Top

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!

Pal Joey (as part of “The Kim Novak Collection” DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Three reasons for the success of “Pal Joey” can be summed up to Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak.  A film that features a wonderful performance by all three talents with wonderful music by Rodgers and Hart, “Pal Joey” is definitely a musical classic that is a wonderful inclusion to “The Kim Novak Collection” DVD box set.

Images courtesy of © 1957, renewed 1985 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Pal Joey (as part of “The Kim Novak Collection” DVD Box Set)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1957

DURATION: 103 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:85:1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2010

Directed by George Sidney

Screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley

Based on the Book by John O’Hara

Produced by Fred Kohlmar

Cinematography by Harold Lipstein

Edited by Viola Lawrence, Jerome Thoms

Art Direction by Walter Holscher

Set Decoration by Louis Diage, William Kiernan

Costume Design by Jean Louis

Starring:

Rita Hayworth as Vera Simpson

Frank Sinatra as Joey Evans

Kim Novak as Linda English

Barbara Nichols as Glady

Bobby Sherwood as Ned Galvin

Hank Henry as Mike Miggins

Elizabeth Patterson as Mrs. Casey

One of the most beautiful and talented stars to emerge from the studio era in the 1950s, Kim Novak has made an indelible mark on the cinema, and in the hearts of film fans all over the world. On August 3, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) unveils The Kim Novak Collection, featuring five of Novak’s best-known films, fully restored and remastered, including two new to DVD. The must-have collection includes Jeanne Eagels with Jeff Chandler and Middle of the Night with Fredric March (each making their DVD debuts), as well as the Novak classics Picnic with William Holden and Rosalind Russell; Pal Joey with Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth; and Bell Book and Candle with James Stewart and Jack Lemmon. The Kim Novak Collection also features rare archival photographs of Kim Novak on set and at work on her most popular films as she shares her personal stories in newly recorded intimate conversations with author Stephen Rebello. Rediscover Miss Novak: one of the most beautiful and talented actresses to ever grace the screen.

Pal Joey – In this adaptation of the Broadway musical, based on the writing of John O’Hara, Kim Novak is Linda English, the chorus girl who vies for the attention of Frank Sinatra, as Joey, against the sultry and sophisticated Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth). Directed by George Sidney with music from Rodgers and Hart, Novak shines as the catnip that is just ever slightly out of Joey’s reach. Pal Joey has a running time of 111 minutes and is not rated.

Kim Novak, the blonde bombshell and the #1 screen goddess of Columbia Pictures from 1954-1962 had dominated the box office.  From her first major role in the film “Picnic” and “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955) to “Jeanne Eagels” and “Pal Joey” (1957) and eventually starring in her most noteworthy role in the Paramount film, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958), Kim Novak became the screen goddess for Columbia Pictures a decade after Rita Hayworth preceded her in the 1946 film “Gilda”.

But before she became the screen goddess, Kim Novak began her career in the noir film “Pushover” (1954), her first major role opposite Fred MacMurray (this film is on the “Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics Volume II” DVD Box Set) and a lead role that same year with Jack Lemmon in “Phffft” (available in “The Jack Lemmon Film Collection”).

For Kim Novak, this former model could have kept her Hollywood career but as she was a private person, she left Hollywood in 1966 to focus on her painting and having a family and only rarely would she star in a film as she would turn down many roles and only work in films that she felt comfortable in.

But because it has been over 50-years since Kim Novak has starred in her popular films for Columbia Pictures, to honor her career, a special five-film DVD box set titled “The Kim Novak Collection” will be released and would feature the films: “Picnic” (1955), “Jeanne Eagels” (1957), “Pal Joey” (1957), “Bell Book and Candle” (1958) and “Middle of the Night” (1959).

In 1957, the current Columbia Pictures box office queen Kim Novak would star alongside Columbia Pictures’s box office queen of the ’40s, Rita Hayworth.  Despite the film having Rita Hayworth as top billing, “Pal Joey” is recognized as a film that is truly a classic and definite Frank Sinatra film.  As Rita Hayworth would be known by her dancing (and it was known that she never sung her songs and was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer) and Kim Novak known for her bombshell figure and onscreen sex appeal, many would assumed that Novak was responsible for singing the classic “My Funny Valentine” but in truth, as studio head Harry Cohn had done to Rita Hayworth, he felt that Novak should be dubbed as well and the real singer behind the voice was Trudy Erwin.

But as mentioned, “Pal Joey” is a true vehicle for Frank Sinatra and popular Rodgers and Hart” standards “The Lady is a Tramp”, “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”, “I Could Write a Book” and “There’s a Small Hotel”, sung by Sintara would be featured on this film.  And so popular was “Pal Joey” that it earned four Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations.

And as for Rita Hayworth having the top billing over Frank Sinatra, Sinatra handled it quite well in stride saying that it was an honor to being billed between Hayworth and Novak and “that’s a sandwich I don’t mind being stuck in the middle of.”

“Pal Joey” revolves around a singer named Joey Evans (played by Frank Sinatra), a man who was busted in the big city for fooling around with an under aged girl and finds himself traveling all the way to San Francisco to start on a new life.  Fortunately, he knows one of the men working at a night club and gets a job as an MC and singer.  Immediately he becomes a hit with the dancers of the nightclub with the exception of his friend’s girl, Linda English (played by Kim Novak).

One night, the group receives a job to perform at the home of the rich Vera Simpson (played by Rita Hayworth), a former nightclub dancer who married a business tycoon and inherited his riches when he passed away.  Immediately, Joey starts using his charm in trying to meet and get close to Vera but unfortunately it doesn’t work out that well.  But he still invites her to watch him perform at the nightclub.

While Joey fools around with the women at the nightclub, he does not give one look towards Linda, nor does he flirt with her.  But as he is living in a new town, he manages to sweet talk his way with a woman looking for a tenant and choosing to live next door to Linda.  And eventually, Joey tries to work his charm on her, which doesn’t work.

But as Joey and Linda start to become friends and it seems that Linda is starting to have an interest towards Joey, it’s quite apparent that Joey has his mind on being close with Linda and eventually having her finance his dream club which would be known as “Chez Joey”.  As Vera is known as a doll (rich) and Linda is known as the mouse (poor), will the mouse be able to win the heart of Joey?

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Pal Joey” is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen.  Audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital English and subtitles are in English SDH.

At first glance, I thought that the grain in combination with the noise on print was a bit much but as I watched the entire film, I realize that the picture quality is good for DVD.  Some scenes , primarily the intro show its age a little.  Especially the stock images of Frank on a boat riding out to San Francisco but as the film continued on, I felt the picture quality was much better .

There is minimal dust and scratches but you really can’t see them unless you are really looking for it.  Blacks are nice and deep and for the most part, this is one music-driven film which I wouldn’t mind seeing on Blu-ray.

As for the audio, dialogue is clear but what many fans will absolute love is how great the music sounds.  Granted, this is not Blu-ray lossless audio but still, Frank Sinatra’s vocals come alive during his musical segments and if you are a Frank Sinatra fan, just hearing him singing songs such as “I Could Write a book” and “The Lady is a Tramp” is pretty awesome.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pal Joey” comes with the following special features:

  • Select Scenes Commentary with Kim Novak and Author Stephen Rebello – (11:24) Novak and Rebello talk about three scenes in the film.  The opening scene in which Novak talks about working with Frank Sinatra, Novak revealing that she was not the singer for “My Funny Valentine” on the film and why and commentary on the dream sequence and dispelling any rumors that she and Hayworth did not get along but in fact, the two got along great.
  • Backstage and at Home with Kim Novak – (9:28) Author Stephen Rebello interviews Kim Novak at her home.  The two discuss working with designer Jean Louis, the lack of not wearing a bra in her films, a gift from Marlene Dietrich, walking away from her acting career,  her love for painting, nature and more.
  • Previews – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment trailers.

EXTRAS:

“The Kim Novak Collection” DVD’s come with a slipcase which holds two slim DVD cases.

There are three reasons why I love “Pal Joey” and those reasons would be Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak.

Let me start with Rita Hayworth.  It was evident by 1957 that the studio has lost confidence in her.  The actress had her fourth divorce, she was suing past husbands for alimony and the stress in her personal and financial life has taken such a toll that she had become an alcoholic.  By 1957, the Rita Hayworth that viewers fell in love with over a decade after “Gilda” had now switched over to Kim Novak and there were rumors that even film critics Pauline Kael had noted in her review of “Pal Joey” that she had heard that Columbia Pictures trying to break her.

Needless to say, at 40-years-old, anyone who had dismissed Rita Hayworth could have watched “Pal Joey” and watch her do her faux striptease and just have memories of her performance in “Gilda” and just know by watching her performance that she still has it.  She can still dance, she still possesses that sexual attraction that men had seen of her in the last two decades prior.  And so it was no surprise that Columbia Pictures would try to make this big deal of their big box office star of the ’40s taking on their big box office star of the ’50s.  This was Hayworth’s last film for Columbia Pictures and she went out with grace, style and the sexuality she was known for.

Frank Sinatra was absolutely wonderful.  Sure, he plays “the heel” that has his own intentions of being with women and if there is one thing that Sinatra’s character Joey knows and that is…women and singing.  A smooth talker but as anyone who has loved Frank Sinatra will know, the man can sing.  And in “Pal Joey”, boy can he sing… Sinatra takes the Rodgers and Hart songs and his rendition of standards such as “The Lady is a Tramp” and “I Could Write a Book” were fantastic. Every song that came out of his mouth for this film was fantastic.  And Sinatra brought the humor and enjoyability to “Pal Joey”.  Sure, he has two beautiful co-stars but there is no doubt that this film was designed for Frank Sinatra and he absolutely delivered.

And Kim Novak, the current screen darling of Columbia Pictures at the time.  The blonde bombshell with a body can act and in many ways, similar to Hayworth in the ’40s, many people thought she could sing as well (on this DVD, Novak ends all suspicion and confirms that her singing “My Funny Valentine” was not her).  But what she brought to “Pal Joey” was purity, as a dancer who was just trying to work and survive and yet falls for the heel, even though he doesn’t take notice of her all that much.  And although the character of Linda was known as a “mouse”, as she was being promoted in the film as one, Kim Novak simply gave a different style of sexuality than Hayworth with costume design that accentuated her features and as many guys did known of Novak in her films, she didn’t like to wear bras which definitely caught the interest of many male viewers.

But you combine these three talents along with the wonderful music of Rodgers and Hart, the elaborate set and costume design and a solid screenplay and you have the recipe of a wonderful film.  “Pal Joey” didn’t take home an Academy Award but it did earn Frank Sinatra a Golden Globe for “Best Actor, Musical and Comedy”.

Although, I haven’t watched the stage musical by John O’Hara, I do know that there are differences in storyline.  The setting for “Pal Joey” in the book was Chicago and not San Francisco.  He was a dancer not a singer and most of all, the film had a more a happy ending compared to the stage musical version.  As mentioned, this film was definitely a vehicle for Frank Sinatra and I believe that its success was making these changes for the film adaptation.  Dorothy Kingsley did a pretty solid job with the writing for this film and making it a comedy.

Overall, “Pal Joey” is a wonderful film featuring all three stars and a magnificent inclusion to “The Kim Novak Collection” DVD box set.  Highly recommended!

(Note: This review is for the “Pal Joey” DVD included in “The Kim Novak Collection” and is not a review of the entire DVD box set).

Bottom