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.
'Marnie,' like 'Vertigo,' features an obsessive male character who isn't satisfied with something as trivial as love. Their obsession turns into a frightening, possessive nature. Both of these characters, Scottie (James Stewart) in 'Vertigo' and Mark (Sean Connery) in 'Marnie,' mirror the obsessive and possessive qualities of Hitchcock himself. The director was famously controlling when it came to his leading ladies. This obsessiveness is portrayed on screen in terrifying detail.
There's a new movie coming out shortly, which I've already seen, called 'Hitchcock' starring Anthony Hopkins as the Master of Suspense. The movie focuses on the making of 'Psycho,' but as a whole, it calls into question the methods of the famed director. His manipulative ways for controlling his leading ladies – beautiful statuesque blonds – are routinely hinted at. Hitchcock's penchant for voyeurism and giving into urges is well documented. What you see in 'Marnie' is those sentiments about women being untrustworthy "objects" in need of male control on full display. Mark Rutland, indeed, has a lot in common with Scottie Ferguson, and both men appear to be on-screen stand-ins of Hitchcock himself.
'Marnie' is based on a novel of the same name by Winston Graham. Its main character is an elegant thief named Marnie, played by Tippi Hedren, fresh off her introductory starring role in 'The Birds.' Marnie takes on many aliases as she rips off business after business. She poses as a beautiful job applicant in need of work in the payroll departments. When she's finally established herself as a trustworthy employee she steals as much money from the company's safe as she can, then she moves on to the next mark.
It may seem simple, but Marnie's life is anything but. She's a thief, yes. She's able to pull off her scores using a combination of cunning and sexuality, luring men into a false sense of security. Most men fall for it, but not Mark Rutland. He's suspicious from the beginning when he witnesses Marnie applying for a job in his company. He's sure he's seen her somewhere and he's had business associates who have been robbed recently. Mark plays along though because he's intrigued by her beauty and captivated by her boldness.
Once Mark pieces it together the movie soon turns into a psycho-sexual struggle between the two of them. Mark is adamant in blackmailing Marnie into become his wife under the guise of trying to help her with whatever problems she's having. Marnie desperately can't stand to be around men at all. It's a perilous line Hitchcock is walking here with these two extremely damaged characters. Much like Scottie trying to have his way with Judy, Mark is determined to take control of Marnie's life causing just as many uncomfortable confrontations as 'Vertigo' has.
Marnie's past is haunting, and Hitchcock tells it through a few flashback dreams peppered throughout the movie that are expertly crafted and filmed. Marnie's dreams are insanely creepy interpretations of what transpired in her childhood to make her the man-hating woman she is today. It's a dark journey into the psyche of a troubled woman while also journeying into the mind of a director who was always trying to figure out how to understand the opposite sex.
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 'Marnie' so you can see what it looks like.
'Marnie' is one of the more frustrating films visually in this set. It's 1080p transfer doesn't look like it's been restored, rather it looks like it's been engineered from an old master that wasn't up for this kind of resolution. The biggest problem with the way 'Marnie' looks is that it's so inconsistent, frame to frame, that you never know what to expect on a shot-by-shot basis. There are time where the detail and resolution look immaculate (like the beginning as Hedren walks toward a waiting train and all the textual detail in her jacket is completely visible), and then there are times where the picture is downright murky at best (like more than a few close-up shots of Hedren's face). This all adds up to a very unsatisfying experience.
Grain structure is all over the place. In some shots grain is coarse, causing extremely soft looking shots that seem like they were cut from a different film stock altogether (most of these shots are close-ups on Hedren). Other times grain is fine and even, producing a clarity that rivals much better presentations like 'The Trouble with Harry' (there's a few shots on the cruise liner that are gorgeously rendered). It's just that clarity wavers greatly from scene to scene. There's nothing consistent about it. Also, those questionable close-ups of Hedren look overly processed, like there's some overuse of digital wrangling going on.
On the bright side is the fact that colors are solid throughout the movie. There aren't any horrible flickering issues like with 'The Man Who Knew Too Much.' Contrast is decent too. Blacks aren't as inky as one would like, but they do get the job done.
It all comes down to the presentation's annoying inconsistency in clarity and grain structure that really put me off while watching it. I couldn't get around the fact that one second a scene could look immaculate and the very next shot looked like standard definition. 'Marnie' certainly could look much better, of that I have no doubt.
Like most of the titles in this set, 'Marnie' does have a pretty great audio presentation. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track does a nice job providing a sound mix that accurately reflects the mood of the movie. It isn't a perfect track, but it gets the job done rather nicely.
At times dialogue seemed mixed a tad too low in comparison with Bernard Hermann's surging score. I felt like there were a few spots where I had to strain to hear what was happening amongst everything else. Those couple of scenes are few and far between though.
Most of the presentation has stellar sounding clarity that is free from any sort of hissing or screeching on the track. Dialogue feels fairly organic and well-rounded. Hermann's score definitely gets its time to shine as it blares constantly through the front channels.
I did have a minor complaint or two, but it wasn't enough to put me off. In the end this is another solid audio presentation for this set.
'Marnie' isn't remembered as one of Hitchcock's greatest achievements, yet it does touch on a lot of the same subject matter that made 'Vertigo' the best film of all time (according to a recent poll). It truly dives into Hitchcock's real life feelings about women and his fantastical views of what his leading ladies should be like. You can feel his influence in every shot. It's still an important work in his overall filmography. Sadly, the video presentation is lackluster. Fans deserve better than what they've been given here from Universal. If this came out as a standalone release I'd say it's worth a look. I couldn't outright recommend it until the video was cleaned up and properly restored.