The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection 4K review

Sep 19, 2020- Permalink

Fans of the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, have eagerly been waiting for Universal Home Entertainment’s 4K The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection. I was given the opportunity to get a look at this amazing set of four films: Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds, and Psycho.

Let’s take a look at the individual movies in this collection, starting with Rear Window. The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is in the theatrical release’s original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This James Stewart/Grace Kelly vehicle has never looked better for home consumption. The clarity and detail is impressive, from items in the apartment, their hair and skin textures, and their wardrobes. The HDR10 colour grading makes for a pleasing palette, ranging from rich browns to the pleasing pop of Kelly’s clothes and makeup. The black levels are deep, with no loss of detail in shadows and no sign of crushing. The restoration done to the print before the transfer makes for an impeccable video presentation.

On the audio side, Rear Window comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH as well as French and Spanish. Some may have longed for a 5.1 surround update to the track, but the way I see it, most of the action takes place through Stewart’s camera lens – mono seems appropriate. Mono doesn’t mean it lacks detail though. The sounds are crisp and clear, from dialogue and music to the sounds of the city and the neighbours across the way.

As for extras, there’s a Blu-ray copy as well as a digital code. Additional features are on the 4K disc and include Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic, A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes, Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master, Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Masters of Cinema, Production Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, Re-Release Trailer with narration by James Stewart, and audio commentary by John Fawell.

Vertigo once again teams Hitchcock with James Stewart, who plays a detective with a fear of heights hired to keep an old friend’s wife (Kim Novak) from committing suicide. That simple premise evolves into a study of obsession, identity, fears, and flaws.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture is beautifully sharp and crystal-clear. There’s detail all around from the skin textures and textiles to the man-made and natural environments. The colour palette, aided by the HDR10 colour grading, is wide and dynamic, from lush greens and sunny sky blues, to a rainbow of dresses and the rich woods of furniture. Black levels are deep, with details in the shadows and no evident crushing. There’s a fine grain from the source material, but no digital artifacts or signs of compression. It’s as lovely as Kim Novak.

On the audio side, your speakers can play with English DTS:X and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks as well as English, French and Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH as well as French and Spanish. The height speakers of the DTS:X track really come to play in the bell tower scene, while the other surrounds spend the film subtly placing you in the environment. The score is clear and dynamic, the subwoofers give extra authority when needed and dialogue is clear and centred.

As for extras, there’s a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. The 4K disc includes all of the Blu-ray’s extras, except for some archives that are only on the Blu-ray. The supplemental material includes Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece, Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborations, a foreign censorship alternate ending, Hitchcock/Truffaut, a theatrical trailer, a trailer from the restoration release, 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era, and audio commentary by William Friedkin.

Up next is Psycho, the film that perfectly cast, and typecast, Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. The grandparent of the slasher film genre, it starts off following Janet Leigh as a woman who has made off with a large sum of money to start a new life with her lover. Checking into the Bates Motel, she meets both the meek yet troubled proprietor, Norman, and her demise, in a scene that made people scared to hop in the shower for years. What follows is a story that peels away the complex psychological layers of Norman, the ultimate mama’s boy.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp and the black and white presentation looks amazing. Furnishings, the motel and skin textures have a great amount of fine detail. The HDR grading, which we often think of as boosting colour, works its magic with the grayscale, from brilliant whites down to inky blacks. Detail is not lost in shadows or darker scenes. There’s the odd bit of noise from the source film, but other than that this is a very impressive video presentation.

On the audio side, there’s are English DTS:X, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and DTS 2.0 Mono tracks as well as DTS 2.0 Mono tracks in French and Spanish. Subtitles are available for English SDH as well as French and Spanish. It’s a front-heavy mix, based on its mono roots, but the surround and height channels have been used subtly to bring some sense of ambient sound into the suspenseful proceedings. The score soars here with nice dynamics and clarity. Dialogue is clear and centred.

Psycho comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. There are two cuts of the film available, the original unedited cut and a cut that most people are familiar with that appeared on TV and some previous home entertainment releases. The special features include The Making of Psycho, Psycho Sound, In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho, The Shower Scene: With and Without Music, The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass, The Psycho Archives, a collection of ads and poster, lobby cards, behind-the-scenes and production photographs, original Psycho trailers, the re-release trailers, and audio commentary by Stephen Rebello.

Last but not least is The Birds. Socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) heads to a quiet California coastal town to present a lawyer she met, Mitch (Rod Taylor), with a pair of lovebirds. If it wasn’t enough to contend with both his possessive mother (Jessica Tandy) and jealous ex (Suzanne Pleshette), Melanie also has to deal with the areas birds flocking together and horrifically attacking people. Hitchcock makes the attacks brutal and horrifying and the feeling of being trapped only adds to the sheer madness of it all.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 digital transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is mostly crystal-clear, with just a fine film grain from the source material. The scenery, characters’ faces, environmental elements, and textiles all have good detail but the video presentation does have moments where parts of the image looks flat and smoothed and some of the optical effects stand out more due to the clarity of the rest of the image. The HDR punches up the colour palette, from bright whites and black levels with excellent shadow details to good skin tones and clothing. It may not get bonus marks for some of the moments of softness, but it’s still the best home media version of The Birds yet.

On the audio side, your ears get the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track as well as French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. The original mono track is clear and the sound effects only add to the horror with the score adding to build he suspense. Dialogue is crystal-clear as well.

The Birds comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. Special features on the 4K disk include The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie, All About The Birds, Tippi Hedren’s screen test, a deleted scene, the film’s original ending, Hitchcock/Truffaut interview, two newsreels called The Birds Is Coming and Suspense Story: National Press Club Hears Hitchcock, the theatrical trailer, 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics, and 100 Years of Universal: The Lot. Two additional extras – storyboards and production photographs – only appear on the Blu-ray disc.

Unfortunately, the discs are tightly stored in sleeves which may necessitate adding fingerprints to the back of the discs in order to get them out. I would have liked to see a collection of this stature storing their discs in individual spindles.

Fans of Hitchcock obviously want all of the director’s catalog released on 4K yesterday. But Universal’s The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection, with its excellent video and audio presentations, is a very good start and a worth addition to your home entertainment library.