Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection - VertigoOverview -
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. 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.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
'Vertigo' was recently voted the number one film of all time in BFI Sight and Sound's poll, which routinely polls a wide variety of well-respected critics asking them to cast votes on which movies are the best of the best. Until now ''Citizen Kane'' had long held the top spot.
Does it deserve top honors? I'm sure there are some that will disagree with the voting. It can be said, however, that 'Vertigo' remains among the very top of Hitchcock's eminent catalog of films. It's a film about love, greed, and obsession; a movie that dives into the psyche of a man tortured by the thought of losing his true love; a movie that shines some light on how Hitchcock himself viewed his leading ladies.
Scottie (James Stewart) is a flawed man, physically and emotionally. He's got a paralyzing fear of heights and appears to be driven completely by the whims of his most base emotions. He transforms from an analytical detective to a maniac driven by lust, eschewing all rational thought because he's convinced himself he's fallen in love with a mysterious woman.
The woman is Madeline (Kim Novak). Madeline is a striking blonde, just the way Hitchcock liked them. Apparently, Scottie feels the exact same way. Scottie, now retired from the police force, is asked by a personal friend to keep an eye on his wife. He fears that his wife is possessed and he doesn't know if she's being safe when she goes out on her long, mysterious trips. Scottie reluctantly agrees. He follows Madeline as she goes to the art museum to stare blankly at a painting, he trails her to a cemetery where she visits a grave, then he follows her to a parking lot under the Golden Gate Bridge where she jumps into the water.
Scottie jumps in and rescues her. It's at that moment that Scottie comes to the realization that he loves this woman. Only there is much more to her than he knows.
What follows is a spiraling descent into madness as Scottie falls for this woman, only to later watch as she plummets to her death from a bell tower. He's distraught. He's lost all ability to think in a rational manner. Instead he becomes lost in his thoughts. His dreams consist of nightmarish image, reminding him of his past, not letting him forget.
Then Scottie meets a woman named Judy who looks familiar. As a matter of fact, she looks almost exactly like Madeline. Racked with guilt and driven by obsession Scottie forcefully takes over Judy's life. He dresses her like Madeline. Makes her change her hair color. He has completely lost touch with the man he was before he took on this case. He's become solely driven by the basest of human emotion.
This all makes sense in the end when we figure out the cleverly conceived mystery that Hitchcock has pieced together. For fear that some people haven't seen it (if you haven't shame on you, rectify that right now) I won't give anything else away. However, what you should know is that this is one of Hitchcock's greatest cinematic achievements. Does it deserve the status as Best Movie of All Time? I'll leave that up to you to decide. Could it be Hitchcock's best movie? Absolutely.
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 'Vertigo' so you can see what it looks like.
Universal has attempted to restore 'Vertigo' as much as possible given the budget they were working with. Does most of the movie look great? Yes. Could Universal's 1080p transfer look better? I'm sure of it.
Clarity, for the most part, looks great. There's some really fine detail on faces, texture, and hair. Stewart's face, as it comes hurtling toward the screen in his crazy dream, is immensely detailed with visible age lines and pores. There are other times where softness creeps in though.
Many of the scenes of Scottie and Madeline driving through San Francisco look great. Cars have great detail and shine under the California sun. The city's architecture also features some really fine textural detail as brickwork and cement seem almost tangible at times.
The beginning of the movie, with Stewart and the police officer running along the rooftops looks a little too faded. Black levels waver a bit there, as they do later on in the movie, specifically in the final bell tower scene. Skin tones near the end of the movie also feature a few problems, tending toward a grayer area of the color spectrum.
The most noticeable flaw in the transfer is evident during the final sequence, where Stewart climbs the bell tower stairs. There is a visible, bluish fade that runs horizontally across the center of the frame. It stays there until they reach the top of the bell tower. It's pretty conspicuous and will indeed detract from one's viewing, especially during such a dramatic moment in the movie.
While I think that most of the movie looks great, with solid colors and wonderful looking restoration, the transfer still has a few issues it needs to have worked out.
'Vertigo' is the only new-to-Blu-ray release in this set to be given the surround treatment. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is really the crown jewel of the audio presentations in this set. It engulfs you, playing with Bernard Hermann's haunting score and giving it more than enough room to suck you into Scottie's delusions of lust.
The impact of the movie's score, and how it's treated in this release, can't be overstated. This is one of the most iconic scores in all of cinema. Here it's allowed to grab hold of you from every channel. The blaring horns and screeching strings are all reproduced with stunning clarity and fidelity.
A gunshot in the movie's opening echoes through the soundfield. A woman's scream as she falls to her death is piercing and clear. Dialogue is always intelligible and accurate. Even the low-end gets in on the action as the sub-woofer adds extra oomph to the already threatening beats of the movie's score. This is a full-bodied sound restoration that will no doubt please fans.
- Audio Commentary — This commentary is provided by director William Friedkin. It was produced for the Special Edition release of 'Vertigo' on DVD in 2008. Friedkin is interesting enough to listen to, but he does have a tendency to simply describe what is happening on screen which gets a little tedious after a while. What most people will be annoyed by is the fact that the restoration audio commentary that was on that same Special Edition has not been included here.
- The 'Vertigo' Archives (SD) — A collection of photographs, storyboards, and scripts in gallery form.
- Obsessed with 'Vertigo': New Life for Hitchcock's Masterpiece (SD, 29 min.) — Film restorers Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz discuss why it was so difficult to restore 'Vertigo.' They talk about the different steps they had to take in restoring the movie's original elements and what bad shape those elements were in to begin with.
- Partners in Crime: Hitchcock's Collaborators (SD, 55 min.) — This feature is broken up into four separate parts, with each part focusing on a Hitchcock crew regular. There's a featurette about Edith Head, costume designer, one about composer Bernard Hermann, another about titles designer Saul Bass, and finally one about Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville.
- Foreign Censorship Ending (SD, 2 min.) — This is the alternate ending that was produced simply to satisfy the foreign censorship board.
- Trailers (SD, 4 min.) — The original theatrical trailer is provided along with the restoration theatrical trailer.
'Vertigo' is a complete cinematic experience. It's got everything. It's one of Hitchcock's masterpieces and has only gained popularity and acclaim with age. This Blu-ray presentation has some great looking video, but also has a few spots that are distracting. The audio is top-notch though. It really sounds great and the surround sound treatment isn't wasted here. If it was released individually this would be a must-own movie.
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