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    Ian Jane

  • Rebecca

    Released by: MGM

    Released on: January 24, 2012.

    Director: Alfred Hitchcock

    Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce, George Sanders

    Year: 1940

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    The Movie:

    The first film that Alfred Hitchcock would make in the United States was 1940's Rebecca, a rock solid thriller based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier starring Sir Laurence Oliver and the lovely Joan Fontaine (in a role Olivier really wanted his then girlfriend Vivien Leigh to play, which lead to no shortage of tension between the two leads - something that Hitchcock quite infamously capitalized on!) and the film that would take home the Academy Award for Best Picture.

    The story, without wanting to go too deep into spoiler territory, follows the strange tale of a widower named Maxim de Winter (Olivier) who remarries and brings his new bride (Fontaine) home to his stately manor, Manderley, where he hopes they'll start a new life together. His new wife is shy, however, and very much an introvert. This new romance, however, is not all wine and roses - the new Mrs. Fontaine soon finds out that the influence of her husband's dear departed first wife, Rebecca, hangs high over both the household and the man who theoretically runs it.

    Featuring a great score courtesy of composer Franz Waxman and sterling cinematography by Georges Barnes (who would collaborate with Hitchcock on Spellbound as well - which he'd take home an Oscar for), Rebecca is always a beautiful looking film that makes the most of its high contrast black and white cinematography to create a rich, palpable atmosphere that goes a long way towards bringing the script to life. From the opening shots of the water crashing against the waves, not so subtle foreshadowing, to the close ups of the various characters dealing with their respective issues this is a beautiful looking movie, on that winds up making you wish that Barnes and Hitchcock had made more films together.

    As far as the performances go, as mentioned, Hitchcock played off on the fact Olivier was making it very clear to Fontaine that he didn't want her for the part, going so far as to let poor woman believe that nobody on the set liked her. This comes across in her acting here, as you really do start to believe her paranoia and her neurosis as the film plays out. Olivier, on the other hand, is far more confident and almost brash at times, which makes for an interesting contrast - that is, until the influence of Rebecca comes into play, at which point all bets are off. Supporting work from Judith Anderson and Georges Sanders are also quite good and worth mentioning, and both Nigel Bruce and Leo G. Carroll pop up here in small but important roles as well.

    The only film in Hitchcock's pantheon to take home the Best Picture award, Rebecca holds up very well, with a great surprisingly bizarre twist ending that never feels out of place, this is a wholly enjoyable film. From the expert performances to the equally impressive direction and cinematography, it's an emotionally gripping and completely engrossing picture that mixes up equal parts gothic horror and mature and evolved character study to result in a picture that is rightfully considered by many to be one of Hitchcock's shining moments as a director.


    MGM's Blu-ray debut of Rebecca presents the film in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio in a nice looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation. It's pretty safe to assume that the elements that MGM had to work with here were in good shape as the transfer is really quite impressive, even more so when you take the age of the film into account. Detail is quite a bit improved over previous DVD offerings and though there are a few instances of very minor edge enhancement evident in a few spots, overall this is a very natural looking image. Detail is, for the most part, pretty impressive and aside from a few obvious nicks and scratches here and there, print damage is never much of an issue. There's the expected amount of natural film grain present, as there should be, but contrast looks nice and natural. Overall, yes, Rebecca definitely looks very good on Blu-ray.

    The only audio option is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with subtitles provided in English only. The track is obviously limited in range but it sounds fine for its age. Dialogue is easy enough to follow and to understand and any hiss that pops into the mix now and again is so minor that it's not a big deal. The score sounds quite good here and the levels are properly balanced throughout.

    Extras kick off nicely with a welcome commentary track from film critic Richard Schickel which covers a lot of the character development and subtle aspects of the script quite well. Of course, this track also discusses the visuals and provides the expected amount of trivia and tells some interesting stories about the production, but a lot of what is covered here is related to the performances and the characters that those who deliver those performances have been tasked with bringing to life.

    From there, we move on to the featurettes, the first of which is The Making Of Rebecca, a twenty-eight minute documentary that explores Hitchcock's transition to Hollywood and the difficulties that were encountered adapting the source material for the silver screen and conflict that arose with the director and the film's producer, David O. Selznick. The second featurette on the disc is The Gothic World Of Daphne Du Maurier and it spends nineteen minutes exploring the origins of the story that inspired the movie and detailing the background and biographical information of the woman who penned the story in the first place.

    MGM has also included two separate hour long radio play versions of this story, the first of which is from 1928 and features Orson Welles and the second of which is from 1941 and features Ida Lupino - both are interesting takes on the same story told in the feature film. Rounding out the extras is the theatrical trailer for the film, an isolated score audio track, two audio interviews with Hitchcock (conducted by Peter Bogdonavich and Francois Truffaut respectively - 4:20 and 9:15 in length for those keeping track), menus and chapter stops. All of the extras are presented on the Blu-ray in standard definition.

    The Final Word:

    Hitchcock's first American film gets a solid Blu-ray debut from MGM, who offer up the classic thriller with a great transfer, solid audio and a nice selection of extra features as well. Some great performances, solid direction and a classic score make this one that you'll want to revisit and this high definition treatment is the right way to do just that.

    Click on the screen caps below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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