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Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

This set is amazing and is the definitive Alfred Hitchcock set to own (featuring many of his films from 1942-1976) and any cineaste wanting to own these magnificent Alfred Hitchcock films on Blu-ray will want the Ultimate Collection. And this 2017 release is even better with 10 additional TV episodes included. This set is no doubt a 5 STAR release! “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: Saboteur (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Topaz (1969), Frenzy (1972), Family Plot (1976)

DURATION: Saboteur (1 hr., 49 min.), Shadow of a Doubt (1 hr, 48 min.), Rope (1 hr, 21 min.), Rear Window (1 hr., 52 min.), The Trouble with Harry (1 hr., 39 min.), The Man Who Knew Too Much (2 hrs.), Vertigo (2 hrs., 8 min.), North by Northwest (2 hrs., 16 min.), Psycho (1 hr., 49 min.), The Birds (1 hr., 59 min.), Marnie (2 hrs., 10 min.), Torn Curtain (2 hrs., 8 min.), Topaz (2 hrs., 23 min.), Frenzy (1 hr., 56 min.), Family Plot (2 hrs.) + 7 TV Episodes from “Afred Hitchcock Presents” and 3 TV Episodes from “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Universally recognized as the Master of Suspense, the legendary Alfred Hitchcock directed some of cinema’s most thrilling and unforgettable classics. Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection features 15 iconic films from the acclaimed director’s illustrious career including Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest and many more. Starring Hollywood favorites such as James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery and Kim Novak, this definitive collection showcases a true cinematic master at his best. Featuring over 15 hours of insightful bonus features plus an exclusive collectible book, each film has been digitally restored from high resolution film elements for the ultimate Hitchcock experience.


 

For the cinema fans who are fans of Alfred Hitchcock, Universal has released “Alfred Hitchock: The Ultimate Collection” which comes with 15 movies and 10 TV episodes plus over 15 hours of bonus features and a booklet.

Included in the “Alfred Hitchcok: The Ultimate Collection” are the following films:

  1. Saboteur – A 1942 film noir spy thriller.  The film revolves around Barry Kane (portrayed by Robert Cummings) who works at Stewart Aircraft Works in Glendale, California.  When he and his friend Mason (portrayed by Virgil Summers) bump into a man named Fry (portrayed by Norman Lloyd), not long afterward, a fire is started and when the men go to stop the fire, Mason is burned to death.  When investigators interview Barry, he tells him that the fire took place after they bumped into a man named Fry, but there are no records of Fry ever working for the company.  And now Barry is accused of sabotaging his worksite and killing his friend.  Barry becomes a fugitive and is helped by a blind man (portrayed by Vaughan Glaser), and when his niece, Patricia “Pat” Martin (portrayed by Priscilla Lane) visits, Barry tries to please his innocence to Pat.  But she is more intent of reporting him to the police.  What happens when he kidnaps Pat?  Will Barry find a way to prove his innocence?
  2. Shadow of a Doubt – A 1943 psychological thriller film noir.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around Charlie Newton (portrayed by Teresa Wright) who is excited when her Uncle Charlie (portrayed by Joseph Cotten) is coming to visit.  When two men come to do a national survey, they want to feature the family but Charlie gets upset when a photographer takes his picture and demands for them to give the film to him.   The men reveal to Charlie that they are detectives and suspect that Charlie is the “Merry Widow Murderer”.  Will Charlie help her uncle or will she keep tabs on him for the detectives?
  3. Rope -A 1948 psychological crime thriller film noir based on the 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton inspired by the real-life murder of Bobby Franks in 1924.  One of Hitchcock’s first Technicolor films.  The film revolves around two intellects, Brandon Shaw (portrayed by John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (portrayed by Farley Granger) who strangled their former classmate from Harvard University, David Kentley (portrayed by Dick Hogan).  The two committed the crime as an intellectual exercise and wanted to prove themselves by committing the “perfect murder” inspired by their prep-school housemaster, publisher Rupert Cadell (portrayed by James Stewart) who talked with them about the intellectual concepts of Nietzsche’s Ubermermensch and De Quincey’s art of murder as a means to show one’s superiority over others.
  4. Rear Window – A 1954 American Technicolor mystery thriller based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder”.  Considered as one of the greatest movies ever made, the film received four academy award nominations and was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (portrayed by James Stewart) being confined in a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment after breaking a leg while trying to photograph a racetrack accident.  While keeping his windows open to stay cool, he observes various people across the street. One night during a thunderstorm, he hears a woman scream and then the sound of glass breaking.  He sees the woman no longer there and a man with a large knife and handsaw.  Jeff is convinced that the man, Lars Thorwald (portrayed by Raymond Burr) may have killed his bedridden wife.
  5. The Trouble with Harry – A 1955 black comedy.  In the small town of Highwater, Vermont, the body of Harry Worp (portrayed by Philip Truex) is found.  The problem is who the person is, who was responsible for the death and what to do with the body.  No one is upset that Harry is dead.  No one really cares.  And each hope that the body will not bring the attention of the authorities to come to Highwater.
  6. The Man Who Knew Too Much – A 1956 suspense thriller film noir and a remake of Hitchcock’s own 1934 film of the same name.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Song for “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” by Doris Day.  The film revolves around an American family, Dr. Benjamin “Ben” McKenna (portrayed by James Stewart), his wife Jo (portrayed by Doris Day) and their son Hank (portrayed by Christopher Olsen) vacationing in Morocco.  One day, they see a man being chased by the police.  The man who was stabbed in the back approaches Ben and before he dies, tells Bernard that a foreign statesman will be assassinated in London soon and gives him the name “Ambrose Chappelle”.  But when Hank is kidnapped and Ben receives a call that his son won’t be harmed if the McKenna’s say nothing about the warning message Bernard received.  Will the McKenna’s get their son back?
  7. Vertigo – A 1958 film noir psychological thriller based on the 1954 novel “D’entre les morts” (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac.  The film focuses on former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson.  Scottie is forced into early retirement because an incident in the line of duty which caused him to develop acrophobia (an extreme fear of heights) and vertigo (a false sense of rotational movement).  His friend and ex-fiance Midge Wood (portrayed by Barbara Bel Geddes) tells him that perhaps a severe emotional shock may cure him.  One day, Scottie is hired by an acquaintance, Gavin Elster (portrayed by Tom Helmore), as a private investigator to follow his wife, Madeleine (portrayed by Kim Novak) who is behaving strangely.
  8. North by Northwest – A 1959 thriller film considered as one of the “Greatest Films of All Time”.  Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around two thugs looking for George Kaplan and a waiter calling out for him, meanwhile at the same time, advertising exec Roger Thornhill (portrayed by Cary Grant) is summoning a waiter.  Immediately, Roger is mistaken as George Kaplan and is kidnapped.  He is brought to the estate of Lester Townsend and interrogated by a spy, Phillip Vandamm (portrayed by James Mason).  Roger tries to explain that he is not George Kaplan but they do not believe him.  And now Roger’s life is at risk.
  9. Psycho – A 1960 psychological horror film based on the 1959 novel by Robert Bloch. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.  The film revolves around a real estate secretary named Marion Crane (portrayed by Janet Leigh) who talks with her boyfriend Sam Loomis (portrayed by John Gavin) how they can’t afford to get married due to his debts.  After lunch, her boss asks her to deposit a $40,000 cash deposit for her company at the bank.  Instead of depositing the money, she steals the money and gives it to Sam to pay off his debt.  But while leaving town, she sees her boss and she becomes paranoid.  While driving, she decides to stop for the night at the Bates Motel, which Norman Bates (portrayed by Anthony Perkins) and his mother operates.
  10. The Birds – A 1963 horror-thrilller film based on the 1952 story by Daphne du Maurier.  Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.  Melanie Daniels (portrayed by Tippi Hedren) is a young socialite known for her racy behavior and her pranks.  While going to Bodega Bey to visit Mitch Brenner (portrayed by Rod Taylor) and her family, they all noticed that something unusual is happening to the birds and they are attacking people.
  11. Marnie – A 1964 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the 1961 novel by Winston Graham. The film revolves around Margaret “Marnie” Edgar (portrayed by Tippi Hedren) who steals $10,000 from her employer’s safe and flees.  She changes her appearance and identity and heads to Virginia and Baltimore.  Meanwhile, Mark Rutland (portrayed by Sean Connery), hires Marnie for his company.  But what happened when she tries to pull of the same heist on her new boss?
  12. Torn Curtain – A 1966 political thriller about a US physicist and rocket scientist named Michael Armstrong (portrayed by Paul Newman) who is traveling to Copenhagen with his assistant and fiance, Sarah Sherman (portrayed by Julie Andrews).  As he receives a radiogram to pick up a book, he sees a message which prompts him to go to Stockholm.  She follows him but instead of Stockholm, they are flying to East Berlin and he is welcome to the East German government.  Has Armstrong defected?
  13. Topaz – A 1969 spy thriller based on the 1967 Cold War novel by Leon Uris. The film follows a French intelligence agent who becomes entangled in the Cold War politics which lead up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and eventually the breakup of an international Soviet spy ring in France.
  14. Frenzy – A 1972 British thriller film based on the novel “Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square” by Arthur La Bern.  In London, a serial killer is raping women and strangling them with neck ties.  Who is responsible?
  15. Family Plot – A 1976 Technicolor dark comedy/thriller and the final film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the novel “The Rainbird Pattern” by Victor Canning.  The film is about two couples, a fake psychic and her cab driving boyfriend and another that are professional thieves and kidnappers.

“The Best of Alfred Hitchcock Presents” features the following episodes:

  1. Revenge
  2. Mr. Blanchard’s Secret
  3. Lamb to the Slaughter
  4. Poison
  5. Arthur
  6. Mrs. Bixby and the Colonels Coat
  7. Bang! You’re Dead

“The Best of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour” features the following episodes:

  1. I Saw the Whole Thing
  2. Three Wives Too Many
  3. Death Scene

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Saboteur” comes with the following special features:

  • Saboteur: A Closer Look
  • Storyboards: The Statue of Liberty Sequence
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Sketches
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Shadow of a Doubt” comes with the following special features:

  • Beyond a Doubt: The Making of Hitchcock’s Favorite Film
  • Production Drawings by Art Director Robert Boyle
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Rope” comes with the following special features:

  • Rope Unleashed
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Rear Window” comes with the following special features:

  • Rear Window Ethics: An Original Documentary
  • A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes
  • Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master
  • Breaking Barriers: The Sounds of Hitchcock
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Masters of Cinema
  • Feature Commentary with John Fawell (Author of “Hitchcock’s Rear Window: The Well-Made Film”)
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Re-Release Trailer Narrated by James Stewart

“The Trouble with Harry” comes with the following special features:

  • The Trouble with Harry Isn’t Over
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“The Man Who Knew Too Much” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of the Man Who Knew Too Much
  • Production Photographs
  • Trailers

“Vertigo” comes with the following special features:

  • Obsessed with Vertigo – New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece
  • Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborations
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Foreign Censorship Ending
  • The Vertigo Archives
  • Feature Commentary with Director William Friedkin
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Restoration Theatrical Trailer

“North by Northwest” comes with the following special features:

  • Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest
  • North by Northwest: One for the Ages
  • The Master’s Touch: Hitchcock’s Signature Style
  • Feature Commentary by Screenwriter Ernest Lehman
  • Stills Gallery
  • Trailer Gallery

“Psycho” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Psycho
  • Psycho Sound
  • In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerps
  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho
  • The Shower Scene With and Without Music
  • The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass
  • The Psycho Archives
  • Feature Commentary with Stephen Rebello (Author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho)
  • Lobby Cards
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photographs
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Re-Release Trailer

“The Birds” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scene
  • The Original Ending
  • The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie
  • All About the Birds
  • Storyboard Sequences
  • Tippi Hedren’s Screen Test
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Universal International Newsreels
  • Production Photographs
  • 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lot
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Marnie” comes with the following special features:

  • The Trouble with Marnie
  • The Marnie Archives
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Torn Curtain” comes with the following special features:

  • Torn Curtain Rising
  • Scenes Scored by Bernard Hermann
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Topaz” comes with the following special features:

  • Alternate Endings
  • Topaz: An Appreciation by Film Historian and Critic Leonard Maltin
  • Storyboards: The Mendozas
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Frenzy” comes with the following special features:

  • The Story of Frenzy
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Family Plot” comes with the following special features:

  • Plotting Family Plot
  • Storyboards: The Chase Scene
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“The Best of Alfred Hitchcock” comes with “Alfred Hitchcock: A Look Back”

“The Best of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour” comes with “Fast Your Seatbelt: The Thrilling Art of Alfred Hitchcock”

EXTRAS:

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” comes with a 60-page booklet and slipcase.


For any true cinema fan, owning Alfred Hitchock films comes with the territory of a being a true cineaste.

Alfred Hitchcock films are must-own films (unless you are the type who have foresaken physical media and have gone the digital route) and should earn a spot in your cinema collection.

For this review, I’ve already reviewed many Hitchcock films, so I’m going to approach this set of why you should own “The Ultimate Collection” and whether or not it’s worth upgrading from “The Masterpiece Collection”.

When it comes to Alfred Hitchcock films, to enjoy Alfred Hitchock films,  one must know that Hitchock has worked for numerous companies in his long career.  And that there are several releases that are no doubt key collections to own.

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Classic Collection” (MGM but on Blu-ray), “Classic Hitchcock” (Hitchcock’s British films + 1 American film from the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray), “Alfred Hitchcock: The Signature Collection” (Warner Bros. on DVD) and “Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection” (MGM on DVD)  are no doubt the best collections featuring his films from 1927-1941. His first two films “The Pleasure Garden (1925) and “The Mountain Eagle (1926) may not be easy to find but the majority of Hitchcock films can be found in various collections.

But for his major cinema works from 1942-1976, the Universal Studios release of “Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection” was no doubt the collection to own back in 2005.  Back then, the set featured a 14-movie collection on DVD. But in 2012, a 15-movie collection was released on Blu-ray and DVD and in 2013, Universal releasing a UK version “Alfred Hitcock: The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” with film reel type casing for the Blu-ray’s and poster art cards.

One wouldn’t think that Universal would release another Alfred Hitchcock set so soon, and if anything, one would probably think that a 4K version release would be on the horizon in the near future.  But here we are, five years later since the release of “The Masterpiece – Limited Edition Set” and Universal has now upped the ante by releasing the “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” on Blu-ray and DVD featuring the 15 films from the previous set but now including 10 TV episodes from “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (NOTE: All TV episodes are on DVD, not on Blu-ray).

And simply, “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is the definitive Hitchcock Blu-ray set to own!

While Alfred Hitchcock has had a wonderful list of films in his oeuvre, his Universal films are no doubt the more memorable films.  Films such as “Psycho”, “The Birds”, “Vertigo”, “Rear Window”, “North by Northwest” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” are films that people tend to hold Hitchcock to the highest regard.  But films such as “Saboteur”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Topaz”, “Marnie” are entertaining and showcase that wonderful Hitchcock style of filmmaking.

There are no cinema duds in this set.  Sure, some people may find Hitchcock venturing into black comedy for “The Trouble with Harry” may be too different from his other films for their tastes but that is the beauty of Hitchcock films. He took on different types of films and gave it his own personal style.  From his earliest work to “Family Plot” (his final film), we see Hitchcock evolve as a filmmaker and even with his work for Universal, we see Hitchcock show why he is the Master of Suspense.  His style of filmmaking evolving from “Saboteur” to a film such as “Rear Window”, “North by Northwest” and “Psycho” and to even his final film, “Family Plot”.

Hitchcock was a filmmaker who took on various types of films and to this day, these classic films featured in the “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” are still revered, still talked about many decades later and will continue on as topics of discussion among cineaste generations from now.  That is how long-lasting, how effective and how well-respected his cinema work is.

As for the Blu-ray release, as for picture quality, all films are presented in 1080p High Definition.  The first three films are presented in full frame 1:33:1 aspect ratio, while the majority of the films are in widescreen 1:85:1.  The TV episodes are in full frame 1:33:1 aspect ratio.  The films that received the new restoration look fantastic.  Actually, all films look fantastic on Blu-ray compared to the 2005 Masterpiece DVD set.  So, picture quality-wise, you can’t go wrong!  While some may question Universal for not upscaling the TV series to Blu-ray, the fact that you get 10 additional episodes, over 15 hours of bonus features and the booklet is quite amazing.

As for the lossless audio, one should remember that the majority of all Hitchcock films were recorded in monaural and the films are presented in English DTS-HD Master 2.0.  With the exception of “Saboteur”, the other soundtracks for the films include a French DTS Surround 2.0 Mono soundtrack, the only films that have other language selections are Vertigo (which has an Espanol DTS Surround 2.0 soundtrack) and “North by Northwest” which feature a Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese 1.0 soundtrack.

As for subtitles, all films come with an English SDH  and Spanish subtitles.  Only “Saboteur”, “Rear Window”, “Vertigo”, “North by Northwest”, “Psycho”, “The Birds” and “Topaz” come with an French subtitles.

Now, everything I mentioned is positive.  What about the negatives?  Really, there aren’t any.  But if I had to nitpick, I wish that Hitchock’s 1955 film “To Catch a Thief”, which was included in the 2013 UK Blu-ray set “Hitchcock: The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” but was never included in both the US release of “The Master Collection” or this 2017 “The Ultimate Collection”.  I would imagine because it’s a Paramount Pictures film and what was allowed in UK, was not possible for the US release. It’s also important to note that “To Catch a Thief” from “The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” had no special features whatsoever and unlike the other discs on that set, “To Catch a Thief” had no label.  So, quality-wise, on that set, the UK received an inferior Blu-ray version of that film.  So, it wouldn’t have matched with this set, as every film disc in “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” has special features.

A big question that some may ask is if one should upgrade their “Masterpiece Collection” for “The Ultimate Collection”.  My answer is if you own the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” DVD sets, then no.  But if you don’t, ask yourself if the additional ten hours of non-film entertainment is worth it for you.

The booklet is the same.  The digibook style sleeves are the same with the addition of the additional pages to hold the TV series but other than that, if you own the Masterpiece Collection, there is no additional special features as they are the same Blu-ray discs.  “The Ultimate Collection” just includes the additional 10 TV episodes.

Overall, this set is amazing and is the definitive Alfred Hitchcock set to own (featuring many of his films from 1942-1976) and any cineaste wanting to own these magnificent Alfred Hitchcock films on Blu-ray will want the Ultimate Collection.  And this 2017 release is even better with 10 additional TV episodes included.  This set is no doubt a 5 STAR release!

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is highly recommended!

The Manchurian Candidate (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Manchurian Candidate” is a John Frankenheimer masterpiece that gets its well-deserved release on Blu-ray, while no special features are new to this release, the picture and audio quality is awesome and fans of the film will definitely want to upgrade from their DVD to this Blu-ray release!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1961 Seven Arts Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Manchurian Candidate

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1962

DURATION: 126 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:75:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

RATED: PG-13

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011

Directed by John Frankenheimer

Based on the novel by Richard Condon

Screenplay by George Axelrod

Produced by George Axelrod, John Frankenheimer

Executive Producer: Howard W. Koch

Music by David Amram

Cinematography by Lionel Lindon

Edited by Ferris Webster

Production Design by Richard Sylbert

Set Decoration by George R. Nelson

Costume Design by Moss Mabry

Starring:

Frank Sinatra as Major Bennett Marco

Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw

Janet Leigh as Eugenie Rose Chaney

Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin

Henry Silva as Chunjin

James Gregory as Senator John Yerkes Iselin

Leslie Parrish as Jocelyn Jordan

John McGiver as Senator Thomas Jordan

Khigh Dhiegh as Dr. Yen Lo

James Edward Corporal Allen Melvin

Douglas Henderson as Colonel Milt

Albert Paulsen as Zilkov

A former Korean War POW is brainwashed by Communists into becoming a political assassin. But another former prisoner may know how to save him.

“The Manchurian Candidate”, a political thriller written by Richard Condon and released in 1959 was a popular novel in America and sure enough, the novel would receive its film adaptation courtesy of director John Frankenheimer (“Ronin”, “Reindeer Games”, “French Connection II”) and writer George Axelrod (“The Seven Year Itch”, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!”).

For singer/actor Frank Sinatra (“Ocean’s Eleven”, “Pal Joey”, “High Society”), he had been looking for a role that was not musically-driven but a film that would showcase him in a more demanding role and Sinatra would be cast for the lead and would star in the film alongside Laurence Harvey (“Darling”, “The Alamo”, “Room at the Top”), Janet Leigh (“Psycho”, “Touch of Evil”) and Angela Lansbury (“Bedknobs and Broomsticks”, “Murder She Wrote”, “All Fall Down”).

The film would achieve critical success and would be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and would be listed in 1998 at #67 for the American Film Institutes’ “100 Years…100 Movies” listing. And Angela Lansbury would receive the distinction 2007 by Newsweek as one of the ten greatest villains in cinema history.

“The Manchurian Candidate” begins with a group of American soldiers who are captured in the Korean War by the Soviets.  The soldiers were then taken to Manchuria, China where they would be brainwashed and be used by enemy countries to infiltrate the military and politics.

While many of the soldiers including Maj. Bennett Marco (played by Frank Sinatra) were brainwashed, the focus would be on Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (played by Laurence Harvey) because of his mother and father’s ties to national politics.   Shaw is used as guinea pig by the enemies as an example of how he can easily kill people by command and it is planned that when these soldiers return back to America, Shaw would be credited for saving their lives in combat and he would receive a medal of honor by the platoon’s commander, Marco.

When each of the soldiers are asked to describe Shaw, each would say “he is the kindest, braves, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life”.

But all of a sudden Bennett Marco and another soldier Allen Melvin (played by James Edwards) would each have nightmares of what took place that day when it was revealed that Shaw was programmed.  And both men try to piece together why they would have these same nightmares and they realized that who they saw in the room while hynotized/brainwash were leading figures from communist government and Army Intelligence enlist Marco to investigate the matter.

Meanwhile, the enemies continue their plan for Shaw to be used for murder and his mother Mrs. Eleanor Iselin (played by Angela Lansbury) uses her son and his status as a hero to drive the political career of her husband, Senator John Yerkes Iselin (played by James Gregory) who is using his anti-communism platform to go after those who work for the U.S. Defense Department who are deemed as communist.

Before more people die, will Bennet Marco be able to solve these murders and figure out who is controlling Raymond Shaw?

VIDEO:

“The Manchurian Candidate” is presented in 1080p High Definition (Widescreen 1:75:1).  I was pretty impressed with the Blu-ray release as my older DVD version did not have contrast levels this good, especially with the black levels.  Blacks are nice and deep for this Blu-ray release which was nice.

It’s definitely a much clearer and sharper transfer and there is a good amount of grain included.  For the most part, “The Manchurian Candidate” looks very good, although I did see some occasional flickering.  I didn’t notice white speckles on this transfer (as seen through other MGM/20th Century Fox Blu-ray such as “The Misfits” and “Some Like It Hot” released on the same day), so I was pretty impressed by the overall detail of the film.

AUDIO:

“The Manchurian Candidate” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.   While the dialogue is center channel driven and the music from David Amram as well as some of action sequences were quite clear coming through the front channels, there is also good use of the surround channels for ambient noises.  Especially in one scene where you hear the clock ticking or during the press conference and you can hear the buzzing machine from the surround channels. But there is a good amount of surround, especially during the fighting scene between Sinatra and Henry Silva which also utilizes the surround channels very well.

But for the most part, the lossless audio soundtrack does feature  a 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Although, purists hoping for the original mono audio may be disappointed that it is not included on this Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Manchurian Candidate” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director John Frankenheimer.  Frankhenheimer sets the scene up and shares some insights of things that happened while filming “The Manchurian Candidate”.
  • Exclusive Interview with Frank Sinatra, George Axelrod and John Frankenheimer –  (7:59) A classic interview featuring the three discussing the film and also Sinatra talks about how he broke his finger during the fighting scene.
  • Queen of Diamons Featurette – (14:51) Featuring Angela Lansbury talking about working with John Frankenheimer, Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and the legacy of the film.
  • A Little Solitaire Featurette – A look at John Frankenheimer’s work, Sinatra’s one-take attitude and director William Friedkin discussing the film and why Frankheimer was a director he looks up to.
  • How to Get Shot – (1:07) Angela Lansbury talks about the research she did to learn how one should react when getting shot in the head and how the movement of the body should be.
  • Phone Call – (:26) William Friedkin’s interview being interrupted by a phone call.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (1:50) The original theatrical trailer for “The Manchurian Candidate”.

Back in 1962, it was quite daring for a filmmaker and a screenwriter to take on a film that dealt with a presidential hopeful assassination but also to take on a film that would focus on how foreign countries can use brainwashing of American soldiers to their advantage.

As farfetched as it may have seemed, back in 1962, the idea of political extremism rang true as America saw what happened during Senator McCarthy’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Government Operations Committee but also to see how far Hollywood was targeted a decade earlier for “un-American activities” but it was a year later when President Kennedy was killed and people wondered about Lee Harvey Oswald, if he was indeed working or colluding with the communists, and many would wonder if situations that took place in “The Manchurian Candidate” can truly happen.

Over the decades, the film would begin to achieve its own recognition outside of early American politics and be viewed on its own as a well-written, well-directed political thriller that really took a risk in trying to grasp on America’s fears at the time and show them an alternate storyline of what could be happening in today’s society, playing to the fears of communism and back in 1962, there was a lot of fear.

And because of John Frankenheimer’s goal to achieving perfection, his depiction of an assassination at a political rally seemed real and sure enough, while JFK’s assassination would come a year later, the film would also generate fears after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 after Kennedy was gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant after Kennedy announced victory in California Democratic presidential primary.

Sirhan’s lawyer has claimed that Sirhan was programmed by some group or organization to shoot the politician while under hypnosis.

Times were much different back then, but “The Manchurian Candidate” was a unique film for its time…sophisticated, cleverly written, because it focused on political extremism and communist brainwashing of American soldiers, film critics and audiences saw a terrifying and shocking film that has never been done in America ever before.

In 2011, to celebrate the coming 50th year anniversary of the film, Twentieth Century Fox has done a magnificent job in bringing us “The Manchurian Candidate” on Blu-ray.  For anyone who has owned this film on DVD or other video versions of the film need to know that the picture quality and the lossless soundtrack for this film is magnificent!

The picture quality is the best I have seen for this film and it looked very good!  Granted, purists may be disappointed that a monaural soundtrack was not included and for those expecting something new for the 50th anniversary, may be disappointed to see nothing really added.

But if you are looking for the definitive version of “The Manchurian Candidate”, this version is the best thus far!

While Frank Sinatra is the top-billed star and he does have a really important role, especially a fighting scene in the film and while Laurence Harvey is the man being mind-controlled, possibly the star of the film that didn’t get top-billing but gives one heck of a performance as a villain is Angela Lansbury.  Yes, we know of her today through roles in “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”, “Murder, She Wrote” and even the voice for Disney’s animated film “Beauty and the Beast”, she gives one of the most creepiest performances for a female star and its no wonder that she continues to reach the top 10 for polls for “top villain”. While Frankenheimer did not push the incest button as was featured on Richard Condon’s novel, I can imagine the gasps in the theater when they saw the kiss between Mrs. Iselin and her son Raymond Shaw.

But it’s a well-directed, well-written film and solid performances from Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh.

A wonderful classic on Blu-ray, “The Manchurian Candidate” is highly recommended!

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