling of weaknesses in HD transfers. The Plaz screen is 43 inches compared to the PJ image of 120. In fact this is leading me to think 1080p is really only "useful" or perhaps "worth it" for displays of at least 50 inches diagonal or over.

The Casablanca HD is pretty good and in moments it's typically HD brilliant but there are whole reels that look less than razor sharp.

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#107 Post by MilkManX » Mon Mar 24, 2008 2:39 pm

I just nabbed this set yesterday. So far I am very impressed with the Discs. The picture looks better on Psycho and Vertigo and that was easily worth the cost. I traded in a bunch of old Anime and my old Kubrick boxset and it came out about even for me.

Edit: I am still working through my Universal Hitchcock boxset. That anamorhic Vertigo was very nice. I know its not perfect but it beat the single disc release I use to have.

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Person
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#108 Post by Person » Sun Jun 29, 2008 3:59 pm

Comparisons of 1998 non anamorphic vs 2005 anamorphic vs. HDTV presentations of some Universal Hitchcock films.

A considerable improvement. The Birds, especially looks far more detailed than before. Hopefully, we'll see Blu-Ray titles soon.

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sevenarts
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#109 Post by sevenarts » Wed Jul 02, 2008 12:36 am

Review of Torn Curtain. Pretty lackluster effort from Hitchcock, overall. There are a few scenes, almost all of them in the first half, that are quite good and distinctively Hitchcockian: the farmhouse murder, the chase scene through the eerily empty matte-painted museum with its seemingly impossible perspectives, the interrogation sequence. Otherwise, complete dullsville, especially that endless bus ride towards the end and the really pointless introduction of the Polish Countess. So horrible.

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#110 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 02, 2008 12:48 am

I'm quite fond of Torn Curtain and how it shows Hitchcock grasping at the last strands of the classical Hollywood style-- the rear-projection bus chase is terrific in its own curtain call fashion and the pacing is fascinating-- that first thirty minutes or so of complete audience identification confusion is genius. I'd wait to throw around negative hyperbole for Topaz, which truly is an indefensible piece of shit.

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#111 Post by Haggai » Wed Jul 02, 2008 9:32 am

I'm with domino on the bus ride in Torn Curtain. I've always loved that sequence. Actually, I think all the set pieces in that movie are quite good, but a lot of the connecting stuff drags. Admittedly, that's a pretty big knock against what should have been a better movie.

Topaz has a couple of good set pieces as well--I really like the opening sequence, and the famous business with the dress is also good. But overall, it's a mess. It's Hitchcock's longest movie, yet most of it either doesn't work at all or just isn't very interesting.

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#112 Post by jules » Wed Jul 02, 2008 9:52 am

domino harvey wrote:I'd wait to throw around negative hyperbole for Topaz, which truly is an indefensible piece of shit.
Maybe so, but murder of Juanita de Cordoba is great scene and it does have Claude Jade in small role. So it's worth seeing for those reasons.

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#113 Post by Svevan » Wed Jul 02, 2008 4:43 pm

Worst thing about Topaz is that Universal admits on the DVD that they fucked up the ending, and that they have the elements for both endings (actually three, but the third doesn't count), but they only attach one of these to the film. The duel ending test-marketed poorly, but Hitch preferred it: it's a no brainer to include both endings as an option.

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#114 Post by Haggai » Wed Jul 02, 2008 4:55 pm

I don't think any of those alternate endings would have changed things all that much. It's either for Topaz or Torn Curtain--don't remember which one offhand--where in the DVD featurette, they show a few reaction cards from a preview screening, and in one of them, the question of "Which scenes, if any, should be cut?" (or something like that) led to a response of "The entire movie!!" LOL.

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#115 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:37 pm

The only worthwhile thing in Topaz is watching real actors like Noiret and Piccoli direct themselves and show up everyone else in the film by rising above the material. And yeah, all of the alternative and existing endings are dreadful.

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Svevan
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#116 Post by Svevan » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:44 pm

Varying levels of dreadful: the duel is much better than the hero and the villain glimpsing each other on a plane, and waving as if "ha ha, none of it mattered!"

I don't know why I'm set on defending the duel ending though - perhaps I felt so cheated by the rest of the film, knowing that there was a slightly better ending that wasn't presented as part of the existing film was just the twist of the knife.

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Joe Buck
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#117 Post by Joe Buck » Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:50 am

The sequence in the hotel with Roscoe Lee Browne is the only part of the movie I give a fig about. When I first saw it I was hoping the film was going to get good with his arrival, but sadly he came, he went, and the film sent me back into my slumber.

I like Torn Curtain. Always have. Not a fan of Marnie, though.

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#118 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 03, 2008 2:24 pm

Joe Buck wrote: Not a fan of Marnie, though.
Robin Wood just keeled over

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#119 Post by Haggai » Thu Jul 03, 2008 2:43 pm

A lot of academics seem to be huge fans of Marnie. I have one anthology of Hitchcock essays that includes a transcript of Jay Presson Allen speaking at a conference of Hitchcock scholars, and they all trip over themselves to praise it to her. Not just Wood, but also Slavoj Zizek and other people of that prominence.

My own take is that the first half of Marnie is excellent, but the second half is bogged down by all that psychobabble, to the point that the melodrama becomes more tiresome than thrilling.

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#120 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 03, 2008 2:49 pm

I'm still sporadically reading Wood's Hitchcock Revisited but for all his transparent rescuing, he still skips over the Hitchcock films I find most interesting and, unsurprisingly, least-discussed.

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#121 Post by Haggai » Thu Jul 03, 2008 2:52 pm

Which interesting/least-discussed films do you have in mind?

I guess people don't discuss Under Capricorn very much...albeit with ample justification.

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#122 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 03, 2008 3:12 pm

The same dismissive party line always gets repeated on films like To Catch a Thief, Family Plot, Mr and Mrs Smith, Suspicion &c-- no one really needs another fifty pages on Psycho.

Chabrol and Rohmer found Under Capricorn to be Hitchcock's best film-- and they also hated Lifeboat and considered the Trouble With Harry to be proof of Hitchcock's genius! Their book is beyond worthless and I hope it just lost something in translation, as there are numerous errors about the films under discussion and nonsensical arguments, even for Cahiers critics!

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#123 Post by sevenarts » Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:06 pm

I don't know what the Cahiers critics said about it, but I have no problem saying that The Trouble With Harry is one of Hitchcock's best films. It's definitely brilliant and as far as under-discussed Hitch goes, I'd love to see more attention lavished on that one in particular. Proof of his genius, indeed. And at the risk of agreeing with Cahiers too much, I'll say that Lifeboat is one of my least favorite Hitchcocks -- too stagy, too obvious, too much hammy acting. It's not terrible, and it has its moments, but it's definitely a lower tier for him.

I'd also agree that To Catch a Thief is a much better film than it's given credit for. It's a lot of fun, and it's great to see everyone involved in such an obviously relaxed, laidback mood, enjoying the atmosphere, the gorgeous scenery, and the glamorous games of dress-up. The famous fireworks/kiss sequence is one of Hitch's best romantic scenes, as well as a fine visual joke. It's a pure celebration of elegance and style.

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#124 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:14 pm

The Trouble With Harry is one joke that's not very funny retold over and over for two hours and shot like it was made for TV. At the risk of derailing the thread, To Catch a Thief is for me easily his best film.

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#125 Post by Haggai » Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:17 pm

I've never been a fan of Trouble With Harry, but it does seem to be well-liked among most Hitch fans, as far as I've always been able to tell (well, maybe not domino!). I like Lifeboat quite a bit, although it is pretty hammy at times, and I can see why it's not everyone's cup of tea.

I think To Catch a Thief is a bit sillier and more nonsensical than it needed to be, but my estimation for it grew thanks to the upgraded transfer on the most recent DVD release. It really is a stunningly great film just to look at.

If there's any Hitch film that could possibly be considered "underrated" that I'll always stand by, it's Foreign Correspondent. There's a lot of ridiculous stuff in it, even for a Hitchcock chase film, plus at least one egregious plot device that's hard to forgive (the "double" for the ambassador), but I'll be damned if I don't love almost every minute of it each time I see it.

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