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: MCA Home Video
: Classics, Suspense/Thriller
: 119 min.
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14 of the finest works from the universally acclaimed Master of Suspense come together for the first time in one collection. These captivating landmark films boast three decades of Hollywood legends, including James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Anthony Perkins, Sean Connery and Doris Day. The premium packaging and collectible book make Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection the must-own, definitive anthology of gripping works by a true genius.
Aircraft plant worker Robert Cummings is accused of sabotaging his factory and causing the death of a co-worker. Actually, Cummings is the fall guy for a clever ring of Nazi spies, headed by above-suspicion American philanthropist Otto Kruger. Our hero goes on a cross-country chase after genuine saboteur Norman Lloyd, all the while pursued himself by the police. Along the way, he acquires a reluctant "travelling companion" in the form of Priscilla Lane, who at first despises Cummings and intends to turn him over to the authorities at the first opportunity, but who gradually comes to realize that the boy is innocent. Alfred Hitchcock intended Saboteur to be the American equivalent to his British The 39 Steps, employing such details as the solid-citizen villain, the handcuffed hero, the unwilling blonde heroine, and any number of stopovers with a variety of offbeat characters (a travelling "freak" show, a compassionate blind man, a grizzled old prospector who turns out to be one of the spies, etc.) ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Teresa Wright plays Charlie, a small-town high-schooler who enjoys a symbiotic relationship with her favorite uncle, also named Charlie (Joseph Cotten). When young Charlie "wills" that old Charlie pay a visit to her family, her wish comes true. Uncle Charlie is his usual charming self, but he seems a bit secretive and reserved at times. Too, his manner of speaking is curiously unsettling, especially when he brings up the subject of rich widows, whom he characterizes as "swine." When a pair of detectives (MacDonald Carey and Wallace Ford), posing as magazine writers, arrive in town and begin asking questions about Uncle Charlie, young Charlie's curiosity is aroused. Why, for example, has Uncle Charlie torn an article out of the evening newspaper? Rushing to the library, Young Charlie locates the missing item: the headline screams WHO IS THE MERRY WIDOW MURDERER? As the horrified Charlie reads on, the conclusion is inescapable: her beloved Uncle Charlie is a mass murderer, preying upon wealthy old women. And what happens next? Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville (Mrs. Hitchcock) based their screenplay on a story by Gordon McDowell, who in turn was inspired by real-life "Merry Widow Murderer" Earle Leonard Nelson. The casting, from stars to bit players, is impeccable; the best of the batch is Hume Cronyn, making his film debut as a wimpy murder-mystery aficionado. Lensed on location in Santa Rosa, California, The Shadow of a Doubt wasAlfred Hitchcock's favorite film. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Rope, Alfred Hitchcock's first color film, was adapted from Patrick Hamilton's stage play Rope's End by no less than Hume Cronyn. Loosely inspired by the Leopold-Loeb case, the plot concerns two implicitly homosexual college chums, played by Farley Granger and John Dall. Their heads filled with Nietzchean philosophy by their kindly professor James Stewart (he's grayed at the temples, but he still looks too young for his part), Granger and Dall kill a third friend just for the thrill of it. The boys hide the body in an antique chest in the middle of their posh apartment, then perversely arrange to hold a dinner party around the chest, inviting the victim's family, friends and fiancee (Joan Chandler), as well as their intellectual role-model Stewart. As the guests wander obliviously around the sealed chest, the killers make snippy, veiled comments about their deed--never going so far as to reveal the existence of the body nor their involvement in the murder. As all the guests file out, however, professor Stewart begins to suspect that something is amiss. He forces the boys to reveal their awful secret, whereupon they claim that the inspiration for their murder was Stewart's abstract "man and superman" lectures. Before turning the killers over to the cops, Stewart absolves himself of guilt in an eloquent curtain speech. In Rope, Hitchcock attempted the daunting technical challenge of filming the entire picture in one long, uninterrupted take. Actually, there are three changes of camera angles in the film, occurring at twenty-minute intervals to accommodate reel changeovers in the projection room (since a reel of film was divided into two ten-minute minireels back in 1948, the internal reel-breaks are "fudged" by having a dark object briefly obscure the camera lens, sustaining the illusion that no editing has taken place). ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Rear Window (1954)
Laid up with a broken leg, photojournalist L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) is confined to his tiny, sweltering courtyard apartment. To pass the time between visits from his nurse (Thelma Ritter) and his fashion model girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), the binocular-wielding Jeffries stares through the rear window of his apartment at the goings-on in the other apartments around his courtyard. As he watches his neighbors, he assigns them such roles and character names as "Miss Torso" (Georgine Darcy), a professional dancer with a healthy social life or "Miss Lonelyhearts" (Judith Evelyn), a middle-aged woman who entertains nonexistent gentlemen callers. Of particular interest is seemingly mild-mannered travelling salesman Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), who is saddled with a nagging, invalid wife. One afternoon, Thorwald pulls down his window shade, and his wife's incessant bray comes to a sudden halt. Out of boredom, Jeffries casually concocts a scenario in which Thorwald has murdered his wife and disposed of the body in gruesome fashion. Trouble is, Jeffries' musings just might happen to be the truth. One of Alfred Hitchcock's very best efforts, Rear Window is a crackling suspense film that also ranks with Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960) as one of the movies' most trenchant dissections of voyeurism. As in most Hitchcock films, the protagonist is a seemingly ordinary man who gets himself in trouble for his secret desires. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
The Trouble With Harry (1955)
The trouble with Harry is that he's dead. The scene is a autumnal Vermont village, where a pre-Leave It to Beaver Jerry Mathers stumbles upon Harry's corpse in the woods. Mathers alerts his mother Shirley MacLaine (making her film debut), who recognizes Harry as her ex-husband. Later on, retired sea captain Edmund Gwenn likewise comes across the moribund Harry. Both MacLaine and Gwenn have reason to believe that they're responsible for Harry's demise; MacLaine thinks that she killed Harry by clobbering him with a bottle, while Gwenn is certain that he shot the poor fellow while hunting. As the day draws to a close, seemingly every person in town is convinced that he or she has had some hand in Harry's death, thus they conspire to hide the body from the authorities. Visiting artist John Forsythe, dumbfounded at the calm, collected reactions of the villagers regarding Harry (whose ubiquitous body pops up at the most inopportune moments), solves the "mystery." Though not his most successful film, The Trouble with Harry was one of director Alfred Hitchcock's favorites. The story's whimsical black-comedy elements are perfectly complemented by Bernard Herrmann's playful music score. Best bit: Mildred Natwick, coming upon Gwenn as the latter is strenuously dragging away Harry's corpse, asking offhandedly "What seems to be the trouble, Captain?" The Trouble With Harry was adapted by John Michael Hayes from the novel by John Trevor. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
The debate still rages as to whether Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much is superior to his own original 1934 version. This two-hour remake (45 minutes longer than the first film) features more stars, a lusher budget, and the plaintive music of Bernard Herrmann (who appears on-camera, typecast as a symphony conductor). Though the locale of the opening scenes shifts from Switzerland to French Morocco in the newer version, the basic plot remains the same. American tourists James Stewart and Doris Day are witness to the street killing of a Frenchman (Daniel Gelin) they've recently befriended. Before breathing his last, the murder victim whispers a secret to Stewart (the Cinemascope lens turns this standard closeup into a truly grotesque vignette). Stewart knows that a political assassination will occur during a concert at London's Albert Hall, but is unable to tell the police: his son (a daughter in the original) has been kidnapped by foreign agents to insure Stewart's silence. The original script for Man Who Knew too Much was expanded and updated by John Michael Hayes and Angus McPhail. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Dismissed when first released, later heralded as one of director Alfred Hitchcock's finest films (and, according to Hitchcock, his most personal one), this adaptation of the French novel D'entre les morts weaves an intricate web of obsession and deceit. It opens as Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) realizes he has vertigo, a condition resulting in a fear of heights, when a police officer is killed trying to rescue him from falling off a building. Scottie then retires from his position as a private investigator, only to be lured into another case by his old college friend, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore). Elster's wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), has been possessed by a spirit, and Elster wants Scottie to follow her. He hesitantly agrees, and thus begins the film's wordless montage as Scottie follows the beautiful yet enigmatic Madeleine through 1950s San Francisco (accompanied by Bernard Herrmann's hypnotic score). After saving her from suicide, Scottie begins to fall in love with her, and she appears to feel the same way. Here tragedy strikes, and each twist in the movie's second half changes our preconceptions about the characters and events. In 1996 a new print of Vertigo was released, restoring the original grandeur of the colors and the San Francisco backdrop, as well as digitally enhancing the soundtrack. ~ Dylan Wilcox, All Movie Guide
In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock was already famous as the screen's master of suspense (and perhaps the best-known film director in the world) when he released Psycho and forever changed the shape and tone of the screen thriller. From its first scene, in which an unmarried couple balances pleasure and guilt in a lunchtime liaison in a cheap hotel (hardly a common moment in a major studio film in 1960), Psycho announced that it was taking the audience to places it had never been before, and on that score what followed would hardly disappoint. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is unhappy in her job at a Phoenix, Arizona real estate office and frustrated in her romance with hardware store manager Sam Loomis (John Gavin). One afternoon, Marion is given $40,000 in cash to be deposited in the bank. Minutes later, impulse has taken over and Marion takes off with the cash, hoping to leave Phoenix for good and start a new life with her purloined nest egg. 36 hours later, paranoia and exhaustion have started to set in, and Marion decides to stop for the night at the Bates Motel, where nervous but personable innkeeper Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) cheerfully mentions that she's the first guest in weeks, before he regales her with curious stories about his mother. There's hardly a film fan alive who doesn't know what happens next, but while the shower scene is justifiably the film's most famous sequence, there are dozens of memorable bits throughout this film. The first of a handful of sequels followed in 1983, while Gus Van Sant's controversial remake, starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche, appeared in 1998. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
The Birds (1963)
The story begins as an innocuous romantic triangle involving wealthy, spoiled Tippi Hedren, handsome Rod Taylor, and schoolteacher Suzanne Pleshette. The human story begins in a San Francisco pet shop and culminates at the home of Taylor's mother (Jessica Tandy) at Bodega Bay, where the characters' sense of security is slowly eroded by the curious behavior of the birds in the area. At first, it's no more than a sea gull swooping down and pecking at Tippi's head. Things take a truly ugly turn when hundreds of birds converge on a children's party. There is never an explanation as to why the birds have run amok, but once the onslaught begins, there's virtually no letup. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Condemned as being a "disappointing" and "unworthy" Alfred Hitchcock effort at the time of its release, Marnie has since grown in stature; it is still considered a lesser Hitchcock, but a fascinating one. Tippi Hedren plays Marnie, a compulsive thief who cannot stand to be touched by any man. She also goes bonkers over the sight of the color red. Her new boss, Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) is intrigued by Marnie -- to such an extent that he blackmails her into marriage when he stumbles onto her breaking into his safe. Rutland is in his own way as "sick" as his wife because of his fetishist desire to cohabit with a thief. After innumerable plot twists and turns, Marnie is "cured" by a facile but mesmerizing flashback sequence involving her ex-hooker mother (Louise Latham). Among the critical carps aimed at Marnie was the complaint that the studio-bound sets -- particularly the waterfront locale where the film ends -- were tacky and artificial; curiously, this seeming "carelessness" adds to the queasy, off-setting mood that Hitchcock endeavored to sustain. Even when the direction seems to falter, the film is buoyed by the driving musical score of Bernard Herrmann (his last for Hitchcock). Among the supporting actors in Marnie are Mariette Hartley as a secretary and Bruce Dern as a sailor; twelve years later, Dern would star in Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
A double agent has to contend with enemies on both sides of the political fence as well as the woman he loves in this hriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Prof. Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) is an gifted American physicist who, at the height of the Cold War, decides to defect to East Germany. To his surprise, his fiancée, fellow scientist Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews) follows him, and she soon discovers Armstrong is no traitor, but acting as a secret undercover agent. As Armstrong attempts to ingratiate himself with political and scientific factions in East Germany, Gromek (Wolfgang Kieling) becomes his guide, though Armstrong is aware he's a government agent assigned to trail him, and as he tries to shake Gromek, Armstrong realizes his new "friend" knows what his real agenda happens to be. Torn Curtain was one of the rare Hitchcock films from his "classic" era which did not feature a score by Bernard Herrman; due to objections from his studio, Hitchcock removed Herrman from the project, though excerpts from the score he had begun were included as a bonus on the film's DVD release in 2002. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
Filmed on locations ranging from Denmark to the Universal backlot, Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz is based on a novel by Leon Uris. Frederick Stafford, a veteran of European-filmed James Bond rip-offs of the 1960s, is cast as Andre Devereaux, a French secret agent assigned to snoop around Cuba in the months prior to the 1962 missile crisis. Someone is supplying Castro -- and, by extension, Moscow -- with NATO secrets; it is up to Devereaux to liquidate the "mole." Aiding Devereaux is CIA agent Nordstrom (John Forsythe) and aristocratic anti-Castro Cuban Juanita (Karin Dor), who happens to be the girlfriend of pro-Castroite Rico Parra (John Vernon) (shades of Hitch's Notorious). The director seems to be in awe of the fact-based storyline, and as a result the film is more cut-and-dried than most Hitchcock efforts. Three different endings were filmed for Topaz; the Laserdisc version carries all three, as does the print available to the American Movie Classics cable service. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Alfred Hitchcock entered the 1970s with his commercial reputation virtually in tatters, a far cry from his stature at the start of the 1960s. Then, he'd been in the middle of the massively successful trio of movies, North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds, and was a ubiquitous presence on television thanks to his anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents -- but the series ended, and he'd suffered three expensive box-office failures in a row, Marnie, Torn Curtain, and Topaz, in the second half of the 1960s. He redeemed himself with Frenzy, however, which marked his return not only to England for the first time in 20 years but also to the subject matter with which he'd started his career in thrillers back in 1926 -- murder, and a hunt for a serial killer in London. As the latest female victim of the "Necktie Murderer" is found in the Thames, raped and strangled, we meet Richard Blaney (Jon Finch), a bitter, belligerent ex-Royal Air Force officer who can't seem to find his way in life. He drinks too much and holds grudges too easily, and has an explosive temper, which is very near the surface as he's just lost his job. We also meet his girlfriend, a barmaid (Anna Massey); his ex-wife, a professional matchmaker (Barbara Leigh-Hunt); and his best friend, Covent Garden fruit seller Bob Rusk (Barry Foster). Their connection to the necktie murders will be clear to us in the first 30 minutes of the movie and, not coincidentally, completely misinterpreted by the police, as Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowan) and his men tighten a circle around the wrong man, who rapidly runs out of options and allies.
The chase and suspense are classic Hitchcock, favorably recalling a dozen of his earlier movies, from The Lodger and The 39 Steps through Saboteur and Spellbound to Dial M for Murder and North by Northwest, with some new twists and the added energy afforded by the extensive use of actual London locations. There's also a good deal more sex and nudity here than Hitchcock was ever allowed to use in his earlier movies, owing to the relaxation of "decency" standards that had taken place in the years leading up to this production. The suspense derives from multiple interlocking and overlapping layers of uncertainty -- when will each of the two men, suspect and murderer, slip? (And which will slip first?) When and how will the police realize their mistake, and will it be in time to save the innocent man? Amid the straightforward storytelling and thriller elements, Hitchcock manages to slip in a few bravura cinematic moments, the best of them a pullback shot down a flight of stairs into a busy street as the killer invites his next victim into his home, as well as a scene aboard a truck, with a murderer desperately wrestling with a corpse hidden in a sack of potatoes. Frenzy was adapted from Arthur La Bern's novel Goodbye Picadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by mystery aficionado Anthony Shaffer, but for all of that and its decidedly modern trappings of sex and violence, it bears the indelible stylistic stamp of Alfred Hitchcock. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide
Family Plot (1976)
Alfred Hitchcock's final film was adapted from Victor Canning's novel The Rainbird Pattern by Ernest Lehman, who previously wrote the screenplay for Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Barbara Harris plays Blanche, a phony psychic, hired by wealthy Julia Rainbird (Cathleen Nesbitt) to trace the whereabouts of her nephew, who'd been given up for adoption years earlier and who is now heir to a fortune. Blanche's cohort is "investigator" Lumley (Bruce Dern, who is fully prepared to milk the last dollar out of Julia before locating the long-lost nephew. Meanwhile, we are introduced to elegant kidnappers Adamson and Fran (William Devane and Karen Black). The fates of the two couples are inextricably intertwined by the search for the missing heir. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
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