Blu-ray Review: Hitchcock

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Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Release Date: 12/March/2013

Region: A

Length: 01:38:20

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC, 32 Mbps)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 French Dolby Digital

5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 2.40:1

Notes: Includes a DVD, UltraViolet, and iTunes Digital copy. This title is also available on DVD as a separate release.

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“It was really based on Stephen Rebello’s book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which is one of the most authoritative, if not the most authoritative, stories of the making of any film. Clearly there are elements of the film that are stylized, but there are also large parts—particularly Hitch’s fights with the motion-picture production code—which happened and have been documented in detail. It’s a true story with elements that have been dramatized for the film, but I think audiences are intelligent. They understand that. We’re not making a documentary. We made a film in the spirit of Hitchcock.” –Sacha Gervasi

The major criticism of Hitchcock seems to be that it is not true to the actual events surrounding the shooting of Psycho. It is evident from the film’s first scene that this particular film has other goals. It is meant to be a fun tribute to the director and not a serious look at the man and his working methods.

Stephen Rebello’s excellent book (Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho) offers Hitchcock fans an amazing amount of detailed information on the production of Psycho. In many ways, it makes sense for audiences to expect the same detailed content in a movie that claims to be based on this book. It should be said that it is obvious to intelligent individuals that certain human elements had to be added in order to make an enjoyable film from the book. The real issue should be whether or not the elements added were effective.

One of the major issues that critics seemed to have with the film involves the conflict between the director and his long-time wife and collaborator, Alma. Focusing on this relationship actually works on a number of levels. This was a logical point of departure for the script. It is interesting to see the subtle hints that she is feeling unappreciated.

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The subplot concerning Whitfield Cook is somewhat questionable from a dramatic standpoint, but its inclusion does seem to have been based on certain possible real-life events. While Alfred Hitchcock was overseas shooting Under Capricorn, Alma left early for America to work on a script with Whitfield Cook (it seems likely that this script was for Stage Fright).

“Mrs. Hitchcock and Whitfield Cook had begun to meet for lunch and dinner at restaurants which, if not quite obscure or out of the way, nonetheless fell outside the regular beat of Hollywood columnists. For the next three weeks, she and her co-writer enjoyed quiet get-togethers at the Ready Room and LaRue’s, discussing the script they were developing…

…After Alma came home from England, she appears to have seized the opportunity of her family’s absence to open her heart to cook. On the evidence of his journal, she said some thing to him on September 20 [1948] that took him by astonished surprise. If she told him of her feelings, he would have been astonished indeed, for according to his journal he spent as much time with men as with women.

Over the next week, meeting purportedly to discuss the script they were collaborating on, Mrs. Hitchcock continued talking. Although there may be other explanations, a fair reading of cook’s journal suggests that she was pressing her case for a different relationship. Cook sincerely liked Alma; he liked her enormously. But he must have been torn. He counted himself a friend to Hitchcock, and wouldn’t want to jeopardize that friendship, nor the work relationship they shared…

…It appears that, on October, 1, after a cozy dinner at a restaurant, they began making love, probably at Bellagio Road. According to Cook’s journal, their sexual foray was ‘complicated by an overseas call.’ A Hitchcockian scene: it must have been the husband himself, phoning at the most vulnerable, dangerous, inopportune time. Probably nothing was confessed; and it was perfectly normal for Cook to be keeping Alma company.

Whatever happened, though, must have reinforced Cook’s better instincts. Over the next week, the two saw each other constantly. They went to restaurants, and to dinner at Constance Collier’s. They drove to Santa Barbra for steaks at Talk of the Town. It appears from Cook’s journals that Alma wept during one of their meetings, perhaps bereft over her friend trying to distance himself. Whether she ever broached the idea of lovemaking again is unclear. But the two intensified their pace on the script, and Mrs. Hitchcock and Cook were inseparable for months to come.” –Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock – A Life in Darkness and Light)

Of course, this occurred a decade before Hitchcock began work on Psycho, and Whitfield Cook’s novel (Taxi to Dubrovnik) was not published until the 1980s.

Changing the timing of real-life events isn’t uncommon when one is adapting a book or real-life events into a screenplay. Sometimes it is necessary in order to simplify a narrative. However, one wonders if Alma’s feelings would have been just as easily (and more subtly) dramatized without this subplot. In any case, it is certainly admirable that the film gives Alma Reville her due.

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Another often criticized element of the film is the scenes between the director and Ed Gein. In the film, Hitchcock has frequent imaginary conversations with Gein that suggest that the director is becoming unbalanced. The truth is that there is not any evidence to suggest that the director was unbalanced during the shooting of Psycho. This element of the story is obviously a device made up by the filmmakers in order to intensify the drama. The problem here is that this device takes the viewer out of the movie, which goes against its purpose.

The final criticism of the film is rather unfair to the filmmakers in many ways. The complaint is that the film simply doesn’t recreate the many ‘behind the scenes’ moments that Rebello’s book describes so very well. The crew was denied the right to use certain iconic sets from the film and was not able recreate footage from Psycho. A more reasonable complaint might be that the filmmakers altered certain events (such as the shooting of the shower scene) in order to imply that the director had become unhinged. The nude model (that might have created a few memorable moments in the film) and other interesting moments from the shooting of the scene are nowhere to be found in the film. These are traded for an uneven (but creatively edited) scene in which Hitchcock becomes unhinged.

It is unfortunate that critics come to these kinds of films with predetermined expectations. A film should be judged on its own terms and not on what a particular viewer might prefer the film to be. Judged as a work of fiction, the film is incredibly entertaining and an engaging wink to Hitchcock fans.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 MacGuffins

The Blu-ray and DVD discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case with reasonably attractive artwork and case is housed in a slipcover with the same cover artwork.

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The animated menus employ footage from the film supported by Danny Elfman’s score.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 MacGuffins

The AVC MPEG-4 transfer is as beautiful as one might expect from a modern film. The ‘film’ was shot in 5k on Red Epic digital cameras and the picture is relatively immaculate. The film seems to be free of nasty compression artifacts, edge enhancement, and DNR. There is some occasional source noise that never becomes distracting and is hardly noticeable. Obviously print damage and dirt isn’t a possible issue on such source elements. Colors are nicely rendered and detail is incredibly crisp as well. The transfer seems to represent its source elements quite admirably.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 MacGuffins

The disc’s lossless 5.1 DTS-MA mix serves the film admirably and is a strong (if subtle) track with clear and well prioritized dialogue, with Danny Elfman’s score presented in a wonderfully dynamic presentation. Sound effects are effectively rendered as well. Rear channels also have nice presence and effectively enhance the listening experience. This is a solid track that should please audiences.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 MacGuffins

Audio Commentary with Sacha Gervais and Stephen Rebello

This commentary track will be an interesting and engaging experience for anyone who enjoyed the film. Some might hope for a more detailed discussion about the specific choices made in the adaptation of the film, but most will be satisfied with the general discussion that this track offers listeners.

Deleted Scene – (HD) – (1:42)

This deleted scene includes an introduction by the director explaining why it was written and why it wasn’t used. The scene itself wouldn’t have really added anything to the final film, but it is always interesting to scenes that were cut from a film.

Obsessed with Hitchcock – (HD) – (29:09)

This ‘making of’ documentary is the most comprehensive feature on the disc. It briefly covers most aspects of production and will delight fans of the film. 

Becoming the Master: Hopkins to Hitchcock – (HD) – (12:28)

This feature should have been a part of the ‘making of’ feature included on the disc, but stands alone as an interesting and informative featurette.

Sacha Gervasi’s Behind-the-Scenes Cell Phone Footage – (HD) – (13:31)

It is always nice to see behind the scenes footage, but ones enjoyment is slightly marred by the fact that the footage was shot vertically.

The Story – (HD) – (3:41)

The Cast – (HD) – (4:25)

Hitch and Alma – (HD) – (3:15)

These 3 featurettes come very close to EPK promo territory. Fans of the film will welcome them, but they do not offer much in the way of substantial information.

Danny Elfman Maestro – (HD) – (2:16)

This is essentially several clips of the recording sessions of Danny Elfman’s score.

Remembering Hitchcock – (HD) – (4:44)

Several former Hitchcock associates discuss the film and the man that they knew. Among the more interesting of those interviewed are Jerry Mathers, Veronica Cartwright, and Hilton Green. This was an interesting featurette, but didn’t offer much in the way of actual information.

Hitchcock Cell Phone PSA – (HD) – (0:41)

This is a theatrical spot that theaters played before a film in order to remind them to turn their cell phones off and not to text during the movie. It had the added benefit of promoting the upcoming release of Hitchcock. It is rather an amusing addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD)

The original trailer for the film is also included here.

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Final Words:

Hitchcock might not be a factual account of the creation of Psycho, but it does manage to be a charming entertainment for anyone willing to enjoy it on its own terms. After all, “it’s only a movie.”

Review by: Devon Powell

 

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Blu-ray Review: Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train DVD front cover

Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: 09/Oct/2012

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:40:49

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC, 29.91 Mpbs)

Main Audio: 1.0 English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 768 Kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio:

French Dolby Digital Mono

German Dolby Digital Mono

Italian Dolby Digital Mono

Spanish Dolby Digital Mono

Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono

Japanese Dolby Digital Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German SDH, Italian SDH

Ratio: 1.36:1

Bitrate: 31 Mbps

Notes: This title has also had a few DVD releases. The most notable of these is a 2004 2-Disc Special Edition (which contains the same special features that are included on this Blu-ray release).

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“For your information, Strangers on a Train was not an assignment, but a novel that I selected myself. I felt this was the right kind of material for me to work with.” –Alfred Hitchcock

Strangers on a Train is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s undisputed classics. The film was based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, who would go on to write The Talented Mr. Ripley. The novel is quite different from the novel, but one can see why it appealed to Hitchcock. The wrong man scenario had already been a favorite of the director, but the line between guilt and innocence had always been clearly drawn. In Strangers on a Train, Guy Haines actually had murderous thoughts about his wife. He benefited from her death and this makes the familiar themes even stronger than in the director’s previous work.

Alfred Hitchcock originally had hired Raymond Chandler to work on the script, but the working relationship was unsatisfying for both men. Chandler had a disagreeable temperament and had infamously clashed with Billy Wilder when they worked together on Double Indemnity. His personality clashed with Hitchcock’s working method of being actively involved in the writing process. He became so aggravated with the director that he was not above making cruel passive-aggressive comments. One day Chandler remarked loudly (and within earshot of the director), “Look at the fat bastard trying to get out of his car!” Needless to say, the director looked elsewhere for a writer to help him adapt Patricia Highsmith’s novel into a screenplay.

We’d sit together and I would say, ‘Why not do it this way?’ and he’d answer, ‘Well, if you can puzzle it out, what do you need me for?’ …The work he did was no good and I ended up with Czenzi Ormonde, a woman writer who was one of Ben Hecht’s assistants. When I completed the treatment, the head of Warner’s tried to find someone to do the dialogue, and very few writers would touch it. None of them thought it was any good.” –Alfred Hitchcock

To say that Chandler’s ego was bruised may well be the understatement of the century. He was livid and let Hitchcock know this in a letter dated December 6th, 1950.

“Dear Hitch,

In spite of your wide and generous disregard of my communications on the subject of the script of Strangers on a Train and your failure to make any comment on it, and in spite of not having heard a word from you since I began the writing of the actual screenplay—for all of which I might say I bear no malice, since this sort of procedure seems to be part of the standard Hollywood depravity—in spite of this and in spite of this extremely cumbersome sentence, I feel that I should, just for the record, pass you a few comments on what is termed the final script. I could understand your finding fault with my script in this or that way, thinking that such and such a scene was too long or such and such a mechanism was too awkward. I could understand you changing your mind about the things you specifically wanted, because some of such changes might have been imposed on you from without. What I cannot understand is your permitting a script which after all had some life and vitality to be reduced to such a flabby mass of clichés, a group of faceless characters, and the kind of dialogue every screen writer is taught not to write—the kind that says everything twice and leaves nothing to be implied by the actor or the camera. Of course you must have had your reasons but, to use a phrase once coined by Max Beerbohm, it would take a ‘far less brilliant mind than mine’ to guess what they were.

Regardless of whether or not my name appears on the screen among the credits, I’m not afraid that anybody will think I wrote this stuff. They’ll know damn well I didn’t. I shouldn’t have minded in the least if you had produced a better script—believe me. I shouldn’t. But if you wanted something written in skim milk, why on earth did you bother to come to me in the first place? What a waste of money! What a waste of time! It’s no answer to say that I was well paid. Nobody can be adequately paid for wasting his time. [Signed: ‘Raymond Chandler’]-Raymond Chandler (The Raymond Chandler Papers)

With all of the trouble that Hitchcock had during the scripting stage, it is even more amazing that the end result has become one of the director’s most recognized and well loved classics. Perhaps this is because the film featured one of the most memorable villains in Hitchcock’s canon. Robert Walker’s portrayal of Bruno is one of the highlights of the film. He exudes a slimy charm that does little to camouflage the character’s many kinks, but goes a long way in creating sympathy for the psychopath. The public adored the film, and critics seemed to disagree with Chandler’s opinion of the script. One such example is the warm review that was published in Variety.

“Given a good basis for a thriller in the Patricia Highsmith novel [script adaption by Whitfield Cook] and a first-rate script, Hitchcock embroiders the plot into a gripping, palm-sweating piece of suspense.” -Variety (December 31, 1950)

There were a few critics that were less than impressed with the film. Bosley Crowthers wrote a decidedly hostile review of the film.

“…Hitchcock again is tossing a crazy murder story in the air and trying to con us into thinking that it will stand up without support. And again his instigator of evil is a weirdly unbalanced young man who almost succeeds in enmeshing a young tennis star in a murder plot…

…Perhaps there will be those in the audience who will likewise be terrified by the villain’s darkly menacing warnings and by Mr. Hitchcock’s sleekly melodramatic tricks. Certainly, Mr. Hitchcock is the fellow who can pour on the pictorial stuff and toss what are known as “touches” until they’re flying all over the screen. From the slow, stalking murder of a loose girl in a tawdry amusement park to a “chase” and eventual calamity aboard a runaway merry-go-round, the nimble director keeps piling “touch” and stunt upon “touch.” Indeed, his desire to produce them appears his main impulse in this film.

But, for all that, his basic premise of fear fired by menace is so thin and so utterly unconvincing that the story just does not stand. And the actors, as much as they labor, do not convey any belief — at least, not to this observer, who will give Hitchcock character plenty of rope…

…Also, it might be mentioned that there are a few inaccuracies in this film that may cause some knowing observers considerable skeptical pause — such as the evidence that you get to the Washington Union Station by going into Virginia over the Memorial Bridge. Also a purist might question how a tennis star could race around Washington half the night and then win three grueling sets of tennis in a Forest Hills tourney the next day.

Frankly, we feel that Mr. Hitchcock is “touching” us just a bit too much and without returning sufficient recompense in the sensation line.” -The New York Times (July 4, 1951)

Needless to say, this opinion was not shared by the majority. The film was a massive success. The film is often listed as one of Hitchcock’s best and is essential viewing. Roger Ebert even included the film in his list of “Great Movies.”

“…The movie is usually ranked among Hitchcock’s best (I would put it below only Vertigo, Notorious, Psycho and perhaps Shadow of a Doubt), and its appeal is probably the linking of an ingenious plot with insinuating creepiness. That combination came in the first place from Highsmith, whose novels have been unfairly shelved with crime fiction when she actually writes mainstream fiction about criminals…” -Chicago Sun Times (January 1, 2004)

Those who have yet to see the film are advised to remedy this unfortunate oversight.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 MacGuffins

The disc is housed in the standard blue case with new cover art. I must admit that I prefer the artwork used for the 2-disc Special Edition DVD release of the film. I believe that it used some of the original promotional artwork for the film.

Strangers on a Train DVD back cover

The static menu utilizes the same artwork and is supported by music from Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for the film. 

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 MacGuffins

Warner Brothers provides Hitchcock fans with a near perfect image transfer. The film is notable for being the beginning of Alfred Hitchcock’s successful collaboration with Robert Burks, who would work on all of the master’s subsequent films through Marnie (with the notable exception of Psycho). Burks’ noir-esque cinematography looks especially crisp on this transfer. The contrast is stark and solid with rich blacks and solid whites. Shadow detail is also excellent and free from crush. The picture exhibits wonderful clarity and the added resolution enhances details that were lost in standard definition transfers of the film. The film remains faithful to its celluloid source and features a cinematic layer of grain. There is no noticeable DNR or Edge enhancement marring the image. The only issue that one might notice is the occasional nick or speck of dirt on the print (and they would have to really be looking for them to notice their existence).

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Sound Quality: 

4 of 5 MacGuffins

The lossless 1.0 English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio sounds better than it has ever sounded (and likely as good as it will ever sound in the future). The track exhibits remarkable fidelity, but there is a certain thinness to certain areas of the track (notably with the music). These issues seem inherent in the source and are never distracting. The dialogue and effects were well mixed and the track represents the best possible listening experience available.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 MacGuffins

Preview Version of Strangers on a Train – (SD) – (01:42:57)

The infamous “Preview Version” of Strangers on a Train was once referred to as the “British Version” due to a labeling error. The film was previewed prior to release with this version and then altered for release. This version of the film was given a limited theatrical release in 1996.

This early cut of the film runs about two minutes longer and ends differently than the theatrical cut. The theatrical version has the superior ending, but I prefer the longer opening train sequence on this cut of the film.

This feature is presented in standard definition, but looks a bit better than it did on the 2004 DVD release of the film.

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Audio Commentary

The commentary track includes quite a long list of participants (some more engaging than others). I was surprised that one of the more interesting commentators was Andrew Wilson (Patricia Highsmith’s biographer), who discussed the film’s source novel. There is also a short interview excerpt from Whitfield Cook (who worked with Hitchcock on the film’s treatment). This was one of the more interesting inclusions. Actress Kasey Rogers discusses her memories of shooting the film and her comments are extremely welcome. Perhaps the best commentator was Hitchcock himself (via his interview with Peter Bogdanovich).

Less engaging are comments from people who worked with the director on later films. Joseph Stefano seems a bit out of place here. He discusses Strangers on a Train, but the fact that he is discussing a film that he wasn’t involved with is a bit awkward. The list goes on. This is certainly an engaging listen, but it is a rather uneven track. Warner Brothers should be applauded for their efforts in attempting to provide fans with an informative commentary track. One must remember that the film is 62 years old and most of the cast and crew who worked on the film are now deceased.

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Strangers on a Train: A Hitchcock Classic – (SD) – (00:36:40)

This is the closest that the disc comes to a “making of” documentary on the film. The documentary features Farley Granger, Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell, Robert Walker Jr., and several film scholars and biographers. The piece is consistently interesting, and offers viewers a few ‘behind the scenes’ stories from the set. Andrew Wilson also discusses differences in the novel and Hitchcock’s film and Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is briefly mentioned as well. This is not as comprehensive as one might prefer, but this 2004 supplement is worth seeing.

Strangers on a Train: The Victim’s P.O.V. – (SD) – (00:07:22)

Kasey Rogers (alias Laura Elliott) discusses portraying Miriam in the film. One wonders why Mrs. Rogers wasn’t included in the disc’s “making of” documentary, but this featurette is extremely welcome and possibly one of the better supplements included on the disc.

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Strangers on a Train: An Appreciation by M. Night Shyamalan – (SD) – (00:12:46)

Contemporary director, M. Night Shyamalan discusses his admiration of the film. It is a curious addition to the disc.

The Hitchcocks on Hitch – (SD) – (00:11:20)

This feature includes home movies of Hitchcock and his family supplemented by interviews with his daughters and granddaughters about their memories of Alfred Hitchcock. This featurette focuses on Hitchcock’s family life and this makes it a slightly more sentimental experience. Fans of the director will welcome this featurette.

Newsreel Footage: “Alfred Hitchcock’s Historical Meeting” – (SD) – (00:01:08)

This silent newsreel footage is a curious inclusion. It is difficult to decipher what is happening without the sound.

Theatrical Trailer – (SD) – (00:02:34)

This is perhaps not as amusing as some of the director’s later trailers, but it is always interesting to see how classic films were sold to audiences.

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Final Words:

Warner Brothers has given Strangers on a Train a wonderful Blu-ray release that includes a near perfect high definition image and a respectable collection of supplementary material

Review by: Devon Powell

DVD Review: Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache

DVDwraptemp

Distributor: Milestone Films

Release Date: 18/May/2010

Region:1

Length: 57 min

Video: NTSC, SD

Main Audio: French

Subtitles: English (hard coded)

Ratio: 1.33:1

Notes: These shorts are not currently released on Blu-ray in North America. They are currently only available on DVD and this disc is the only release currently in print.

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“I felt the need to make a little contribution to the war effort, and I was both overweight and overage for military service. I knew that if I did nothing, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. It was important for me to do something and also to get right into the atmosphere of war… but it wasn’t too easy to get to England in those days. I flew over in a bomber, sitting on the floor, and when we got halfway across the Atlantic, the plane had to turn back. I took another one two days later. In London, my friend Sidney Bernstein was the head of the film section of the British Ministry of information. It was at his request that I undertook two small films that were tributes to the work of the French Resistance.” -Alfred Hitchcock

In 1940, Hitchcock’s former boss, Michael Balcon, had criticized his former employee in the press. Without naming names, he made his point clear by describing a “plump young junior technician in my studios whom I promoted from department to department. Today, he is one of our most famous directors and he is in Hollywood, while we who are left behind short-handed are trying to harness the films to our great national effort.”

The criticism hurt Hitchcock, who had left the country before the London bombings in order to work for Selznick. He responded in the press, claiming that “Balcon’s view is colored by his own personal experiences with Hollywood… He’s a permanent Donald Duck… The British government has only to call upon me for my services.”

In 1943, the British government took him up on this offer. Selznick was a bit reluctant to allow his meal ticket to leave for England, but the producer eventually allowed the director to leave under the condition that he would work on the scenario for their next collaboration (which was based on Francis Beeding’s novel, “The House of Doctor Edwardes”).

The British Ministry of Information was responsible for releasing information to the public that would benefit the war effort (and suppressing any information from the British public that might damage moral). This department is responsible for several infamous  moral boosting posters, which were distributed around the country.

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Hitchcock’s shorts were to be the cinematic equivalent of these posters and the director seemed more than pleased to make them.

After his extremely uncomfortable voyage to his home country, Hitchcock was able to begin work on the shorts.

“…the idea was to show them in parts of France where the Germans were losing ground in order to help the French people appreciate the role of the Resistance.” -Alfred Hitchcock

The details of the scenarios were worked out by Hitchcock and his long-time associate, Angus McPhail in Hitchcock’s suite at Claridge’s. Bon Voyage was then scripted by Arthur Calder-Marshall and Aventure Malgache was primarily the work of J.O.C. Orton. Claude Dauphin helped the writers with the french dialogue.

Sidney Bernstein had arranged that the Molière players (a theatrical company built with exiled French actors) perform in the film. He also used actual members of the French underground. None of these actors were individually credited in the film, as it would have been extremely unsafe for them. Hitchcock elaborated on this in one of his interviews of the period:

“I had to round up every available French actor in London, but there were not enough of them. Most of the players were members of the underground and fighting French who had never had any stage or screen experience. It was incredible to find myself working with men who, only a day before, had been in Paris.” -Alfred Hitchcock

Stages for the shorts were built at the Associated British Studios at Welwyn Garden City with very little money. Hitchcock and his cinematographer, Günther Krampf, began shooting the the two shorts in extremely quick succession on January20, 1944.

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“The first short was Bon Voyage. It was a little story about an RAF man who is escorted out of France through the Resistance channels. His escort was a Polish officer. When he arrives in London, the RAF man is interrogated by an officer of the Free French Forces, who informs him that his Polish escort was really a Gestapo man. Upon that startling revelation, we go through the journey across France all over again, but this time we show all sorts of details that the young RAF man hadn’t noticed at first, various indications of the Pole’s complicity with the Gestapo detail. At the end of the story there was a twist showing how the Polish officer had been trapped. At the same time, the RAF man learned that the young French girl who’d helped them, and had spotted the Pole as a spy, had been killed by him.” -Alfred Hitchcock

What modern audiences might fail to notice, is the meticulous war-time detail given to the film. Several French Resistance members were brought in as consultants in order to make sure there were no errors in the production.

“The slightest error, they feared, might hold the picture up to ridicule… I couldn’t show a scene where cigarette butts are lying around. French audiences would simply laugh off such a preposterous sight.You must remember that where people are limited to four cigarettes a day, as they are in France now, there is no such thing as an unclaimed butt. People take a few puffs on a cigarette and stuff the but into a match box, taking it out later for another puff.” -Alfred Hitchcock

There were other such examples given as well.

“I showed a restaurant. Ordinarily, you would never think about the look of the table where a meal has been finished. But in representing a French restaurant of today, you do. There are no crusts of bread left on the table. If I permitted anything like that, it would simply mean to future French audiences that the people who made the picture didn’t know what they were doing.” -Alfred Hitchcock

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Bon Voyage has a structure somewhat like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (and predates the film by several years). This is merely an observation and should not be interpreted as a suggestion that Kurosawa was influenced by the film in any way. As a matter of fact, there is almost no chance that he was even able to see the film. However, the story also brings to mind some of the more interesting Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes and one wonders if the short provided a blueprint for the series. 

The only certainty is that working on the short directly influenced Aventure Malgache.

“We used to work on the screenplay in my room at Claridge’s, and there was a whole group of French officers, including a certain Commander or Colonel Forestier, who never agreed with anything the others suggested. We realized that the Free French were very divided against one another, and these inner conflicts became the subject of the next film, Aventure Malgache. One of the men there was an actor and a lawyer whose Resistance name was Clarousse. He was in his late sixties, but he had lots of energy and he was always at odds with his Free French companions who finally threw him in jail, in Tananarive. It was a true story and Clarousse told it himself. But when it finished, there was some disagreement about it and I believe they decided not to release it.” -Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock’s recollection was quite accurate. The powers that be decided not to release the film. It was decided that a film showing the ineffectiveness of political squabbling didn’t make for effective propaganda during wartime. They simply weren’t interested in honesty or important sociopolitical messages. Hitchcock’s film illuminated issues that the MOI usually tried to suppress.

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The film was locked away and was actually censored by those who financed the film, calling it “inflammatory.” Bon Voyage received an extremely limited release. It was distributed in France and Belgium for a very short time. The films were eventually locked away, and they remained unseen until 1993. Today, they are seen as an important part of Alfred Hitchcock’s canon.

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The Presentation:

The disc is contained in the standard DVD case with reasonably attractive cover art. On the back there is a brief history and a summary of both shorts.

The disc includes only chapter menus.

Picture Quality:

The film is only available on DVD in North America. The image is serviceable and probably a slight improvement on Image Entertainment’s disc, which is now out of print. It is slightly disappointing that the subtitles are hard coded, but this is forgivable under the circumstances. The quality is slightly better than what one might expect from some of the public domain houses, but might not live up to some of the more impressive DVD releases that modern audiences are accustomed to.

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Sound Quality:

The disc features an adequate mono soundtrack. There is some very slight hiss, but the track is consistently clear and dialogue is always intelligible.

Special Features:

There are no special features available on this disc.

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Final Words:

In short, Milestone Films deserves praise for making otherwise unattainable films available to the public. I recommend this disc to Hitchcock fans, but hope that these films eventually receive a quality Blu-ray release.

http://www.milestonefilms.com

Review by: Devon Powell