Four iconic films by the undisputed Master of Suspense make their 4K UHD debut in The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection, which presents Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds in the eye-popping splendor of HDR10. Astounding clarity and gorgeous color make this quartet of Hitchcock masterworks look brand new, and the upgraded DTS:X audio tracks for Psycho and Vertigo enhance each movie's disquieting mood. An "uncut" version of Psycho that features less than a minute of "new" footage is also included in the set, as well as digital copies and standard Blu-ray discs of each film. "Hitchcock Heaven" might be a better title for The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection, which is without question the classic movie release of the year. It just might be the year's best 4K UHD release, too. Must Own.
"Alfred Hitchcock almost always delivers the goods, but with Rear Window, he showers us with riches. Artistry, intrigue, and - of course - suspense abound in this unforgettable, visually stunning tale of voyeurism, romance, and murder. James Stewart gives one of his best performances as a laid-up photographer who wiles away the hours peering out of his tenement flat's rear window and examining the behavior of his eccentric neighbors, one of whom just might have killed his wife. Grace Kelly provides the glamor and Thelma Ritter supplies the sass in an endlessly fascinating film that stands as one of Hitchcock's best." 5/5
"Obsession. Transformation. The burning desire to mold another human being into an unattainable ideal and vision of perfection. That's what Vertigo is about. It's also about a vulnerable man's desperate need to alleviate the guilt he feels over the death of a colleague by saving the life of a mysterious, disturbed, suicidal, and oh-so-beautiful woman. And finally, it's about an iconic director and his own obsession with creating, refining, and glorifying a cinematic type that remains an enduring symbol of his work. That director, of course, is Alfred Hitchcock, and though Vertigo was not a critical or popular success at the time of its release in 1958, this fascinating, artistic, often gripping film is now considered by many to be the Master of Suspense's masterpiece. Vertigo is one heady movie, and as Hitchcock spins his tangled yarn, he makes us dizzy...with delight." 5/5
"Potent is exactly what Psycho remains 60 years after it scared America away from the shower. Whether it occupies the top slot on your list of Hitchcock favorites is irrelevant. Psycho is unique among Hitchcock films in its tone, execution, and look, and will continue to fascinate – and scare – audiences far into the future. "We all go a little mad sometimes," Norman says to Marion. "Haven't you?" "Yes," she responds. "And sometimes, just one time can be enough." One time, however, will never be enough to drink in the story and style of Psycho. It's a movie to watch, enjoy, study, and scrutinize over and over again." 5/5
"Unique in the Hitchcock canon, The Birds satisfies on multiple levels. The Master of Suspense takes a gimmicky idea and lends it gravitas, all while scaring us silly. Of course, in 2020, all of us scare a lot easier than we used to, but even without the added stress and strain we all feel, this Hitchcock foray into fright delivers the goods. So if you're looking for a classic man-vs.-beast creature feature to take your mind off the pandemic, social unrest, the election, and everything else this horrific year has thrown at us, The Birds just might be your ticket. It won't cheer you up, but like almost all of Hitchcock's movies it will provide a much-needed jolt of exhilaration." 5/5
The Ultra-HD Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection arrives on Ultra-HD Blu-ray in packaging that's almost identical to the 2012 Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection. The four 4K UHD discs and four Blu-ray discs are housed in a handsome digibook that's nestled in a slipcase with raised lettering. The discs lie in slots in the "pages" devoted to each film, which are decorated with reproductions of each film's poster art, a notable quote from one of the characters, and a listing of the included bonus features. It's an attractive layout, but the discs fit a little too snugly in their slots, making their retrieval somewhat difficult. (It's virtually impossible to pry the discs out of their respective envelopes without leaving a fingerprint or two on them. When I watched Vertigo, I didn't wipe off the slight print on the edge of the disc before inserting it, and sure enough, about two-thirds of the way through the film, I encountered some disturbing video interference. When I used a dry, soft cloth to clean the disc, the interference vanished.)
A leaflet containing the code to access the digital copies of all four movies is tucked inside the book's back cover. Sadly, no accompanying booklet is included with this collection. Video codec for all four 4K UHD films is 2160p/HEVC H.265 (HDR10). Video codec for all four Blu-ray films is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4. Default audio for Vertigo and Psycho is DTS:X. Default audio for Rear Window and The Birds is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono. Once the discs are inserted into the player, the full-motion menus with music immediately pop up; no previews or promos precede them.
"Rear Window is a beautifully shot film and this exceptional 2160p/HEVC H.265 HDR10 transfer faithfully honors Robert Burks' Oscar-nominated cinematography while enhancing clarity and color...Gorgeously vivid colors constantly grab attention. Lisa's red lipstick and blonde hair, the red lobster shell, the emerald green dress worn by Miss Lonelyhearts, the varied hues of the roses in Thorwald's garden, and the pastel print of Lisa's casual frock pop with intensity yet never appear artificial. Close-ups are breathtaking, too. Beads of sweat, pores, and facial creases are crystal clear, but nothing beats our first glimpse of Kelly as she leans toward us in a subjective tight shot that fills the screen (take a gander at the image above). That single shot has always knocked our collective socks off, but never more so than here, and the extreme close-up kiss between Kelly and Stewart that follows has never seemed more erotic. Talk about feeling like a peeping tom!" 4.5/5
"Drop dead gorgeous. Those three words certainly call to mind Kim Novak, but more importantly they also describe the staggeringly beautiful 2160p/HEVC H.265 Vertigo transfer. Presented in HDR10 and featuring an eye-popping color palette and razor-sharp clarity, Hitchcock's masterwork fairly jumps off the screen. Never has Vertigo, which was shot in the high-fidelity VistaVision format that enhanced several 1950s films, looked so vivid, dimensional, and lush, and yet still so gloriously film-lIke. Why cinematographer Robert Burks didn't receive an Oscar nomination for his alternately sublime and arresting photography remains a baffling mystery, but this exceptional rendering faithfully honors every picture-perfect frame. From the dizzying designs of Saul Bass' title sequence and Hitchcock's disorienting 'trombone" shots to the psychedelic dream sequence, striking tinting, and panoramic vistas of San Francisco, this transfer continually dazzles the senses and keeps us transfixed for two-plus hours." 5/5
"Universal has done a terrific job upgrading this classic thriller to 4K UHD. The 2160p/HEVC H.265 HDR10 presentation isn't perfect, largely because Psycho - from a visual standpoint - has always been far from perfect. Shot on a shoestring budget and purposely made to look a bit dingy and dirty, the film lacks the black-and-white gloss of more elegant productions...and that's a huge part of its effectiveness and appeal. This transfer faithfully honors Hitchcock's vision and John L. Russell's cinematography, maintaining the grain structure while heightening the clarity to often stunning levels. Occasional softness is present and fluctuating grain intensity lends a couple of scenes a slightly snowy look, but such deficiencies rarely detract from the overall brilliance of this presentation." 4.5/5
"Minimal grain preserves the film-like feel without detracting from the picture's silky smooth appearance. The Birds, like many Hitchcock films, flaunts a somewhat soft look overall, but this transfer never compromises clarity. Beautifully saturated hues punctuate the image, with bold primaries and delicate pastels vying for attention. Hedren's vibrant red lipstick and nail polish grab attention, while the verdant green landscapes provide a sense of calm amid the horror. Veronica Cartwright's blue eyes sparkle, Hedren's blonde hair shines, and her silver Aston Martin looks especially sleek. Fading was a nagging issue The Birds was forced to grapple with over the years, and while a few shots still exude an anemic pallor, on the whole the movie brims with lushness and vibrancy." 4.5/5
"All the faint nuances from the individual flats - bits of conversation, laughter, piano playing - are just distinct enough, while atmospherics like rain, street noise, and the general murmur of the city come through cleanly. Sonic accents like flashbulb pops, shattering glass, the ringing of an alarm clock, and police sirens are crisp, and a wide dynamic scale handles all the highs and lows of Franz Waxman's jazz-infused music score without a hint of distortion. All the marvelous dialogue is clear and easy to comprehend, and no age-related hiss, pops, or crackle mar the essential, highly effective silences." 4.5/5
"Sonic accents like screams and subtleties like footsteps are crisp and distinct, all the dialogue is well prioritized and easy to comprehend, and no age-related hiss, pops, or crackle break the hypnotic spell. Though a greater degree of surround activity would give Vertigo a few more bells and whistles, the film is practically perfect just the way it is, and this superior rendering of the audio shows us why Hitchcock's masterwork received an Oscar nod for Best Sound." 5/5
"At first, the new DTS:X track doesn't seem to offer Psycho anything new aurally. Bernard Herrmann's iconic, screechy, all-string score sounds rich and robust, but it doesn't assault the ear drums like I expected...and that's probably a good thing. Throughout the initial scenes in the hotel room, office, and Marion's home, the audio is intentionally muted to heighten the growing sense of unease. Then it starts to rain, and that's when this track kicks into high gear. The desert downpour cascades over us, with the sound of falling water emanating from every speaker. At one point, I honestly thought my ceiling was leaking. It's a great effect and the enhanced audio executes it flawlessly...Without question, Psycho has never sounded better, and this high-resolution track immerses us in all the creepiness like never before." 5/5
NOTE: Universal has announced an issue with the mono track (the studio erroneously included a downmixed version of the DTS:X track instead of the original mono track) and plans to issue replacement discs to rectify the problem. (There are no issues with the DTS:X track.) Both the 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs will be replaced. To get your replacement discs, please contact Universal at https://www.uphe.com/en/contact-support or directly email the studio at [email protected].
"After enjoying the DTS:X track on the Psycho disc, I began to imagine just how great The Birds would sound in the same multi-channel, high-resolution format. Unfortunately, the track we get here is the same DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track that graces the 2012 Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray disc. Though the existing mono track is probably one of the most nuanced, dimensional, bold, and immersive mono tracks I have ever heard, not upgrading The Birds to DTS:X to completely maximize all the clicking, clucking, flapping, squawking, pecking, swooping, fluttering, squealing, and chirping of all the various ornithological creatures is a missed opportunity. I don't usually condone manufacturing surround sound if there are no original elements to support it, but The Birds is that rare film that truly cries out for multi-channel audio." 4.5/5
All the extras from the previous Blu-ray editions of each film have been ported over to each respective 4K UHD disc. There are hours upon hours of supplements, ranging from audio commentaries and in-depth documentaries and featurettes to audio excerpts from the legendary Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews, deleted scenes, alternate endings, a Tippi Hedren screen test, vintage newsreel footage, still galleries, and trailers.
Four legendary films make their 4K UHD debut in The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection, an essential set that demands a prominent spot on every film lover's shelf. Breathtaking HDR10 transfers bring Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds to brilliant life and enhance the iconic artistry and impeccable craftsmanship that define the Master of Suspense. Though the lack of an upgraded DTS:X track for Rear Window and especially The Birds is disappointing, the eye-popping visuals salve the wound. Psycho gets a notable audio boost from its DTS:X track, and the inclusion of an "uncut" version (that only adds a few seconds of "new" footage) supplies some extra titillation, but it's Vertigo that's the crown jewel in this collection. A jaw-droppingly gorgeous transfer and terrific sound combine to create an unforgettable home video experience for Hitchcock's haunting masterwork. That disc alone is worth the price of this handsome box set, which for many cinephiles will be the 4K UHD release of the year. Must Own.