James Cole Clay // Film Critic
THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK CLASSICS COLLECTION
Universal Home Entertainment released THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK CLASSICS COLLECTION for the first time on 4K. First of all, the set looks amazing. It includes four of the titlees from the Master of Suspense’s prolific career, including 1954’s REAR WINDOW, 1958’s VERTIGO, 1960’s PSYCHO, and 1963’s THE BIRDS, and also loads and loads of special features that were previously released on other formats.
The focus here isn’t to necessarily review the films themselves (other than a slight overview and a few descriptors here and there) but rather meant for collectors who want to know if the set is worthy of an upgrade. In short, yes, it is. But it’s not without a few minor caveats.
In the boxset, it more or less contains Hitchcock’s most popular films. However, it could have been bulkier. There are some prominent omissions from the set, such as the underrated 1948 film ROPE and 1959’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST. It’s not that there is a lack of gratitude for having pristine 4K transfers of classic films, more so a bummer that there just wasn’t more to scarf down night after night. (Distribution rights might have got a little tricky, so just wishful thinking.)
Out of all the movies included, PSYCHO (available as a standalone 4K) is a personal favorite. It packs the rare Uncut Version, which apparently has original theatrical footage cut from other home media releases.
REAR WINDOW still holds up as a classic suspense/comedy with greats like Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day being charming as they were 66 years ago. (Side note: David Fincher must really love REAR WINDOW.)
THE BIRDS, being called Hitchcock’s monster movie, isn’t necessarily a slight, but it’s so much more than that morphing from a psychological romance to full stop avian anarchy. The effects still look great, and a special shout out to Tippi Hedren, who’s just fantastic.
And lastly, there’s the bombast of VERTIGO in all of it’s colorful glory. Widely looked at as Hitchcock’s best film, the convoluted tale of obsession has frequent collaborator Jimmy Stewart in one of his strangest performances. Truth be told, it’s a hell of a yarn that should be watched multiple times, and now you can, well, if you buy the box set.
Hitchcock’s work is super diverse in filmmaking style, and this collection of greatest hits is indeed great.
The box set comes in a slipcase that goes over a really sharp (and sturdy) cardboard booklet containing eight discs, as each film comes with a 4K and Blu-ray version. Filled with movie stills and pictures and quotes of the iconic director, the packaging gets you into Hitchock’s dark, tongue-in-cheek humor. Sometimes as a consumer, it just feels really nice when the distributors take the time to make something fairly evocative.
The only complaint is removing the discs is a pain, and it’s impossible not to smudge the disc when removing it from the cardboard insert. Make sure not to make the same mistake I did and clean the disc before popping it in, or you too will have to get up 40 minutes into VERTIGO and administer an impromptu disc cleaning.
This is the biggest reason to upgrade from Blu-ray to 4K because each of these transfers is incredible. Mostly due to the fact that older films get the biggest bump up in quality from being restored in a new resolution. From the slick black-and-white look in PSYCHO to every ounce of color in VERTIGO popping at just the right moments, Universal did a great job in presenting this for home consumption. THE BIRDS was especially interesting to watch because of all the effects, which hold up surprisingly well, even with crystal clear picture.
I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on these sort of things like codecs, bit rates, and such, but what I do know is I can tell the difference in each one of these quality-wise from Blu-ray to 4K. Looking at them on a mid-grade 75” 4K television, there’s a stark difference. So, your experience may vary depending on your TV’s quality or the size of your projector.
The audio tracks benefit from the DTS master audio on each disc, and really hit hard if you have a soundbar or home theater. There really isn’t much power needed to utilize the sound on these discs.
There’s nothing new in terms of features. They come from various releases from the past 20 years. The good news is most of them hold up remarkably well. Interviews feature Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdonovich, REAR WINDOW screenwriter John Michael Hayes, and other notable talking heads. Each feature finds its unique angle from the Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews to focus on each one of Hitchcock’s infamous muses.
The best part of it all is you no longer have to get up and put in the Blu-ray to access the special features. They’re surprisingly on the 4K disc.
This set may only have four films, but each one is something special. At the cost of sounding too corny, it’s kind of rad owning a little piece of film history.
THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK CLASSICS COLLECTION is now available at all major retailers where you can purchase physical media.