Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Blu-Ray and DVD Releases of 2012 - There will be one new ALPHABETICAL posting everyday until we hit the magic number. Today's Klymkiw Blu-Ray/DVD Accolade for 2012 is: Alfred Hitchcock - The Masterpiece Collection from Universal Studios Home Entertainment

The Best Blu-Ray and DVD Releases
of 2012 as decreed by Greg Klymkiw

This was a stellar year for Blu-Ray and DVD collectors that it's been difficult to whittle my personal favourites down to a mere 10 releases. So hang on to your hats as I'll be presenting a personal favourite release from 2012 EACH and EVERY single day that will comprise my Top 10. At the end of all the daily postings, I'll combine the whole kit and kaboodle into one mega-post.

My criteria for inclusion is/was thus:

1. The movie (or movies). How much do I love it/them?
2. How much do I love owning this product?
3. How many times will I re-watch it?
4. Is the overall physical packaging to my liking?
5. Do I like the picture and sound?

There was one more item I used to assess the material. For me it was the last and LEAST area of consideration - one that probably surprise most, but frankly, has seldom been something I care that much about. For me, unless supplements really knock me on my butt, their inclusion is not that big of a deal. That said, I always go though supplements with a fine tooth comb and beyond any personal pleasure they deliver (or lack thereof), I do consider the educational value of such supplements for those studying film and/or those who might benefit from them in some fashion (film students or not).

So, without further ado, here goes.

Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Blu-Ray & DVD Releases of 2012 (in alphabetical order) Today's Title (more to follow on subsequent days) is none other than: 

Alfred Hitchcock - The Masterpiece Collection (Limited Edition) Universal Studios Home Entertainment
15 (!!!!!) BLU-RAY Discs

This is the Blu-Ray release we've all been waiting for and it pretty much lives up to all the anticipatory slobber from movie geeks the world over. The 15 films that comprise this mega-box-set, presented on 15 individual Blu-Ray discs in the order of their original theatrical release dates are, for the most part, a stellar assortment. Here are brief capsule reviews of all the movies within this absolute must-own set.


"Totalitarian nations . . . get things done." 
(1942) ****
A solid hero in the dependable form of Robert Cummings, the delectable Priscilla Lane and vile villains of the juiciest order in this exciting espionage-tinged chase thriller inspired by Hitch's own 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much. Noted for its bizarre expressionistic climax atop the Statue of Liberty. As the following clip from Saboteur demonstrates, the film was, politically ahead of its time, only now, in contemporary terms, the tables have turned and the totalitarian regime Hitch's hero might be fighting would be America itself:


"Horrible, faded, fat, greedy women."
Shadow of a Doubt 
(1946) ***** 
Utter perfection. One of the most chilling, disturbing & harrowing thrillers of all time with dollops of mordant wit plus an indelible sense of time & place - a seemingly pure, sun-dappled mid-western America. Best of all is Joseph Cotten as "The Merry Widow Killer", one of the creepiest serial killers in movie history - he's truly, utterly horrendous (and, for a time, quite charming). Written by Thornton (Our Town) Wilder, Sally Benson & Alma Reville (Mrs. Hitchcock herself as ludicrously rendered in the recent theatrical film Hitchcock & brilliantly played by Imelda Staunton in the HBO feature The Girl). It has, however, been said that Hitch himself wrote Joseph Cotten's famous dinner table speech. Take a gander at it here and . . . ENJOY!


"I never strangled a chicken in my life!"
Rope ***** (1948)
Shot to approximate real time with no cuts (save for reel breaks). Based on the notorious Leopold/Loeb killings with Hume Cronyn's treatment, a script by Arthur Laurents (writer of, I kid you not, the Redford-Streisand weeper from the 70s: The Way We Were), memorably sickening John Dall & Farley Granger performances, first-rate thesping from James Stewart, expert Hitchcock blocking & his trademark expressionism in extremis. Here's a delectable taste of Rope's foul killers:


"He likes the way his wife welcomes him home."
Rear Window
(1954) ****
For my first three decades on Earth, THIS was my all-time favourite Hitchcock movie. Eventually overtaken by Vertigo, it still delivers big time in the suspense department with fetishistic peeping tom qualities running rampant as invalided James Stewart spies on his neighbours and witnesses a murder. Raymond Burr plays one of Hitchcock's scariest villains.


"Mom! Wally's picking on me."
The Trouble with Harry (1955) ***
A mildly entertaining trifle of a black comedy that's not quite as dark as it wants to be. Buoyed by a tremendously sexy, funny, engaging and very young Shirley MacLaine, Jerry Mathers (Leave it to Beaver) and some stalwart character actors to make the whole affair a pleasure.
Que Sera, Sera 
The Man Who Knew Too Much
(1956) ***1/2

Odd remake of Hitch's 1934 original with great suspense set pieces, a weirdly brilliant James Stewart and, in spite of occasional longeurs, can one ever go wrong with Doris Day a singin' ever-so sweetly? In a Hitchcock picture, no less.

"I don't care anymore about me."
Vertigo (1958) *****
These days when people ask me what my favourite movie of all time is, I have no problem citing this one - but always with the added history of how it is a film I have grown with over the years. The more years, the more life experience, the more I related to the psychological intricacies, layers of character, its obsessive romanticism and the fetishistic qualities of moulding someone into precisely what you want. As creepy, chilling and suspenseful as Vertigo is, it's also deeply and profoundly moving. No surprise it's moved up in so many polls as the best movie of all time. It might well be. What I know for sure is this: Kim Novak's entrance in Vertigo is without a doubt the greatest entrance of any star, of any character, in any movie known to man - now and forever.
"That wasn't very sporting. . ."
North by Northwest
(1959) *****
The greatest mistaken identity espionage thriller of them all. Classy Cary Grant, suavely sinister James Mason and that ever-so deadly crop duster diving and aiming on a flat, bald prairie with no cover of escape.

"I'll lick the stamps."
Psycho (1960) *****
Foul, vile and still astounding psycho-thriller that jangles the nerves with all manner of perversities and horror. The isolated motel. The blonde. The nervous young man. The screeching harridan mother. The taxidermy. The sandwich. The peep hole. The bathroom. The psycho. The blood. It seldom gets scarier than this. And the shower? The jets of refreshing water. The shower curtain. The malevolent shadow on the other side of the curtain. Scared the crap out of me the first time I saw the picture as a kid and still creeps me out.

The Birds (1963) *****
Gorgeous blonde.
Stalwart hunk.
Yummy Brunette.
Thousands of birds that kill.
'Nuff said.


Marnie (1964) ***** Hitchcock's final genuine masterpiece of obsessive love with a great Tippi Hedren performance and a gloriously expressionistic mise-en-scene. Oh God, and that score, that score that sticks to one's brain forever.

Torn Curtain (1966) **** This espionage thriller is a mess and full of longeurs of the worst kind, but its flaws are overshadowed by several set pieces of suspense and violence that are up there with Hitchcock's best. There's a "kitchen" scene that seems to be a strange reversal, yet extension of the "shower" scene from Psycho that still shocks and horrifies even the most jaded contemporary viewers.


"Flores para los muertos."
Topaz (1969) ** Bloated, dull spy thriller that's almost uwatchable save for a handful of decent set pieces.


Frenzy (1972) **** I love this sick, hilarious, shocking, brutal and terrifying thriller to death. There's a killer loose in London and he's into rape and necktie strangulation. The detective in charge is more sickened by his wife's grotesque gourmet cooking than the crime scenes he must pore over with a fine tooth comb. Even more perverse is the hero of the film who is so reprehensible that we almost find the necktie killer charming. And then, we have the potato truck scene.


Family Plot (1976) **1/2 Slight, mildly amusing thriller with a clutch of decent performances - especially from Karen Black and William Devane. It's not quite the last film one would have hoped for Hitch, but it's not without some merit.

Alfred Hitchcock - The Masterpiece Collection on Blu-Ray is ESSENTIAL to own. This gorgeously produced box set is not without some mild flaws, but overall it's a winner and a keeper. The sound and picture transfers range from okay at worst to mind bogglingly spectacular at best, The packaging is attractively designed, though a tad cumbersome in terms of the basic practicality of removing discs for play. And the extra features - the thing I usually care least about - are rendered here with such magnificent detail and considerable educational value that it's an element of the package worth touting.