October 30, 2012 is when Universal is releasing the 'Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection' containing fifteen of the director's seminal works. In an effort to bring you the most in-depth coverage on this set we are going through each included movie to give you the most thorough review we can. Feel free to visit the 'Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection' hub page hub page. There you will find links to the other movies in this set and everything you'd want to know about the set's technical specifics and its packaging.
Stella (Thelma Ritter) utters a great line in 'Rear Window' that is just as applicable today. "We've become a race of peeping Toms," she says, knowing nothing of the age of Facebook, where we routinely check in on the exciting and mundane things happening in our friends' lives. What is it about watching people living their lives that's so enthralling? There's something intrinsically interesting about watching someone. Not in a malicious way, but a curious one. Alfred Hitchcock understood our hankering for voyeurism and harnessed it perfectly in 'Rear Window.'
L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) is a famous photographer who's broken his leg while on assignment. Now he's got to spend a few weeks recovering in his apartment. While he waits for his cast to get removed, Jeffries takes to watching the people who populate his apartment complex from his rear window.
As Jeffries gazes into the lives of the people around him it's hard not to be impressed at this magnificent set. Here Hitchcock has created an intimate living space where people's lives are on full display as long as they leave the curtains open (and in some ways, even when they don't). Across the courtyard below is Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy), a lovely young ballerina; next to her are a couple who are very fond of their dog and sleeping on the fire escape; below them are the Thorwalds and their unhappy marriage; at ground level is Miss Lonleyhearts (Judith Evelyn), a lonesome middle-aged woman wishing for romance; above them, to the right is a composer living in a studio apartment (Ross Bagdasarian); finally to the far left is a newly married couple who are just getting to know each other.
While Jeffries is spying on the happenings of each of his neighbors, he's got some problems of his own to deal with. Chief among them is what he's going to do with his beautiful girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly). Lisa wants to get more serious, Jeffries wants to leave it "status quo." Within the impending mystery Hitchcock has woven a wonderfully complex love story which remains the movie's driving force.
The mystery starts when Jeffries notices that Mrs. Thorwald is not visible in the apartment anymore. Circumstantial evidence starts building up as Jeffries sees Mr. Thorwald leave in the middle of the night, three times, carrying a large case. He also sees Thorwald wrap up a saw and knife. Hitchcock slowly ratchets up the suspense until it's almost unbearable.
'Rear Window' is my personal favorite of Hitchcock's filmography. It's the fact that I could totally picture myself being in this same situation. There's something relatable to the precarious position that Jeffries finds himself in. How many of us, given that same situation, wouldn't be curious to see what our neighbors were up to?
The genius of 'Rear Window' comes from viewing just about every shot from Jefferies' apartment. This way Hitchcock makes us feel like we're right there, watching along with him. He puts us in his shoes and it's hard not to be interested in what's going on in the other buildings. Also, this way we're only made privy to the details that Jeffries sees and hears, causing us to believe or doubt along with the other characters.
'Rear Window' is one of Hitchcock's great masterpieces and is simply one of the best films of all time. It's the perfect mystery, crafted of equal parts suspense and human curiosity. It's fantastic to finally have it on Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Check the main hub page for the complete detail of the packaging of this set. Everything about it can be found there. For fun we've posted a picture of the section in the set created for 'Rear Window' so you can see what it looks like.
Thankfully, one of the most anticipated titles of this set also happens to be one of the best looking. The 1080p transfer of 'Rear Window' is one of the crown jewels, visually. It will please videophiles and fans alike with its filmic restoration.
Upon the movie's beginning you'll notice that the opening panning shot around the courtyard is smoothly defined. The brickwork of the building is wonderfully detailed. Never does a hint of aliasing ruin the scene.
Detail is also pretty magnificent. When the camera pans over Jeffries as he's sleeping you can see individual beads of sweat forming on his brow. The slightly graying hairs around his temples are each individually visible.
The movie's colors are vibrant and reflect the time period with their intentional haziness. Skin tones do seem to take on a little too much pink from time to time, but that's okay. The orange in the movie's sunset is astounding. There does appear to have been some DNR used in a few scenes although the application of it has been used sparingly. Never do faces appear overly waxy or fake looking. The fine filmic grain stays consistent throughout the movie. Film damage, like flecks and scratches, pop up infrequently. Blacks are extremely deep, and shadows are wonderfully inky.
There are a handful of scenes that seem out of sorts though, almost like they were shot on a different reel and spliced in. You'll notice these scenes when you see them since they do cause one to be taken aback since the rest of the movie has looked so great. Those shots are located at 29:44 and 54:19.
This is one of the best looking presentations in the set, which is nice because it's also one of the best movies. It's nice to see that Universal treated this one so well.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is wonderfully rounded and well prioritized. The first thing you'll notice is how clear it sounds from start to finish. There's never a moment when clarity drops below optimal. The entire movie is intelligible.
Dialogue is always easy to hear. Even when Jeffries has to make a hushed phone call to his detective friend. He whispers, yet you can hear every single word he says. The cacophony of sounds outside Jeffries' apartment are crucial for setting how busy the scene is. You can hear people's voices clearly speaking to each other outside, you can hear the music traveling down from the composer's apartment, you can hear a dog bark, and a new wife call her husband back to bed. It's important that the place where Jeffries lives seems like a bustling neighborhood and the audio presentation accomplishes that perfectly.
Franz Waxman's iconic score is beautifully prioritized, never drowning out the dialogue. Instead the score amplifies the most tense moments with some high-end trumpet blares and some low-end bass. For a mono track this is some great sounding music. Along with the video, this is one of the best audio presentations on the set.
One of Hitchcock's indelible masterpieces, 'Rear Window' remains one of the greatest mystery movies of all time. It's rooted in basic human instinct and curiosity. It plays with our emotions and serves up a litany of questions on ethics. It's simply a perfect film from beginning to end. This is a wonderfully restored presentation with great video and audio. Truly one of the best discs of the set. There are a lot of great films in this set, but if this were an individual release 'Rear Window' would be something you must own. As it is, this is reason enough to pick up this set.