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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Hitchcock

March 11th, 2013

Hitchcock - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray Combo Pack or Video on Demand

Hitchcock opened in limited release earning an per theater average of nearly $17,000 in 17 theaters. It went on to make more than $6 million in total, including more than $1 million during its biggest weekend. This is an impressive run compared to most limited releases. However, Hitchcock was expected to be a player during Awards Season and many thought it would be able to expand wide, or at least semi-wide. Granted, there were a lot of Oscar hopefuls that opened during the same time period. Did this one just get lost in the crowd? Or was there a reason it missed admittedly high expectations?

The Movie

The film begins with Ed Gein killing his brother before Alfred Hitchcock explains Ed Gein was not convicted, or even arrested, for his crime. Which is unfortunate for Ed Gein's later victims, but good news for Alfred Hitchcock and movie audiences.

When they flash to the premiere for North By Northwest, which is looking like a huge success for Alfred Hitchcock. However, while the night is mostly a roaring success, one reporter asks Alfred Hitchcock if, at 60-years old, it is time to retire. This hits him pretty hard. He's also worried he's stuck in a rut, creatively. He can't find a new film to make, as all of the stories people are offering him are too similar to his old works. (This is something a critic pointed out in one of the reviews for North By Northwest.) His wife, Alma, gets a book from a friend, Whitfield Cook, who wants her to edit it, and pass it along to Hitchcock. She does think it could make a great movie. However, Hitchcock has found something he really likes. Psycho, Robert Bloch's book based on Ed Gein's crimes. He loves it, but everyone else has said no. Even with his reputation, the studio refuses to finance the film. He is left with no choice but to finance the film himself. Even then, the studio is reluctant to release it.

The film making process begins by finding a screenwriter, a leading lady and the perfect Norman Bates, dealing with the censors, etc. The movie begins to take its toll on Hitchcock. Not only is he risking his reputation on making what everyone else thinks is a low-budget horror flick, but he's risking his home by putting up the finances. This stress begins to get to him and he starts to hallucinate Ed Gein and have fantasies about committing horrible acts. Will this film destroy his reputation, his marriage, and possibly his mind?

I really like Alfred Hitchcock and really wanted to love this movie. However, something didn't quite work right in the film. The scenes with Hitchcock hallucinating Ed Gein felt too over-the-top. It is like the writer didn't think the story of how Alfred Hitchcock made Psycho wasn't interesting enough, so he had to invent a mental breakdown to make the film more interesting. It doesn't work. It just makes the film feel like a film, instead of something real. I really think the real story would have been engaging enough to carry the film without these added elements.

That said, there are still many great things about this movie that are worth checking out. The acting is very good, especially Helen Mirren. It is not surprising that she was singled out for praise by so many Awards Season voters. Anthony Hopkins does a marvelous job as Alfred Hitchcock. There are also many great supporting actors. I really liked the behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process. I just wish the more fanciful aspects were not included in the movie.

The Extras

There are lots of extras on the DVD / Blu-ray, including an audio commentary track with Sacha Gervasi, the director, and Stephen Rebello, the writer of the original book. There is a 12-minute making of featurette that focuses on the transformation from Anthony Hopkins to Alfred Hitchcock. There is a longer 29-minute making of featurette that goes over the full process. Up next is 13 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, shot on a cell phone. There is a anti-cell phone PSA. There is a short, four-minute featurette on The Story and another four-minute featurette on The Cast. Danny Elfman's score is the focus of a two-minute featurette. Hitch and Alma is a three-minute featurette on the relationship between Hitchcock and Alma. Finally, there's a five-minute featurette on Remembering Hitchcock. That's a lot of extras, even if several of them are quite short.

The technical presentation is really good and I don't have any complaints when it comes to level of details or colors or contrast. On the other hand, it is not a visually intense movie. Likewise, the audio has very clear dialogue and the music does envelop you when needed, but it is for the most part and uncomplicated track.

The film is only being released on a Blu-ray Combo Pack. At $22, it is a little high for a limited release DVD, but low for a limited release Blu-ray.

The Verdict

Hitchcock is a good movie and it is worth checking out. However, it doesn't live up to the high expectations I had. The Blu-ray Combo Pack is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many, but it is not a truly Award-worthy film like many thought it would be.

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Filed under: Video Review, Hitchcock, James D'Arcy, Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins, Danny Huston, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Macchio, Helen Mirren, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Wincott, Danny Elfman, Sacha Gervasi, Stephen Rebello