Blu-ray Review: Rich and Strange

R&S - Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Kino Lorber

Release Date: January 04, 2022

Region: Region A

Length: 01:23:29

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 1993 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.33:1

Bitrate: 39.27

Notes: This is the film’s North American Blu-ray debut.

Rich and Strange - Title

“It wasn’t a thriller. It was just an adventure story. A young couple take a trip around the world. I actually sent a crew around the world to cover everything.” —Alfred Hitchcock (The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)

Rich and Strange stands apart, not only from the thrillers that he would become known for making, but also from the assignments that he would make during his stint at British International Pictures. It was one of the few films that he actually wanted to make during this particular period in his career, and a great many scholars feel that it was a personal one for the director. Donald Spoto, John Russell Taylor, Maurice Yacowar, and (most recently) Edward White have all suggested that the film might be seen as somewhat autobiographical.

“Perhaps the closest we have to a depiction of Alfred and Alma are Emily and Fred Hill, the lead characters in Rich and Strange. Adapted from a novel of the same name by Dale Collins, the film both mocks and celebrates young adults of the Hitchcocks’ generation who are encouraged by movies, magazines, and advertising to believe that happiness is only a spending spree away… As a pair of thoroughly modern young fogies, Fred and Emily read like a riff on Alfred and Alma, despite the fact that the film is largely faithful to its source novel.” —Edward White (The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock, April 13, 2021)

Frankly, it seems as if this widely accepted theory is somewhat half-formed and is the result of insufficient scholarship. Those who wrote the earliest books about Hitchcock’s work didn’t know (or didn’t seem to know) that it was based on a novel by Dale Collins. Take for example, Éric Rohmer & Claude Chabrol’s 1957 study of the director’s work:

“Hitchcock conceived this parable, which goes to the limit of the absurd, with a serene candor, and he introduces no trickery…” —Éric Rohmer & Claude Chabrol (Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films, 1957 / 1979)

Later — in 1976 — Donald Spoto wrote that the film was “vaguely based on an idea suggested to them by Dale Collins.” John Russel Taylor followed suit in his “official” 1978 biography about the director when he claimed that Rich and Strange was “the first of his films since The Ring to be based on a story originally conceived for the screen, by Hitch himself developing a ‘theme’ by Dale Collins.” The fact that Alma Reville is credited with Val Valentine for the screenplay helps to sell the notion that Rich and Strange was a particularly personal film for the director, and this may very well be the case. However, the word “personal” isn’t necessarily synonymous with the word “autobiographical.” This suggestion seems to have been suggested by Donald Spoto (taking the reins from Rohmer and Chabrol) only to be blindly adopted by any scholar that followed in his wake. This isn’t an uncommon issue.

R&S - Dale Collins

The truth is that Dale Collins was a writer of popular fiction who often penned stories about romance on the high seas that featured bourgeoisie protagonists who endured a number of life-altering (and life threatening) adventures and challenges. Two of his novels — “Ordeal” and “Haven” had already been adapted for the screen, and Rich and Strange would follow suit after being published in 1930. The book was reviewed on the sixth page of ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ that same year.

“It is a somewhat ordinary story, with little to raise it to the heights… The descriptions of the tourists at the various ports of call are somewhat trite. The best effort is the account of the wreck and the experiences on the junk.” —Staff Writer (The Sydney Morning Herald, December 12, 1930)

However, it seems that Collins actually knew Hitchcock socially, and Patrick McGilligan seems to agree with Charles Barr that the story may have been developed for the director prior to writing the actual book (although this doesn’t seem to be based on anything other than speculation):

 “[Dale] Collins dabbled in film writing between voyages and books, and while living in London he had become friends with the Hitchcocks (he was an especially good-natured victim of the director’s practical jokes). As an avid voyager himself — imaginary and otherwise — Hitchcock was enthusiastic about Collins’s story, involving young married Londoners who inherit a pile of money and follow their wanderlust to distant ports of call, experiencing dramatic reversals of fortune along the way. Rich and Strange was likely developed first as a lengthy treatment by Collins before he turned it into a 1930 novel, whose publication coincided with the Hitchcocks to put the story in script form.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

Charles Barr even goes as far as to suggest that the names Fred and Emily Hill are similar to Alfred and Alma Hitchcock, but there’s little to suggest that the film is actually autobiographical. The notion seems to have been born out of a single anecdote shared with François Truffaut during their legendary interview (as well as other journalists throughout the director’s career).

“The story was about a young couple who won a lot of money and took a trip around the world. Before shooting it, Mrs. Hitchcock and I set out to do some preliminary research on the story. She was writing the script, you know. In the picture, I planned to show the young couple in Paris, going to the Folies Bergere and going down during the intermission to see the belly dancing. So, we went over to the Folies Bergere. And during the intermission I turned to a young man in a tuxedo and asked him where we could see the belly dancing.

‘This way, follow me, please.’ So, we followed him to the street, and when I appeared surprised, he explained, ‘It’s in the annex.’ And he put us in a cab. I thought there must surely be some mistake. When the cab finally stopped at a door, I said to my wife, ”I’ll bet he’s taking us to a brothel,” and asked whether she wanted to go in. We’d never in our lives been in a place like that, but she said, ‘Yes.’ The girls came down. We offered them cham­pagne. In front of my wife, the madam asked me whether I would like one of the young ladies. Well, I’ve never had anything to do with that sort of woman to this very day! Anyway, we got out of there and went back to the theater. And only then did we realize that we weren’t at the Folies Bergere at all but at the Casino de Paris. So, we had been behaving exactly like the couple in the book-two innocents abroad! … The reason I was interested in the belly dancing is that I wanted to show the heroine looking at a navel that goes round and round and finally dissolves to a spiral-like spinning motion.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

This amusing misadventure probably informed one of the episodes in the eventual film, but this is hardly enough to qualify Rich and Strange as anything more than a story that captured the director’s imagination. One does get the sense that Hitchcock was more enthusiastic about this project than he was about the majority of his B.I.P. assignments. The very fact that this wasn’t merely another assignment sets it apart from many of the other movies he made for the studio, but the production would be handicapped by financial restraints.

Hitchcock’s final year at BIP was affected by the financial problems of the studio and the changes in production policy which kept the company stable during the 1930s. B.I.P. had expanded its production from 14 features in 1928 — its first effective full year of releases — to around 30 features in 1931 and 1932. 1933, however, saw a halving of the releases, and by this time the company was not only making fewer films but was also making them more cheaply. Hence, the restricted budget… which is indicative of the shift in production policy to the ‘quota quickie’ end of the market.” —Tom Ryall (Alfred Hitchcock and the British Cinema, 1996)

This was a huge problem for the director because Rich and Strange was supposed to be an adventure that spanned continents. It would take a respectable budget to do the story justice, and a respectable budget was entirely out of the question.

“In the spring Hitchcock armed a skeleton-crew second unit with instructions and dispatched them, along with a few bit players and stand-ins, to capture local color on a voyage from Marseilles to the Red Sea, and then onward to the Indian Ocean. The second-unit work was largely intended to reassure B.I.P.; come April the director still wasn’t ready to launch principal photography, still wasn’t satisfied with the script, which was being touted as a departure from everything he had done before. Maxwell and Mycroft were convinced that Hitchcock was just procrastinating. The talkie revolution had nearly crippled the studio, and Hitchcock boasted the largest director’s salary on the lot. Even as the trade papers were reporting that the script was ‘almost finished,’ Mycroft was reviewing the latest draft, demanding trims and deletions. Hitchcock made concessions, and even before the cameras rolled Rich and Strange was under attack.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

The 2nd unit location footage would be used as a backdrop and sometimes edited alongside material shot by Hitchcock at the studio where sets were built to match seamlessly with what was shot on in more exotic locales. The bargain basement nature of the production also limited Hitchcock’s casting choices as recognizable stars were too expensive (although this was usually the case while he was working at B.I.P.). The film’s actors would be borrowed from the West End stage.

The protagonists would be portrayed by Henry Kendall and Joan Barry (who had provided Anny Ondra’s “Alice” with a more appropriately English voice in Blackmail). Barry had just earned a respectable amount of praise for her appearance in Harry Lachman’s The Outsider which had been penned by none other than Alma Hitchcock, so the actress was already on the director’s radar. However, Hitchcock had serious doubts about Kendall’s abilities, and the actor was screen tested for the role. Those who have seen Hitchcock’s test footage with Anny Ondra or ‘Tippi’ Hedren will be interested to know that he didn’t treat his male actors any differently during these situations.

“[The actor] recalled that during his test for Rich and Strange Hitchcock ‘talked to me from behind the camera and would in the ordinary way have been asking me about my experience and for details of my career, but this time the conversation took a very Rabelaisian turn, and he kept me in fits of laughter so that I could hardly do more than stand in front of the camera and shake.’” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

The test probably didn’t convince the director, but his choices were limited and time was short. Percy Marmont would portray “Commander Gordon,” and Betty Amann played a “common adventuress” posing as a princess. The most notable bit of casting — at least on a personal level — was undoubtedly Elsie Randolph.

“Elsie Randolph had made her first appearance on the London stage in 1919, in ‘The Girl for the Boy,’ and from that time forward she was one of London’s most popular musical and comedy stars. Best known for her joyous partnership in a number of shows with Jack Buchanan, she was invited to meet Hitchcock while he was preparing the train crash for Number Seventeen. For the first part of their interview, he spoke about the complicated miniatures and model trains they were using for the sequences of the concluding chase and crash. Over tea and cakes, Hitchcock then described the techniques and invited her to watch a few scenes being photographed. ‘Since this [Rich and Strange] will be your first film,’ he said, ‘you’d better watch this.’ And it was, indeed, she remembered, an education in filmmaking.

When she returned to his office another day to discuss the new film, Hitchcock described her role: that of an old maid — the typical I-don’t-know, the bore on the ship’s cruise — slightly pathetic but more often a dreadful nuisance. Randolph relished the description and the comic possibilities, but Hitchcock was not sure her demure and bright charm, and her natural attractiveness, could be sufficiently altered. ‘How do you feel about this part? Do you think you understand this eccentric character?’

Without hesitating, Elsie Randolph snatched up a pair of thick glasses left on Hitchcock’s desk by an assistant, put them on, pulled her hair back behind her ears, and said in a piping falsetto, ‘Oh, well, sir, I’ve just had my lunch of lark’s tongue on toast, and I feel anything is possible!’ Hitchcock at once loved her humor, signed her for the role (unofficially, he called the character simply Elsie), and soon afterward invited the actress and her mother for the first of several weekends at Winter’s Grace.

But their cordial relationship was no insurance Elsie Randolph would not be the butt of one of the director’s practical jokes. Having been told that she not only detested but was sickened by smoky rooms and that she fervently avoided cigarette smokers, Hitchcock (himself a smoker) one day pointed to a fake telephone callbox on the set and asked, ‘Elsie, would you mind stepping into this for a moment to act out a call? We might add an extra scene for you at this point.’

She obliged, and once the door was closed a great cloud of smoke (triggered by the special-effects technicians) suddenly surrounded her. Near collapse, she fled from the set, only to be told later that Hitchcock had put no film in the camera, that no such scene was ever planned, and that the incident was only his little joke. She decided to ignore the incident and returned to the set as if nothing more than luncheon had intervened. Immediately, they moved on, without discussion, to the next scene. ‘He was a darling,’ she said respectfully years later, “but a darling with a sadistic sense of humor.” Hitchcock never forgot Elsie Randolph’s resilience and good nature, and she was invited to appear in another Hitchcock film (Frenzy) forty years later; she agreed — and there was no exploitation of her patience the second time around.” —Donald Spoto (The Dark Side of the Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, March 01, 1983)

The practical jokes may have distracted the director from the disappointment of not being able to travel with the production to shoot his pet project on location.

“From the beginning Hitchcock had hoped to sail with cast and crew to film in nearby ports, or at least steal a few highlights in Paris. He hadn’t filmed outside England since Champagne, and he was tired of painted scenery and Schüfftan-style composites. But the director had miscalculated his leverage; Walter Mycroft [the director’s primary nemesis at B.I.P.] refused to approve travel expenditures, and throughout pre-production he chipped away at the scope of Hitchcock’s plans.

In the end the budget spared only one day on location — at Clacton-on-Sea, a cut-rate resort in Essex for Londoners on holiday. ‘This involved a bathing scene which was supposed to take place at Suez,’ recalled leading man Henry Kendall. The bathing scene in question was shot on a ‘bitterly cold’ morning, the actor remembered, ‘when I was shivering in my bathing trunks and almost blue with cold, and the result was so obviously not a bit like a gay dip in the Red Sea that it was cut from the film.

Kendall suffered a mysterious illness in the summer of 1931 that exacerbated the filming. The illness was serious enough to be reported in the press — a case of ‘blood poisoning’ that resulted in several operations and a prolonged recovery in a convalescent center. (In his autobiography Kendall says it was ‘carbuncles.’) For almost two months, Hitchcock photographed everything he could think of that didn’t involve the presence of the leading man. By the time Kendall returned, Barry and Marmont had been called away on prior engagements, and Hitchcock was forced to shoot Kendall solo for the last takes. The production finally petered out at the end of August. It had taken the director fully nine months to concoct and shoot this Hitchcock original, time that B.I.P. would have preferred he invest in adapting an established play. Postproduction also dragged on while Hitchcock tried to figure out how to fill out the film with as much second-unit footage as possible.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

R&S - Production Photograph - 'Behind the Scenes'

One of the stranger elements of Rich and Strange is Hitchcock’s employment of titles (a holdover from the silent era). He hadn’t employed titles since making the silent version of Blackmail, and it wasn’t at all usual for titles to be employed even during the earliest days of the sound era. In his book about Hitchcock’s British era, Maurice Yacowar notes that “only about one-fifth of the film has dialogue… The Hills’ voyage is like a family album with facetious captions.” This approach was strange enough for the press to comment about it before the film’s eventual release as in the following blurb printed in the Yorkshire post:

“Alfred Hitchcock’s new film, Rich and Strange, shortly to be presented in London, will contain no fewer than 30 of the old-fashioned sub-titles, introduced as ‘first aid’ to dialogue. The results of this bold step (says Mr. G.A. Atkinson, in the ‘Daily Telegraph’) will be watched with interest by film producers throughout the world, as the feeling has been growing for some time that popular audiences, at least, have found it neither easy nor congenial to concentrate on a story indicated only in spoken words.” —Staff (Back to the Sub-Titles, Yorkshire Post, September 25, 1931)

It is also strange to learn that the film was still being rethought in the editing room. As most of us know, Hitchcock tended to plan his productions thoroughly. He preferred to only shoot what he needed, but much of Rich and Strange was shaped in the editing room with entire sequences left on the cutting room floor. In his biography on the director, Patrick McGilligan notes that “some of the most intriguing scenes were cut. … Deleted — for reasons of length or censorship…” In fact, some of these sequences were discussed by Hitchcock in later years as if they were still a part of the finished film. The first of these sequences seems particularly risqué for the time.

“There was a scene in which the young man is swimming with a girl and she stands with her legs astride, saying to him, ‘I bet you can’t swim between my legs.’ I shot it in a tank. The boy dives, and when he’s about to pass between her legs, she suddenly locks his head between her legs, and you see the bubbles rising from his mouth. Finally, she releases him, and as he comes up, gasping for air, he sputters out, ‘You almost killed me that time,’ and she answers, ‘Wouldn’t that have been a beautiful death?’ I don’t think we could show that today because of censorship.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

It’s impossible to know for certain if this scene was originally left on the cutting room floor or whether it was censored after the film’s release, but either of these possibilities could be the case. Actually, this isn’t the only scene from Rich and Strange that Hitchcock mentioned to journalists that isn’t a part of the film as it exists today. In fact, the second of these is even more interesting as it would have featured the director portraying himself in an overt cameo unlike any of his other appearances.

“There was an amusing sequence at the end. Their cargo ship is wrecked and abandoned in the South China Sea, and they are rescued by some looters on a Chinese junk. Then, after it’s all over, they meet me in the lounge. This is my most devastating appearance in a picture. They tell me their story, and I say, ‘No, I don’t think it’ll make a movie.’ And it didn’t.” —Alfred Hitchcock (The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)

Again, it is impossible to know if this scene was ever actually a part of the film’s final assembly, but it seems to have been suggested by Dale Collin’s novel as the author appeared as himself in the book. Patrick McGilligan calls the scene “another eleventh-hour deletion; falling prey to the mysterious jinx that surrounded Rich and Strange, the director left his own face on the cutting-room floor.” However, it is impossible to know if he was in possession of a piece of actual research or merely speculating.

Alfred Hitchcock did seem fond of one particular scene that remains in the film, and it is a scene that is often discussed in the book-length studies of the director’s filmography.

“The young couple is in the Far East and the ship on which they are traveling is wrecked. They manage to get off the ship, taking with them a bottle of crème de menthe and the ship’s black cat, and they’re picked up by a Chinese junk. They huddle up in front of the junk, and after a while the Chinese bring them some food and chopsticks. It’s delicious, the best meal they’ve ever tasted. When it’s over, they walk to the rear of the junk and there they see the cat’s skin being pinned out to dry. Stunned as well as nauseated, they rush over to the side.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

The film was met with apathy when received its London Premiere on December 10, 1931. It wasn’t a critical or a commercial triumph, and the film’s failure can be seen as part of a slump that Hitchcock would later refer to as his “lowest ebb.” He would later lay blame at the cast’s feet.

“[The critics] felt that the characterizations weren’t sufficiently convincing. The actors were all right, but we should have had a stronger cast — in the box-office sense, I mean. I liked the picture; it should have been more successful… My mistake with Rich and Strange was my failure to make sure that the two leading players would be attractive to the critics and audience alike. With a story that good, I should not have allowed indifferent casting.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

The truth is that the film’s casting is only a small part of the film’s problem, and critics faulted the film’s script and direction as much or more than any actor’s performance. A review that appeared in ‘The Times’ adequately reflects popular opinion about the film at the time.

“Admirers of Mr. Hitchcock’s work will be dissatisfied with this mildly satirical story of a suburban clerk and his wife who discover that riches are not a guarantee of happiness… The story moves slowly and disconnectedly; and the dialogue is not even broadly funny. Mr. Hitchcock is clearly out of form, and Mr. Henry Kendall and Miss Joan Barry are as clearly out of luck.” —Staff (New Films in London: Rich and Strange, The Times, December 14, 1931)

The film’s reputation would improve after the French critics heralded the director as the preeminent auteur director. Éric Rohmer & Claude Chabrol’s 1957 book length study of the director’s work (the first to be written about Hitchcock’s work) celebrated the film as a misunderstood gem.

“Without resorting to the thriller arsenal, he deals here with a subject dear to him-the disintegration of a marriage. And he does so in a register that delights him-that of the notation of the comic, the strange. Hitchcock is not a fanatic about logic or probability, which he sees as just so many ‘compromises.’ He becomes more and more aware that he is not a ‘formalist’ in the lofty sense of the word. He never hesitates to sacrifice everything — everything, including construction, logic, [and] probability to unity of tone. In Rich and Strange he takes a risk: the artist works without a net-without the net of the thriller plot with which he was often to protect himself in the future… The tone of the work is the very image of its story… There is no other way to see and admire Rich and Strange than purely and simply to experience it. Any other method is particularly dangerous because Hitchcock plays the game to the very end and does not permit himself the least explanation, the least commentary. The dialogue is reduced to its most simple form, to what is realistically necessary. The message-and there is a message-is carried by the images themselves… Alas! Though the film was a marvelous artistic success, it was a resounding commercial failure. British critics who had praised The Skin Game to the skies (good God, why!) greeted Rich and Strange sulkily and spoke of an abrupt decline. There was evidently no appreciation of fantasy and audacity in English film circles, and the movie didn’t make a penny.” —Éric Rohmer & Claude Chabrol (Hitchcock: The First Forty—Four Films, 1957/1979)

Future scholars would fall in line. For example, Donald Spoto’s “The Art of Alfred Hitchcock” was just as enthusiastic.

“[Hitchcock] and Alma sprang back gloriously with Rich and Strange… Like a filmed dream, Rich and Strange justifies its title from Shakespeare (‘The Tempest’), to which Hitchcock calls attention in an early intertitle: ‘… Doth suffer a sea-change e into something rich and strange.’ … Rich and Strange opens with a stunning long crane shot of Fred’s office. Without a cut, we follow from a vast overview of workers riveted to their desks, through the five o’clock departure, down wide staircases. Critic and satirist of the bourgeois life though he was, Hitchcock was even more critical of those who invite chaos by yearning for excitement (a common motif in his films). Exotic ports of call, glamorous Paris, the mysterious East and the fabric of shipboard life—none of these are lost on Fred Hill, but he is such an overgrown baby, so susceptible to the wiles of a vamping brunette (his wife, in the Hitchcock tradition, is a cool blonde) that it’s hard to feel sympathy for him when his ‘princess’ is deposed. Which is of course precisely Hitchcock’s point…

… Many viewers have trouble with the final quarter of the picture. Rescued from their sinking ship by a passing Chinese junk, the Hills witness the birth of a baby in the crudest circumstances — but the fragile life triumphs, even on the wild sea, even when there’s only salt water to bathe the newborn. They also stand in horror as one of the Orientals slips on deck, his foot caught in a rope: his mates calmly watch as the man dangles slowly headfirst into the water and drowns. Could they not have moved, hurled themselves over the side to help? What might have been done to save the man? The two episodes focus the entire point of Rich and Strange, which has something to do with the extremes of life and death and the acceptance of life and death on their own terms. The reactions to the two events by the Chinese are entirely appropriate to an Oriental philosophy, if not to polite middle-class Britons. What Fred and Emily see is the exact opposite of their own constant yearning, their dissatisfaction with their lot. Moments later, while enjoying a supper their hosts have offered them, they see a cat’s skin nailed to the ship’s side; realizing what they’ve eaten, they then rush to the side to vomit it. And even this scene supports the idea and finally reveals the film’s several earlier references to seasickness, nausea and vomiting. Supper was delicious. Why do the Hills think otherwise when they’re told what it was? Rich and Strange remains just that years later: a film ripe with an almost spiritual sensitivity, yet wonderfully odd in execution.” —Donald Spoto (The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, 1976)

Suddenly, it became known as a personal and even autobiographical work that was simply “misunderstood” in its own time. Still, John Russell Taylor had the good sense to temper his reluctant praise by mentioning some of the film’s obvious weaknesses.

“The story they were shooting is curious, to say the least — oddly bitter and gloomy, an adventure story in which all the adventures turn out badly. One thing everyone would agree: it could not by any stretch of the imagination qualify as ‘typical Hitchcock’, whatever that phrase might mean. It has been rediscovered and enthusiastically praised in recent years, probably because of all his English films it is the closest in its density and ambiguity to the great films of his Hollywood years. Despite this, and despite the fact that it is, as Hitch himself says, ‘full of ideas’, it does not finally seem very satisfactory… But even though not ideally cast and endowed with a curiously primitive quality in parts because most of the location scenes had to be shot silent and pieced together with titles of almost silent-movie profusion, Rich and Strange does have an oddly haunting quality.” —John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)

Patrick McGilligan was even more forthright.

“Compared to later, classic films that learned from its lessons, Rich and Strange looks pinched and lackluster. … It was an only intermittently engaging film that never quite transcended its flaws.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

It’s difficult not to agree with this appraisal. The film has aged horribly, and it is fairly clear that it was always a flawed — if admittedly interesting — entry into the filmmaker’s filmography. Any objective appraisal of Rich and Strange can only lead to this conclusion. It’s true that some of the film’s blemishes aren’t entirely Alfred Hitchcock’s fault, and it certainly stands above some of his other B.I.P. features. However, Alfred Hitchcock’s best British efforts were still ahead of him.

R&S - Production Photograph - Henry Kendall, Percy Marmont, Joan Barry, Betty Amann

The Presentation:

3 of 5 MacGuffins

Kino Lorber protects their disc in a standard Blu-ray case with an insert sleeve featuring artwork that utilizes a surprisingly well executed alteration one of the film’s production stills. The original photograph shows Fred and Emily Hill holding on to opposite sides of a doorway for support:

R&S - Original Production Photograph

Kino’s marketing team moved Emily so that she is holding onto her husband. It’s a decent enough image, but one has to wonder why they didn’t simply choose to use a photograph that didn’t require any tampering. There were certainly a few particularly nice choices available.

Rich and Strange - Menu

In fact, the disc’s menu makes terrific use of one of those photographs (even if it has been improperly cropped in our estimation). Unfortunately, the image is cheapened slightly by the addition of the film’s title. It’s still an acceptable menu that is intuitive to navigate.

Rich and Strange - SS01

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 MacGuffins

Rich and Strange is another Hitchcock title that spent years in public domain purgatory before being brought to DVD a number of years ago as part of a three-disc set (courtesy of Lionsgate). The resulting image was a huge leap forward, and the same can be said for Kino Lorber’s superior stand-alone Blu-ray transfer. This represents a major upgrade from that DVD release. Fine detail is vastly improved as the result of the format’s superior resolution, and the image feels much more filmic than it ever did on previous formats. Contrast is also reasonably well handled, and this is especially true during the daylight scenes. Darker scenes showcase fairly deep blacks without noticeably crushing any of the important details that linger in the shadows. This is an incredibly healthy transfer.

Rich and Strange - SS02

Sound Quality:

3 of 5 MacGuffins

The dual mono DTS-HD Master audio track also seems like a legitimate upgrade from the Lionsgate’s standard definition release, but one should keep in mind that there are practical limitations at play due to the simple fact that this film was made during the early sound era in Britain on a poverty row budget. The advanced age of the film probably doesn’t help much either. However, this audio transfer is probably the best representation of the film’s original audio that is possible. After all, one cannot improve on the original production elements. We are given a faithful representation of the original theatrical audio that sounds much cleaner than one expects from a film of this vintage, and this is all anyone can reasonably ask.

Rich and Strange - SS03

Special Features:

2.5 of 5 MacGuffins

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth

Troy Howarth seems like an odd choice to discuss Alfred Hitchcock’s work, and this is true of Rich and Strange in particular. Howarth is the author of a number of books about various Giallo films and filmmakers. For example, he is responsible for writing “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (Volumes 1-3),” “Murder by Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento,” “The Haunted World of Mario Bava,” “Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films,” “Real Depravities: The Films of Klaus Kinski (Volumes 1 & 2),” “Unholy Communion: Alice, Sweet Alice, From Script to Screen,” and other books that fall along these lines. I have nothing against these titles or his particular area of expertise, but I dare say that these subjects are a far cry from Alfred Hitchcock’s work (even if Giallo films do tend to borrow liberally from the director). This isn’t to say that Howarth doesn’t offer an enthusiastic commentary track. He seems genuinely engaged with the film and manages to offer a few worthwhile observations. However, he repeats some of the erroneous information found in Noel Simsolo’s introduction, and his only other sources seem to be François Truffaut’s “Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock,” and Donald Spoto’s “The Dark Side of the Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.” The resulting track is always engaging but only sporadically informative.

Hitchcock/Truffaut: Icon interviews Icon (Audio) — (05:59)

This excerpt from François Truffaut’s legendary interview with Alfred Hitchcock is easily the most essential of Kino’s supplemental additions to the disc. It’s clear that the director has a warm regard for the film even as he discusses various disappointing aspects about the finished product. One wishes the conversation had gone on a bit longer since we know that the two men discussed aspects of the film that aren’t included here. It’s an unfortunate oversight.

Introduction by Noel Simsolo — (03:45)

Noel Simsolo’s introduction is presented in French with English subtitles, but the information divulged is problematic in any language. It’s difficult to tell if Simsolo merely gathered erroneous information or if he is making things up as he goes along. For example, he suggests that there may not even be such a man as Dale Collins and that the director merely used this credit to deflect from his own participation in the film’s construction. Well, it’s clear that Simsolo wants this to be the case, but we know that there was a writer named Dale Collins who wrote a novel entitled Rich and Strange and that there are too many similarities between the book and Hitchcock’s movie to discount him. It’s nice to see that Kino is trying to provide pertinent supplementary material for these releases, but these Simsolo introductions are real head scratchers. Even his worthwhile observations are tainted by the absolute bunk that surrounds them.

Theatrical Trailers:

The Paradine Case — (01:44)

Under Capricorn — (02:05)

It’s actually interesting to see trailers for two of Alfred Hitchcock’s more obscure films (even if they have nothing to do with Rich and Strange). It is no coincidence that Kino Lorber also released these titles on Blu-ray.

Blu-ray Release Promos: 

Rich and Strange — (00:54)

Number Seventeen — (00:45)

Blackmail — (01:16)

Murder — (01:12)

Lifeboat — (01:28)

These home video promos for Rich and Strange and four other Kino Lorber releases are less essential. They are obviously included to arouse the viewer’s interest in making a few more purchases.

Rich and Strange - SS04

Final Words:

“It had lots of ideas.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

Hitchcock was never short of ideas. Unfortunately, he failed to weave these ideas into a coherent and rewarding cinematic experience in Rich and Strange. Apologists claim that the film is a misunderstood treasure that looks forward to certain tendencies seen in his more successful American films, but “if it doesn’t jell, it isn’t aspic, and this ain’t jelling.” Having said this, Rich and Strange has more to offer than B.I.P. assignments like Juno and the Paycock, The Skin Game, and Number Seventeen. Each of these three films are all less interesting and considerably less ambitious.

Hitchcock completists should certainly be pleased to learn that this film is finally receiving a legitimate Blu-ray release, and Kino Lorber’s new transfer is really quite extraordinary given that this is an incredibly old film.

Review by: Devon Powell

R&S - Production Still - Henry Kendall & Joan Barry

Source Materials

Unknown (The Sydney Morning Herald, December 12, 1930)

Unknown (The Film World, The Times, January 21, 1931)

Unknown (Times Square: Chatter – London, Variety, May 27, 1931)

Unknown (The Cinema World: A Sunny Morning at Elstree, Yorkshire Post, July 21, 1931)

Unknown (Back to the Sub-Titles, Yorkshire Post, September 25, 1931)

Unknown (The News Reel: The Strangest Village in the World, Boy’s Cinema, September 26, 1931)

Unknown (Footlights and Pictures: Percy Marmont, Nottingham Evening Post, October 23, 1931)

Unknown (New Films in London: Rich and Strange, The Times, December 14, 1931)

L.M. (Rich and Strange, Yorkshire Evening Post, January 02, 1932)

Éric Rohmer & Claude Chabrol (Hitchcock: The First Forty—Four Films, 1957/1979)

Peter Bogdanovich (The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)

François Truffaut (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

Donald Spoto (The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, 1976)

John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)

Donald Spoto (The Dark Side of the Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, March 01, 1983)

Tom Ryall (Alfred Hitchcock and the British Cinema, 1996)

Charles Barr (English Hitchcock, 2000)

Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

Charlotte Chandler (It’s Only a Movie, 2005)

Maurice Yacowar (Hitchcock’s British Films, 2010)

Edward White (The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock, April 13, 2021)

R&S - Production Photograph - Henry Kendall & Joan Barry

Note: We were provided with a screener for review purposes, but this had no bearing on our opinions. We do not feel under any obligation to hand out positive reviews.

One thought on “Blu-ray Review: Rich and Strange

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